Fortunately for me, the condo is now officially under contract. Unfortunately for you, this means you can no longer take advantage of the deal I was going to offer you.
Since the bidding war never materialized, I was prepared to prompt one among TNS readers by offering you all an internet-only special consisting of:
- $99 off the listing price;
- The remaining ten issues of a free subscription to The Atlantic I got a couple of months ago;
- Two bottles of mystery red wine that have been in the back of the pantry since 2006; AND
- The invasive lemon balm plant in the backyard, so that you can get your lifelong dream of owning your own homemade botanical skincare line off the ground.
But no matter: you lose and some guy named Oscar wins, so look out for his botanticals line in a Whole Foods near you soon. Oh, and I win too, since I get to move into a sweet-ass loft that’s only two blocks from the subway. So basically, everyone BUT you wins in this scenario. Don’t worry, though; your ship will come in. Probably.
Speaking of Whole Foods, I was at the Columbus Circle store a few weeks ago buying Jerusalem artichokes for the last Smackdown I managed to eke out before I went under.
Although this particular store has an impressive produce department, a fresh sushi counter and a beer tasting room, I suggest avoiding it at all costs, as it is packed to the gills with shoppers even more insufferable than the usual Whole Foods denizens. That is to say: Upper West Side Ladies of a Certain Age. The UWSLOACA do not care if they are blocking your only egress from the produce department while they pause mid-aisle with their carts – which contain a only a single plum tomato, a block of organic cream cheese and a jar of artisanal pickles – to collect their thoughts. Said thoughts are apparently wide-ranging and scattered, and take no fewer than three minutes to properly collect.
Three minutes does not sound like a long time, I know. But when you are are tired, sweaty, really have to pee and are dreading your subway schelp back home and a long night of work, it seems like a REALLY REALLY long time. Of course, the UWSLOACA don’t care; they’ve only heard about “subways” in stories and songs, and they don’t sweat. They certainly have no interest in moving out of the ways for the likes of you, and if “you” happens to mean “dyke-y looking overweight woman with a nose ring” they will take EVEN LONGER on PURPOSE and give you the stink-eye as they fantasize about how satisfying it would be to lock you in steerage on a sinking ship.
Anyway, while I was patiently waiting for one of them to select The Ultimate Bosc Pear*, I found myself in front of a display of kumquats. I’ve never actually had a kumquat, so I picked up a package to play with.
I’ve also recently acquired a jar of ras el hanout, which is a popular Moroccan spice blend and not a comic book villain. I got it partly because I had a discount code – which is why I now also have Japanese seven-spice powder, vadouvan, za’atar and enough arrowroot to pass on to my children’s children – and partly because I want to be more like Richard Blais. By which I mean, I had a discount code.
I decided to candy the kumquats with some spice and use them in a dish with Israeli couscous, the ras el hanout and some sauteed veg. Maybe a little chicken for protein. Kind of a sweet-spicy-savory mash-up thing.
I was going to candy the kumquats the way La Fuji Mama does, because how beautiful are they? Like delicious little jewels. Then I got to the part about the boiling and the soaking and the 8 slits per tiny fruit and the picking out of the seeds with a wooden skewers, which immediately activated my “Fuck that!” reflex and made me want to go lie down. So I just sliced ’em up – the seeds pretty much spat themselves out in the process – and cooked them down in a mixture of sugar and water infused with dried Thai chiles and cumin.
Note: if you fail to keep the heat really low while candying the fruit, the sugar syrup will bubble up – carrying the cumin seeds with it – and look like an exploding pot of tiny bugs, and you will freak out in the four seconds it takes you to remember that it’s just cumin. So, you know, don’t do that.
Since the kumquats were sliced the candying process didn’t take long at all. I stashed the fruit in a jar with some of the syrup, and strained the spices out of the remaining liquid for use in cocktails.
For dinner tonight, I sauteed some carrot and onion in a little butter and ras el hanour until brown and flavorful, adding garlic at the end. The Israeli couscous got toasted to develop some flavor, then cooked in chicken stock with a bay leaf, MORE ras el hanout and some cayenne. I mixed everything together, added some of the sliced kumquat and served it with chicken thighs that I seared and brushed with a kumquat syrup-chile glaze.
