The Year of the Kumquat

 A very small portion of them shown here.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or in my case lemon mead, and when you've been blessed with a load of kumquats, you need to be creative with them.  We haven't really had a whole year of them, it just sounded good, and sometimes feels that way.  Bob has had a strange obsession with the fruit ever since Thanksgiving when I made a Cranberry Kumquat Sauce.  I know it was only partly my delicious creation, with the other driving factor being humor.  Really, the name is not that funny.  He started with Facebook posting a W.C. Fields film clip on kumquats.  Yes, that was funny, ha ha ha.  Then Googling and posting all sorts of information on the fruit, health benefits, recipes and etc.  And which has caused other people to give him kumquats.

Bob notwithstanding, I still needed to deal with the second large bagful of those tasty little citrus, thanks due to Nancy, whom some of you might remember from my fabulous post on chocolate making.  First up was marmalade, which I simplified.  I did not like the sound of most of those lengthy recipes.  So, rather than mincing them all, one at a time, I tossed the halved, seeded fruit into a food processor and voila.

Isn't it interesting that with kumquats, the pectin is in the edible seeds, and you cook them along with the fruit and sugar, in their own little cheesecloth baggie. So cute.

 Simplifying things in the kitchen is often successful.  On this occasion it worked up until the last moment, when distracted by a post I was reading online, (wouldn't you know) I let the preserves (note I'm now calling them preserves, rather than marmalade) slightly scorch on the bottom.  However, we are not saying scorched anymore, we will be saying lightly caramelized.  Much tastier sounding.  And I would not say that if it were not totally, deliciously true.  Trust me. And Bob agrees.

I believe marmalade is supposed to have a certain clarity, which whizzing in a food processor with the segments diminishes.  Hence, calling this preserves.  The various recipes instructed to halve, squeeze juice, remove segments from rinds, and the seeds, tossing the segments, saving out the seeds, mincing the rinds, on each little fruit.   In Hawaiian there is a word for all that - pilikia.

Left with 5 lb.s, of fruit, ice cream was next up.  I found a dandy recipe, using simply (there's that word again) kumquats, honey and cream.  Actually, I'm lying.  It called for sugar and we (in the Royal sense) decided to go with honey.  Also, it called for 1/2 milk, and I used cream plus a wee bit of half and half.  And didn't bother with the lemon juice.  Superfluous in my view.

This recipe makes more than will fit in most ice cream makers, so was cut down.

And the Hawaiian word for this is ono.  Not to be confused with the fish of that name.

Kumquat Ice Cream

 makes 32 servings

    2 pints kumquats, halved and seeded  (I quartered the fruit)
    5 cups milk
    4 cups heavy whipping cream
    3 cups sugar (or honey)
    2 tablespoons lemon juice (or not)


    Puree kumquats in a food processor until smooth; transfer to a large bowl. Stir milk, cream, sugar, and lemon juice into kumquat puree.
    Pour kumquat mixture into ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

    Cook's note:
    This recipe is for a machine that can hold 4 quarts of ice cream.  Mine holds 1 1/2 quarts.

Too bad, I think we could handle 4 quarts.  Seriously good.  Now if anyone has suggestions for the remaining fruit, let me know.

P.S - Valentines Special - and this is where a book comes into the picture!

One of the best upside-down cakes EVER!!  I totally mean that.  Kumquats beat out pineapple all over the place.  The flavor is soooo intense.  I used the Alice Waters' Cranberry Upside-down Cake recipe, in which she also suggests other fruits that might be used instead of cranberries.  Only mistake was not mentioning kumquats.  From her The Art of Simple Food, which is one of my favorites, a real go-to kind of cookbook.


Chocolate Cake with SECRET GF INGREDIENT

I am posting about this cake for two reasons.  One, due to being absolutely ashamed of myself for neglecting this blog.  Have not been posting consistently, and mean to change that.  Secondly, not only was that cake totally delicious, but gluten free.  Now I'm not "normally" a gluten free person.  My husband, Bob, thinks it the joke of the year to ask at the Natural Foods store if he can have some of that free gluten that's going around.  But when our local supermarket coupon booklet came in the mail, with a GF cake on the cover, that was my heads up, knowing I would be having a group of women over, one of whom is, yes GF.

