Oh my poor little neglected blog! I haven’t really been any busier than usual; maybe I’m just going through a little slump. I’ve still been cooking, but it’s been pretty utilitarian- soup and chili to get me through the week; a roasted chicken with some veg and risotto over the weekend. I did make one “superfluous” thing, though- this really quick kumquat and coconut sorbet. In my effort to try to take advantage of seasonal items while they’re around, I picked up a pint of kumquats at Trader Joe’s, without any clear idea what I was going to do with them. I decided to candy them, which I’d done before and knew was a breeze… but then what? Ice cream was an obvious answer; ever since I got my ice cream maker I’ve been using it whenever I have fruit I’m not sure what else to do with (see my posts on blood orange sorbet and Meyer lemon sherbet…). I just wanted something quick and easy, so instead of making a custard as you would for ice cream, I just used coconut cream and the sugar syrup from candying the kumquats to make a sorbet. The bonus is that it was vegan so I could serve it to a couple vegan friends who came by.
So, without further ado, here’s the recipe. Grab a pint of kumquats while they’re still in season and whip up a batch this weekend!
Candied Kumquat & Coconut Sorbet
1 pint kumquats (about 12 oz)
1 can coconut cream (14.5-oz size)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbs coconut rum (you can sub a plain or orange-flavored rum or vodka)
optional: 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Note: for non-vegans, you can add a teaspoon of gelatin for a smoother, less icy texture; just dissolve it in 2 Tbs water in a small saucepan over low heat; when fully dissolved (no visible graininess), add it to the sorbet base before putting it in the refrigerator.
Wash the kumquats and slice into 1/8″ slices, removing the seeds. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add the kumquats and bring to a very gentle simmer for about 10 minutes or until kumquats are tender.
Put the coconut cream and rum in a bowl. Strain the kumquats over the bowl, pressing down with the back of a spoon. Stir the coconut cream and syrup to combine and place in the fridge until cool. Chop the kumquats and set aside. If you wish, you can reserve some of the kumquat rings for garnish.
Remove the coconut cream/ syrup mixture from the fridge, giving it a whisk to combine and stir out any solidified bits of coconut cream. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions. When the base is frozen but still semisoft, stir in the kumquats and coconut, if using, and transfer to a container. Place in the freezer until firm. Makes about 1 quart.
pucker up: moroccan preserved lemons, meyer lemon marmalade, meyer lemon sherbet, and candied lemon slices
The last couple weekends A few weeks ago, I went just a little nuts with the citrus. I wanted to make sure to take advantage of it before the season is over, so I made no less than four different things out of lemons. I’m calling it my “Midwest citrusfest”. It’s finally starting to warm up here, but the lemons were a much-needed burst of sunshine while we wait for the real thing.
There’s a condiment I’d been wanting to make for a couple years now and never got around to, but I have no idea why, because the “recipe” is simplicity itself: just lemons and salt. I’m referring, of course, to Moroccan preserved lemons. I looked at several sets of instructions, and they were virtually identical: cut the lemon in quarters, but don’t cut all the way through; stuff the lemon with as much salt as it will hold (measurements were given, but unnecessarily so, in my opinion); reshape the lemons and stuff them in a jar. Some of the recipes said to add additional lemon juice to cover, but others said it was fine to wait a few days; by then, the lemons should release enough of their own juice. So now I have a big jar of lemons in some liquid that is starting to take on a slightly viscous, mucus-like appearance. I’m hoping this is normal. I have to wait another 2 weeks or so before they’re ready, at which time I plan to make the classic tagine of chicken with preserved lemons and green olives. Hopefully I will not perish due to botulism or some other form of food poisoning. Although I cannot imagine any living thing surviving the amount of salt I used.
My second lemon experiment was Meyer lemon marmalade. Again, I looked at a couple different recipes, mostly following this one. Don’t you love it when a recipe says “reduce to 2 tbs” or “reduce by half”… like, how do I know what that looks like? Am I supposed to eyeball what 4 cups looks like? Or interrupt the cooking process while I take the the hot liquid out of the pan to measure it? For this recipe, I actually did just that, since you’re supposed to add an amount of sugar that is equal to your boiled lemon-water mixture. I followed the cooking instructions but my marmalade never got close to 230º, and after cooking it for 30 minutes, I decided I was done. I think it could have gone even less time, because my yield was a full 2 jars short of what the recipe said it would be, and the marmalade was very thick. But, I thought it wasn’t bad for a first effort. The flavor was a little too sweet for my taste due to being cooked down so much, but I think spread on something like a scone or toast that isn’t sweetened, it’ll be just fine. The marmalade was also incorporated in my April Daring Bakers challenge, which I can’t reveal until the end of the month for a few more days, but I can tell you was delish. [Update: I am now convinced the thermometer I was using was broken, which explains why my marmalade was overcooked even though it "never got to 230º".]
