Tag: Walnuts

Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread

Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

It has been a time of changes around here lately. Just as the fall weather peeked its head in Portland, Jonah and I were off to Chicago, where summer raged. There we got married: in his parents’ backyard, under the chuppa, crying and laughing and dancing. It was everything that a wedding is supposed to be. The days before and after were packed with events, with tooling around the city seeing friends and gathering with family. The sense of joy and celebration, the high from all the love, felt like it would last forever.

And then, two days after the wedding, it came to a halt: we got a call that Jonah’s grandmother had passed away. At the wedding she had looked so beautiful and strong. She sat chatting with the other grandmothers and blowing bubbles. She stuck to her values, walking right past the dance floor and saying to my now sister-in-law, “Did you see that? I’m a good Mennonite.” The morning after the wedding, we sat with her and unwrapped a beautiful quilt that she had been saving for us, called “Around the World.” We hugged and kissed her goodbye and said we’d see her at Christmas. You see, Jonah’s grandparents lived in a small town in Minnesota and, despite over seven years together and many Christmases with his family, I had never been. Jonah wanted me to see it, to see the town covered in snow, to take part in the holiday traditions his family holds so dear. I told him that this would be the year to go, since I didn’t know how much longer Grandma would be with us.

We balanced the rest of our time in Chicago – friends distracted us, even continued the celebration while being sensitive to the loss. We made plans with Jonah’s family – when was the service? Should we go straight from Chicago? We decided, in the end, to fly home on our previously scheduled flight, and then flew out to Minnesota a couple of days later. I didn’t know what to do, how to help. In situations like this, when I feel helpless, I turn to the kitchen, to something I can have some control over. I went back to my traditions: when we celebrate, we eat; when we mourn, we eat. The slight nip in the air in those two days at home settled in my belly, and while I picked the last hauls of sungold tomatoes from our garden, I started to crave soups, roasted chicken, and squash in all forms. So I decided to bake this pumpkin bread. It is a bread of changes too: pale gold butter becomes a caramel, nutty, liquid. A soft, sparkly batter turns into a moist, dense loaf with a perfect crunch on top. It may not have been much, but it was what I could offer. Grandma, I promise to keep my new family well-fed.

When we heard the news, I emailed our wedding photographer to see if she could send any photos of Grandma from the wedding. She sent a handful of beautiful pictures, but this for some reason stands out to me. That’s her on the right, talking to Jonah’s other grandmother, as they watch the dancing.
Photo credit: Anna Zajac.

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Kumquat Arugula Salad + A new cookbook

Everything all tossed together, ready to eat.

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.