My first experience with a kumquat was at a Chinese restaurant. It didn’t go very well. I must have been about 8 years old and I expected the tiny, orange looking thing to taste like an orange.
Kumquats are bitter, even when they’re cooked in loads of sugar, which they often are. And besides, the Chinese restaurant kind also came with a sticky syrup that was supposed to counteract the bitter fruit.
It didn’t, at least for my 8 year old self.
Time passes and our tastes change, don’t they?
I can’t recall when I next tasted a kumquat but it was a riveting sensation in my mouth. These kumquats were crusted with sugar and I couldn’t get enough of them to satisfy my now awakened taste buds.
It put me in a kumquat sort of mind and now, whenever the season comes around I buy a load and experiment with new ways to eat them.
I’ve made those sugared kind (not too often because I can’t stop eating them). Used them with chicken, cut them into salad, stir fried slices of kumquat with vegetables, cooked them into chutney.
But I’m always looking out for new hors d’oeuvre, so recently I cooked the kumquats with honey, to temper the bitterness, but also added hot jalapeno pepper and rich, creamy mascarpone cheese to bring all the taste sensations together.
This is a good one for New Year’s!
Kumquat and Mascarpone Crisps
8 ounces kumquats
2 teaspoons chopped chili pepper (such as serrano or jalapeno)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
salt to taste
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
2- 3 teaspoons cream or milk
crackers or chips
freshly grated nutmeg
tiny shreds of kumquat or orange peel
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the kumquats in half and remove the seeds. Chop the kumquats and place them on the parchment. Add the chopped chili pepper. Pour the
vegetable oil on top and toss the kumquats and chili to coat all the pieces. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until very soft. Place the ingredients in a food processor. Add the honey and juice and process until very fine and well mixed. In a bowl, mix the mascarpone cheese with the cream or milk (make it soft and smooth enough to pipe out of a pastry bag). Spread about one teaspoon of the kumquat mixture on crackers or chips. Pipe a small amount of the mascarpone mixture on top as a garnish. Grate nutmeg on top. Garnish with a tiny shred of peel. Makes about 36