Saturday, November 28, 2020

Phenomenal Persimmons !

Persimmons are one of the culinary world’s astonishing gifts.   It seems everyone is taken with their gorgeous color, but I’m always surprised at the number of people who don’t know quite what to do with them.    I can think of endless yummy possibilities for this fruit of Asian origin.

                          Hachiya is larger & acorn shaped;  Fuyu is smaller & squatty

First, there are several varieties of persimmons and they are very different.  The two most common in California are the Hachiya and the Fuyu.   Hachiya are the larger of the two, shaped like an acorn.  Be mindful that this varietal is quite tannic and must be fully ripe (i.e. ooey gooey soft) before eating.  Fuyu is by far my fave---in fact we have planted two Fuyu trees.   Unlike Hachiya, Fuyu can be eaten when rock-hard and they are absolutely delicious.  

                                         Autumn salad is frequently on our menu

My favorite persimmon dish is one of the simplest---preparation takes maybe 15 minutes.   I call it “autumn salad.”   Other than the vinaigrette salad dressing (EVOO, balsamic, shallot & Dijon mustard), it has four ingredients:  fuyu persimmon, blue cheese (I prefer Stilton but Roquefort is also terrific), lettuce (I especially like arugula) and roasted nuts (love pecans or walnuts).    This is a perennial dish at our house during the fall and winter months. 

                                      Stephanie's persimmon cake is totally phenomenal

Fuyu persimmons do soften to the point that they’re no longer possible in a salad.  No worries as I use them in desserts----everything from cakes to more adventurous versions of Trifle and Tiramisu.   I was given the recipe below for a persimmon spice cake nearly 40 years ago by a dear friend (who had obtained it from an elderly woman).  It’s one of my most treasured recipes, and a great way to use persimmons of any variety that have softened.   The cake is also perfect for the upcoming holidaze.


3 cups pureed persimmons (either variety will work)

2 tspns baking soda

½ cup butter at room temp

1 2/3 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 tspsns lemon juice

2 tspsns vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tspn baking powder

1 tspn salt

1 tspn ground cloves

1 tspn ground cinnamon

½ tspn ground nutmeg

1 cup walnuts

½ cup raisins


Add baking soda to fruit and set aside (but use very soon as it will turn into a solid block).   In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar with a mixer.  Add flour and spices.  Then, add persimmon mix and stir until just blended.  Last, add in nuts and raisins.

Pour into greased and floured pan (can use a tube pan or any other cake pan).  Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes, pending type of pan utilized.

If you really want to be decadent, you can add icing (like that great recipe of cream cheese + powdered sugar + butter), but it really doesn’t require it.   A dollop of whipped cream can be added, but most of the time I serve it plain and wait for the accolades to begin.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Wines to Pair with Turkey

                                            Wine-Knows has much for which to be thankful

Thanksgiving is just around the corner so many of us are making preparations for a holiday dinner.  What type of wine we serve will depend upon the preparation of the turkey.  For example, wines that best accompany a smoked turkey differ from those that pair with a traditional roasted turkey.  For those deep frying your turkey, this requires other wines.   As a lover of smoked turkey, I'll start there.

Smoked Turkey

Smoking imparts bold flavors so a smoked turkey requires a bold wine.  If you’re a red lover, I would recommend a Syrah.  A good Syrah offers a range of deep complex flavors that can stand up to the smoking process.  In fact, Syrah often has a smoke profile with nuances of bacon, spicy notes of white or black pepper and black fruits.  All of these partner nicely with a smoked meat.    


While Zinfandel would work with smoked turkey, Zins have high alcohol content.  Assuming most Thanksgiving celebrations will start with pre-dinner holiday libations, I’m hesitate to recommend Zinfandel for this reason.  No one wants a Thanksgiving that involves over-drinking.  Nonetheless, in moderation, Zin’s big black fruit along with tobacco and spice flavors can work beautifully with smoked meat.


If you’re serving a smoked turkey and prefer to feature a white wine then this certainly is yet another option.  Like red wine, a white paired with a smoked turkey needs to be able to stand up to the strong smoke flavors.  The best white wine to do so would be a dry Riesling, preferably one with a little age on it.  


