I love when one recipe serves several purposes.
Like this one for Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney.
I am using this (placed in pretty jars) as gifts to my friends for Purim. But I made enough for me too and am going to serve it along with the roasted lamb I am going to make for my Academy Award dinner. We always watch the event, red-carpet stuff and all, with my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen. Eileen will not eat this because it has hot pepper in it and she doesn’t like anything spicy (she’ll get a different homemade chutney with her dinner).
I’ve been thinking lately that we don’t eat enough chutney. It’s one of the most versatile and flexible of foods. You can use all sorts of fresh and dried vegetables and fruits, spices, herbs, other flavorings (like vinegar, citrus peel, Port wine) and the delicious concoctions you can make are endless.
I mean, there is life beyond ketchup, right?
Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney
12 ounces dried apricot halves
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
12 whole cardamom pods
2 cups sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
3/4 cup golden raisins
Cut the apricots into quarters, place in a bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover them. Let the apricots soak for 30 minutes. Drain and place them in a saucepan. Add the garlic, ginger, cardamom pods, sugar, vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the pears and raisins and cook for another 20-25 minutes or until the fruits are tender and the mixture is thick. Let cool. Makes about 3 cups
Do you think your dentist would like these sugar-crusted kumquat candies?
Mine would be horrified.
But if you like foods that have a distinctive contrast — like sweet and salty, sweet and sour, bitter-sweet and so on, you’ll love these too.
Anyway, my neighbor did. He had a “significant” birthday recently. Ed and I were invited to a party at his house but his wife told me “no gifts.” So, no using my Lord & Taylor 20% discount coupon to get him a sweater he would probably return. No using my 20% Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon to get him a knife he might need for fileting his own fish.
I couldn’t show up empty handed though. So I made some goodies, specifically candied kumquats, which are completely frivolous, certainly not as well-known (and probably not as well loved as, say, chocolate chip cookies) but absolutely spectacular to look at and to eat.
If you’ve never tasted candied kumquats, you’ve missed something special. The fruit is tender and vaguely resilient, the crust crunchy; the flavor is bitter and sweet all at once. Perfect harmony on your tongue.
I thought this made a very interesting birthday gift. But now that it’s Purim, the time to give mishloach manot, little gifts of food to family and friends to celebrate the holiday, I’m thinking Candied Kumquats.
12-16 ounces kumquats (one carton)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
sugar for coating
Rinse the kumquats and remove any stems. Slice the kumquats in half lengthwise and remove any seeds. Combine the 2 cups sugar and the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the kumquats, reduce the heat and cook the kumquats at a bare simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan and let stand for at least one hour. Remove the cover, bring the liquid to a boil again over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the kumquats for 20 minutes. Remove the kumquats with a slotted spoon to sheets of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) to cool. Roll the kumquats in sugar to coat them completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes one pound
Where are all the Queen Esthers and Mordecais? For almost my entire life every Jewish little girl wanted to be queen Esther on Purim. Here was the once-a-year chance to be the heroine queen who saved her people from annihilation! And also, of course to wear flowy chiffon scarves and skirts and maybe a tiara and a few bracelets and your mother’s best fake-rhinestone necklace.
And the boys always wanted to be Mordecai, who refused to bow to Haman and thus provoked that man’s rage into a fury.
Today a lot of the kids will dress up as ladybugs or Spiderman. Or princesses — hey, don’t they realize that a QUEEN has a higher rank and more jewelry than a princess??
And a lot of other Hallowe’en leftover stuff.
I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s fun. Still, this year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of Hadassah, the worldwide Jewish women’s volunteer organization. Hadassah is named for Queen Esther. So it seems fitting that there should be more Queen Esthers out there celebrating.
Anyway, our local Hadassah hosts an Afternoon Tea every other Tuesday for cancer patients and their caretakers at Stamford Hospital. I am one of their bakers. I often make quickbreads because they are moist, sweet and easy to eat. Like this Chocolate Bread, which is rich and dark and luscious. It’s a good choice for a Tea, afternoon snack or dessert. To celebrate Purim, Hadassah, Queen Esther or any time at all!
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup shortening
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews or walnuts, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium, cream the sugar and shortening until well mixed. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients until they are well blended and smooth. Add the flour mixture in portions, alternating with the buttermilk. Blend the ingredients thoroughly. Blend in the melted cooled chocolate. Fold in the nuts, if used. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Makes one bread