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Oranges are one of the most popular fruits of all, making their way into everything from sauces and dressings to smoothies, salads, cookies and cakes. In season from September to April, oranges are hard to miss as they make their way into Houston's markets to tempt everyone who enjoys their distinctive, slightly tart sweetness. In restaurants they can be found in both sweet and savory dishes, and whether you prefer your oranges freshly squeezed, as part of your salad or incorporated into a dressing or sauce, there is an abundance of places in Houston to enjoy this seasonal citrus fruit and plenty of orange recipes you can make yourself.

The History of Texan Oranges

Everyone knows that oranges boast plenty of Vitamin C but that's not all. They're a great source of antioxidants, fiber, thiamin and folate too. Red grapefruit is known as a popular Texas citrus, but oranges also love the subtropical conditions and really flourish locally. It is believed that Columbus bought orange seeds in Gran Canaria in the 1400s before planting orchards in Hispaniola. These citrus orchards thrived in San Salvador and Haiti, and the fruit was introduced to Florida in the early 1500s and then to California in the late 1700s. Finally in 1880, Spanish missionaries brought them to Texas and the rest is history. Today, local oranges are ripened on the tree and handpicked before being shipped to markets nationwide.

If you crave the flavor of fresh oranges and want to take advantage of them being in season, why not make a fresh Orange Julius recipe? This tasty drink is usually made with orange concentrate but fresh is best. Simply whiz 4 peeled oranges with 2 cups of ice, 1/3 cup of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla and a tablespoon of sugar or honey in a blender until smooth.

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We say fresh-squeezed orange juice or no orange juice.

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In a Starring Role at: Croissant Brioche French Bakery & Café

2435 Rice Blvd., 713-526-9188

This bakery and café is located in the heart of Rice Village and it's the place to go when you need a coffee and croissant or pastry treat to start your day on the right note. Best known for its big, buttery almond croissants, Croissant Brioche also offers freshly squeezed orange juice, and a variety of cakes and tarts with not only orange but all kinds of colorful fruits and flavors. Try the sausage and cheese croissant or mushroom quiche if you have more of a savory tooth.

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Wouldn't these taste better with some jalapeño?

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Recipe: Spiced Orange Fruit Cocktail

Despite fall being on its way, it's still decidedly warm and muggy in Houston, which means salads remain firmly on the menu. The following fruit salad includes some south of the border flavors to contrast with the sweetness of the fruit. This makes a change from regular fruit salads because of the zing and spice which contrast beautifully with the fruit. Adjust the amount of jalapeño according to your palate, and maybe enjoy this as an appetizer. Dice the ingredients finer and it would work as a pico de gallo. As an appetizer it will serve three people. As a pico de gallo perhaps eight—try it with grilled chicken or swordfish steaks.

Ingredients:

2 segmented oranges
2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup thinly sliced jicama (or an apple)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 diced seeded jalapeño
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Toss the orange, pineapple and jicama or apple with the onion and jalapeño, then squeeze the lime juice on top and add a little salt. Finally mix in the cilantro and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Add fresh oranges to your grocery list this week and enjoy the taste of sunshine. Summer might be giving way to fall but that doesn't mean fruity dishes are off the menu. Stay tuned each week to hear more about what's fresh at that very moment and the best places to enjoy the bounty of the season.

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