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Citrus: Bites of sunshine

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Days are short. Sunshine and warmth have definitely flown south, but nature steps up with a reminder that bright, balmy days will return. The token? Pucker up, tangy, sweet-tart oranges, lemons, grapefruits and tangerines.

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While oranges and lemons are a staple year round due to global-growing, winter is peak citrus season. Markets are flooded by varieties with beckoning tropical names like kumquat, Satsuma and Ugli fruit.

Tasting is the best option when it comes to exploring the flavor profiles of these bites of sunshine. Ask the produce manager for a sample of some new exotic beauty, or get adventurous and buy that pomelo. Look for fruit that has unblemished skin and feels heavy for its size.

Aside for the ubiquitous breakfast table, citrus pops up in savory dishes like soup, salads and casseroles. A tablespoon or two of lemon zest and parsley transforms a bite of braised short ribs. Try pairing grapefruit with creamy avocado chunks for a light lunch or spatter it on top of grilled salmon. When all imagination fails, grab, snack and go works.

Brown-Sugar Broiled Grapefruit
(Serves 4)

2 Ruby Red Grapefruit
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Sea Salt

Directions:
Set oven to broil. Wash and thoroughly dry grapefruit. Slice in half and cut around membranes to loosen sections. Place grapefruit halves on a broiler pan. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and a very light sprinkle of sea salt. Place under broiler until brown sugar caramelizes on top of the grapefruit, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salsa
(Makes 8 ½ cup servings)

2 cups each grapefruit and avocado peeled and cut into ¾” pieces
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers finely diced (adjust to taste)
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Allow to sit 15 to 20 minutes for flavors to develop. Serve with tortilla chips, as a topping for pan-grilled chicken or tucked into warm corn tortillas with chunks of firm white fish.

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