Ever since my sister gave me the Cuisinart ice cream maker for Christmas, I’ve been whipping up lots of frozen treats. Fruit ices and sorbets are the easiest because you don’t have to do a custard base. I still had lemons left, so next up was a batch of Meyer lemon sherbet. I have to pause here and question all the foodie love for Meyer lemons. I honestly was hard-pressed to taste a difference between the sherbet I made with Meyers, and any other standard lemon ice. With the marmalade I get it, because regular lemons would have too thick a skin for marmalade. And the Meyers are pretty juicy, but for the difference in price, I’m just not sold. Perhaps I need to taste them in a lemonade, or a lemon curd, to fully appreciate their superiority… Anyone else with me on this one, or are my taste buds just not that sophisticated? Supposedly they’re sweeter than regular lemons, but if you’re adding a bunch of sugar to a recipe, what’s the difference? In any event, the sherbet tasted like lemons, so I was happy. I used a recipe out of Chez Panisse Fruit and adapted it a bit- see recipe below.
The last thing I made with my remaining lemons was candied lemon slices. These were also utilised in my Daring Bakers challenge. I used the instructions found here; the only variation I made was to strain and save the syrup in which the lemons are cooked, rather than discarding it. You can use this syrup in cocktails where simple syrup is called for (as long as the lemon flavor won’t clash), or to sweeten iced tea, or to make lemonade. Or muddle some mint, add the syrup and some club soda for a nice refreshing bevvie for your teetotaler friends. I’ve already used mine to drizzle over some berries, to sweeten a smoothie, and for a couple other things including the sherbet recipe below.
I enjoyed my midwest citrusfest, but am definitely looking forward to the fruits of summer!
Meyer Lemon Sherbet (adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit)
3 cups lemon syrup from the candied lemons you just made (or 1 1/2 cups each sugar & water, heated gently to dissolve sugar)
1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 tbs Microplaned or finely chopped zest
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp gelatin in 2 tbs water*
Directions: Combine syrup, juice, zest and milk. (Don’t worry if milk looks a little curdly; it will be fine once frozen.) Gently heat gelatin mixture until fully dissolved and no longer grainy. Add to other ingredients and refrigerate until cold; then freeze according to the directions of your ice cream maker.
*Note: for those not wanting to use gelatin, you could add a tbs or two of some sort of alcohol (vodka or limoncello, perhaps?) as an anti-freezing agent, or try using half-and-half instead of milk.
I was looking for a simple, light, palate-cleansing finish to my lasagna dinner, so I had planned on making a lemon ice. When I got to the store, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had blood oranges and Meyer lemons, both something of a treat in this neck of the woods. And at semi-reasonable prices, no less! I’m not sure how long they’ll be around, but for those of you in the Midwest, I encourage you to get to the store and pick some up before they’re gone. I got mine a Trader Joe’s, but I saw them at Holiday Market as well, so I think they should be fairly easy to find. (Incidentally, the bowl pictured was a Royal Oak Flea Market find… cute, no?)
If you haven’t tried one, most of you have probably at least seen a blood orange at some point as a plate garnish at a fancy brunch place. The flavor is not all that different from that of other oranges; I would describe it as having a slight honey aroma; but the coloring gives them an obvious dramatic flair. After looking at the Wikipedia entry, I’m thinking mine were the Moro variety. Meyer lemons, a favorite of foodies everywhere, are sweeter and more fragrant than the Eureka lemons typically in stores. They have a very thin skin, and are wonderful in all sorts of lemon desserts. I have also seen them recommended for Moroccan preserved lemons, and am thinking I need to try this ASAP. But back to the sorbet…
This is an incredibly simple dessert, even if you don’t have an ice cream maker, and is a great finish to a heavy or rich meal. A nice addition would be a tuile or thin butter cookie to stick on the side. The only downside to the recipe is that blood oranges don’t yield an incredible amount of juice… I used a whole bag (8 oranges) and only got a little over 1 cup of juice. However, you could always combine some “regular” orange juice in to supplement things.
Blood Orange Sorbet
3 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice, or a combination of freshly squeezed orange and blood orange juices
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs blood orange zest
optional: 1 blood orange, sliced into thin half moons, to garnish (I did use this garnish when I served it, but didn’t have any left over when the photo was taken)
Directions: Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Taste the mixture to check for balance of sweetness and acidity, adjusting if necessary by adding a pinch more sugar or a squeeze more lemon. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Alternately, pour into a shallow plastic container and place in freezer until nearly frozen. Break up in chunks and process in the blender until fluffy. Put back in the freezer and repeat process once. With either method, the sorbet will need about 1-2 hours in the freezer to set up after processing, so this is a good make-ahead dish.