Orange Slices with Tarragon

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To me, oranges and Christmas go hand-in-hand, probably because I always got an orange (and a walnut!) in the toe of my Christmas stocking every year, and probably with good reason. Not only are they a burst of sunshine for people who live in the colder states, but if you do live in the northern half of the US, you’ll find that the oranges and grapefruits you get in the grocery store in winter are almost always juicier, riper and sweeter than they are at any other time of year. A couple years ago I had a lot of citrus on hand from the Christmas holiday and decided that I would experiment with creating an orange salad that I could use as a side dish to accompany a nice meal, and in the process, I discovered a very simple combination of spice that elevated the taste of orange to make it taste both savory and refreshing. All I do is peel a couple of navel oranges, slice them into rounds, and sprinkle them with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dried tarragon. The result is so good that I can’t stop eating them once I start (it’s now a favorite snack) and though it might not strike one as much of a side dish, when served with a heavy meal like ham, for instance, they actually draw quite a bit of compliments from guests.

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French tarragon with its light licorice character is the twist that makes the difference: it lends to the orange a sense of unique, ooh-la-la sophistication.  The savoriness that the sea salt and fresh black pepper bring to the fruit are absolutely essential, though, so don’t skip adding them. If you’re looking for a way to offset the richer foods that are often part-and-parcel of winter holiday feasts, this is an easy way to do it!

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