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Kitchen magic with kumquats

Recipe: Roasted, the tiny citrus fruit becomes a flavor giant

Bagel with cream cheese and kumquat pieces
Try roasted kumquats on a toasted bagel
with cream cheese. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

As much as I love kumquats, the fruit on my tiny tree often is just ornamental, because there's only so much (I believed) that I can do with it. Sure, marmalade, but you really need a lot of them to make all that sugar mess worthwhile.  And though I enjoy eating the sour-tart little fruits whole, not everyone does.

But the kumquats are ripening again, so I went looking for recipes. And certainly soon I will make the kumquat salsa recipe I found over at Simply Recipes, but I really had to try making roasted kumquats. The method I found uses just 1 cupful of fruit, plus olive oil and salt. That's it!

One cup of ripe kumquats.

So this recipe is more of a technique, and the result more of a condiment or garnish that a dish. But those little roasted fruit pieces pack a punch of flavor. The sourness disappears, and you're left with a tart-sweet concentration of fruit that plays well with a variety of foods.

Example: I was roasting the kumquats during the first part of the 49er-Green Bay playoff game, so on a whim tossed some of the cooked fruit on top of the grilled sausage that was my dinner. The kumquats added a

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This is 1 cup of kumquats.

delicious punch to the whole-grain mustard and pickled onions that also dressed the not-spicy sausage.

Then, for breakfast, I sprinkled several pieces across my cream-cheese-covered bagel. Wow, that combination is going into the regular repertoire.

A note on prepping the kumquats: The seeds are edible, after all, so don't worry about popping all of them out when you slice or chop the fruit. And don't chop them too small -- halves or quarters are small enough, but not so much that they'll burn in the oven. Chop the fruit up some more after cooking if you want to sprinkle small bits.

Roasted kumquats

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

Chopped kumquats
Halve or quarter the fruit.

1 cup washed kumquats (measured while whole)

2 teaspoons good-quality olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the kumquats in half and let any loose seeds fall out. If the fruit is small, you can cook them that size, or quarter them lengthwise. If the fruit is large, chop it roughly but not too much. (See note above.)

Toss the prepped fruit with the olive oil and salt. Spread it on a baking sheet or shallow rimmed pan.

Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring the fruit at about the 10-minute point. Continue roasting, and after 10 minutes check the fruit to make sure it's not at risk of burning. Remove from the oven if the fruit looks evenly roasted. Or, continue cooking for up to 5 more minutes.

Green spatula with roasted kumquats
Roasted and ready to be used.

Cool fruit slightly, then use immediately, or store in a covered container until ready to use. Refrigerate if you plan to use it the next day.

Easily doubled or tripled.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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