Try something new under the sukkah this holiday and give yourself a reason to say a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving.
Call us corny, but in our family we tear up whenever we recite the Shehecheyanu. It’s such a beautiful prayer; it really brings home how blessed we are to be together and able to enjoy whatever occasion we are celebrating. So our eyes will be moist many times during Sukkot, because this holiday gives us a host of opportunities as we follow the tradition of chanting the Shehecheyanu every time we eat a new seasonal fruit or vegetable for the first time.
Think of all the produce newly harvested during autumn! Winter squash and pumpkins. Hazelnuts and dates. Pomegranates and tangerines.
Kumquats look like tiny oval oranges. In fact, they are citrus, like oranges, but in one key way they are the exact opposite. Kumquats are bitter inside, with sweet skin, whereas oranges have bitter skin and sweet flesh. Most people don’t eat them whole, out of hand. In fact if you’ve never tasted one you might be in for a surprise when you take your first bite. But kumquat aficionados love that shock to the palate.
The bitter quality is probably the reason so few people appreciate this fruit. But kumquats are worthy of appreciation, especially in cooked dishes. If you are lucky enough to find them in your supermarket now, let me count some of the ways.
If you’d like to try them raw, but not the way you would nibble a plum or apple, the easiest is to cut them into thin slices for salad, where they perk up even the mildest of greens. If you prefer, chop them and add to a basic vinaigrette dressing. You can use that same kumquat-based vinaigrette as a marinade for fish or chicken.
Another possibility is to place some slices in a jar, pour in vodka or gin to cover and let it flavor the liquor for a day or so.
Kumquats add big flavor to braised dishes, particularly chicken (cut the fruit in half and use along with onions, dates and warm spices like ras el hanout) and lamb shanks (add the kumquats in the last 45 minutes of cooking). You can also slice kumquats and use them for stir-fries. You can cook them into chutney (use some kumquats in partial place of whatever fruit you usually cook for chutney) or add some to homemade cranberry sauce.
My favorite kumquat dish is a snack: candied kumquats. If you’ve never eaten these you have missed out on something wonderful in life.
To make candied kumquats you poach the fruit first, let them cool and roll them in sugar. The sugar is the perfect foil for the bitter fruit and your tongue rejoices in two tastes that may seem at odds but are perfect for each other, like a good marriage. Worthy of a prayer of thanks when you try them the first time.