My grandfather, a burly, mustachioed man with sea blue eyes, lived on the top of a dead end street in Central Los Angeles. It was a working-class neighborhood. When I would visit from suburbia at six years-old and rollerskate down the sidewalk, I would be the only one out there with modern skates. All of the local kids had skates with metal wheels that, upon contact with the black asphalt, became immediately pitted and were ever after a teeth-chattering experience.
My grandfather, Clyde, transformed his backyard into a bit of a sanctuary with enough room for a small table where we would sit and play dominos and eat kumquats from the same tree that provided the tiny patio with its main source of shade. He would tug on the small fruit until the tree reluctantly submitted, then hand them out like gold nuggets and we would plop them into our mouths: skin, seeds and all. Just men being men.
The bounty of kumquats made it seem like one could find them anywhere, but ask anyone now where to find them and you’ll most likely get an odd look for your trouble. The rarely seen kumquat has the look of an orange with the shape and size of an olive. Unlike an orange though, the skin is sweet and the juicy flesh is sour, and so these soft-shelled crabs of the citrus world are eaten whole or sliced, sometimes seeded, but never peeled. They grow at different times of the year in various parts of the world. If you don’t live in California or Florida you can find them at a Whole Foods or it’s equivalent, but only as a hoarded handful in a small plastic container. We’ve seen them recently on trees around the neighborhood, and they always yield a surprising sweetness and tartness.
We are offering up a recipe to the kumquat gods and seek their and your approval.
Adapted from a recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen.
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced seeded kumquats
- 2½ tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil
- 1 5-ounce package baby spinach
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Chop enough kumquats to measure 1 tablespoon.
- Mix chopped kumquats, vinegar, shallot, vegetable oil, ginger, and sesame oil in large bowl.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Plate spinach, almonds, cilantro, and sliced kumquats and douse liberally with kumquat dressing.