These oranges in a lightly spiced syrup are probably one of the few dessert dishes I consider part of my permanent repertoire. They’re the perfect dinner-party coda after something rich or heavy, and the oranges really are refreshing any time of year; in the summer you can substitute raspberries for the pomegranate seeds. It can even be made a day ahead. In fact, I usually do this intentionally, as the flavors really do intensify overnight.
The recipe below is adapted from a slightly more elaborate version in Peggy Knickerbocker’s “Simple Soirees.” If you’re making it for a crowd, be sure to double or even quadruple the ingredient amounts. As it is now, it’s only enough for 2 or 3 people.
• 3 oranges (look for ones that are heavy for their size): $2.88
• Handful of pomegranate seeds ($1.48 pomegranate), or brightly colored berries: 25 cents
• 1/4 large vanilla bean: 50 cents
• Piece of star anise: 1 cent
• 1/4 of a cinnamon stick: 1 cent
• 2 cloves: 1 cent
• 1 T plus 1 tsp granulated sugar: 5 cents
TOTAL: $3.71/3 = $1.24/serving
Add 1/4 cup water and the sugar, heat until sugar is dissolved. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean, add the seeds and bean pod to the sugar water. Add the spices and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until slightly thickened.
Cut off the tops and bottoms of the oranges so they stand upright. Very carefully, with a very sharp knife, carve away all traces of rind and pith from the outside. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick slices, remove any seeds.
Remove the spices and vanilla pod from the sauce. Discard. Layer the oranges and pomegranate seeds in a wide bowl or attractive baking dish—the idea is for the oranges to marinate in the syrup, so it shouldn’t be too deep—pouring the syrup over each layer as you go (layer of oranges, sprinkle of seeds, pour some syrup over, repeat.) Sprinkle the top with more pomegranate seeds, serve chilled.
If you’re leaving it in the fridge overnight, cover tightly with plastic wrap and be sure to periodically spoon some of the sauce over the top so the top layer of oranges don’t dry out.