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By Jacqueline Kleis

The orange reigns supreme in the world of Latin flavors. Along with the Spanish language and culture, this fruit made its way to the New World via the historical voyages of the conquistadors and missionaries. Because of the fruit's medicinal value in disease prevention and its qualities as a natural food preservative, no long voyage left port without it. The Seville orange, or “naranja agria” traces its arrival to the island of Hispaniola on Columbus’ second voyage in 1493.

This citric jewel has not lost its value and still serves the same purpose as then. Because of its high acidic content and sour flavor, it's still used as a preservative in many of the marinades of Latin cuisine. Examples of this than the Cuban Mojo Pork, Ecuadorian Ceviche, and many dishes of Yucatán. The orange is also known for its medicinal and health benefits with its Vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber.

It's worth noting that the orange's shell, zest, and flower are also ingredients of Latin cooking. The shell, with its high pectin content, is used in candied confections and preserves of the Spanish Caribbean.

Orange slicesAlbert K Howard

The powerful oils found in its zest are used to boost the flavors of custards in many Latin American recipes. Finally, the flower is infused to create the aromatic flavor used in festive recipes such as the traditional ”Rosca de Reyes” served in Mexican homes during the religious holiday.

Here are simple recipes, some traditional and some not, using this regal fruit that we have “naturalized” as part of our cocina Latina. To your health and the true meaning of Salud!

Candied Orange Shells with Queso Blanco

Candied Orange Shells with Queso Blanco recipe by Jacqueline Kleis.Albert K. Howard


  • 2 whole oranges
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Water
  • Queso Blanco


  1. Completely peel the zest of the oranges. Cut in half and remove the pulp using a small knife.
  2. Boil one quart of water in a saucepan. Place the shells in the water and once it comes to a full boil, drain the shells. Repeat the process three times using fresh water with each time. This will eliminate the bitterness of the rind and partially cooks the shells.
  3. In a small saucepan, place the shells with the cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water. Add the cinnamon stick and vanilla extract and cover. Simmer at a low temperature until shells become tender and translucent. Remove from the heat and cool in the syrup. Refrigerate and serve with white cheese. This will preserve in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Warm Beet and Citrus Salad

Beet and Orange Salad recipe by Jacqueline Kleis.Albert K Howard


  • 1 lb. fresh cooked beets* or canned, sliced
  • 2 varieties of citrus fruit (orange, mandarins, ruby grapefruit)
  • 1 starfruit or carambola, sliced
  • 1/4 white onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. If using fresh beets, trim the stems and simmer in boiling salted water for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Drain the beets and cool. Peel the beets and slice. Set aside. If using canned beets, just drain and slice.
  2. Finely grate enough peel of an orange to obtain a teaspoon. Peel the citrus fruit and cut in segments or slices. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix honey, vinegar and grated orange zest.
  4. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and toss in the beets. Add honey mixture, salt and pepper to taste, stirring until well coated. Keep warm.
  5. When ready to serve, place warm beets in a platter, add citrus segments or slices, starfruit, and top with thinly sliced onions.

Mixed Greens with Naranja Vinaigrette

Mixed greens with Naranja Vinaigrette recipe by Jacqueline Kleis.Albert K Howard


  • 12 oz. Mixed Lettuces
  • 3 oz. shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup crumbled white cheese

Naranja Vinaigrette:

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
  • 1/3 cup Sour Orange or Sweet Orange Juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Put the mustard and the juice in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Add shallots, orange zest, salt, and pepper.
  2. Stir with the whisk and add olive oil in a fine stream until blended.
  3. Mix lettuce and shredded carrots and toss with 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette or to taste.
  4. Sprinkle the cheese on top and serve.

Mojo-style Roasted Chicken

Mojo-style Roasted Chicken recipe by Jacqueline KleisAlbert K Howard


  • 1 (3-4 lb.) Whole Chicken
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 1 lime, cut in half

Mojo-style Seasoning for poultry:

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup Sour Orange Juice (or 1/3 cup each orange, grapefruit, and lime juice)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric or freshly grated, optional


  1. Mix all ingredients of the Mojo-style seasoning and season the whole chicken with the mix. Transfer to a glass container, cover with a plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator until ready to use. You may marinate up to 24 hours. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cut orange and lime in half and place inside the cavity of the chicken. Place bay leaves inside as well.
  3. Place seasoned chicken in a roasting pan and place in the middle rack of the preheated oven.
  4. Roast one hour and fifteen minutes or until juices run clear.
  5. Transfer to a platter and garnish with citrus fruit.

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