Persimmons and Orzo

persimmonsPersimmons had starred in the salad for Thanksgiving dinner. One had graced a grilled cheese and persimmon sandwich for lunch. Several made a delicious snack at work along with leftover roasted chestnuts.

Still, six persimmons remained in the fruit bin in the fridge, and were by now in different degrees of ripeness. As I often do when I don’t want to lose something, I cook it off in some way.

So I sliced each persimmon into wedges, placed them in a roasting pan and tossed with avocado oil to coat (had this on hand and preferred it for its more neutral flavor, wouldn’t conflict with the persimmons). Then I slid the pan into a 400° oven to cook til they browned.

I put a pot of water on to boil, and added a half cup of orzo pasta, one of my favorite comfort foods. When it came to a boil again, I lowered the heat so it could simmer til done. Then I pulled out raisins and pistachios (the ones I had were dry roasted with salt), a small handful of each.

I put the raisins in a small bowl, and added rum for them to plump in (a favorite rum, almost like a bourbon, from La Colombe called Different Drum Rum). A nice way to add another layer of flavor.

I shelled the pistachios and chopped them.

I rolled a few leaves of basil together and sliced into thin ribbons.

Persimmons roasted 12/11/16I checked the persimmons after about 30 minutes, and turned them all to brown on the other side for an additional five minutes. I took them out and swore there was a custardy, vanilla-y smell to them.

When the orzo was done, I drained in a colander, then slid it all back into the pot, where I coated with a little avocado oil, and salt and pepper. Then, to echo the creaminess of the persimmons, I stirred one or two tablespoons of mascarpone cheese into the pasta.

Assembly: orzo first, topped with persimmon wedges, and then sprinkled with raisins, pistachios and ribbons of basil.

Roasted persimmons and orzo 2 12.11.16Each element brought its own treat, but nothing overwhelmed. Sometimes there’d be a bite that included a raisin, and there it was, that hint of warm alcohol. Or a back note of mint and realize it was basil. The pistachios added beautiful color with their purple and green, and a little salty crunch. The persimmons, roasted, went from their light, creamy sweetness to an almost caramelized mellow.

A delicious bowl of comfort food for one, soothing and satisfying on a cold night.

Plentiful Persimmons

This is a picture of a grilled cheese and persimmon sandwich, which I guess looks more like a quesadilla, because I used lavash bread.

image of grilled cheese with persimmon

No matter: choice of bread, choice of cheese (in this case a few small thin slices of a parmesan-gouda blend), and thin slices of half a small persimmon. Into a pan with butter melted over medium heat. Brown on one side and then the other.

Wonderful.

Had bought a bunch of persimmons when I saw them just before Thanksgiving. Couldn’t resist them. Sliced several into a simple mixed-greens salad with pumpkin seeds for Thanksgiving dinner.

Mellow sweet flavor, beautiful shade of orange. What’s not to love?

And the good news? I still have some left!

Soup for a Winter’s Night

mushroom and onion soup veg close-upCrazy December. Crazy time of year to start writing here again. But it bothered me that 2015 would go by, and there would have been no entry made the whole length of the year.

I began a great new job a year and a half ago, but it changed everything, because it changed how much and when I work. Ah, time!

My husband, who works from home, cooked more. I cooked less. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I cooked less regularly, not the habit of it so much that I’d had. But I missed it…the cooking, and the habit of cooking, and the writing, too, which had been part of the process.

So in this crazy December, I decided to blog again. I thought, “Will I do this differently, now that I’ve been gone from it for a while?” But, no, I’ll do it the same. I like focusing on one ingredient three weeks in a row. The use and repetition of things grounds me, slows me down. It focuses me.

wine...mushroom and onion soupIt can be an ingredient as simple as wine. Used to deepen the flavor of a mushroom and onion soup, which is what I made the other night.

I steeped one ounce of dried porcini mushrooms with three cups of tea-kettle hot water to rehydrate them, and also to turn that water into a mushroom broth.

Into a dry pan over medium heat, I added thinly cut strips of sage from a few sprigs I had pulled from the garden recently and kept in a shot glass of water by the kitchen sink. It was a small handful’s worth, about a tablespoon if compressed.

As that began to cook and give off its piney outdoor scent, I tossed in, as I sliced them, eight ounces each of white button and cremini mushrooms, and four ounces of shiitake mushrooms (stalks removed and added to a bag of broccolini stems in the freezer…with the hope of actually making a vegetable stock from them at some future date!).

With the mushrooms all in the pan, I turned the heat up to medium-high, stirred them, and allowed them to cook and create their own juices while I sliced two red onions. I cut the onions in half, and then those halves into thin slices, and added to the mushrooms.

Didn’t want everything to steam, and did want some browning, so I turned the heat up to high. I also added some chopped parsley stems. Just to use them, since I had some fresh parsley I was going to use to garnish the top when all done.

The mushrooms and onions became beautifully limp and browned. I squeezed excess liquid from the now-rehydrated porcini, cut into thin slices and added to the pan.

