Black currants, widely grown in Europe but not common in the United States, give crème de cassis its deep black-red color and fruity flavor. This liqueur is added to white wine to create the cherry-colored kir cocktail and is excellent combined with fresh fruit. Try it on sliced peaches, plums and other stone fruits in summer, as well as in this winter citrus compote. Cassis syrup, similar in color and taste but nonalcoholic, is also available though is a bit harder to find. Look for it in specialty-food shops.
12 large blood oranges, navel oranges or tangelos, or a mixture, about 4 lb. total
1⁄4 cup crème de cassis or cassis syrup
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs. minced fresh mint, plus mint sprigs for garnish
Zest of 1 orange, removed with a zester
Pomegranate seeds for garnish (see related tip at right) (optional)
Using a large chef's knife, cut off the top and bottom of an orange down to the flesh. Stand the orange upright and cut off the peel in vertical strips to the flesh, following the contour of the fruit. (If using tangelos, simply peel by hand.) Cut the flesh crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick. Remove the hard white center and any seeds. Put the slices in a large nonaluminum bowl. Repeat with the remaining oranges.
Pour the cassis and lemon juice over the oranges and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
To serve, transfer the oranges to a serving dish and sprinkle with the minced mint, orange zest and pomegranate seeds. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve. Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Christmas, by Carolyn Miller (Simon & Schuster, 2003).