Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poached Persimmon


I love going to the market--Reading Terminal, check it out--and buying something completely random. On my last visit, I bought a persimmon. Back in the 'Sip, there was actually a wild persimmon tree across the road from our house. We never really ate the fruit but my mother did mention that they could be used to make jelly. In keeping with my goal of stepping outside my comfort zone, I decided it was time to give them a try.

I love eating poached fruit on my pancakes. So, I decided to use persimmon this morning. This is arguably the best poached fruit combination that I've had.

Ingredients:

1 ripe persimmon
1/2 cup of water
1 teaspoon of butter
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon ginger preserves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon of dried cranberries

Directions:

Stem and peel the persimmons, discard any seeds, and cut the persimmon into 8 wedges. In a saucepan combine the persimmons, water, butter, lime juice, brown sugar, ginger preserves, and cinnamon. Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring occasionally, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the persimmons are tender. Add the cranberries when the fruit is almost done and serve immediately over hot pancakes. Alternatively this could be eaten chilled over ice cream, rice pudding, cake, or bread pudding.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Accidental Pescetarian


Today, I celebrate 2 years and 14 days as a pescetarian. The pescetarian diet excludes land animals and birds, but includes fish and shellfish in addition to fruits, vegetables, plants, legumes, nuts, grains, and eggs and dairy. I made this transition two years ago as an experiment. After witnessing the discipline of several college friends, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and experience life from a different angle. I also wanted to cut back in anticipation of my Thanksgiving binge. Surprisingly, this diet change brought about unanticipated changes in my health. Chronic body pains came to a halt. I felt lighter and more energized. I needed less sleep--I think this effect has worn off. I felt more alert. This happened all in a month's time. I was clearly on to sometime.

I was actually completely vegetarian during the first month. My goal was to make it to Thanksgiving. Well, I made it and found myself conflicted. I enjoyed the new health benefits of the diet, but at the same time, the Southerner in me was destined to pull me to the dark side to indulge in fried chicken, catfish, gumbo, ribs, barbeque pulled pork, bacon, crawfish, ham, and jambalaya. After all, we raised hogs back in the 'Sip. We made our own sausage, bacon, fatback meat, pork cracklins--darn good, I tell you--and souse meat. Hog maws--stomach of the pig--were actually one of my favorite delicacies for most of my life. Thus, I couldn't quite fathom sustaining myself on a completely vegetarian diet. Fish and shellfish became the perfect compromise as I'm completely obsessed with bottom feeders (i.e. catfish and crawfish).

The absolute greatest benefit of being pescetarian is that it forces me to be an adventurous eater and cook. This Thanksgiving, most Americans will be eating turkey and chicken and dressing--Northerners say stuffing. Stuffing is a blasphemous word at my house, though. The mere utterance of this word will cause my mother to snap her neck and give me the look of death.

Well, I'm American!
I grew up on turkey and chicken and dressing, too!
I want comfort this Thanksgiving!
I want to eat ancestral food!

Guess what? I will! In the past, I've made an Herbed Oyster Dressing that my teenage cousin begs me to make everytime I come home--he's a darn picky eater, too. And last year, my mom put me on to yellow squash dressing. This year, the clouds will part and light will shine from heaven when I integrate the recipes. For days, I've been dreaming of fresh herbs, stale French bread, cornbread, butternut squash, olives, walnuts, red onions, oysters, garlic, celery, vegetable stock, and mushrooms combined in a decadent dressing and garnished with the finest of cranberry sauces. Each bite gloriously washed down with a sip of mom's homemade muscadine wine--Rewind! Scratch the wine... a little wishful thinking, you know!

Where I'll spend Thanksgiving? I'm not exactly sure, yet. I have a couple options. I'll have food and dressing for sure. For that I am thankful!

Image:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dining In With Brother Soulistic

Shrimp Potstickers. This is the only dish that wasn't completely homemade. I bought a package of Thai Shrimp Gyoza from Trader Joe's and cooked it up according to the directions on the package. For my personal touch, I made a sauce of equal parts sesame oil and soy sauce and finished off with a garnish of green onions and sesame seeds. This was today's lunch along with a side of Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Absolutely DELISH!







Cranberry Pecan Pancakes. I started making homemade pancakes after taking my third breath. I usually follow no exact recipe and measure everything by eye. These were a stab at a new recipe. The cranberries and pecans were my personal touch since I had those on hand.



Ingredients

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
cooking spray

Directions

1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to "sour".

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into "soured" milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

My "recipe" doesn't use sour milk. Considering they taste the same, I'll probably stick to my regular recipe and save the trouble of making sour milk.







Spinach Quiche. For weeks, I've had the urge to make quiche. I finally decided to look up a recipe. This one turned out to be too dense for my liking. It's packed with spinach and cheese and a lot of people seem to like that considering the rave reviews the recipe got. I, however, prefer my quiche light and fluffy with a nice contrast of flavors from the eggs, filling, and crust.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 eggs, beaten
3 cups shredded Muenster cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated.

3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan.

4. Bake in preheated oven until eggs have set, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Quiche is one of the most versatile dishes ever. It can be eaten anytime of day: breakfast, bunch, lunch, or dinner. It's also relatively inexpensive and easily lends itself to the budget of a student but trendy enough to make an appearance at a dinner party or upscale restaurant. It's also the ultimate leftover food. Quiche reheats well and will provide several meals if only a couple people are eating. The light and fluffy version soon to come.







Blast from the past! Here's the Tuna Sandwich and Cucumber Salad that I mentioned in a previous post. This picture was taken on the second day of tuna sandwiches when I made the scrumptious Herbed Sweet Potato Wedges. Sweet potatoes are easily becoming my favorite food (sans marshmallows and other conveyors of high fructose corn syrup).



Cucumber Salad:

Ingredients

4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon fresh dill, or to taste

Directions

Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and pour over the cucumber and onions. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold. This can also be eaten at room temperature, but be sure to allow the cucumbers to marinate for at least 1 hour.

Herbed Sweet Potato Wedges

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoing
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon green onions, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, cut into wedges

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle a medium baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Set aside.

2. In a large, resealable plastic bag, mix remaining olive oil, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and salt. Place sweet potato wedges in the bag and toss to coat. Arrange coated sweet potato wedges on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle dill and green onions over the sweet potatoes.

3. Bake 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until browned and crisp.

Feel free to experiment with other flavor combinations. I simply used the ingredients I had on hand for this savory combination.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is a new cookbook. I promise to love and cherish it. I will read it from cover to cover and use it as my guiding light. I promise that I'm not picky but please let it be:


The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down Home Flavor because I sometimes live vicariously through Matt and Ted. And, they're from Charleston. How cool is that? If you find my fascination a little unhealthy, I will settle for

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook: Four Seasons of Great Food and the Good Life because I grew up on a small farm and I know all about fresh, seasonal, and farm-to-table. We sometimes had the wildest things on our table--rabbit, squirrel, deer, raccoon, opossum, hog--but I don't eat that anymore. If you find my urban diet to be unworthy of true country cooking, I will settle for

My New Orleans because I lose all restraint when it comes to New Awlins. Food is my obsession but this obsession is much bigger than food. If you are concerned about supporting my obsessive behavior, I will settle for

Vegan Soul Kitchen because my copy is currently stored at my sister's house in Illinois and I'm dying without it.


Please, Santa. I promise to share my gift with everyone and cook with my mother's spirit--making last minute modifications to provide extra food for any surprise guests lured by the food's majestic aroma.


Sincerely,
Brother Soulistic
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