The produce clerk tried to steer me to the California navels.
“Don’t you have any Florida oranges?” I asked. “Just juice oranges,” he shrugged, pointing to a heap of gorgeous, thin-skinned beauties.
I pounced on them. When my late mother and I visited Florida, we ate an orange a day per Mom’s direction. She would roll our oranges on a counter and cut a plug from the blossom ends. We would suck out the juice and then eat the pulp.
I bought a bag of the sweet juice oranges and thought about Mom each time I ate one. I have been thinking about her a lot anyway because Tony and I are camping at the same KOA Mom and I used on our annual week-long treks. Tony and I are just a short walk from the bayou shoreline where Mom fed a heron her grouper dinner and we watched sunsets and played games of Rummikub at a picnic table. Until now I’ve been back just once since those trips in the 1990s, to scatter her ashes in the salt water from the shore.
For the last month I’ve made new memories with my husband, and they’ve been wonderful. We swam, biked, kayaked, hot tubbed and ate lots of seafood, cuban food and oranges. By the time you read this, we will be on our way home. No more fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood. No more Pipo’s Cuban sandwiches But we will still have plenty of oranges to hand-juice in the mornings ala Mom, and to use in salads such as this one from eatingwell.com.
ORANGE AND ARUGULA SALAD
2 tsp. fresh-grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups lightly packed arugula
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Whisk together orange zest and juice, balsamic vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil until well blended. Remove the rind and white pith from the oranges with a very sharp knife and discard. Slice oranges thinly, or remove the individual segments by slicing between the membranes. Halve the orange slices if they are large. Toss the arugula and romaine together in a shallow salad bowl. Separate the onion slices into rings. Scatter the onions and oranges over the greens. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss.
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From Mary Jane, Albuquerque, N.M.:
Jane and Tony, what fun that you are having an adventure in a camper and enjoying St. Pete. Hubs and I are having an adventure in a motor home for the next year in Albuquerque, so I too am learning how to cook in a small space after having a commercial kitchen in my home which used to be my tea room. I have adapted and can now produce almost any dish I have cooked by using an electric pressure cooker, pressure oven and microwave/convection oven. We don’t even have to use the propane oven or stove top because I brought along an electric hot plate. It sounds like you are feasting on some great seafood and I am having serious foodie envy. Lucky you!
We lived in St. Pete for several years and I wanted to tell you about some of our favorite places to visit. For dessert, the gelato at Paciugo is the best and they have a great variety of flavors — rose, green tea, salted caramel. http://www.paciugo.com/gelato/flavors/.
If you love Greek food, a visit to the Greek Village Restaurant in Seminole is a must. They have the best Greek salad and they add a scoop of potato salad to it, which I had never seen before and it makes it more special. Try anything on the menu and I’m sure you will put it on your list of favorites. Here’s the menu: http://www.locu.com/places/greek-village-seminole-us/#menu.
For a fabulous Italian market stop by Mazzaros Market in Clearwater. Handmade pasta, exceptional selection of cheese and amazing bakery. http://www.mazzarosmarket.com.
For seafood our favorite is Guppy’s in Indian Rocks Beach. Best Grouper Sandwich and blue crab burger EVER.
Crepes, French macarons, quiche, and best breakfast in Indian Rocks Beach: http://www.cafedeparisbakery.com/.
Ceviche Tapas Bar is a good place for an early bite or a great dinner. The braised oxtail is a must-try. Flamenco dancing some evenings. http://www.ceviche.com/st-petersburg/gallery/.
Dear Mary Ann: You are so kind to take time to steer me to your favorite places. I saw your email just two days before we left for home, so I’ll have to wait until next year to try your picks. I am running the full list (minus a few minor edits) for those who are traveling to the Clearwater/St. Pete area — and judging by my mail, that’s a lot of people. I have one place to add: MD Oriental Market, the biggest Asian food store I’ve ever seen. None of the employees could tell me the square footage, but it is as large as a major supermarket.
The market is one of three in the Tampa area. The one Tony and I visited, in Pinellas Park, has a sushi bar, a hot buffet line, and live fish and seafood in stacked aquariums.
Good luck to you with your year-long camper experience. At least you’re in a great food area for your adventure.