The Chocolate ganache icing was simplicity itself, consisting of just cream and chocolate chips.  The recipe called for coconut milk, but if you have an opened container of cream on hand, I figure go with it.  And, truly the taste cannot be beaten.  Unless you are also lactose free.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

coconut oil for greasing cake pan
6 tbsp. cocoa powder, unsweetened, plus extra for dusting pan
15 oz. can black beans
5 large eggs
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
6 tbsp. unsalted organic butter, or extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup coconut milk (or heavy whipping cream)
4 oz. chocolate chips, or chopped semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Cut a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of a 9" layer cake baking pan, then grease the parchment and sides of pan lightly with coconut oil.  Dust cocoa all over the inside of the pan.

Rinse and drain the beans.  Place beans, 3 eggs, salt and vanilla into blender.  Blend on high until beans are completely liquified.  No lumps!  In a large mixing bowl, beat butter (or coconut oil) with honey until light and fluffy.  Add remaining eggs, beating for a minute after each addition.  Hold a strainer over the bowl and add 6 tbsp. cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.  Tap the strainer to sift into bowl.  Mix together until smooth.  Add contents of the blender to the bowl and mix together.  Scrape batter evenly into pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is slightly rounded and firm to the touch.  After 10 minutes gently turn out cake onto a cooling rack.  Cool to room temperature before frosting.  Place cake onto serving plate.

To make chocolate ganache frosting, bring coconut milk to a boil on medium heat, or if using cream to just under boil.  Place the chocolate bits into a small bowl and pour hot cream over and let it sit until the chocolate has melted.  Stir well, and frost.   Enjoy!  Don't tell your victims the secret ingredient though.  Let them try and guess.


Pigeon Peas

I walked out into the garden this morning,
  Sun warming my head and arms,
And the green pigeon peas. 
A breath of legume scent teased out by that sun,
   Brought them to my attention.
Picked a handful, then two.
Dropped into boiling salted water
   For 10 minutes or so, cooled in a colander,
   Shelled -  lifted from their
 Plump nurturing pods, some
   Kissed a bit brown by that sun.
Suitable now for our salad,
Or pigeon peas 'n pasta
With basil and tomato.

Well, that was my inspiration (inspired to poetry as well as food) from our latest Cook the Books Club pick, Sustenance & Desire, an anthology of poems, essays and various excerpts, loosely associated with food, edited with paintings by Bascove.  I would give the book mixed reviews.  Overall a bit uneven in quality and interest.  Some of the poems mystifying, some mediocre and several excellent, of course all in my humble opinion.  Among the essay selections, I enjoyed a few, some were okay and a number of others could be done without entirely; for instance the piece on cannibalism.  Did you know that:
"The Aztec cared intensely how they ate people and also who they ate, when, and where."
Not particularly appetizing.  That said however, her art alone was worth the book purchase.  I tried to find any Bascove paintings on ebay, but none were available.  Must all be in private collections or museums.

I made a lovely salad incorporating those peas.  Used arugula, romaine, moringa leaves (for extra protein), some toasted pine nuts, cherry tomatoes and cabbage... oil and vinegar dressing.  I want to do a post soon on moringa.  Such a worthwhile tropical perennial to have, as are pigeon peas, of course.


Scrumptious Walnut Sauce for Pasta and More

Our current selection for Cook the Books Club is A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi.
What a delicious co-mingling of romance, tempting food and place - Venice, of course!  My own stay in La Serenissima a few years ago was all too short.

I especially appreciated it as a later-in-life love story, being later-in-life myself, as well as a sucker for lovely fairy tales come true.  And, so descriptive, so well written.  The woman is a poet.

An American food writer and chef, Marlena is traveling in Italy with two friends when she meets "The Stranger", a Venetian Peter Sellers look-alike, whose shy pursuit ends up enchanting her.

