Caramelized kumquats, peppery arugula, and sweet pecans are tossed together in a blood-orange infused salad dressing to create this tasty, yet simple, salad
The making of Caramelized Kumquat and Arugula Salad
Kumquats. That's how this recipe started.
No, that's a lie. A bottle of Blood-Orange Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil is how this recipe started.
But, since that is not even in the title, let's go with Kumquats.
Fun to say.
Fun to eat.
Hard to find.
The good news is, even if you can't find the kumquats, this is a really really nice salad.
Just use some of the optional ingredients.
But for now, let's start with...
Kumquats are small, orange, citrus, fruit about the size of an olive.
While the entire fruit is edible, the seeds can be somewhat bitter, so I do recommend that you remove them for this dish, however, I do remember the days when Trevor used to just go out to our kumquat tree, pull the fruit off, and pop it into his mouth, like candy.
This memory, along with my recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Kumquat got my mind thinking about how the roasting of the kumquat changed the flavor.
Took it from being highly acidic to mild, and well, roasty. Well, said I to myself, how about we caramelize some of those kumquats and put them into a salad?
So I thinly sliced them, removed the seeds and then went on to ...
The Caramelization Process
As you can see, the seeds are quite large compared to the fruit. And if you have ever bitten into an orange seed, you know they can be rather bitter, so it's best for you to remove the seeds - then on to the caramelization of the fruit.
There are actually three (3) ways to do this, probably more, but these are the ones I came up with...
- The Sauté pan: This was actually my first method. I put some butter into a small frying pan on medium-high heat and once it was sizzling I threw in my kumquat slices and cooked them, allowing them to brown slightly, then added sugar over the top and again gave them a stir, then allowed them to "cook" in the butter-sugar glaze. Once they browned I removed them to a platter and let them sit - as they sat the glaze turned into a caramelized coating. This method works well, and requires no special equipment - however, the butter does add calories. But not all that much.
- The Broiler: For this method - place your sliced kumquat pieces on some aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non-stick spray; sprinkle sugar over the top of them, then place under the broiler, set on high, until the sugar melts and forms a glaze on the top. Take care the sugar does not burn - this method can turn quickly on you - but again requires no special equipment, assuming, of course, your oven has a broiler.
- The Torch: By far, a man's favorite method. If you have ever made creme brûlée, that magical dessert of vanilla custard with a hard caramelized sugar coating over it, then you probably have a blowtorch. If so, use this super simple method - place your slices of kumquat on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil, sprinkle the sugar over, and torch away until the sugar melts. Let the pieces set for a few minutes to set up.
Ok...Kumquats at the ready.
Arugula is known by many different names, including "Rocket Salad" and rucola. A peppery leaf that has many of the same health benefits as kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts - although milder and more tender.
I chose arugula specifically for its peppery notes, but you could substitute finely chopped kale or thinly sliced Brussels sprouts. Spinach would work, but I don't think the vegetative flavor of spinach would complement the salad as well as arugula, kale or Brussels.
Salad dressings and I are generally at odds.
I find that most all salads are over-dressed. So much dressing, you can't taste the salad, and quite frankly, I like the salad. Plus the dressing is the most calorie-rich part of most all salads, so lightly dressed it is the way to go.
The amount of dressing in my recipe is, to me, perfect for dressing a salad of four servings. However, if you like your salad drowned in dressing, feel free to double the quantities.
As stated before, part of the reason for this salad was the bottle of blood orange-infused extra virgin olive oil I had sitting on my counter. After I made my delish Roasted Beet Crostini with Goat Cheese and Pistachio (and an additional drizzle of said infused olive oil) I wanted to make something else.
Kumquat tree, with quats, and oil on the counter. Seems like a marriage made in heaven to me.
Most recipes for a vinaigrette call for a 3 - 1 ratio of oil to vinegar.
I personally prefer a 2 - 1 ratio.
One of the reasons I love to use flavorful vinegar. And white balsamic, while not really a balsamic at all, is what I prefer to use in my daily salad dressing. It's very mild, with a slight sweetness to it, so there is no need to add any sugar.
Dijon mustard is another of those added elements that help you to eliminate the addition of sugar. The mustard smooths and rounds out the dressing.
No infused olive oil?
Granted not everyone has a bottle of blood orange-infused olive oil sitting on their counter, or in their pantry. If you don't you might want to consider finding some - but should you choose not to seek out an actual infused oil, why not go ahead and cheat?
Add a bit of fresh orange juice in place of some of the vinegar. Well, since this recipe only uses 1 tablespoon of vinegar, why not replace all of the vinegar with orange juice?
Or another cheat put the zest of 1 orange with 1 cup of olive oil into your blender, blend at high speed then allow to sit for one hour, strain through a cheesecloth, and voila, sort of orange-infused olive oil. Very very close.
What? No Kumquats? Substitutions Galore!
I live in Sonoma County, which essentially means, if it has a season, I can find it in season. I also have a kumquat tree growing at the side of my house. So kumquats, I can find.
Here, in Sonoma country. I may reckon to guess, some of you might not find them so easily...so no frets. I have solutions.
If you don't have, or can't find kumquats...
Don't use them.
While the recipe will be different without the semi-chewy, semi-crunchy sugar-glazed quat, the dressing and arugula still work so fine together. On this particular day, I added some fresh asparagus, also from the garden, into the mix.
Another time, while working on the basic vinaigrette, I added some cubed roasted red beets (think of the crostini) along with crumbled goat cheese.
And right after I had made this recipe, I went to a restaurant in Southern California and they had, right on their menu, Arugula, Kumquat salad. While their kumquats were not roasted, but raw, and they used walnuts rather than pecan...it was good.
Just not as good as mine.
So if you are ever walking down the aisle of the grocery, at the farmer's market, or happen to have a kumquat tree, and always wondered, "what can I do with those", I do hope you will try this, really simple, and tasty salad.
Caramelized Kumquat and Arugula Salad
Caramelized Kumquat and Arugula Salad
- 6 - 8 cups cleaned arugula
- 8 kumquats or as many as desired
- Granulated sugar as needed
- ¼ cup toasted pecan pieces
- Optional ingredients as desired
- For the Dressing
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic or white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons blood-orange infused extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Note: If you like a lot of dressing double the recipe.
- Prepare the Dressing: In a large bowl, the same one you will use to dress the salad, whisk together the vinegar and mustard, while whisking, add the oil and whisk until well blended. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Set-aside.
- Prepare the Kumquats: Slice the kumquats into small circles. Remove any seeds. Caramelize according to your chosen method. Set-aside.
- If your nuts are not already toasted, toast them. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 5 - 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
- Place the clean/dry arugula into the bowl, add all the optional ingredients then toss to coat with the dressing. Place on individual plates and top with toasted nuts and caramelized kumquats.