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.

Cantaloupe and Cucumber

cantaloupe 3 8.17.13The melon in my fridge this week was a cantaloupe. I had chopped half of it to put in a bowl to snack from, which we did. The other half, orange exposed, sat in the fridge waiting its turn. It was really just the colors, seeing that orange whenever I’d open the refrigerator door, and then seeing the cucumber, that made me put them together. Very simply.

Sweet, orange cantaloupe slices. Crispy, pale green cucumber slices. Chopped basil and marjoram sprinkled over top.

A light snack while my husband and I talked, sitting at the kitchen table.

Watermelon, Mango and Basil Smoothie

watermelon 1 8.10.13Because I had frozen cubes of watermelon in the freezer, I wanted to make a smoothie. A straightforward Pavlov’s dog reaction.

This is why.

Several years ago, my younger daughter gave me a book named, simply enough, Smoothies. It was for my birthday…which is in February. In anticipation of summer, I think, and that I might then make her smoothies! I’m sure I did.

It’s a colorful book, both the pages and the recipes, with useful tips at the beginning on techniques and preparing fruit. Two tips in particular have been my guide, whether I’m following something specifically from the book, or putting something together from what I have on hand.

One is to blend ingredients by starting with the liquids and adding the solids, to help prevent ingredients getting clogged at the bottom of the blender. One of those little common-sense things that you see in writing, and think, “Oh. Of course!”

The other is to prepare fresh fruit and freeze it, so that you don’t need to add ice later (or less of it), therefore not diluting the fruit’s fresh flavor.

A few years ago, on a beach vacation, we stopped at a fruit market along the way and bought melons, berries, bananas. probably plums or peaches, just a nice assortment. I thought it would be fun to have cold smoothies on hand in the fridge all week after a hot day on the beach. And you know, it was. That first day, I cut up the fruit, and put it on a flat tray and into the freezer (to individually freeze and not freeze in a lump), and then into resealable bags. Along with yogurt and juice, sometimes a little honey for some additional sweetness, I’d mix whatever combo seemed good at the moment. And when that pitcher was done, I’d put together a different combo.

I don’t actually make smoothies often, but because I made a point of it that trip, set it all up for myself, it kind of crossed over from a small production to more of just something to quickly throw together.

I often have bananas in the freezer, so now it’s no big leap to pull them out, and, with some yogurt and juice, have a smoothie in a few minutes.

And that’s why, when I cut up a watermelon from the farmers market the other day, and the cubes filled two bowls, I had the instinct to go ahead and freeze one bowl’s worth. And with those cubes frozen, the next natural thing to do was to make a smoothie.

In the book Smoothies, they have a recipe that uses watermelon, lemon sorbet and mint. I had a little mango sorbet left, a mango in the fruit drawer, and lots of basil in the garden. So I went with a watermelon, mango and basil combo.

Into the blender:

  • 1/2 cup mango sorbet
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice (the juice of one lime)

watermelon 2 8.10.13Add and blend in:

  • 1 diced fresh mango (when diced, it equaled about a half-cup)

To that (a few cubes at a time to allow them to be more easily blended), add:

  • 3 cups frozen, diced watermelon cubes

Stir in:

  • 4 basil leaves, finely chopped

If anything gets clogged, just stop the blender and use a wooden spoon to break it up.

I’ll tell you, this smoothie is worth it for the color alone! A gorgeous peachy shade.

And the bonus is that the taste lives up to the gorgeous color! Bright watermelon, floral mango, a little tartness from the lime. And then, minty basil.

Plus, I got to treat my daughter to a smoothie, inspired by her gift, before she heads back to school again!

Coleslaw in Full Color

Oh, we have been having some hot days here in the Northeast! Triple-digit heat index. Summer with a capital S.

Staying cool. Eating cool.cabbage 1 7.20.13

Cooking becomes more about slicing and assembly. No heating required.

I opened the fruit drawer in the fridge, and the deep orange of the nectarines caught my eye, and then, on the shelf right above, the purple of a head of cabbage, the remaining head of the two given to me by a gardening friend.

Like summer and its gardens bursting with vibrant colors, these two seemed perfect together, and I decided to combine them in a colorful coleslaw.

