Alright, it’s been a while. Let’s rewind a little bit to the holidays. The holidays were great. Why? I got a white Christmas, lots of good food, time with Jonah’s family, time with my family, and 3 new cookbooks. My sister Emily gave me this beautiful book called “Ripe” by Cheryl Sternman Rule (not to be confused by a cookbook by the same title by the author of “Tender”). Emblazoned with a beautiful peach on the cover, Ripe is perfect for the artistic/visual cook because it is arranged by color. That’s right, color. The first section is reds (tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, pomegranate, cranberries, etc.), followed by orange (carrots, butternut squash, clementines, kumquats…), yellow, green, purple and blue, and white. In each color are pages of produce, and for each produce item, one recipe. Yep, only one. I was excited to get this for many reasons: it’s pretty, the recipes look delicious, and because there’s only one recipe per main ingredient, it is forcing me to branch out and try things I haven’t tried before. For example, kumquats.
When I was growing up, my grandfather’s favorite restaurant in Tucson called Caruso’s, was a frequent stop when we went to visit. And because my sisters and cousin and I were all young, we had trouble sitting at a dinner table for an hour or 2, as my family often does. So we would always run around the restaurant. In front of the restaurant and out in the courtyard, there were many kumquat trees; I don’t think I realized that kumquats weren’t just little oranges, but their own entity entirely. We would stand under the trees, reaching up and plucking these little orange gems from the branches, and squealing when we bit into them because they were so sour (we didn’t realize at that age that the fruit just probably wasn’t ripe yet). This memory of kumquats has always been sweet for me, but because especially so when I lost my grandfather a couple years ago. Remembering him reach up into the branches to pick kumquats for his granddaughters and the wonderful meals we had with him at that restaurant will always make me smile. This is possibly my favorite thing about food: the memories that are associated with it, the adventures it takes us on, whether new or past.
Anyway, coming back from memory lane: Jonah and I owed my mom dinner. See, Jonah is making an album, and raised the funds with Kickstarter. My mom chose the option to have us make her dinner in exchange for her donation, and so we decided to use my new cookbook (and an old favorite, Plenty). We picked the kumquat arugula salad with currant-walnut vinaigrette. And it was wonderful. Light and rich at the same time thanks to the walnut oil. The little pieces of kumquat were like little bursts of brightness in this salad.
Kumquat Arugula Salad
1/4 cup dried currants
15 kumquats, divided
3 cups packed baby arugula
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/4 tsp red wine vinegar (or more. I added quite a bit more.)
salt and pepper
Put the currants in a small bowl and cover them with about half a cup of hot water. This will rehydrate them, or “plump” them. Let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes, then drain. Set aside.
Take 10 of the kumquats and slice them thinly, removing any seeds. You will want a nice sharp knife for this, as these little rinds can be tricky. Put the kumquat slices in a salad bowl atop the arugula, and sprinkle over the walnuts and half the currants.
Chop the rest of the kumquats, getting rid of any seeds, and put them in a mini food processor with the remaining currants. If you don’t have a mini food processor, a blender or a regular food processor should work… Pulse to mince. Add the walnut oil, vinegar, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Puree until you have an emulsified dressing, or about a minute. There will still be little chunks of fruit, and that’s totally ok. Adjust seasoning to taste (as I said above, I added quite a bit of red wine vinegar as I just really thought it needed more acid. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently. You can put the rest of the vinaigrette on the table with the salad.