Deep Fried Turkey

To choose a wine for a fried turkey, one has to consider the pre-frying process.  Recipes many times call for a rub (common ingredients include brown sugar, paprika and chili powder).    A flavor-chocked rub demands a wine that can stand up to it such as a Syrah or Zin.  Other methods prior to frying involve injecting the bird with a liquid such as lemon juice, butter, olive oil, and ground herbs.  If this method is used an oaky and/or buttery Chardonnay would work, as would a Merlot for red lovers.


Roast Turkey

Classic roast turkey and stuffing can work with a multitude of wines, pending the side dishes served.  If a traditional feast is prepared (e.g. with a side of cinnamon-laced sweet potatoes, buttery mashed potatoes and rich gravy), then I suggest a dry Gewurztraminer which can cut through the richness and play well with the spice.   Less sweet side dishes and a roast turkey with stuffing pairs well with a Pinot Noir.


Have a joyful day of giving thanks and stay safe...even if it's family.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Spain’s Greatest Culinary Gift---Membrillo


                                        The perfect autumn bite, membrillo & manchego

Membrillo is a thick jam made from quince fruit….think of a very thick version of apple sauce in the form of a nearly-solid brick.  My husband and I so love membrillo that quince was one of the first of 30 fruit trees that we planted when we moved to San Diego over ten years ago.  Quince is closely related to the family of apples and pears, and like it’s relatives it ripens in the fall.   It’s time to make membrillo!

                          Our quince tree is loaded with fruit, each the size of a large apple

Once a very popular fruit, quince has sadly fallen from popularity in the US.  Most Americans (including many foodies) don’t even know what it is, let alone know the incredible confection it can make.    Membrillo is thought to have originated in Spain.  Many countries in Europe, however, make their own version of a thick quince jam (e.g. France where it is called pate de coing; in Italy it is referred to as cotognata;  and the Portuguese say marmelata).   Wildly admired in all of South America, it is called dulce de membrillo in the southern hemisphere.


                           I often serve membrillo with fresh quince for a still-life effect

Membrillo is used both for breakfast and dinner.   Served like a jam for breakfast, membrillo is often served with toast in Europe or South America.  In the evening, membrillo can appear as an appetizer (manchego cheese and membrillo are a perfect bite before dinner with a glass of cava).   Membrillo can also perform after dinner on a cheese tray with roasted nuts and a loaf of a great bread, or substituted in a recipe for any dessert using a jam (think Trifle for the upcoming holidays, a tarte, or even a rustic galette).


             This Manchego cheesecake with membrillo topping may grace our Thanksgiving table

Just like any fruit jam, making membrillo requires cooking quince with sugar.  Farmer’s markets sometimes have quince this time of year but if you can’t find it don’t despair.  The already made membrillo is widely available for sale on the Internet.   Or, join Wine-Knows next autumn for one of their two trips to Spain:

Friday, November 6, 2020

Italy’s Best Soft Cheese

                                           La Tur is one of Italy's gastronomic treasures

For nearly twenty years I’ve been extolling the virtues of La Tur cheese.   Oui, it has a French sounding name but the cheese is actually made in the foothills of the Italian Alps.   Hailing from the same district as the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as the highly prized white truffle, La Tur ranks in the same premier gastronomic category as these other super-stars from Italy’s Piedmont area. 

La Tur offers the best of three cheese worlds: goat, sheep and cow.  It seems La Tur combines all the best characteristics of each animal’s milk, creating a delicious product where the sum is greater than the parts.  There is a grassy-citrus tang like a goat cheese.  The sheep’s milk contributes a mild nutty profile.  Finally, there’s the super rich and buttery nuance from the cow’s milk.     

This Italian cheese rock-star  is luscious.   Few cheese have a more succulent and silky texture.  Available in small rounds of about two inches in diameter, this meritage cheese is the perfect size for an autumn dinner for two persons.   Served with a ripe pear, a decadent fuyu persimmon, yummy fall figs, some roasted walnuts and a loaf of artisanal bread I can’t think of a better meal that requires only five minutes of prep time.

Enjoy the fall colors….and La Tur (which is available at most cheese stores, as well as Whole Foods).

Buon appetito!