I like coleslaws. With a mayonnaise dressing or with vinaigrette. But not too much. I don’t like soupy coleslaws. And I like the pale color of the usual green cabbage with bits of purple, orange, and green from purple cabbage, carrots, and green peppers. It’s classic.

This one pulled those supporting colors and made them the stars.

Into a bowl I mixed: one-quarter of the purple cabbage, in bite-sized shreds, equaling about three cups; two nectarines, thinly sliced; thinly sliced white onion, about a half-cup; several basil leaves (maybe seven or eight), rolled up and then sliced into thin shreds; salt and pepper; one tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil; one and a half tablespoons rice vinegar.

So beautiful with the purples, oranges, the addition of the pale yellows from the now-sliced nectarine, greens and whites…a summer garden.

cabbage 3 7.20.13And the salad: crisp, light, fresh. Three different crunches, from the cabbage, the nectarines and the onion. The nectarines brought a tartness and fruitiness. The basil added a mintiness.

I made this salad earlier in the day, but didn’t eat it then. Had several things still to do, including working at our local farmers market, where I volunteer.

I came home with a generous section of whole wheat bread from one of the vendors, hard crust, soft on the inside, still warm. It was a section from the last loaf of bread left over at the end of the day, and they divided it and shared it with a couple of us there. A gift.

This was my dinner when I got home: a slice of that bread topped with my purple cabbage-nectarine coleslaw, and a few leftover black beans from the fridge on the side.

Sliced, assembled. Hot summer night dinner.

Summer Cabbage

cabbage 3 7.14.13With berries and cherries and peaches and beans and chard and, well, all the wonderful seasonal things showing up at farmers markets and grocery stores, I didn’t expect to be writing about cabbage. Something, that despite its use in salads, like crisp coleslaw, I associate more with winter. And which, let’s face it, doesn’t really seem as lush and sexy as berries and cherries and peaches and…!

But I came back from a few days away over the 4th, and there in my fridge were a beautiful head of green cabbage and a beautiful head of purple cabbage just waiting to be used, and that had been picked fresh from a friend’s garden just before I went away.

As seasonal as the others…my summer cabbage.

Maybe because I like reubens and specials, my thoughts turned to how to use it in a sandwich. But probably also because I just plain like sandwiches, whether between two slices of bread, on a roll, wrapped….

So I pulled out whole-wheat tortillas, the green cabbage, garlic, extra-firm tofu, a lime, soy sauce, sesame oil, an avocado, basil, and a yellow cayenne pepper I picked from our garden.

First I sliced eight ounces of tofu and laid the slices in a baking dish. I squeezed juice from the lime into a small bowl, to which I added two teaspoons of soy sauce, one teaspoon of sesame oil, one minced garlic clove, and a couple grinds of pepper. The soy sauce and sesame oil balanced the lime juice. Poured that mix over the tofu to marinate.

cabbage 2 7.14.13While the tofu marinated, I heated enough canola oil to coat a pan over medium to medium-high heat, and cut the green cabbage in half…and then that half in half to get a nice wedge, leaving the core in. Keeping the core allowed me to slice the wedge into slices, which I sautéed in the pan with a clove of minced garlic tossed in, and salt and pepper to season. Five minutes or so per side, til nicely browned.

Cabbage slices sautéing, tofu marinating. I charred the cayenne pepper over the open flame of a burner, then thinly sliced it at a bit of an angle to get rings. When I got to the top of it, where most of the seeds were, I poked them out with the tip of my knife.

I removed the cabbage to a dish, added a little more oil to the pan, and then sautéed the tofu slices along with the marinade. As the marinade cooked off, the slices browned.

Used half the avocado and cut in slices. Rolled several basil leaves up and cut them into thin shreds.

Assembly. On a whole-wheat tortilla, softened/charred a little over a burner: a cabbage slice, a few tofu slices, a few avocado slices, a couple of pepper rings, some shredded basil. Rolled up.

cabbage 1 7.14.13

Had a grilled quality sans grilling. Avocado brought a nice creaminess, peppers had a kick!, all with the back notes of lime and basil. Some parts of the cabbage were crisp, and some soft, all with that nice mellower taste cabbage gets when it’s cooked.

A terrific summer cabbage wrap.