Monday, February 11, 2013


It's been a cold and somewhat gloomy winter here in the northeast.    When you can't escape to warmer and brighter climates you can bring sunshine inside via citrus fruits.   You can't even imagine the salubrious effect the globes of orange, yellow, and green will have on your physical well-being.  For moment, discount the nutritional value of an orange, grapefruit or lime and consider the visuals.  Fill a bowl or basket with assorted citrus fruit and place it somewhere in your home where you must walk past it many times a day.  That sight alone will fill you with joy and  the courage to carry just a bit longer 'til spring is here.
I can now add  the bergamot to the list of citrus fruits.   Bergamot as a whole fruit had almost completely gone away from my culinary points of reference.  It's never far away as the ingredient that gives Earl Grey tea is unique flavor, or the essential oil used in soothing skin lotions, and as a component in most every fragrance.

When I wrote the little cookbook, "Cooking from the Market - make good food with ingredients from LICK the market"  I included a recipe for  Indian Ocean Pan-Fried Fluke which is based on a memory of a fish preparation that I enjoyed in the Seychelles Islands many (many) years ago.  My memory also included a sauce for the fish made with bergamots and onions.  I didn't include that part in the recipe because I never would have imagined that the bergamot would be an easy-to-find ingredient anywhere, much less in Hudson.   And then, there it was on the shelves of LICK. (after I had already published my book).  I realize that what the Seychelloise referred to as bergamot is not exactly the same size and color as the orange-sized fruit that's grown in Italy, France, Turkey and in the USA - LICK's come from California.  The Seychelloise bergamot is small, maybe the size of a golf ball with lime-green skin and a bright orange interior. All bergamots are a sub-species of the bitter orange whose flavor it resembles. The Seychelloise bergamots are simply cut in half and used whole with fried onions in the sauce for fish.    The more common European bergamot looks like a fat lemon - with a bit deeper yellow rind - it's sometimes mistaken for a Meyer lemon whose flavor it somewhat resembles.  It's flesh is sweeter than a lemon - but NOT edible like an orange, or even a grapefruit.   It's most common preparation as food is marmalade.  The marmalade that comes from bergamot tastes exactly like the description of all the fruit's capacities - it's bitter-sweet with a slightly floral nuance.


serves 3 - 4

1 pound fluke or flounder fillet, skin on, scaled
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 scallions, roots removed, leave 2-inches of the green, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small hot pepper, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bergamot - peeled, including the pith, cut in half, use a sharp paring knife to remove the sections from the membrane of 1/2 of the fruit - squeeze the juice from the other half and add to the sections - make sure all pits are removed
1/4 cup cornstarch
Enough canola oil to fill a small skillet to 1 inch

1.   Cut the fluke into 4 - 6 pieces.  Make horizontal slits, about 1/8-inch deep on the skin-side of each piece.  You'll need a very sharp knife.
2.   Add the ginger, sesame oil, soy, hot pepper, scallions and garlic to a small bowl.  Stir to combine.   Add the fish fillets and toss to thoroughly coat with the mixture.  Reserve.
3.   In a small skillet saute the onion in the olive oil until completely wilted and slightly gold.  Add the bergamot sections and juice.  Cook for a minute.  Remove from heat and reserve.
4.   In a small skillet heat the canola oil until it has small bubbles around the edges.
5.   Meanwhile, add the corn starch to a dinner plate and coat the fish fillets.
6.   Fry, skin side down, a few pieces at a time until golden - about 1 minute.  No need to turn the fillets as they're so thin they cook very quickly.  Drain on paper towels.
7.   Serve immediately topped with the bergamot onion sauce.   The skin will stay crispy while the fish is hot.

makes about 1 quart

This recipe comes to me via Michael Harris the owner of LICK from his friend, Suri Farman-Farmaian who lives in Switzerland.  I have not made the marmalade but I was grateful to be on the receiving end of a jar made-by-Michael (photo of marmalade with thermometer is Michael's - he cooked his to 215 degrees F.).   It's delicious on a piece of toasted quinoa bread from Bonfiglio & Bread that has first been buttered with Kate's sea-salted butter available from LICK or Hannaford's supermarket.

8 bergamots
3 cups sugar
4 cups water plus more for blanching the bergamots
pinch of sea salt
optional: 2 teaspoons Kirsch or Limoncello

1.   Rinse and dry the bergamots, trim off stem ends, then cut each in half and pluck out the seeds.
2.   Cut the bergamots into quarters and using a sharp knife, slice the quarters as thinly as possible.
Tip:  if you have trouble getting them very small, after slicing, you can use a chef's knife to chop them to the right size.  Don't use a food processor, as that will make the marmalade muddy.
3.   Put in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Let boil for 5 minutes, then drain well.
4.   Return the bergamots to the pot, add the sugar, 1 quart of the water, and salt, and bring to a boil.  Cook the bergamots, stirring occasionally until the marmalade  begins to set using the wrinkle test: turn the marmalade off and put a dab on a plate that's been in the freezer then check it after 5 minutes; if it wrinkles when you nudge it, it's done.  If not, continue to cook, repeating this step, until it reaches the desired consistency.
Depending on the heat, the marmalade will take at least 30 minutes to reach this point, although if you're used to making other jams, it will look slightly more liquid than others when done.  You can also use a candy thermometer, the jam will be done when the temperature reaches around 220 degrees F.
5.   Once done, stir in the liqueur, if using, then ladle into clean jars and twist on the lids.   Once cool, store in the refrigerator where they'll keep for at least 6 months.

 a few of Suri's notes:
 " .... what I did was to cut them into eights, this way you can just cut the skin bits and pop out all the seeds with a knife, instead of trying to take them out individually.  So, you need to take out all the seeds, not the flesh, leave that and slice the skin to the size you want - it will be the only  visible thing at the end.  Keep all the seeds aside....after you've done the first boiling bit and it says chuck out water and drain well, DO IT.  I didn't want to thinking that's the best bit, but boy is it bitter...we tried drinking it in hot water, not bad...I'm sure you can find find some use for it.  Someone who like Fernet-Branca! ...then you put it back on the heat with water and sugar.  I put the seeds into a spice diffuser, because I don't have cheese cloth need them for it to thicken {recipe does not give those instructions}.  I put in less sugar than it says - I always try and get away with as little sugar as possible.  I've used brown cane sugar in the past..."


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