Now that things were nicely cooked down, I seasoned with salt and pepper.

I lowered the heat some, and poured in a lovely half-cup of a dry and mellow merlot. As I stirred it through, it lifted off the dry bits from the bottom of the pan and seeped into the mushrooms and onions, deepening the color and flavor.

The whole thing, right at this point, would have been delicious  poured over a bowl of buttery fettuccine, but I had that porcini broth. About two cups remained, the rest having been absorbed into the porcini.

So I added that broth to the mushrooms and onions, along with another cup of water, brought it all to a boil, tasted for seasoning.

The porcini broth and wine were all the stock this soup needed. A very light, but deep flavor, along with the texture of several mushrooms…the smooth white and cremini, and the softer and spongier texture of porcini and shiitake.

mushroom and onion soup in bowl

A couple ladlefuls into a bowl, and a sprinkle of parsley on top.

A deep and quiet soup for a deep and quiet winter night.

 

Happy New Year.

 

Lemon-Almond Tofu

lemons 4 5.3.14Last year I made a lemon-almond cake for a friend’s birthday.

And cooking with lemons reminded me of it. Remembering didn’t lead me to remaking the cake, but I did like the idea of using lemons and almonds again. Almond meal, actually.

What a nice coating the two could make for slices of tofu. I had organic sprouted tofu in the fridge. Where regular tofu is made from cooked soybeans, sprouted tofu is made from sprouted soybeans and is more easily digested, is higher in protein, calcium, and iron. Those are nice reasons to have it. And I often do, but mostly I rotate through different brands and types of tofu, because they’re all a little different texture. And it makes for variety. My one real criteria for tofu is that it be organic to avoid GMOs, and then I usually buy firm or extra-firm, because that holds up well with frying and sautéing.

So…lemon-almond tofu. With zucchini and brown rice to go with it.

To start:

  • 16 ounces organic sprouted tofu
  • 2 lemons

I turned the oven on to 400°.

I wrapped the tofu in a towel to absorb the excess moisture.

I used a hydroplane to zest the two lemons, which I then cut in half and juiced.

lemons 1 5.3Then:

  • 1/4 cup tamari (a soy sauce, but less salty, and smoother flavor)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • a few grinds of pepper

I added these, along with the lemon juice, to a flat baking dish (because it was the right size to hold eight slices of tofu in one layer), and stirred together. Just to taste the lemon juice and tamari combo, I dipped in a little bread…loved it. (I saved the leftover lemon juice-tamari marinade in the fridge as an impromptu dipping sauce for the week!) Then I sliced the tofu into those eight slices, lengthwise, like planks, and set them in the marinade.

Zucchini next:

I sliced three smallish-medium zucchini into planks also, laid them on a baking sheet that I had drizzled extra-virgin olive oil over, turned them front and back in the oil, added salt and pepper. Set them aside while the oven heated up.

And turned the tofu slices over in the marinade to get the other side absorbing the lemony tamari.

The coating:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • the zest from the 2 lemons
  • pepper and salt

I mixed this together in a dish, and dipped my finger in to have a taste. So good…lemony almond meal and a little kick from the black pepper.

I heated a pan over medium-high heat with a mix of grapeseed oil and extra-virgin olive oil, mostly to have a little richness from the olive oil, but not too much of the olive taste, and allow the lemon zest and almond meal to have their space.

While that heated up, I slid the zucchini slices into the oven, and then proceeded to coat the tofu planks with the lemon zest-almond meal mix and set in the pan to brown, turning carefully (so as not to lose too much of the coating) to brown the other side. When the first batch was done, I put it on a pan and slid that into the oven as well, to keep warm. And cooked up the other half of the tofu. Then added that to the pan in the oven also.

By then the zucchini was done, having roasted for about 15 minutes on one side, then 5 minutes more on the other side. So I turned the oven off, and and left the tofu and zucchini there to stay warm while I made a quick rice.

For the rice:

  • 1 package frozen microwavable organic brown rice
  • 1 thinly sliced scallion
  • 1/2 of a long chile pepper, seeded and minced

First, I tossed the remaining lemon zest-almond meal mix into the pan to brown and become a toasted crumble. While that browned, I cooked the rice according to directions (in its package for 3 minutes on high). I emptied the rice into a bowl, stirred in the minced chile pepper, and put that in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, just to wilt it in there a little. To that I added the scallion, salt and pepper…and stirred in the browned lemon zest-almond meal mix. Nice!

lemons 6 5.3.14Dinner was ready: lemon-almond tofu slices, roasted zucchini slices, and the quickie lemon-almond-chile rice.

Lots of frying, browning, roasting, and yet all kept fresh and light because of the brightness of the lemon coming through in each bite. And a mix of textures, too: the nutty coating on the soft tofu, the tenderness of the roasted zucchini, the rice with the slight crunch of scallion and almond. Variations in flavor: light lemoniness, tamari, nuttiness, some bite from back pepper and chile pepper.

What a delicious dinner!