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!

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!

Lemon-Olive Tapenade

lemons 3 4.27.14I made this little tapenade one evening a couple of weeks ago, and it’s amazing to me that this small list of ingredients took til now to show up in a post! But, sometimes, that’s the way it goes.

Traditionally, a tapenade includes olives, capers and anchovies. This tapenade includes the olives part.

I had what turned out to be about three-quarters of a cup of Luques olives (a very nice green olive that I used here most recently) left in a jar, and I decided to use them up.

I pulled out my food processor, and processed each of these ingredients separately (because I wasn’t sure how much I would need):

  • the 3/4 cup of olives, pitted first!
  • 1/4 of a small red onion (I got about 2 tablespoons from this, and used 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • handful of cilantro

I didn’t purée them, just got them to a small mince.

lemons 1 4.27.14Scooped each of the ingredients into a bowl as they were ready. Then to them I added the zest of 1 medium lemon, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and some freshly ground pepper.

I enjoyed this on crackers…along with cocktails and the company of my husband and sister!

Lemony Light Pots de Crème

lemons 1 4.8.14I had gone to Longwood Gardens to buy orchids…not because I needed another orchid, or, for that matter, any other additional plant in my sunroom! Longwood, one of the great public gardens in the Philadelphia area, is just a few miles away from me, and a few late-winter weeks ago my husband and I spent part of my birthday there. We walked the outdoor paths, breathed in cold, crisp air, took in the snowy landscape. Beautiful.

Then we went indoors to the conservatory, and were overtaken with breathtaking color and lushness…and orchids everywhere. It was their Orchids Extravaganza. Orchids were tucked in among other plants, hung from rafters, grouped together into orchid trees.

So when the display was dismantled, and the orchids offered at discounted prices, off I went to pick up a little piece of that day. Of the remaining orchids I was drawn to the oncidiums, and bought two. It was the yellow, I think. One had yellow flowers with touches of purple and ivory, and the other was ivory with purple and bits of yellow.

Spring seems to finally be declaring itself around here, and, yellow…well, yellow is a sunny color, and seemed right in step with incoming spring.

And sunny yellow made me think of lemons, for which I happen to have several clipped recipes gathered over several years…and never made.

So I pulled one out.

Lemon pots de crème. Lemon pots of custard.

Meant to make six individual servings, it was perfect, because I happened to have six individual-sized, ovenproof custard cups, having bought them to make the mushroom tarts I wrote about last year.

Here’s the recipe for lemony, sunshiny pots de crème.

  • 2 medium lemons (or whatever amount of lemons it takes to get 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of zest. I happened to have little ones, and it took 6!)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg yolks (I froze the whites to thaw out another time and make meringues.)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • powdered sugar (to dust on top of cooked and cooled custards)

Heat the oven to 325°. Grate 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Squeeze that 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Whisk in sugar, egg, and yolks, then whisk in cream until sugar dissolves. Pass mixture through a strainer; stir in zest.

Put six 1/2-cup, ovenproof custard cups in a deep baking dish. Divide the lemon mixture evenly between them. Slide the whole thing into the oven and fill the baking dish with hot tap water to come within 1/2 inch of the top of the custard cups. Bake, uncovered, until custards are just set in the centers, 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully remove from water and set aside to cool completely.

Dust with powdered sugar.

lemons 4 4.8.14What a burst of flavor that first bite is! Lemony tart! You know that it’s rich, because you realize, as you’re eating, that one serving is plenty…yet light and bright at the same time.

Pots de crèmes of sunshine.