I am now officially on the kumquat train. The fruit itself was sweet and a little tart, with the barest hint of spice. It paired wonderfully with the rich spice blend, especially as it was augmented with a bit more heat. The crispy glazed chicken skin is worth fighting over. Also, Israeli couscous is SO MUCH MORE SATISFYING than regular couscous. Why did it take so long to find that out?
If you make this whole meal, you should definitely drizzle some of the sweet chicken-y kumquat juice left in the pan over the couscous, FYI. Yes, I know it’s largely chicken fat. Why do you think it tastes so good?
Spiced Candied Kumquats
12 oz. kumquats
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. water
4 dried red Thai chiles
1 tsp. toasted whole cumin seeds
Put the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine and cook until all the sugar is dissolved and the solution is clear. Toss in the chiles and cumin.
While the sugar syrup is coming together, slice the kumquats into 1/8-inch thick rings, picking out the seeds as you go.
Turn the heat under the sugar syrup down to low and add the sliced kumquats. Simmer until their skins are translucent and shiny, 15 minutes or so.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the fruit cool in the syrup before ladling it into a jar and storing in the fridge. Strain the remaining syrup into another jar; it’s delicious in cocktails, or just stirred into some club soda.
Sweet and Spicy Israeli Couscous
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. butter
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. + 2 tsp. ras el hanout
1 box Israeli couscous
2 c. chicken or veg stock, or water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/3 c. spicy candied kumquat slices
Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the carrot and onion and cook until starting to brown, about 12 minutes. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of ras el hanout and the garlic, cook for 2 more minutes, then set aside.
While the veg cooks, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous and cook, stirring frequently, until it turns golden brown, 7 minutes or so. Add the stock, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, one teaspoon of kosher salt and the remaining two teaspoons of ras el hanout. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until couscous is done, 5-7 minutes.
Transfer the cooked couscous and veg to a large bowl. Add the kumquats and toss well to combine. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed.
Serve warm or at room temp.
I remember first becoming aware of kumquats thanks to a spot on Sesame Street where a muppet girl is afraid to eat one because she’s never had it before; if I remember correctly, a disembodied voice tells her it’s okay, try it, and she does, and yaaay trying new things isn’t learning fun.
The next thing I remember about kumquats is the time Mom brought some home for my brother and I to try. I was unimpressed and decided that kumquats were bullshit. They might be alright candied, though…or I could just make the couscous thing with raisins or something. Obviously I didn’t pick up what Sesame Street was trying to lay down.
I love kumquats! Pavlov drool reaction just at the word!
Also – loft space!? For reals!? awesome!!!! Congratulations on the quick turn around!
Interesting, I’ll have to remember this & pick some out of the neighbor’s kumquat tree.
my mom always buys kumquats at christmas time, so that’s the only time i think of them. that said this looks unbelievable, but i doubt that my husband will eat it. i may make it anyway and take it to work to share with my boys instead. (half of them are adventurous eaters, the rest are pains in my ass.)
@mia, so a booming voice from above told you to try them, you did and the voice was wrong. and this is why god is dead.
i can vouch that it also works really well with golden raisins, so there you go.
@cynic, yeah, a legit one – all exposed concrete, huge ceilings and windows, no interior walls. we’re pretty psyched and i’m going on an interior design binge.
@anastassia, i think it’d be excellent warmed a bit and poured over ice cream. maybe they’d go for that?
I always thought kumquat was a bad word. Then I saw these in the supermarket. I laughed so hard when I first saw them that I irked a particularly nasty NA-UWS-BILIC-LOACA*I opted for a drive-by side swiping of her cart, bought the kumquats and went home. Strangley enough, I wasnt sure if I enjoyed the kumquats or the drive-by bitch slap more. I wil try them with the couscous and let you know.
*NA-UWS-BILIC-LOACA , a variant species of the UWSLOACA found only in Canada.
I, too, love kumquats, but would never have tried them on my own. I was shopping with a Vietnamese friend and as we passed the kumquats in the produce department, he asked me if I had ever eaten them before. When I said no, he promptly loaded a bag with them and then as we were walking out of the store he had me try one, because that’s what true friends do- make you eat stuff you’ve never tried before. Damn tasty! and it does kinda sound like a dirty word.
“Yes, I know it’s largely chicken fat. Why do you think it tastes so good?”
This is why I read your blog.
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