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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
Roasted kumquat quarters add a big pop of flavor
to a toasted bagel and cream cheese. The kumquats
also could be chopped and stirred into the 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 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.

Chopped kumquats
Some of the seeds are exposed when the kumquats
are sliced, but don't worry about removing them all.

Roasted kumquats

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

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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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Nov. 27

Before the rain comes later in the week, take advantage of sunny, calm days:

* This may be your last chance this season for the first application of copper fungicide spray to peach and nectarine trees. Leaf curl, which shows up in the spring, is caused by a fungus that winters as spores on the limbs and around the tree in fallen leaves. Sprays are most effective now, but they need a few days of dry weather after application to really “stick.” If you haven’t yet, spray now.

* Rake and compost leaves, but dispose of any diseased plant material. For example, if peach and nectarine trees showed signs of leaf curl this year, clean up under trees and dispose of those leaves instead of composting.

* Make sure storm drains are clear of any debris.

* Give your azaleas, gardenias and camellias a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim chrysanthemums to 6 to 8 inches above the ground after they’re done blooming. Keep potted mums in their containers until next spring. Then, they can be planted in the ground, if desired, or repotted.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while dormant.

* Plant bulbs for spring bloom. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Other suggestions: daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas.

* Seed wildflowers including California poppies.

* Also from seed, plant sweet pea, sweet alyssum, bachelor buttons and other spring flowers.

* Plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from winter rains.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cool-season greens can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* If you decide to use a living Christmas tree this year, keep it outside in a sunny location until Christmas week. This reduces stress on the young tree.

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