Life is not completely perfect, a real fairy tale has an underside.  Melding cultures and personalities is never easy, especially for mature folks, set in their ways.  Which is actually a good thing.  A jolting out of ruts and character flaw stagnation, into something better, new and stronger, without either partner becoming diminished.  Marriage is meant to do that, and beautiful when it does.

There was much to inspire our cooking, from pastries to Wild Mushrooms Braised in Late-Harvest Wine.  Fabulous food she encounters in Venice, dishes created with local produce, and meals dreamt up and served with passion and imagination.  Hard to choose.  However, in the end it was the Pasta with Roasted Walnut Sauce that grabbed me.


Sauce Allemande for Daring Cooks

 This month, the Daring Cooks got a little saucy! Jenni from the Gingered Whisk taught us the basics of how to make the five mother-sauces and encouraged us to get creative with them, creating a wide variety of delicious, fresh sauces in our very own kitchens.

As Jenni quotes Julia Child, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: “Sauces are the splendor and glory of cooking, yet there is nothing serious or mysterious about making them. These are indispensable to the home cook”.  Well, I've been making all sorts of sauces for a great many years, being the old lady that I am, so the real job was to find the untried, the tasteful new horizon. 

I had a nice piece of ahi tuna, left from the previous night's dinner, and wanted to do something other than mash it up and make sandwiches, or slice it onto a big Salade Nicoise, (admittedly tempting in this still hot summer weather).  But just enough for a dinner for two.  Nicely sauced.

A famous French chef of the early 19th century, Antonin Carême said there were 5 classic "mother"sauces: Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Tomato, and from these, which were given for our challenge, listed with their various derivatives, I thought the Sauce Allemande, an off-shoot of Velouté, sounded yummy and just right for that fish.

I first made a batch of stock from my hoarded freezer bag of goodies (mostly chicken bones with some carrot, onion and celery bits), strained it all, then put into the fridge to let the fat rise and harden, for lifting off.  Then you might reduce your stock to concentrate the flavor.

Sauce Allemande
   adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of stock, chicken, veal or vegetable
salt and pepper
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon capers (optional, but nice with fish)

Melt the butter, add flour and then the stock and seasoning.  Simmer and stir until well combined and thickened.  Off the heat whisk well the egg yolk and cream and add gradually to the sauce whilst whisking.  Stir the sauce until slightly thickened.  Do not re-boil.  Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice, butter and capers.

Made a bit more than needed, but delightful tasting, subtle delicate flavors to aid and albeit a nice piece of fish, or veal would also be good.  Highly recommended.  I have plans to consider for the extra sauce.  And, that recipe made quite a bit of sauce.

Next night report: I ladled it onto steamed new potatoes as a side with tenderloin steaks.  Really, really yummy.


Green Mango Clafoutis

This is being posted just to encourage you all to try, if you haven't already, a Dutch Baby, often known as Clafoutis, or just big puffy pancake with fruit of some sort on the bottom.  In my case sliced green mangoes.  You may also use green apples, tart plums or what have you.

Part of this is a sad commentary on human nature.  We had lots of green mangoes at our market, and when I asked where all the ripe ones were, was told, ripped off from the orchards!  People steal fruit in the night.  Unbelievable.  Well not really, thievery being what it has always been.

So we got green ones, as I had used them before in pies (just like tart green apples) as well as for Dutch Babies.  Just fantastic, tartness with sweetness, the caramelized fruit in a bit of butter, topped with puffy cream puff like pancake. 

This breakfast treat is simplicity itself, whips up so easily, trust me, and is nicely impressive, served at once.  You don't want to let it wait and deflate.

Green Mango Clafoutis

2-3 cups sliced tart fruit (depending on the size of your skillet - you want to cover the bottom)
1-2 tablespoons butter, plus 1/4 cup butter
1- 2  tablespoons sugar

Set oven to 425 F.  Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in an oven-proof skillet, add fruit and sugar.  Cook and stir until slightly softened, then add remaining butter, let melt and stir.

For the Clafoutis batter:
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour

Meanwhile, put eggs into blender and run at hi speed for 1 minute, with blender still running, add milk gradually.  Then slowly add the flour and continue whirling for 30 seconds more.  Pour batter over fruit.  Now bake until puffy and browned, about 30 minutes. 

