I’ve had my eye out for kumquats in the markets for nearly a month, and yesterday, I finally found some. Like most California citrus, these olive-sized little beauties are a winter season crop .”Kumquat,” is a borrowing from the Cantonese for “gold orange.” They are thought to have originated long ago in China, and kumquats remain popular there and throughout East Asia. Kumquats came to Europe and North America in the mid-19th century, and at first were mainly appreciated as attractive evergreen ornamentals. Commercially, in this area they’re grown inland because they need hot summers in order to successfully fruit.
One thing I love about kumquats is that you can eat the whole thing–the skin is tender and sweet, the interior a little tart, and the seeds are so small, they’re barely noticeable. Typically kumquats are made into jam, marmalade or chutney, but I think they’re lovely when thinly sliced and mixed into green salads or grain salads. With every other bite you get a surprising hit of something sweet, tart, and slightly crunchy all at once. Delightful! Choose kumquats which are fully yellow-orange, but firm. Wash them, discard any that are t00 s0ft, and you will want to pick off any little green stems which are still attached. That’s it, they are ready to eat. The various citrus fruits work wonderfully in desserts, so you may like to try my Kumquat-Orange Spice Bars where they pair with sweet Asian spices such as cinnamon, ginger and cloves (recipe after the jump).
KUMQUAT-ORANGE SPICE BARS
Yields 12-16 bars (one 9-inch square baking pan)
Preheat oven to 350º F
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cups currants, or chopped raisins
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds, ground into a meal (or 1 cup total of nuts or seeds of your choice)
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup orange juice
3/4-inch piece of fresh ginger , peeled and chopped
1/2 cup maple syrup
10 or so medium kumquats
For the glaze: 1/4 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup maple syrup
1. Measure the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir together well
2. Measure the wet ingredients (except the kumquats) into the bowl of your blender and blend well. Add the kumquats and blend just until the kumquats are coarsely chopped.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until completely mixed.
4. Pour this batter into a lightly-oiled 9-inch square (or similarly sized) baking pan and bake in a 350º F oven 20-25 minutes, or until it tests done with a toothpick.
5. For the glaze: In a small sauce pan, combine 1/4 cup orange juice with 1/4 maple syrup, heat until reduced by half, then bush this glaze evenly over the bars (this takes just a few minutes, watch carefully as this could evaporate or burn!).
6. Cool before cutting and serving.