Spring brings the most wonderful sense of colour and possibility. Even if it rained all night, or hailed the day before, everything is in blossom and flower petals drift like snow on sidewalks now.
As we anxiously waited for our first crop of blood oranges to come ripe, I gathered recipes and made plans. Of course no plan survives contact with real life. Chipmunks came and ate my Blood Oranges and Meyer lemons. They also tried to demolish our best Kumquat crop in the years since we have had our little dwarf citrus orchard. Stealing my Kumquats, they mostly liked the sweet skin but left the tangy fruit. Fortunately we realized they were on the attack and quickly harvested enough to make my new favourite banana bread, based on a lovely bourbon spiked chocolate bread (substitute sliced, seeded kumquat and your best rum for the chocolate and bourbon in this recipe) from Leite’s Culinaria, and it is OK to use pecans if you prefer those to walnuts. And of course the chocolate version is wonderful – I have made that one several times before I temporarily gave up chocolate!My next adventure in citrus was to try the beautiful Blood Orange sorbet that was so tempting earlier this year, and so simple I think I will have to make another batch while I still have some [store-bought] Blood Oranges. I pre-scooped them as small tastings, into shot glasses, to serve at a gathering of willing friends, who are willing to enjoy some of my recipe exploration. So we packed up a batch of sorbet, banana-kumquat bread, and a marvelous blood orange caramel sauce (that made with the help and guidance of Jenni Field, who runs a terrific site of recipes and how-to videos including how to make caramel sauce). It helped me get past my serious fear of hot sugar (having burnt myself on sugar years ago this was no small feat). The result was amazing – and safely executed.
Still excited about the lush clean flavours of spring, I have been pleased to find rainbow carrots, young and tender, showing up in the markets. I have been pan glazing them lately, cooking just enough to develop some flavour yet keeping a bit of crunch and the fresh flavour. Usually starting with an olive oil or nut oil (walnut, hazelnut or even pistachio if I have fresh nuts on hand as well to add at the end), they get a few minutes, either whole if they are young and tender sized, or diagonally chunked for the larger ones. finishing with a splash of orange juice, or maybe maple syrup, just a tiny hint of sweetness added. This past week I was lucky, visiting the farm market in Santa Rosa where I first learned to appreciate the farmers markets as I grew up in Sonoma County years ago. Scored two beautiful bunches!
For two servings on Easter, I turned to Leite’s once again – because their photograph was so inviting and the recipe so very straightforward. The first one, I made straight to recipe using honey, which I thought would be a hit with younger children. I think they got some tho the adults also liked them.
I have also made another recipe from the same site – braised with herbs, tho that was more an adults recipe. What I loved about both was gaining confidence in the technique so that I feel comfortable making this work for company or taking to a holiday gathering. When I get back home and we were finishing our own Easter evening, I did my own batch with a small amount of minced ginger (from a 1 inch piece of peeled blue Hawaiian ginger), and I raised the heat a bit using a grill pan.
I let these caramelize a bit further, and they were terrific, and also great leftover the next day. Of course I would not predict there will be any left when you make them.
As spring blows in waves of weather systems, and mustard grows wildly in vineyards, the maples leaf out and every other tree with pollen seems to have blossomed at once. It is a riot of nature. The leaf greens fight for attention, special crops show up, some briefly. Cooks wonder if they will get lucky and be alert for the few days that ramps might be available (I hoped to see them on a menu last week but none yet ;-( so I will hope a little longer.
Hope. Something that spring can help renew. Be hopeful.