In the winter, just when we are feeling totally deprived of warmth and lazy days out on the patio in shorts and flips, along comes peak citrus season. Yes, all of these sweet, tart, tangy, juicy bites of goodness burst with just the right amount of sun so we can get up and start shoveling one more round of snow.
This has been a winter to beat all winters, with record breaking snowfall and temps dropping to bottom basement levels.
Admittedly, I have a bit of cabin fever happening, so I’ve kind of been living on bags of Halos and Little Cuties.
Mandarins, with their extra sweet supremes and easy to peel skin are such a fab way to consume extra vitamin C and potassium, but enough nutrition talk. What I want to focus on are kumquats.
Kumquats have been affectionately named “the little gold gems of the citrus family.” It’s believed that kumquats originated in China. While we’ll zest and candy the peel of other citrus, kumquats are eaten whole, skin and all. The peel is actually the sweetest part, with the pulp, juice and pips lending the pucker for a unique sweet-sour taste.
Nagami is an oval kumquat and the most popular one grown in the US. It was introduced to Florida from Japan in 1885 and has been grown in Saint Joseph, Florida (the proclaimed kumquat capitol) since 1895. The fruit itself is a couple of inches long and around an inch in diameter, therefore the name, “little gold gems.”
While kumquats are a treat to eat out-of-hand, they’re something else candied, turned into marmalade or included in a bracing chutney. Somehow, these sugar-plum-fairy thoughts weren’t quite what I was seeking. I was thinking more mad-scientist where kumquats, a bulb of fennel, some red onion and a slab of salmon decided to experiment.
We all know that fish and citrus go together like peanut butter and jelly. Kumquats fall into the general citrus category; the whole if this, then this. Scientific, right? What transpired next was pure culinary magic.
What I did:
Naturally, the oven needed to be turned on – 350 degrees. The slab of salmon was duly placed in a baking dish and drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and a seafood blend that consisted of lemon peel, assorted peppercorns, dillweed and onion.
The fennel was thinly sliced and the red onion got a rough chop. Those vegetables were tossed around and slightly over the salmon. I then tucked in two good-sized handfuls of kumquats, leaving the small ones whole and slicing any that were larger. More olive oil was cascaded over the mixture which was flavored with the same spices as the salmon. The kit n’ caboodle was placed in the oven and baked, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. When done, the salmon should flake apart and the fruit and vegetables will be soft.
I served the salmon on a bed of brown rice, which was remarkable since the salmon and vegetables released their juice resulting in a lovely, citrusy sauce.
My overall assessment was, yeah, that really worked and will be repeated. And … the leftover kumquats did get candied and are waiting to be put into something.
Happy eating –