Spring Musings

I follow a considerable number of blogs, many of them on food, others on nature; its mysteries and wonder. To me they are all related for they all have one thing in common, earth and all that it has to offer, nutritionally and visually. But the earth like anything else can throw me a curve now and then offering up trying scenarios.

This weekend has been rainy and windy, encouraging me to deny my urge to get outside and instead stay inside and finish my income taxes and some other chores I have been procrastinating about. Thankfully, I completed those yesterday.

Those chores done, I have one more glorious day to myself. This morning my itch to get outside hasn’t lessened. It is the first day of Spring but unfortunately it is still very wet and very windy, so to ease the itch I donned my raincoat and headed out to take myself to breakfast, then over to the Farmers’ Market, which considering the weather was surprisingly well attended by both vendors and customers although I noticed a considerable lack of “easy-ups” because of the wind. We are lucky that our market is situated under an elevated part of the freeway so there is some shelter from the elements. Not the most beautiful location but definitely functional. This morning I bought Brussels sprouts, yellow onions, a small sized acorn squash, shitake mushrooms, Fuji apples and Purple Haze carrots, the subject of today’s post.

If you have never seen Purple Haze carrots you are missing a truly beautiful vegetable. Their wine colored skins encase bright orange cores that retain their color when lightly cooked or used raw. They are not only beautiful to look at they are heavenly to eat having and earthy sweet taste and crisp texture.

When I researched them I found several interesting facts:

1. Purple carrot varieties are actually one of the first originally cultivated varieties among all carrot colors. They can trace their origins back to the 10th century in what is modern day Afghanistan.

2.  Carrots are the second most popular vegetable in the world, second only to the potato. In my book they are above the potato.

3.  The hybrid variety, Purple Haze, was named after the 1967 song of the same name by Jimi Hendrix.

Now as far as facts go the last fact was definitely the most interesting fact that I dug up. If you, like me, are curious about what the connection might be you can read more about the song and its inspiration here. I’m still not sure I get the “why” of it but I definitely think it interesting.

I did several things with this bunch of carrots; I shredded some and mixed them with equal amounts of shredded Fuji apple, roasted walnuts and just a hint of mayonnaise for a salad and the balance of them I used in a recipe for a coconut carrot muffin another nice way to eat your veggies!

Coconut Carrot Muffin and a cup of hot ginger tea

Coconut Carrot Muffins with Mascarpone and Toasted Walnuts

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (½ cup for muffins, ½ cup for topping)

1 cup oat flour (you can use whole wheat if you prefer)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup canola oil

¼ cup buttermilk

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

¾ cup sugar

½ lb carrots, washed and shredded

½ cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 325°. Oil muffin pan (I used a Texas sized pan that makes 6).

Roast walnuts on baking sheet until just browned. Set aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla until mixed. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Mix in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Stir in the carrots, walnuts and coconut. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until springy and golden. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.

After the muffins were cooled I just barely warmed some Mascarpone cheese, then liberally topped each muffin and sprinkled them with chopped toasted walnuts. It’s best to serve these immediately after adding the topping. The muffins, without topping, will store for several days if kept in an airtight container.

As I sit here typing I keep thinking about getting outside. There seems to be a storm inside as well as outside, one minute I’m ready to put on some rain garb and join mother nature and her blustery wet weather. I could fill the bird feeders and check on the section of fence that blew down last night, make sure there’s not more.  The next minute I decide to stay inside for a little longer, hoping for a break in the action, I enjoy my hot ginger tea and muffin.

Kumquat Digestif – The Perfect Ending To a Party!

Are you one of those people whose  friends are always giving a little bag of this or that? I am. My friends know that I don’t like to waste anything and so often their excess becomes this weeks project on how to use what ever it is they have given me.  Such was the case when a friend gave me a small sack of kumquats. I knew that they were a type of citrus and I had heard that the rind was edible and tasted sweet, but that the flesh was quite acidic and sour. Acidic is not one of my favorite flavors but I thought, there must be something I can do with these outside of making marmalade, which I don’t really like.

The answer came amazingly not after an Internet sleuth but after digging around in my recipe clippings, Kumquat digestif. A digestif, for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, is it is a drink that’s imbibed as an aid to digestion after a meal and is often more alcoholic than an aperitif which is served before. Armagnacs, cognacs, scotch, brandies and whiskeys and some heavy and sweet wines such as, Madeira, port, and sherry, all of which I like, are digestifs. So based on how much I like all of the aforementioned,  I thought the Kumquat version would be perfect. I also had a party coming up and thought it would be fun to try the Kumquat digestif on my friends.

The recipe is from Sunset Magazine, November 2009 and I find it interesting that I had clipped a recipe for a fruit I had never tried and one that I knew to be acidic in taste. Funny how some things happen.

 

Kumquat Digestif

Makes 2 ½ cups

Time About 20 minutes, plus infusing time of at least 3 weeks

½ cup sugar

2 cups vodka

10 kumquats cut in half lengthwise, plus 5 to 6 whole

Several branches fresh thyme

In a medium saucepan, heat sugar with ½ cup water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir in vodka. Pour mixture into a decanter or jar and add kumquats (halves first) and thyme. Chill at least 3 weeks. Serve ice-cold, in shot glasses.

I’d definitely try this again and my guests gave it a “two thumbs up” rating too. The article said that this was good over ice cream too.

A little history: There are several kinds of kumquat, round and oval. The kind I was given was the oval variety. Kumquats come from trees that are native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in Chinese 12th century literature. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 and to North America shortly thereafter. The English name “kumquat” derives from the Cantonese word kam kwat, which translates to “golden orange”.

An interesting article: Here’s an interesting story written in 2008, by Susan Russo for NPR, Kumquats: Discovering the Sweetness of Sour. It contains a lot more information and some tasty sounding recipes.