Blood orange & beetroot salsa with pan-fried salmon

BloodOrangeSalsaTitle © J Horak-Druiff 2013

“Never judge a book by its cover” – we’re told this from childhood and carry it with us into adulthood. It’s a kind of catch-all admonishment not to refuse to read a book because of its boring/ugly/frankly disturbing cover – take a look at these covers to see what I mean! Not to shun the awkward kid in the playground whose mom dresses him funny. Not to throw away that classic rock album because the cover art is so dodgy.  Not to refuse a date with somebody just because they do not look like a supermodel. You know the story.  It’s very much the same with foods: don’t refuse to eat something just because it looks like brown slop (hello, delicious beef stew and chilli con carne, I’m talking to you); and don’t think that because your apple is shinier and less lumpy that it will taste any  better!


BloodOrange1 © J Horak-Druiff 2013



BloodOrange2 © J Horak-Druiff 2013


And then you encounter the blood orange – possible nature’s most surprising fruit, and the least likely to be accurately judged by its exterior.  Blood oranges may have originated in either China or the Southern Mediterranean, although today they are most popular and widely grown in Italy.  From the outside, many varieties are indistinguishable from normal oranges which are, well… orange.  But slice them open and they will reveal their secret – flesh tinged with deep crimson, sometimes only in faint traces, and sometimes saturated through the whole fruit.  It is thought that blood oranges are a natural mutation of the sweet orange, and we now know that the anthocyanin pigments which give the flesh its distinctive colour will only develop when temperatures are low at night – such as in the Mediterranean region.  The presence of anthoycyanins means that blood oranges contain greater amounts of antioxidants than other oranges and have a distinct raspberry flavour in addition to the more usual citrus notes.    


BloodOrangePeels  © J Horak-Druiff 2013



The blood orange season is regrettably brief, and I so seldom encounter them in my forays into the local supermarket that I was beside myself with excitement when I unexpectedly discovered a basket at a tiny greengrocer near my office recently. I greedily ate a couple but put the other two aside to turn into a dish – but what? The obvious choice would be something sweet – the internet is awash with glorious recipes for sweet things using blood oranges: Seville and blood orange sorbet with Sichuan pepper; dark chocolate blood orange cake; blood orange, olive oil and cardamom syrup cake; blood orange pot au creme with dulce du leche

But the last time I got my hands on blood oranges, I went savoury with a fennel and blood orange salad with toasted pistachios – and this time would prove to be no different.  Apart from the last of the blood oranges, I also had a few cooked beets in the fridge and some fresh salmon fillets and voila: an idea was born. Beetroot are another super-colourful food (although their colour comes from other pigments called betalains) and I thought the sweetness of the orange would match well with the earthiness of the beetroot.  I was right.  If we weren’t going away the following day and I’d had more fresh stuff in the fridge, I would have added a hand of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, but even as simple as it was, this salsa was a beautiful match for the pan-fried salmon fillets and a feast for the eyes.

BloodOrangeSalsaFinal © J Horak-Druiff 2013



5.0 from 2 reviews
Blood orange & beetroot salsa with pan-fried salmon
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This dish is quick to whip up, gorgeous to look at, and packed with health benefits - antioxidants and fatty acids. What's not to like?
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 2
  • 2 small cooked beets, diced
  • 2 blood oranges, peeled, seeded and chopped roughly
  • a small handful of flat-leaf parsley finely chopped (optional)
  • a couple of tablespoons of raspberry (or other sweet berry) vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 salmon fillets, skin on
  • a little oil for frying
  1. Place the diced beetroot, chopped orange and parsley (if using) in a bowl, add the vinegar and mix well. Check for seasoning and add more vinegar, as well as salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat a little oil in a heavy frying pan or skillet. Rinse the fish, pat dry and generously salt the skin side.
  3. When the pan is hot, place the fish in the pan skin-side down and cook over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Turn the fillets over and cook for another 1 minute until the outside of the fish is cooked but it remains pink on the inside.
  4. Serve immediately on a bed of couscous topped with the blood orange & beetroot salsa.


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  1. says

    This reminds me of a discussion I had with a French friend of Jewish North African roots, a Sepharade who married an Ashkenaze of Russian origins. She hated cooking for her old mother-in-law the Ashkenaze dishes. “It’s all brown!” she said. “You just look over the whole table laden with food and it is all brown!” Ha! Your dish is amazing – and how fabulous is citrus with fish? Sadly the blood oranges we get in France are pale versions, barely red at all. Now the pêches de vigne are something to see! Dark purple! Beautiful!

  2. says

    This is such a fantastic post – lavish, gorgeous photos of fresh ingredients, and a recipe that is simple and restrained enough to showcase the natural qualities of the components! So well done, as always!

  3. says

    I have a problem with brown food – most of the food I cook is brown. or burnt. or both usually. Still, one cant make something brown out of something orange…. can they?

  4. says

    Wow, this looks fabulous, Jeanne. I hope you served it with red wine – I’m thinking of a pinot noir – to be in keeping with the red colours. If it were summer (will it ever be summer again?), I’d want to have a chilled rose.

    Lucky you for getting really deep red blood oranges. The last time we bought blood oranges (paying through the nose for them too), they had only the barest hints of red in the flesh – not exactly the thing to make blood orange gelato luridly red. But there I go, judging it for its lack of colour.

    Because you’re right, some of my favourite dinners look like dog’s breakfast.

  5. says

    I love the look of this salsa, so visually appealing. Sadly I’ve never seen a blood orange here in SA. There is a restaurant here that serves salmon with a citrus risotto and salsa verde. So yummy!

  6. says

    I didn’t know about the anthoycyanins in blood oranges, interesting, shame it’s such a short season. Loving the pairing with the salmon, and super droolworthy photos.

  7. says

    oh these book covers … I wonder who designs them 😉 – the salsa on the other hand looks amazing. The combination of blood oranges and salmon makes my mouth water.