How To Human: Roasted Kumquats With Homemade Ricotta And Fresh Basil On Toast

I may have eaten twelve of these.

Look, I know you’re busy.

You have places to go, people to see, and lots of stuff to do.

That’s cool.

But can you stop for just one minute? Maybe two, if you read slowly?

I just saw this on the interwebs, Purveyor of Many Things Great and Terrible, and I feel like maybe you (yes, YOU), need to read this today.

You will, of course, need a snack.

It is, as you may realize, the tail end of citrus season. When I was growing up, my parents would ship my brother and I off, solo, to family in Miami over the holidays. We would leave a cold, sleety, dark place and be discharged from an airplane into balmy, breezy air and a week of (often) unchaperoned adventures in either my grandparents’ development or my cousin’s apartment complex.

There was a kumquat tree in the front yard of my grandmother’s house.

Kumquats. Even the name is exotic and unusual and complex and way sunnier than this past week has been, and I’m not just talking about the weather.

They are the strangest citrus; you eat the whole thing. Nearly every website that talks about kumquats has a click-baity title like “The one astonishing thing about kumquats,” or “The strangely counterintuitive thing to do with kumquats,” as if kumquats are somehow built into our intuition about things in general.

But I digress.

Kumquats start out mouth-puckeringly tart, with less bitterness in the peel and pith (sweetness, even), and end up with a marvelous caramelly sweetness that spreads over your tongue and completely erases the initial tart flavor. even slightly unripe or slightly over-ripe the process of flavor is pretty much the same, with minor variations in intensity.

I don’t know that we gorged ourselves on these, but I do remember eating my fill whenever I felt like it, or just mindlessly reaching up and grabbing one as I passed by the tree. Kumquats were as much a part of my childhood as any other memory I have that was good and innocent and as sweet and beautiful as the nighttime Miami breeze on my bare shoulders in December, a thousand miles away from home.

I saw kumquats again in the grocery store this week and finally grabbed a few after years of passing them by. As my birthday fell on the snow day, and I happened to have the will, the time, and the ingredients, this lovely concoction came about and emerged, damn near perfect, on the very first try. So simple and complex and utterly delicious.

Today’s assigned reading is below the recipe. For those of you in tl;dr mode, there will not be a test on the reading, and maybe you don’t want to hear some of what I have to say (beyond the food). So if you take it upon yourself to skip the reading and just make the snack, that’s cool.

I know you’re busy.

Honey-Roasted Kumquats With Homemade Ricotta on Gluten-Free Whole-Grain Bread

Note: Hell, YES, I made all of this. Not. Hard. Full disclosure: I was trying to just link to the bread recipe from America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook, but it’s not published online. Which sucks, because now, just for you, I have typed it all out. This took awhile. If you are gluten-free, you can send your appreciation in the form of good old American dollars because it was a royal PITA. If you are not gluten-free, you can skip the recipe and use any old crusty bread you like.

Unlike other recipes on this blog, each component is written out completely, and they are organized in the order in which they should be made.

Ingredients

GF-Whole Grain Bread (this takes awhile, so maybe start here)

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey

11 1/2 ounces (2 1/3 cups, plus 1/4 cup) gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used my own flour blend, but see recipe notes)

4 ounces (3/4 cup) Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal

1 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) nonfat dry milk powder (in the baking aisle)

3 tablespoons powdered psyllium husk

1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Optional: 2 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seeds

Method

  1. Spray 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ (or 8″ x 4″) loaf pan with cooking spray. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil that will fit around the loaf pan. Fold it so it is double, lengthwise, then forma  collar around the top of the loaf pan so that a double thickness of aluminum foil rises at least one inch above the top of the loaf pan. Staple to keep collar in place and set aside.
  2. Whisk water, eggs, oil, and honey together in a bowl.
  3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix flour, hot cereal mix, milk powder, psyllium, yeast, baking powder, and salt until combined.
  4. Slowly add water and mix on low until dough comes together, about one minute. Increase speed to medium and beat until sticky and uniform, about six minutes. If using sunflower seeds, reduce speed to low and add them now, mixing until combined.
  5. Scrape dough into prepared pan and use wet fingertips to smooth dough into pan. Smooth the top of dough and spray with water. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise at least 90 minutes in a warm, non-drafty place.
  6. Adjust rack in oven to middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and spray loaf with water. Bake until top is golden brown, crust is firm, and sounds hollow when tapped (Side Note: I cannot tell when bread is done by tapping it. If you can, more power to you. But that’s the direction America’s Test Kitchen gives, so I am reporting for you. #YoureWelcome), about 1 1/2 hours, rotating pan halfway through (Side Note the Second: I forgot to rotate. Bread still fabulous.).
  7. Transfer to wire rack and let cool in pan for ten minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely for another two hours.
  8. Bread can be double-wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for 3 days, or you can slice it all up, wrap in plastic and store in a freezer bag in the freezer.

