You know those food memories that swirl deep in your brain? I’ve got one for ambrosia. My grandparents used to make it every Christmas, a stripped-down version that included fresh orange and grapefruit sections, sliced bananas, shredded coconut and maraschino cherries. They left out marshmallows – I happily discovered that creamy version years later – and if nuts were included, I emphatically directed my spoon around them. In fact, I tended to avoid the grapefruit, too, in favor of the sweeter oranges, mild bananas and gaudy cherries. The way those flavors mixed with tropical coconut was a transformative diversion for picky kid weary of casseroles.
I lovvvvvee the flavor of lemon.
And I know I sound like dorky Food Network obsessive when I make the very predictable claim that it adds a necessary note of freshness. But it’s so true! Lemon rocks. That citrusy punch is perfect in so many sweet and savory dishes.
We still have fresh lemons on our backyard tree, and I’ve been furiously finding ways to use the last of the crop before I have to start paying for them at the grocery store. One of my favorite uses has been in a version of avgolemono, the sumptuous Greek lemon chicken soup with rice or orzo. I remember noshing on this light but hardy dish at the old Zorba’s on Perkins Road here in Baton Rouge (where Louisiana Lagniappe is located now). The restaurant reopened last year on Essen Lane, and it still serves this traditional starter.
There are lots of interesting recipes out there for avgolemono, but the defining feature is that beaten eggs are incorporated into the broth, providing unexpected richness……
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, kumquats are in big supply in southern Louisiana and other parts of the country right now, overloading backyard branches and appearing in the produce aisle in pint-sized containers. According to the LSU AgCenter, we grow two kinds of kumquats in Louisiana, the oblong Nagami and the rounder, sweeter Meiwa.
I have a couple of Meiwa kumquat trees in my herb garden, and every year, I struggle to use the crazy abundance of fruit that won’t stop coming. They’re like sharks teeth. Pick one, and it seems like a dozen more are right behind it in varying stages of ripeness, ready to take its place.
This simple kumquat cake is moist and flavorful and is a great way to use 2 cups of fresh fruit.
For the record, I’m a big fan of the mini-marshmallow.
One of my greatest food memories is cozying up to a marshmallow-y fruit salad — classic Southern ambrosia – that someone brought to my maternal grandfather’s after funeral gathering. I’ll never forget the way the baby marshmallows melted into the citrus juice, creating creamy goodness and a perfect comforting texture. I couldn’t stop eating it. Years later, I similarly fell in love with something called Green Stuff, a congealed cottage cheese and marshmallow fruit salad made by an old boyfriend’s mother and always served at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Yum. I love a bowl of trashy.
But as much as I savor marshmallows, and as much as I bow down to tradition, this year, I wanted an all-natural version of the classic holiday side….
Kumquats are everywhere in South Louisiana right now, and guess what, they’re great for you. LiveStrong has posted their impressive nutritional content, which includes lots of fiber and Vitamin C. Here’s a smoothie formula using kumquats that will stave off colds and make you feel great. If you’re a fan of orange marmalade, you’ll love this flavor profile.
1 large or two small servings
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup kumquat purée*
8 oz. can pineapple (any type) with juice
1 tablespoon Agave nectar or honey (optional)
Blend all ingredients in a juicer or blender and serve immediately.
At a certain point in the Deep South, it seems like kumquats that will not away. They’re everywhere, from gift baskets to supermarkets to local trees heavy with ripe fruit. The two in my herb garden are putting out a shocking number of kumquats this year, and they’re at their sweet peak right now. And because I’m a crappy gardener with minimal success in growing edibles, I hate the thought of letting any of them go to waste.
A few weeks back, I posted a kumquat honey sorbet recipe that was a big success. This time around, I’ve got a formula for kumquat-banana bread.