That's all, enjoy!  Especially nice if your sous chef has fried sausages or bacon to accompany it.


Potato Turnip Galette with Roast Chicken

Our current - June/July - read at Cook the Books Club is The Apprentice, My Life in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pépin, and what an entertaining writer he is!  I have to think when I've so much enjoyed a memoir.   From his time during the war years, frequently shuffled off to farms in the country for safety, working in his mother's series of restaurants, then a three year chef's apprenticeship at age 13, (you have to love that cover photo), on to cooking at Le Plaza Athénée, interrupted by the draft, which led to Pépin's serving as chef for France's new president, Charles de Gaulle, and eventually to life in America, including his adventures with famous chefs, research and development work for Howard Johnson, marriage, restaurant mangement, teaching, television appearances and writing numerous books on cooking.

The idea at Cook the Books Club is to read our bimonthly selection and post about whatever we are inspired by the book to cook.  What came most powerfully to mind for me was the lovely smell of roasting chicken, I don't know why.  Especially when liberally covered with chopped garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, inside and out.  I roast my chicken for 1 1/2 hours at 400F in a cast iron pan. 

As Pépin states at the close of his memoir, "While I do enjoy the esoteric, refined food of the great restaurants, I eat that food only occasionally.  My everyday tastes tend to a fare of roast chicken, braised pork..."  Have to agree with that.

Note - Bob had carved off a leg before I got my shot.

Then Pépin's mention of serving "this roast with a gratin made of potatoes, a touch of garlic, cream, milk and cheese, which is called Gratin Dauphinois", caught my attention.  Even though the roast in question was lamb, that had to be my accompaniment.  In another place he writes of a galette (a flat cake) made of potatoes and mushrooms, so I decided to do a combination galette/gratin, one layer of grated potatoes and turnips, with a bit of onion, and milk, topped with Gruyere cheese, to go with the roast chicken.

I poured about 1 cup of whole milk over all, with some salt and pepper, and cooked my galette along with the chicken, thereby saving gas.  The cheese was added 15 minutes before finish (1 hour).

 Topped with chopped chives when it came out of the oven, this was a perfect side dish to the roast.  I would possibly coat the pan with more duck fat or butter next time to make serving easier.  Delicious!

All you need is a bit of salad for the final touch.  There are so many more recipes and ideas that I want to try from this wonderful memoir.  So sweet that he included several of his mother's favorites as well.  Do stop by and see what's cooking from the other contributors or read the book and cook something yourself before the 31st.



My Haggis Adventures for a Belated Burns Night

Our oh so very daring Daring Cooks' challenge this month was to make Haggis.  Yes, this had to be from a Scots person, and so it was, Ruth of Cakey-Makey.  And, being at least half Scotch myself, it was something I had always harbored way in the back of my mind.  Like what is this strange ancestral food?

Here you can see our clan tartan.

True haggis calls for using the "pluck", of a sheep or lamb, which should include the heart, the lights (aka the lungs), the liver and the stomach, which is the casing for it all.    Really dears, we're just making a large sausage. 

Not too hard to make if you happen to know of or can find anyone butchering a sheep or lamb.  Usually they do not want the innards  and will possibly off load it to you upon request.  Or, at least as in my case, the friendly meat specialty person at your regular grocery might help to secure one.  He had just purchased a whole lamb, and when I asked, called the grower to see if he could get the pluck as well, which had not been included.  

Well, when I got the bag of innards de-frosted, and a good look taken, there was some lamb's skin, some cleaned intestines, heart, and liver, but no stomach or lungs.  Great, it was back to sourcing.

Just for those of you interested in Scottish tradition, and food lore in general, I am giein' forth the real thing recipe here.  It seems to be one of the less complicated methods around as well.  Further. you might enjoy, as I did, the Guardian's pictorial by Tim Hayward, a step-by-step guide to making Haggis at home, with background info.  I incorporated a few of their additions to the following recipe, i.e. rosemary, sage, thyme (could use even more of that), and beef suet for extra flavor and texture.