Recipe Notes

  • Flour substitutions America’s Test Kitchen recommends (but that I did not test myself) include King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour and Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour, but King Arthur’s makes the crumb of the bread denser and Bob’s Red Mill is drier with a bean taste. Seriously, people. Just send me a note on the Let Me Cook For You page and I will give you a price for some of my flour.
  • Please, if you are a gluten-free baker, buy a scale. The best $20 you’ll spend.

Homemade Ricotta

1 cup whole milk (see Recipe Notes)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or any white vinegar)

Method

Bring milk, heavy cream, and salt to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Let sit until it begins to curdle, about 2 minutes, then pour into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Strain at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. For thicker cheese, twist the cheesecloth into a tight ball to get even more water out.

Recipe Notes

  • Milk can be pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized milk doesn’t work. #AskMeHowIKnow
  • You can discard the whey (the liquid that drains from the solid ricotta), use it to bake bread with, or give it to your dogs or chickens.

Honey-Roasted Kumquats

Kumquats, sliced in 1/4″ rounds, seeds removed (see Recipe Notes)

4 tablespoons champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Method

Slice kumquats and place in a bowl with vinegar and honey. Macerate for at least 30 minutes and up to four hours.

When you are ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.

Place kumquats on cooking spray and roast for about 20 minutes until honey begins to caramelize. I didn’t flip them over, but I suppose you could if you like.

Recipe Notes

  • I used  kumquats that are approximately the size of a ping-pong ball if that ping-pong ball was more of an oval. There are also smaller varieties with different variations of flavor. For this, I used about six kumquats, but honestly? I could have eaten eleventy million more. So there’s that.

ASSEMBLY

You need bread, ricotta, kumquats, fresh basil, freshly cracked black pepper, and maybe honey and fleur de sel.

Slice bread and toast lightly.

Slather ricotta on toast.

Place fresh basil leaves on ricotta, then top with roasted kumquats. Add a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper, and if you want a little more sweetness, just a wee drizzle of honey and a flake or two of salt.

Assemble your toasts, have a seat, and get to reading.

RULES FOR BEING HUMAN

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school, called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error – experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works.”

4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

6. “There” is no better than “Here”. When your “There” has become a “Here”, you will simply obtain another “There” that will, again, look better than “Here.”

7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answer to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10. You will forget all this.

11. You can remember it whenever you want to.

These are not my rules; I am just reporting on them. What would you add?

Gratitude, Day 8: Democracy Now, Or How Cake Brings People Together

NOTE: I am a fan of 30-day challenges, and November is traditionally a time of two: National Novel Writing Month, and 30 Days of Thanks. As I am not a fiction writer, this year I have chosen to publish a daily blog for the entire month, expressing my gratitude. This may not be entirely food-focused, but expect recipes aplenty. Feel free to join me in the comments below. What are you thankful for today?

Even though I voted early, I found this sticker a couple days ago and will be wearing it proudly today. #VOTE
Even though I voted early, I found this sticker a couple of days ago and will be wearing it proudly today. #VOTE

I have voted for president in three states in my lifetime: Maryland, Washington, and Georgia.

I vote in primaries.

I vote in mid-term elections.

I donate money on occasion to candidates.

Today, I am grateful that this shitshow of an election is over. #Gratitude

This blog is posting in the morning, so I don’t know how grateful I will be for the result of the election tomorrow, but if things proceed as they should, all campaigning and mudslinging and incivility will be over, at least until the next election.

(okay, that’s a bit naive, but allow me that indulgence for just this one moment)

Every presidential election since I can remember I have stayed up late, watching the election returns on TV. Even when I was a little kid we would huddle around the black and white TV, watching the percentages change. The first election I can actually remember is Jimmy Carter’s.

Ten days ago, in preparation for the ritual election returns watching, I baked an election cake. Election cakes date back to before the Revolutionary War when they were prepared for hundreds of people using nuts, dried fruit, wine, and whiskey.

