I Tried a Kumquat (and I liked it!)

My first introduction to Brussels sprouts was in a magazine. I can’t remember what it was exactly – some women’s home magazine – but there was a photo spread that featured a dollhouse, with a picture of a Brussels sprout as a tiny cabbage. I’d never eaten Brussels sprouts or cabbage at that point, but that didn’t stop me from becoming instantly enamored with the idea of a tiny, edible version of a larger vegetable. Ever since then, I’ve had a special place in my heart for the small cruciferous orbs, even if it took many more years before I tried them.

This post is not about Brussels sprouts.

It is, however, about a different tiny piece of produce – the kumquat. Like my first introduction to Brussels sprouts, I have only shadowy, vague memories of the moment when I became aware of kumquats. I recall a fruit tray, and someone telling me I could eat the entire fruit, skin and all, and tentatively yet excitedly trying one.

I don’t, however, remember what I thought about it or what it tasted like. I do remember thinking they were awfully cute, those lilliputian ovular fruits. Not unlike tiny oranges…

So colorful!

When I purchased a large handful of kumquats at the co-op a few days ago, I didn’t know quite what to expect. S had tried a sample recently and reported that they were too tart, which only served to heighten my interest – I’m a big lover of all things sour, so I knew I had to try them. And when I realized that Hannah Kaminsky has a recipe for Kumquat Poppy Seed Scones in Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season, I knew the time was ripe for a purchase. If I didn’t enjoy the fruit raw, I could chop ’em up and put them in a baked good!

Reader, I did enjoy the fruit raw – very much so. S might find them too sour, but I think they’re perfect – just bursting with juicy, lip-puckering goodness, surrounded by a thin, sweet rind that tempers the tartness just the slightest bit. Delightful! However, that didn’t stop me from baking up a batch of scones.

Can you spot the kumquat?

I really enjoyed these, too. They’re a creative twist on the more quotidian lemon-poppy seed combination, offering a greater contrast between the sour and the sweet. And the orange flecks of chopped kumquat are very visually appealing. Admittedly, I was dubious about these while they were baking – my dough was very dry and required more soy milk than the recipe called for, but they emerged from the oven perfectly baked, tender and moist with a beautiful, hefty crumb. I should know to trust Hannah’s recipes and guidance!

All in all, I’m more than glad that I’ve welcomed kumquats into my life. Discovering a brand-new (to me!) piece of produce is a rare treat, and I’m glad to have found one I like so much.

What are your feelings on kumquats? How do you like to eat them?

Cranberry Streusel Bars, or, Sorry I Left You in the Fridge for Months, Cranberries

I’m a sucker for anything seasonal. Come fall, my pantry quickly becomes home to an eyebrow-raising amount of canned pumpkin, ready for breads and muffins and – obviously – pies. During the holiday season, I compulsively buy various nogs, even the coconut-based one I know I probably won’t care for, just because it’s a nog, for heaven’s sake, and you can only get it around the holidays!1!!!1!!11! Predictably, though, my burning love for whatever seasonal specialty caught my fancy wanes fairly quickly, replaced by the Next Big Thing, and soon I forget that pumpkin even exists and that I like it very much.

That temporary consumerist love of seasonal eats reared its embarrassing head when I discovered a sad little pint of cranberries languishing in my fridge two weeks ago. The cranberries were a  forgotten holdover from November, when I eagerly stocked up on the local, organic berries when they were on sale at the co-op. Two months later, this unused pint was surprisingly intact. A few berries showed signs of their age – a little bit squishy, not plump and taut like their peers – but overall, they were in good shape. What to do with these poor neglected berries?

Sweet, tart little rectangles.

Make a Saturday night snack, that’s what. Eager for another opportunity to bake from Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season, I was delighted to find a cranberry-reliant recipe appropriately located in the Autumn section of the book. These bars are a happy meeting of tart and sweet, each bite featuring tangy cranberries and the sugary streusel topping. S and I both adored them, and I’ve already shortlisted them for my Thanksgiving desserts next year. But with any luck, I’ll make them again before next November – who knows; there might just be another forgotten pint of berries in my fridge right now.

Do you fall prey to seasonal purchasing binges? What’s your favorite cranberry recipe?

Christmas: Sweet Edition

Lest you think we ate nothing but savory foods at our Christmas celebration, let me show you all the sweet, sugary delights we consumed. Technically these aren’t all of them, because I didn’t photograph the oodles of beautiful and undoubtedly delicious non-vegan desserts my aunt shared. But I don’t think you’ll miss them when you see all the sweets we shared!

First up, the traditional Christmas morning cinnamon bun + grapefruit breakfast. Like the past few years, Mama followed the glorious unhealthy-but-delicious VeganYumYum recipe for our cinnamon rolls. This time, I snapped some shots of her baking process, including the super-awesome trick of cutting the giant cinnamon log with dental floss:

Log o' dough.

Look at the perfectly clean slices!

Amazing!

And check out how lovely they look, all nestled up to one another pre-baking.

All rolled up.

And the finished product, covered in an oozy, sweet icing, is equally appealing.

Ready for eatin'.

As usual, I could barely finish one of these buns with breakfast – I had to save the rest for later, when I needed some post-present-opening refueling.

Rest assured, cinnamon buns weren’t the extend of our sweet treats. For dessert proper, Mum made an amazing chocolate-orange mousse pie, a rich, creamy confection with the perfect blend of chocolate and citrus.

I would like to eat a slice right now.

Even though I didn’t make this pie, I think I contributed to its deliciousness by cluing my mom in to silken tofu – apparently, the last time she made it she used regular soft tofu. This time around, I set her straight, to marvelously smooth and creamy results.

Although I can’t claim the pie as my own creation, I did contribute my fair share to the dessert table. Because Christmas isn’t Christmas without cookies, I whipped up some Five-Spice Snaps from Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season and some Peppermint Mocha Roll Cookies from Scissors and Spice.

A variety of nibbles.

Both of these cookies were excellent. The snaps were just a touch more sophisticated than your typical gingersnap, with a mellower yet more nuanced flavor. And the peppermint mocha roll cookies were the perfect yuletide delicacy, chocolaty and minty with a tiny kick of caffeine and just the right amount of chewiness.

I also made a sort of gingerbread cake, but it came out a little dry and not terribly gingerbread-y. I totally forgot to photograph it, but no matter – it was pretty forgettable; I don’t even recall where I found the recipe.

All in all, I’d say we had a pretty damn tasty Christmas, wouldn’t you? What are your favorite holiday desserts? And do you have a no-fail gingerbread recipe I could borrow? :)