I do believe the beginnings of Spring are meant to be deeply breathed in. While Fall calls us to make roots and hunker down, pulling out the warm quilts and hearty pot for stews...it is in the melting of frost, the saplings bursting and hidden tarragon you knew not was there.
Lent is preparing to close. Some will be looking to add back in that forgotten food when Easter morn awakens. Others, will be looking for ways to simply eat. In these past couple days, my heart has been sorrow-filled with anxiety and knots in my stomach. I try to ignore it and find myself reaching for something sweet, something special to eat.
And then, as if Jesus himself stood in my kitchen, he said,
"Man, woman, child, shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
As I reached for the food processor to puree the dates for this cake, I was struck how food is a gift, but it doesn't satisfy all of our longings. This gift in which I whole heartedly delight in, because it reminds of so much good coming directly from the hand of God, is also just that...gift.
Will I praise him when my child isn't gaining weight? Will I praise him when the food is not satisfying? Will I praise him when the bank account is plentiful? Will I praise him in low times and high times?
Food reminds us of our very temporal being. It brings us back to the animal world, our dependence upon it to remain alive. We can eat simply to give us calories and function. But, I think to enjoy and savor the food is how it's meant. However, what do we do when food makes us ill, or it's not celebratory?
Could it be a reminder that every gift is from God and our praise to him is not dependent upon the feasting, or tantalizing taste buds?
Today, I offer you a Kumquat Olive Oil Celebration Cake. This cake is lightly sweetened with soaked dates pureed, lending to a moist cake. The kumquats are sliced and simmered in a pan with honey, lemon juice and one vanilla bean, which candies the sour jewels. It's perfect for an Easter brunch to remind us of the new life we see in Spring.
Kumquat Olive Oil Celebration Cake (printable recipe)
This recipe is grain-free, dairy-free, and soy free. I recommend using a lighter olive oil, as in, not extra virgin olive oil, because it lends a strong, more pungent flavor. I used a cup of sliced kumquats, but I bought a 12 ounce container from Trader Joe's. If that be the case, use them all. Also, kumquats tend to have seeds, so you'll need to pull all of them out, which makes the slicing of them the most laborious part in making the cake.
3 cups almond flour, I use Honeyville
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
24 dates, soaked & reserve about 2 Tb of water
boiling water from a kettle
1/2 cup olive oil
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1 cup sliced kumquats
juice from one lemon
vanilla bean, scrap out the seeds
Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment, or grease and dust with some almond flour--set aside.
Put the sliced kumquats, honey, lemon juice, vanilla bean pods and vanilla bean into a medium sauce pan. Put heat to medium-low and give the ingredients a good mix. Do not allow the mixture to boil, simmer is okay. While it cooks, you can begin on the cake. However, keep an eye on it and give it a mix every so often. You'll want to cook the kumquats for about 7-10 minutes. Key is to not allow it cook so much that the liquid evaporates.
Combine all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, almond flour, baking soda, salt, & ginger. Mix thoroughly.
Put your dates into a 4-cup measuring cup or medium bowl. Add boiling water to cover all the dates. Allow them to sit in the water for about 5 minutes.
Put the dates into a food processor with the 'S' blade, add in 2 Tb of the date water. Puree, scrape down sides and puree again. Try to do your best to puree as much as you can before adding the olive oil. Now, add the olive oil to the dates puree and process. Scrape down sides and process again. Add the eggs and puree for about 30 seconds.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix till thoroughly combined. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer for this, but by all means, just use a wooden spoon. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Remove the vanilla bean from the kumquats first. Then, take your cooked kumquats and scrape all of them and the yummy juices onto the top of the batter. Put in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes. At the 50 minute point, insert a tooth pick into the center of the cake for doneness.
When done, serve warm or cool and store for 3 days on counter or about 5 days in the fridge.