A cake for many, many voters.
A cake for many, many voters.

Bakeries across the country are reviving the election cake tradition using the hashtag #MakeAmericaCakeAgain. When three people tagged me on an election cake post, I figured I would give it a shot.

Trouble is, I am no fan of yeast as it can be problematic in gluten-free baking, and traditional election cakes use yeast for their raising agent. Election cakes use yeast to create a live sponge, into which fruit, nuts, and additional flour are added.

In all other aspects, though, this shit is just a boozy fruitcake, which I happen to have on lock.

I made this cake ten days ago because it just gets better (and boozier) with age. It’s also very, very forgiving, so if you don’t have the particular dried fruits on hand you can make do with what you have. Just keep the total amount the same and you should be just fine.

Suzannah’s Modern-Day Election Cake

Ingredients

1 cup golden raisins (or regular)

1 cup currants

2 cups of any combination of the following: dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries, chopped apricots

Zest of one orange

Zest of one lemon

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1 cup rum, bourbon, or brandy

1 cup sugar

10 tablespoons butter

1 cup apple cider

Teaspoon of each of the following: clove, ginger, cinnamon, allspice

1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (regular works here, too)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped

Brandy for basting (I used Laird’s Applejack because it’s what I had)

Method

THE NIGHT BEFORE: Combine dried fruits, citrus zest, chopped ginger, and booze in a glass container. Mix thoroughly and place overnight in the ‘fridge. This can be in the ‘fridge for two (or more) days, so if you get distracted, no problem.

It’s also delicious straight off the spoon, but that can be dangerous.

When you are ready to bake, place dried fruit, sugar, apple cider, and spices in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then turn heat down and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add to cooled fruit mixture and mix thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well to incorporate each egg. Add chopped pecans.

Grease three disposable loaf pans (you are going to want to share these. Maybe). Divide batter evenly between the tins and bake for one hour. Test for doneness by inserting a paring knife. The knife should come out completely clean. If crumbs are sticking to the knife, bake for another five minutes and test again.

When the election (cake) is (finally) finished (over), remove from oven and baste liberally (yuk, yuk) with brandy. Cool completely in tin before turning out.

You are welcome at this point to try your cake. It will be spicy and fruity and nutty and delicious.

But this cake gets even better with age.

Wrap it tightly in plastic, store on the counter, and baste with brandy every couple days. In two weeks you will be eating a little slice of heaven, like we will be eating on election night.

I have heard that this cake last for a month or more. I may make it again on Thanksgiving and take it to Christmas to see how it goes. The booze and the sugar act as preservatives.

What are you grateful for today?

This Is Not A Manifesto: Corn Dog Edition

This is not a manifesto. It's a corn dog.
This is not a manifesto. It’s a corn dog.

I love a good manifesto.

It warms the cockles of my heart when someone stands up and puts it out there: who they are, who they are not, what they believe. Things they might, in fact, die for if shit went south and got overly dramatic or fraught.

Take corn dogs, for instance.

I have an old friend who is almost like a brother who now mostly exists for me on Facebook. He was a great friend in person and is now a great friend online.

But he has gone his entire life not having ever tasted the ambrosia that is a corn dog.

How is this possible? In this day and age, with an abundance of corn dogs to be had, how can he have not eaten the greasy golden goodness of tube meat encased in sweetcrunchycreamy corn bread?

And back the fuck away with ketchup. Mustard only. #ThisIsNotAmateurHour

When I expressed my disbelief in this corn dog-sized hole in his heart (that was hitherto undiscovered) and my own love of corn dogs, he said, and I quote:

“I would’ve pegged you as anti-corn dog.”

A dagger. Like a dagger to the heart.

How can ANYONE be anti-corn dog? Is that even possible? I question the validity of the term itself.

And where on earth would he have gotten the anti-corn dog vibe?

This is not the first time I have run up against this sentiment. In my yoga teacher training, I routinely get asked for healthy recipes, and people there say they need to look at my blog when they are trying to eat something that is good for them.

Let’s go to the record: my last two recipes have been for cake and Nanaimo bars, a tooth-achingly sweet yet delicious concoction that serves very few and still manages to use an entire stick of butter in one of its three layers.

I make a coffee cake that uses two cups of  sugar and an entire bar of cream cheese.

The book that I just wrote features more dessert recipes than any other kind in any other section. By a lot.