Lady Login's Traditional Haggis (1856)
                 (With my notes, additions in brackets)

1 cleaned sheep or lamb's paunch (stomach)
1 lb (450g) dry oats (should be pinhead or steel-cut)
1 Lamb's liver
1 lamb's heart
1 lamb's lights (lungs)
1 large finely chopped onion
(1/2 cup beef suet)
½ teaspoon each: cayenne pepper, ground allspice,
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
(1 tablespoon each of, rosemary, sage, thyme, or parsley)
1/2 pint stock

Cook the liver, heart (trimmed) and lights in salted water to cover and cook for about 1½ hours. (Leave to cool overnight in the stock).  Strain, but reserve the broth, and chop the meats up finely, or mince.

See that the paunch is well cleaned, then soak it in salt and cold water overnight as well.  Take out and let it dry. (I used cheesecloth, lined with tripe on sides and bottom, as was not successful in procuring a sheep's stomach, but you might also use ox bung.)

 Put the oats on a baking tray in a low oven and let it dry out and crisp up a little.  (I did 10 min. at 350F)
Mix all ingredients (except the paunch) together and season well. Then add the stock. Put into the cleaned paunch (fill to about half) and sew up loosely, but securely. (or tie off with butcher's string)

Have ready a large pot of boiling water mixed with the rest of the liver stock, prick the haggis all over with a small knitting needle to prevent bursting, then cook in the water and stock, at a slow simmer uncovered, but keep up water level, for about three hours. Serves about sixteen.

Since my stomach search narrowly missed two, I went with cheesecloth, as recommended by a local chef, who also suggested tripe, so lined the bottom and sides of my cheesecloth with that, then filled with the haggis mixture, tied it up with string, and proceeded as above.

Uploaded onto a plate, and garnished with parsley, it doesn't present too badly. 

As Tim Hayward says after making it:

"I've never been to a Burns Night dinner so I've never had the full experience of the piped in pudding, the declaiming, the toasts, but having cooked a full-sized battle haggis I'm beginning to understand it. This is a genuinely monumental piece of food. There's something about the steaming, bulging shape of it, the astonishingly welcoming smell that could easily inspire ritual and poetry in a nation less emotionally constipated than the English. And the taste…. oh the taste. I can't remember ever eating anything quite so rich. The grains absorb the fats and flavors, the powerful aromas of the meat are dispersed throughout; the velvet liver is offset by a slight nutty texture - it's a comprehensive and completely astonishing sensory assault. With the combination of fat richness and slight livery aftertaste I found myself thinking of foie gras - but more fun.
Am I converted? Absolutely. I was led astray by cheap ersatz haggis, by fear of guts and generations of bad jokes but now I see the light. I'm completely sold on haggis ... so string me up."

Don't know that I would go so far, but did enjoy me giant haggis experience, and no one could now accuse me of being a Sassenach.

Served it up with the traditional mashed tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips) alongside steamed kale.  To make your Burns Night complete, have whisky for toasts whilst someone reads aloud:

Address to a Haggis
            by Robert Burns             

 Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis.

There was a tremendous amount of it, so I made up some sausage patties for breakfast with eggs, and will be bringing some to a party for everyone there to have the experience.  Actually the whole amount could be made into patties and frozen in separate zip lock bags.

 Thanks for the truly challenging challenge Ruth!


Lamb in Pomegranate-Cardamom Sauce

Our latest project at Cook the Books Club was Funny in Farsi, A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, by Firoozeh Dumas.  It was indeed funny, lively and insightful as well. 

Moving to America at the age of 7, back in 1972, and popped right into public school, was an eye-opening experience for a small girl, especially for one who did not speak English.   What she remembers from that first day - "The bathrooms were clean and the people were very, very kind."  But you have to read the whole story to appreciate.

Dumas sprinkles mentions of delicious sounding Persian foods throughout her memoir, and I was tempted by many.  However the lamb roast in my freezer did the final selection.  That and my copy of an earlier Cook the Books Club selection: The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley.  The section on Iran to be exact, with a fabulous sounding recipe for Lamb in a Pomegranate-Cardamom Sauce (Fesenjan).  Oh boy.  That sounded like something I'd like to try.