A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a weekend trip to San Francisco. There are a number of fantastic restaurants in the city, and I had been wanting to try a Greek place called Kokkari for some time. We made a point of stopping there and trying as many different dishes as we could. We decided to order appetizers rather than filling up on a main course. Choosing small bites meant we could try a variety of flavors, including a tempting Citrus Salad. I had ordered the dish thinking the citrus would be tossed with greens, but it ended up being more like a light dessert. Our astute waiter served it last because it was definitely more sweet than salad. It proved to be the perfect end to our meal– chilled orange slices in a light, orange-scented simple syrup topped with crushed nuts and chopped dates. I made a mental note to recreate the dish at home.
Here, I’ve taken the basic concept from Kokkari and put my own spin on things. I infused the simple syrup with rosemary (if you’re not a fan, use fresh basil or mint instead). It may seem like a lot of sugar at first glance, but most of the sugar syrup is left behind when you serve. I used a variety of oranges– navel, moro, cara cara– to add a variety of colors and flavors. Seedless oranges or those with very few seeds work best for slicing. After letting the orange slices chill and marinate in the sweet rosemary syrup, I served them topped with pistachio meal and thinly sliced dates for a yummy, exotic finish. You can make the oranges and syrup up to two days ahead, letting the oranges chill in their marinade till you’re ready to garnish and serve. This simple and sophisticated dessert is a lovely, refreshing way to end a meal. Enjoy!
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- 4 1/2 lbs oranges – navel, cara cara, tangerines, moro blood oranges or a mix (if using smaller oranges, you may need more)
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 2 tbsp pistachios (if you have nut allergies, omit)
- 8 dates, sliced or chopped
- 8 sprigs mint for garnish (optional)
- Combine 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Add the fresh rosemary sprigs and reduce heat to a simmer. Let the syrup simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Leave the rosemary sprigs to steep as the syrup cools.Use a sharp paring knife or serrated knife to slice off the peel down the sides of the orange. Remove as much peel and white pith as possible. Try not to slice into the fruit itself (a little of the fruit will inevitably get sliced... just be as careful as you can).
- Once the peel is removed, slice the orange into thin ¼ inch rounds. Reserve slices and repeat process for remaining oranges.
- When rosemary syrup has completely cooled, remove the rosemary with a slotted spoon and strain the syrup through a wire mesh strainer.
- Spread the peeled slices out in a pie dish or similar ceramic or glass container. Pour the rosemary syrup over them.
- If you're using blood oranges/moro oranges, store those slices separately from the lighter colored slices in their own quantity of rosemary syrup, otherwise they will cause the lighter oranges and syrup to take on a reddish color.
- Cover the dish and refrigerate the orange slices for at least 2 hours, up to 2 days. Re-layer the orange slices every so often to make sure they're all equally exposed to the sweet syrup.
- Before serving, chop the pistachios in a food processor or coffee grinder into very fine pieces, somewhere in between chunks and powder, to create a coarse pistachio meal.
- Slice each date into thin strips.
- To serve, divide the chilled marinated orange slices between 8 small dessert plates. Drizzle each serving with 1-2 tbsp rosemary syrup, just enough to moisten (you will have leftover syrup, which you can use to flavor drinks). Sprinkle with 1 tsp chopped pistachios and top each orange slice with a date strip. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve.
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