Yes, the things I create are gluten free. But health food? They are not.

So it seems fitting to set the record straight.

This is not a manifesto.

I believe in eating well.

I believe in fresh food, cooked with love.

I believe in butter, lots of it, and heavy cream. I also believe in full-fat cream cheese and whole milk.

I love sugar. I don’t believe in sugar substitutes. If you substitute agave for sugar, do it because agave has its own delicious taste, but don’t try to fool yourself into thinking it is magically better for you than regular sugar. #DittoHoney

I think everyone should be able to eat something delicious when they come to my house, regardless of their dietary restrictions. Sometimes this means limiting fat, salt, and sugar. These are instances in which I will do whatever I need to do to make a person feel welcome.

If something makes you feel bad, don’t eat it, and ignore the haters. #IAmLookingAtYouGlutenShamers

I am not above a box of macaroni and cheese. Nor am I below it. Mostly it is somewhere in the middle, right behind my navel.

I have eaten an entire bag of chips for dinner.

I don’t believe in diets. I don’t believe in dieting. I don’t believe in “cheat days.”

I believe in moderation in all things, including moderation (thanks, Oscar Wilde).

I believe that cooking and feeding people is an art that everyone should have access to. So stow your elitist bullshit (like the $20 fried pig’s tail – are YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME – currently on offer at a local nose-to-tail hipster place that I won’t name but should).

And I believe that when you go to the fair or a carnival, GET A FUCKING CORN DOG.

So. Mike. For you, here is a corn dog.

Mike Kendall’s First Corn Dog

Note: Because I believe good food should be affordable, I won’t always use organic things. GMOs are up for debate, and I will not enter the fray here. HOWEVER. Because hot dogs are generally made of, as my friend Luke says, lips and assholes, spend your money on good ones. Either go to a butcher you trust, or at least go kosher. I like Hebrew National  (#SupportTheJews #MyFatherWouldBeProud) and Applegate’s uncured, no nitrates organic stadium dogs for both taste and texture. You can also use veggie dogs if you must; I used ToFurky’s vegan version of hot dog in testing.

Ingredients

One package of hot dogs

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (gluten-filled flour works here, too), plus a little more to coat the dogs

1 cup cornmeal

6 T sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 1/4 cups buttermilk (OR, easy cheater way: Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 1 1/4 cups of milk and let sit for ten minutes. Proceed as directed. #BOOM)

Vegetable oil for frying (a nice big bottle. #Yum)

Method

I use an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven for frying. If you have a fryer, that works, too. Heat oil to 350 degrees. I aim for about three inches of oil in the pot; you may not need as much. You do, however, need to heat it to 350. #Trust

Mix dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.

Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until there are no lumps (I like a whisk for this purpose. Don’t be gentle; it’s not a baby bunny.).

There are two ways to go about frying up some homemade fair food.

Easy way:

Cut hot dogs into 2-inch pieces and coat in flour. Dip into batter, then remove with a fork and drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, moving them around as needed to ensure crispy goodness all over. Use tongs or a spider to remove to paper towels to drain.

Eat a ridiculous amount of these.

Less easy way (requires more attention and the purchase of sturdy skewers):

Pour batter into a tall drinking glass.

Skewer your hot dogs through the end almost all the way to the top. Roll hot dogs in flour to coat, then dip that dog into the batter.

Place in heated oil and fry that baby up until the outside is golden brown and delicious, about three minutes. Make sure to flip around in the oil so that all sides are brown.

Pro tip: As you lower the dogs into the oil, go slowly and swirl the top of the dog in the hot oil. This seals the batter so that it doesn’t fly off in all directions and looks more like fair corn dogs.

Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain. Serve with mustard, or, begrudgingly, with ketchup.

I won’t lie: sriracha mayo is also delicious here, as is honey mustard.

Recipe notes

  • Leftover batter can be fried on its own and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Go for broke and top with a can of cherry pie filling or chocolate pudding and it’s like the fair has come to you.
  • Leftover batter also keeps in the ‘fridge for a day.
  • Add cayenne to your batter, a teaspoon or two, for a little spicy dog.

 

 

 

Chocolate Salami

I maybe should have taken more pictures, but I couldn't wait to get this in my face. DELICIOUS. Indulgent, but there's nuts and fruit, so GOOD FOR YOU
I maybe should have taken more pictures, but I couldn’t wait to get this in my face. DELICIOUS. Indulgent, but there’s nuts and fruit, so GOOD FOR YOU

You heard me.

