Fall

persimmondatebreadIt is a little known fact that I can speak Japanese. True, I only know two words, but I say them well.

1. Hachiya. No, it is not a greeting. It’s a persimmon.

2. Fuyu. No, not the clothing line (that’s FUBU). They are also persimmons. Not to be confused with Russell Simmons (who incidentally created Phat Farm, not FUBU).

There are about a dozen varieties of persimmons grown throughout the world; only two are generally found in the States: Hachiya and Fuyu (Fuyugaki). Both are Japanese.

Though Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons are both fun to say and have similarly pumpkin colored skin, they are different in shape, texture, and culinary use. It’s important to know the difference between them; otherwise, your persimmon eating experience will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Hachiya persimmons are acorn shaped and have deeper orange skin with black streaks on it. They are astringent, which means they can be eaten only when fully ripened. A ripe Hachiya is extremely soft and should be squishy in your hand. Removing the thin skin reveals coral colored flesh so thick and glossy it looks like marmalade, and tastes like it too -- it's pleasingly sweet with hints of mango and apricot. Though they can be enjoyed raw, Hachiyas are really prized for baking.

Read more ...

Image What cooking method can be more primal than roasting? When humans discovered fire, it was by roasting over an open pit. Today we simulate this method of indirect cooking in the oven, achieving the best taste by concentrating flavors, retaining interior moisture, and creating a beautiful brown exterior. In gastronomy-speak, this caramelization is known as the Maillard reaction, which is the basic chemical reaction all food undergoes when cooked. But the cavepeople didn't care how sugars reacted with amino acids, all they knew was that fire made things taste good.

I often roast almost anything during the autumn months. Once October comes, roasting is my favorite activity. Meats are of course among the favorite items to roast. Just think of a luscious roast chicken or roast beef. But many seem to forget that pork and vegetables also make wonderful roasts.

Read more ...

peartart.jpgAutumn begins this week, a season that is celebrated for the bounties of late summer and of the harvest. And for many the season is best represented by baking. Bread, pies, and tarts have become synonymous with the season of change. Baking with fall fruit such as apples, pears, plums, and quinces are a perfect way to celebrate. For me the fruit that best represents fall is the pear. Even though most pear varieties are picked unripe during the summer, the fruit can last in cold storage all throughout autumn and winter. If picked ripe, the pear is mushy, but when allowed to ripen on the counter or in a paper bag, a pear can be the most flavorful fruit. Some criticize it for its grainy texture, but I appreciate it for that uniqueness. The perfume of a ripening pear is like no other fruit. With pears in mind, I decided to put together one of my favorite tarts.

A French confection with the utmost elegance, this pear and almond cream tart is great for entertaining this season. Pears and almonds are a true match for one another. Their flavors and textures work harmoniously in this recipe. The almond cream base is traditionally called a frangipane and can be used as a base in a variety of desserts, but its most common companion is the pear.

Read more ...

SpicedPersimmonBreadI've never really gotten into making bread. I do it occasionally, but it's not my passion. When I want to bake something I usually don't have much patience so quick breads are more my style.

There are lots of great quick breads. Two of my favorites are banana bread and persimmon bread. They each use very ripe or over ripe versions of the fresh fruit. For persimmon bread you want to use the Hachiya variety. The Fuyu is rounder shaped than the Hachiya and is a bit crunchy, good for using in salads, it has a pale orange color.

Fresh Hachiya persimmons are really extreme. Their color is almost shockingly bright orange and the texture is downright slimy. Though they are sweet there is sometimes a very bitter after taste to the raw fruit. They sound just awful, but actually they are quite delicious. And if you can't fathom eating them raw, you should really try them in bread because they are no longer bright orange, slimy or bitter. This recipe comes from a neighbor of my parents and is my favorite style of persimmon bread, rich, dark, spicy and almost like a firm pudding in texture.

Read more ...

pumpkinpasta.jpgPasta seems to be my go-to when I’m short on meal-preparation time. Not only does it cook in just minutes, but it pairs nicely with a variety of vegetables and sauces. Last week I made a sauce of penne, pumpkin and Parmesan.

When I came upon a recipe for pasta with a creamy pumpkin sauce in "The Ski House Cookbook,” by Tina Anderson and Sarah Pinneo, I was reminded of the delicately flavored butternut squash-filled ravioli with a sage-brown butter sauce that I had several years ago at I Nonni, an Italian restaurant in the Twin Cities.

That recipe in "The Ski House Cookbook: Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun" inspired Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce with flavors reminiscent of the butternut-squash-filled ravioli I swooned over years ago. I’m not a huge fan of sage, but when the flavor is infused into the dish as whole fresh leaves of the herb saute with some onion and then simmer in white wine, it becomes a whisper that is just loud enough to detect, but not overbearing. For me, the slight essence of sage in the sauce is just right.

Read more ...