Southern Californians (which now includes me) complain a lot about the weather. If you’re not within 100 mile radius of the 90201 zip code, this probably strikes you as ironic. The problem is that the weather here is always so beautiful that when it gets down to 58 degrees, the scarves and gloves come out and everyone starts grumbling about the cold. Unfortunately for many of California’s citrus farmers, the actual freezing temperatures we have experienced here lately have been truly detrimental.
At the farmers’ market this past Sunday, one farmer told us that many of her blood orange trees might not ever produce fruit because they are too young to withstand the cold. Another told us that in the nine years he has been farming, he has never seen such a prolonged cold snap. We heard several similar stories, and what struck us was how stoic these farmers were in the face of adversity. They didn’t complain or feel sorry for themselves; they simply related the depressing facts to us. Unbelievably, one farmer whose Cara Cara oranges we have mailed home to Rhode Island on many occasions was actually apologetic that his fruit wasn’t as good as last years, as if he could possibly control the weather.
When I started to express my sympathy for his misfortune, he gently rebuffed me: “Please don’t feel bad for me. This is the life of a farmer. It’s what I do.” I stopped. I didn’t know what else to say. His eyes were so sincere, his body language so sure. Instead of saying anything else, I simply tossed a few more oranges in my bag and asked him to tally me up. With a wide grin, he added, “Let me know how your family in Rhode Island likes them.” “I will,” I assured him.
Living here has allowed us to not only buy fresh produce but to also become friendly with many of the farmers. So, the concept of “buying local” resonates with us more now than ever. I can honestly say that preparing and eating the food from these wonderful people makes meals much more meaningful to us. Let’s sincerely hope that this cold weather ends soon.
Since many of the farmers told us to buy more oranges now in case their future pickings are limited, we ended up with several bags (some will stay here; some are en route to Rhode Island, as you can see).
This simple Sicilian salad is one of our favorites. I used Cara Cara oranges for this one. These super sweeties look like an ordinary naval orange on the outside, but when you slice them, they reveal a red, juicy flesh the color of a Jolly Rancher watermelon candy. Their sweetness contrasts perfectly with the salty olives and licorice flavored fennel.
SICILIAN SALAD of FENNEL, ORANGES, and OLIVES
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.
2 large cara-cara oranges or naval oranges
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
10-12 black and green cured olives, halved (I like Kalamata and Cerignola)
A handful of fresh mint leaves
Coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp quality extra virgin olive oil*
Peel oranges, and cut into pinwheels. Arrange orange and fennel slices; drizzle with olive oil; add mint leaves and coarse salt.
*Olive Oil: My favorite olive oil is from a local olive grove, Cook and Ladder. I also like going to Italian markets where knowledgeable staff helps me with my selection. Sometimes they even offer a complimentary tasting, which itself makes the trip worthwhile.