Tangerine Salsa, Two Ways

Wherever I am these days - whether it's Beijing, San Francisco, or Tampa - I am surrounded by tangerines and clementines. (The latter is possibly better known in California as Cuties®.) These in-season cousins of the orange make excellent snacks, especially when you're trying to fight off the seasonal cold. And they're CHEAP. At a Tampa-area supermarket I found a 10-tangerines-for-$1 deal, rivaling Chinese prices.

After eating about 200 tangerines this season, I decided to make tangerine salsa for Christmas Eve hors d'oeuvres. This salsa requires few ingredients and is equally tangy, salty, sweet, and hot. I made a lot yesterday, and can serve it straight out of the fridge tomorrow with a few chips, a precious time-saver considering I have other appetizer, sides, and a big ol' turkey to contend with. 

Another way to use this salsa is to bake fish with it. I bought some tilapia fillets, rubbed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and covered them with tangerine salsa. If you have the salsa already prepared, dinner is merely 10 minutes away.

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Tangerine Salsa

Makes about 4 cups of salsa; feel free to halve recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 large red onion, or 1 small red onion, finely chopped 6 ripe roma tomatoes, chopped 4 to 5 tangerines, peeled, segmented, and chopped 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice 1/2 tablespoon hot sauce, plus more to taste 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Heat oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Cook onions until just caramelized, then add tomatoes and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix together cooked tomatoes and onions with tangerines. Stir in lime juice, 1/2 tablespoon hot sauce, and 1 teaspoon salt. Adjust flavorings to suit your taste. Serve immediately with chips, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

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Tilapia with Tangerine Salsa

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets 2 tablespoons olive oil Salt and pepper 1 1/2 cups tangerine salsa (see above)

Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°. Place tilapia fillets in a glass baking dish and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover fillets with salsa. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve immediately with rice or vegetables.

Pumpkin Hummus

When I lived in the US, I was addicted to hummus. I would go through a tub a week, eating it with pita, raw vegetables, and (secret's out!) even plain rice if the cupboards were empty. I would make long treks from West Harlem to Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn just for hummus and pita from Sahadi's. Not surprisingly, I went through major withdrawal while living in China. Not even the Western import stores had the mass-produced tubs I took for granted at Whole Foods or even Safeway. And since Beijing's Middle Eastern population is tiny, with the majority working at embassies, not opening restaurants, I could forget about any sort of mezze platters or shawarmas whenever the mood stuck.

So I was ecstatic to finally find tahini at Sanyuanli, the local market that rivals the import stores in diversity, without the exhorbitant prices. The guy who runs the stall sells fresh sesame oil and sesame paste, but unlike his rivals around town, was smart enough to realize realize, hey, the foreigners all want this thing called tahini. Thomas Friedman would be proud.

Since I found the tahini guy I have been making all sorts of hummus at home. Regular, extra lemon, carrot. And since pumpkin is everywhere right now and ridiculously cheap, I also whipped up a batch of pumpkin hummus. In addition to the regular hummus ingredients, I roasted small pieces of pumpkin, and at the same time roasted the pumpkin seeds, which would later be used as garnish instead of pine nuts.

Since imported pita chips cost at least $6 US here, I made my own with fresh Chinese pancakes (like scallion pancakes, without the scallions.) On my street there are at least two stands that sell a big pancake sheets for about 60 cents; quite economical! I just baked the pancakes for about 10 minutes per side, broke them up, and got the requisite "pita chips" for dipping.

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Pumpkin Hummus

  • 1 cup chopped pumpkin
  • 1 small handful fresh pumpkin seeds
  • 16-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  1. In a glass baking dish, roast the chopped pumpkin at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour, or until soft. You may also roast the pumpkin seeds at the same time, then set aside.
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine the roasted pumpkin, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth, then add the sugar and salt. Adjust the flavor with more salt if needed
  3. Dish the hummus out into a serving bowl, drizzle with additional olive oil, and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve with pita chips or raw vegetables like baby carrots or cherry tomatoes.