Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fruit of the Gods: Persimmon Pie

Although New Years hasn't passed us up yet the Holidays are over in my opinion. And the back-log of things I wanted to write about cooking is just beginning to be taken down by this post. There were so many things I wanted to try to make and to write about, that I had no time for the writing while some potential masterpieces were simply disasters that may never be re-visited.

But I will start here. With one simple pie that didn't give me any trouble. Persimmon Pie.

I am a little fascinated by persimmons. They don't really have a footing back home in MN. Even after spending 3 years working at a grocery store in high-school and being pretty sure I had seen every piece of produce possible I did not recognize them.

But in the fall, the Whole Foods here seems to have an abundance of the Fuyu variety. I did not recognize them, so I had to buy some. And I liked them! Really liked them. They are not like any other fruit I can think of, the closest is maybe papaya?

So I discovered them last year and they were gone before pie-baking even got started for me. So this year I HAD to make pie with them. Most of the pie recipes I found used very ripe persimmons, when the inside becomes a pulp, creating a custardy pie. People eat them like this too- but I never have. I eat them when they still feel very firm and can be sliced, and thats what I wanted to make pie with.

But with a little digging I found this recipe, using just the firm persimmons I desired.

One commenter suggested opting to peel the persimmons. I decided to do this because it made a lot of sense to me. Persimmon peels are thin but VERY tough. I never eat them and couldn't imagine I would want to in a pie either.

However, she suggested blanching and peeling like a peach. This did not work at all, and I kindof hurt my thumb on a sharp pointy edge trying to do it. I quickly switched over to simply peeling with a peeler like an apple and this worked a lot better.


2 1/2 pounds firm-ripe Fuyu persimmons

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter or margarine, cut into small pieces

*These are the ingredients listed in the recipe. I forgot to buy a lemon, so I only used orange peel. But I had some refrigerated lemon juice so I used that. Also, I added nutmeg because I thought nutmeg would work well with the flavor of persimmon. And I left out the butter, because I never dot my fruit with butter.

Peel and slice persimmons into equally thick rounds.

Combine sugars, tapioca, orange zest, and spices. Toss persimmon slices in mixture. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Let sit at least 15min (for the tapioca).

Meanwhile, par-bake bottom crust. Cover edges while par-baking to keep them as soft as possible for sealing with top crust.

Fill crust with persimmon mixture. Place top crust over fruit and press edges down firmly to seal.

Cut several slits into top crust for venting.

Place pie on lowest oven rack and bake for 20min at 425°, then lower oven temp to 375 and continue baking until inside becomes bubbly (about 20-25 more minutes).

I made just two simple changes to this recipe. The first was par baking the crust. I hate soggy crust bottom and par bake just about everything. I find it is almost always necessary.

Second, I increased the temperature for the first part of baking. This also helps to prevent soggy crust bottom. I did it because I take no chances in this point.

The pie?

It came out well. I was worried about attempting to cut back on the tapioca and used the full amount but found it to be a bit heavy in the final product. If I heated the slice up it was O.K. but leftovers out of the fridge had some visible clear jelly. Never attractive. I did not notice this at room temp so maybe it is not such a problem as long as you don't refrigerate it.

The real problem in my opinion was the flavor. Not that the spices were bad...but the fruit. The potency, depth, and complexity of persimmon flavor was simply lost in the baking process. (I know it was not bad fruit because I sampled amply throughout the slicing process.)

I guess some fruits are just best enjoyed in their most basic state; fresh and simply sliced.

( didn't photograph that well either.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not Quite Stew: Italian Stew-erole AND My Very 1st Food Blogging Event

I have been meaning to make this recipe for awhile now, and I finally got around to it last week. Luckily I was just in time, because one of my favorite food blogs, Closet Cooking, is hosting a pasta event Presto Pasta Night. I just recently learned about food blogging events (from another event featuring Closet Cooking actually, but more on that another day), and I am really exciting about participating in some. Especially now that I am starting to feel that things here are coming together and my postings on this blog are starting to come out quite nice.

I found
the precursor to this recipe on A Dash of Sass. The recipe was full of things I love and if I had made it in a timely manner I might have stuck to the recipe as posted. But I was busy, and the longer it took me to make it the more I altered it in my head.

Originally, this was a stew. I thought mine would still be a stew, but there was a little too much in it. So it turned out to be an incredibly thick stew. Really, it's more like a stovetop casserole.

It's a stew-erole!

Italian Stew-erole

1/2 cup white or yellow onion (about 1/2 a med/small onion); chopped

2 cloves garlic, 3 if they are small; minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup uncooked ditallini (or other miniature pasta)

1/2 cup red bell pepper; diced

1 cup zucchini; diced in big chunks

15oz can cannellini beans

14.5 oz can crushed or stewed tomatoes

1/2 lb italian sausage*, bulk or removed from casings

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp italian seasoning mix

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

salt and pepper to taste

*I do not eat meat, I eat faux meat. But I find most recipes work fine either way, so I will include directions for either choice.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Make sure not to over cook. Set aside.

If using real sausage, cook in your large saucepan over medium heat (just like you you would ground beef). When cooked through, set aside

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Cook onion and garlic until onion begins to soften, about 2 min.

Add zucchini and red bell pepper, cook about 5 more min.

Add cooked sausage to pan, or crumble veggie italian sausage into pan and cook through.

Add entire can of tomatoes, including all of the liquid. (I used crushed tomatoes, but I think stewed would have worked out better because there are more big chunks in stewed tomatoes.)

Add the basil, oregano, italian seasoning mix, a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Drain and rinse canellini beans. Mix in.

At this point I also added ½ a cup of cheese directly to the dish and stirred it in because I wanted the Parmesan flavor mixed throughout. I'm not really sure this was a good idea though, because I didn't like having all the cheese strings throughout it since there was not enough liquid for the cheese to thin out.

After the cheese was melted in the best I could get it I folded in the cooked pasta. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. (I just realized red chili flakes would also be a great addition, I'm gonna add some of those next time.)

Once everything is heated serve with grated Parmesan for topping.

That was quick, right? And yes, it is as good as it looks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Periodic Table of Cupcakes

I am kind of a nerdy scientist.

So, obviously, I love this.