Chocolate. Salami.

I had a sleepover with my very best friend in all of the land, Kerry, this past Friday. An earlier post on this blog had a picture of us in college, standing by the coffee pot, both quite the worse for wear. She’s the one that looks perkier than she perhaps ought to be, and I am the giant who looks like I might kill someone. We have known each other forever, through moves and tragedy and joy and everything else that happens over 30+ years.

This Friday I took the dogs, myself, and some chocolate salami over to her house to sit around, drink too many bourbon cocktails expertly prepared by her husband Mark, and to work on a puzzle.

You heard me. A PUZZLE.

Livin’ la vida loca.

But it’s not the puzzle. It’s the company.

When you are young and unencumbered by children, real jobs, and mortgages, you think nothing of sitting around in your pie pants all day, doing nothing. You have nothing really to do and all day to do it, and much of this lounging about is done in the company of good friends. As an adult, although I see Kerry often, I miss those days.

Plus, I need to tell her about a boy.

So it seems that chocolate salami is the thing to do, especially since my girl Kerry lurves her some white chocolate.

I used this recipe, with some modifications.

  • Gluten-free animal crackers took the place of shortbread, and crispy rice was also gluten-free
  • I used unsweetened dried cherries from Chukar Cherries in Washington. I could take a bath in these things.
  • I have a kitchen scale so I utilized the weight measurements, but if you don’t they translate into about a cup each of the fruits and nuts
  • Mise en place makes the recipe come together very quickly
  • In hindsight, I would make two salamis. One was awfully big and difficult to handle.

(Insert off-color sexual innuendo here)

Serves 1-? depending on how long the conversation goes, how freely the drinks flow, and how many like white chocolate. Next variation will utilize dark chocolate and a different variety of fruit and nuts and be equally delicious.

What do you bring to the table for long conversations with old friends?

Halloween Treats With A Trick: Caramel Apple Jello Shots

And a little something for the adults.
     I have never used a melon baller in my life.
     Shocking but true.
     So it seems fitting that the first time I do use a melon baller is to make these boozy Halloween treats with a wee trick in the form of butterscotch booze (previously purchased, also for the first time, for my caramel apple martini binge, a trend that continues in my house and will until the apple cider runs out and it gets too cold to think of drinking sweet, cold cocktails).
     This year’s Halloween entry is late, and it sort of typifies the way Halloween has worked this year in general. The Teenager is going to a non-costume Halloween party at a friend’s (which seems really strange to me. No costumes at a party on Halloween? Even costume-optional? But I digress.), which turns out to be fine because she couldn’t get her act together enough to figure out what she wanted to be.
     Usually I am a witch because it just fits, and I happen to own tons of black which means that costume shopping for me entails finding/borrowing a witch’s hat.
     But this year I wasn’t feeling it. And The Teenager wasn’t either, which is sort of sad because I told her this is the last year I was footing the Halloween costume bill. This morning (actual Halloween but actually afternoon because she is a teenager and we did spend several hours playing with the dogs and eating doughnuts in her bed this morning), The Teenager is in the shower, getting herself together for the party tonight, and as I melon-balled my way to these delicious treats with a wee trick I started to get a little nostalgic, as I am prone to do when I cook and listen to Hozier.
     She was a pumpkin for her first year, and a bumblebee after that. Then a fairy. Then a couple years get fuzzy (but included her making a costume as a shadow, which was pretty epic), right up until the string of years when I made her various states of dead as a zombie.
 
My sweet little bee, many years ago. 
 
      As The Teenager got older, I started feeling a little weird about being so gleeful about making her look as undead as possible. She pushed it one more year as a dead bride, the best, most disgusting year of her zombie-ness, until she started to branch off into different costumes.
     This year, she is nothing but herself, heading to a party while I stay home in our new house, doling out literally 20 pounds of candy and non-candy treats for allergic children, wearing my Halloween costume alone on the stoop with the dogs barking like crazy people as little trick-or-treaters flood the neighborhood.
     It’s hard not to tie the passing months to The Teenager’s impending departure. Every year she leaves behind a little more of the child she was and begins to step towards her own life. It is inevitable, joyous, and a little sad.  I am going to need these treats with a wee little trick, and I suspect some of the parental chaperones will, as well.

 

     Happy Halloween!