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Redeeming Fruitcake

26 Dec

FruitcakeFruitcake is my favorite Christmas food.. Maligned, slandered, synonymous with a punch line – yep, that fruitcake.

When it’s done right, fruitcake is amazing. By done right, I mean adhering to the following fruitcake rules:

1. None of that weird preserved green stuff. The mysterious green stuff is supposed to resemble candied angelica root, a common fruitcake ingredient of yesteryear.

2. Fruitcake should contain real fruit. I use figs, prunes, dates, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and dried cherries if I can find them

3.Fruitcake should be boozy. I soak my dried fruit in brandy or bourbon for 24 – 26 hours. It adds flavor, richness, and moisture.

citronsThis year, I wanted to get all authentic. Ye old family fruitcake recipe (i.e. my mom’s) calls for 4 oz candied orange peel, 4 oz candied lemon peel, and 4 oz of preserved citron.

I make candied orange peel a couple of times each year, but never tried to make candied citron.

I’ve been lucky enough to see lots of citron in Asia, but almost never in Shanghai. I asked around at several fruit places, but nobody stocked it – it seems to be more of a Southern thing.

Conveniently enough, the plant market had several smallish ornamental¬†trees with three or four citrons on each. I bought one and got it home to discover the citrons didn’t actually grow on the tree – they had been cut off another (probably much larger) tree, and grafted on to keep them fresh and make a pretty display. So weird.

I scrubbed them with fruit wash, and followed the same recipe I use to make candied orange peel. They have a candied citronslight bitterness and more of a green flavor than the orange peel, and were really fun to work with.

fruits and peelsThe final pile of brandy-soaked fruit, blanched almonds, and the various peels smelled amazing, and I just love how the fruitcake itself turned out.

It’s gotten me thinking about what other recipes need a bit of love to bring them back to their former glory.

Tuna casserole is next on my list.




The Dark Side is Delicious

30 Sep

“You’ve officially gone over to the Dark Side.”

My beloved delivers this quote as I’m in the kitchen preparing the ingredients for a big jar of kimchi.

“We have more varieties of chiles and chile powders in this house than any professional kitchen I’ve ever worked in.”

He has a point. When we met 4+ years ago, I was extremely spice-averse. Now, our spice rack is stocked with Arbol, Hatch, Santa Cruz, Guajillo, Chipotle, and Negra Pasilla chile powder, plus a range of dried whole peppers. I survived and enjoyed very spicy food in India. I have come to tolerate, and even love the favors and heat.

But the thing this delightful man makes with the kimchi that takes my new-found love of spice to a whole new level is a Korean-fusion breakfast burrito. He scrambles with eggs, adds the kimchi right before they set, melts sharp white cheddar over the top, and wraps the whole delicious mess up in a tortilla. Goes great with a cup of hot, milky coffee.

In three days, the kimchi will be ready to eat. If I play my cards right, I think there is yummy breakfast in my future.

It’s been a productive morning on all fronts. I harvested my mugwort to make herbal bitters, and brought in the last of the basil and lemon balm. I’m drying some of it, and doing a round of herb-infused vinegar.

Rufus even helped me out with skeining some silk.

The kimchi is made from David Lebovitz’s recipe here.

Wishing you a productive Sunday of your own!

Happy Belly in Delhi

12 Sep

This is my last day in Delhi, and I have yet to eat anything that was not amazing. Today I’m sharing culinary highlights, and a few recommendations.

The first place I went was Delhi Haat. They have more than 15 food stalls, each representing cuisine from India’s various states. I had papadums and parathas stuffed with paneer (cheese), plus raita and various sauces. Amazing!

Delhi Haat apparently gets really crowded on the weekends, but was nearly empty when I went mid-day on a Wednesday.

The most unexpected thing I ate was spicy tapioca. There was a lot of lime-leaf involved, so this had a great citrusy flavor.

I also indulged my love of street food at Central Market in Lajpat Nagar. Lentil fritters with grated radish and a green herb I couldn’t identify, and chole (spicy chickpeas) and fry bread.

The best and least photogenic meal (sorry, no picture) was at Karim’s. They have a number of locations, but the one near Chandni Chowk had great atmosphere. The butter chicken was heavenly, and the biryani was spectacular. If you’re in Delhi, Karim’s is not to be missed.

I visited the spice market in Chandni Chowk and got up close and personal with with elements behind the amazing flavors in Indian cuisine, including nutmeg flowers, which I’d never seen before.

I’m bringing a number of different spices home, and hoping to recreate some of these meals.

I’ll let you know how it goes!