Camp Toast With Maple Syrup Poached Fruit

Mt Lassen reflection

Mt. Lassen reflected in Summit Lake

Recently friends asked me to join them at Lassen Volcanic NP for a few days of camping. How could I say no. Lassen is one of my favorite places to camp and this time we would be at Summit Lake.

toast & fruit on camp stoveWe shared cooking meals so on one of my turns I made one of my favorite summer breakfast recipes, french toast with fresh fruit poached in Maple syrup.

nectarines & blueberries in syrup

The fruit, this time, was white nectarines and blueberries sauteed in a little butter then poached for just a little while in maple syrup.

french toast

The french toast was made by soaking a piece of whole grain, seeded bread in a mixture of one egg beaten with one-half egg shell of milk until the mixture is absorbed into the toast, then cooking it in a little olive oil and butter until it browns on each side. To test for doneness touch it with your finger, if it springs back, its done.

fruit and french toast

To serve pour the fruit and syrup mixture over the toast. Another tasty addition is to add a dollop of Greek yogurt and light sprinkling of cinnamon to the top of the fruit.

Another idea I have tried when cooking french toast at home is to use a Belgian style waffle maker. The toast cooks quicker and the holes contain the syrup. Actually I have grown to prefer french toast cooked this way. But, when camping a cook stove and a frying pan works just fine. Throw in some gorgeous scenery and you have the perfect camp breakfast.

The Power of Procrastination

Play-DohI’ve always said that a tight deadline can bring on some pretty creative ideas and for me procrastination is usually what creates the deadline. I’ve known I was going to a 4th of July potluck party today for about a week now but didn’t press myself to decided what to take until that tight deadline started showing it’s ugly head. OK, the deadline is here. “What are you going to take?” I ask myself. Well, I have lots of fruit that could be used in something. So I start thinking about the fruit, that leads to cobblers and then it hits me. What about the Berry and Peach Cobbler I make each year when I’m with my family at Packer Lake? “Perfect idea”, if I do say so myself. But instead of putting heart shaped pie crust pieces on top I’ll use stars. The problem is I don’t have a star cookie cutter. Or do I?

After fretting about the star cutter and wondering who I could borrow one from or where I could buy one on very short notice I remember where I might have one. So its off to my closet where some toys my grand children play with are stored to find the Play-Doh stuff and sure enough, there was a star cutter. Love it when it works out that way.

Berry and Peach Cobbler

Cookie cutter in hand. I’m back in the kitchen peeling peaches, mixing berries, sugar, lemon juice and tapioca. Now the fun part cutting stars from the pie dough (store bought this time but works just fine) and placing them on the fruit. A nice brushing of melted butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon and turbinado cane sugar and it’s into the oven and wait.

Here’s the final results and judging how incredible the house smelled this morning I can tell this is going to be a hit.

You can find the recipe for the Berry and Peach Cobbler here.

HAPPY 4TH EVERYONE!

Fabulous Fuyus

This morning I took a bike ride down the River Road, a paved two-lane road sitting atop the levee adjacent to the Sacramento River that doesn’t get much traffic, especially on weekdays. As I rode I could see the river lazily wandering on its journey to the San Francisco bay and beyond to the ocean off to one side and off to the other farmland, most of which is fallow now, dotted with a few houses and out buildings. This is one of my favorite rides and I don’t seem to tire of the scenery even when I have ridden the road for consecutive days. I usually see something memorable or unusual on these rides that cover 10 to 15 miles. And today was no exception.

As I was riding I was looking down towards one of the small farm houses admiring a beautiful persimmon tree heavily laden with fruit that was growing not far from the house when I noticed a couple of the low hanging fruits seemed to be moving. This was odd since there was no wind to speak of, so I slowed down, stopped and took a more focused look. What I saw was wild turkeys gathered beneath the branches pecking the fruit. I’ve seen turkeys many times on my rides but I’ve never seen them foraging fruit. The turkeys must have known that they didn’t have to worry about being chased off from their bountiful find since this farmhouse doesn’t currently have a dog in residence  and they were taking full advantage of the situation.

Turkeys aren’t the only ones who love fresh persimmons. A year ago I wrote about persimmons and what the term “true berries” meant and how I have grown to love these deliciously, crispy fruits. I have been buying them at the Farmers Market for weeks now and so far I haven’t tired of them. Sometimes I  chop them into small pieces add some chopped walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon and add it all to my morning bowl of oatmeal, but last night I used them in another favorite way, in a salad with baby spinach leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds all topped with a tasty little vinaigrette I had made using some Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup I picked up when I was in New Mexico in November. If you don’t happen to have any Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup vinaigrette available you could use vinaigrette made with pomegranate syrup or your favorite raspberry vinaigrette. You could also add any of the following to the salad; sliced red onion, pomegranate seeds, chopped Hazelnuts or candied pecans, sliced roasted beets or some goat cheese. They’re all delicious additions.

Poking around on the Internet I found the following recipes and uses for persimmons. They sounded too good not to share:

From KQED – Bay Area Bites

Fuyu Persimmon, Pear and Walnut Rolled Tart

Persimmon, Fennel and Almond Couscous

Fuyu Persimmon, Pear and Pine Nut Salad

From Destination Food

Pulled chicken salad with persimmon, witlof (endive) and avocado

and

WikiHowHow to Eat a Persimmon

Since finding a loaded tree that I can forage from hasn’t happened it looks like I’ll be picking up my fresh Fuyu this Sunday at the Farmers Market.

From Wikipedia – Persimmon

A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenacae). The word Diospyros means “the fire of Zeus” in ancient Greek. As a tree, it is a perennial plant. The word persimmon is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian language of the eastern Untied States meaning “a dry fruit”. Persimmons are generally ligh yellow-orange to dark red-orange in color, and depending on the species, vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) in diameter, and may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx often remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easier to remove as it ripens. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses.

Ananas

I have had this post in a folder on my desktop for two months now and for whatever reason, none of them very good that I can think of, I couldn’t get it from my desktop to Anniespickns. Yes, work was pretty intense for a month or so, and yes I have been running around seeing all kinds of beautiful scenery and getting my gardens planted but the article was pretty much done, just sitting there. But in my mind it would take more effort than I was willing to give to move it to it’s final resting place, until this morning. I awoke at 5:05am and was sure that the correct time was 6:05am since the time change occurred earlier this morning. Then after I had gotten up, put on the tea water and awoken my Mac I realized that I was indeed up an hour earlier than needed, and this on a Sunday morning. So after I read a few blogs I follow,  the guilt of not dealing with my own blog got the best of me and I opened the folder marked ananas.doc and got to work. Here finally is the result.

Last year I grew Ambrosia melons in my little garden.  They are by far my favorite melon so my intention was to grow them again this year. I don’t get very many off one vine, I think I got 3 last year, but there is something very satisfying about being able to pick a melon out of your backyard then take it inside, cut it open and eat it. Well, when I was at the Davis Farmers Market this spring looking for melon plants I found one called Ananas, an historic heirloom variety, grown by Thomas Jefferson in 1794 and offered commercially in the USA in 1824.   It sounded interesting, so I bought one, with the hope that it would equal or surpass my beloved Ambrosia.

Into the ground it went. It flourished and grew, and spread throughout the squash plant and intermingled with the Persian Baby Cucumbers. I fed it and watered it and dreamed of the day when I would finally get to taste it. I started seeing blooms, then small melons the size of the tip of my pinky.  The melons grew larger as the summer wore on. The melons continued to develop but still were very green. Just before Labor Day I noticed that the first melon was starting to turn a lighter color and finally it turned yellow. I checked it to see if the stem would fall away from the melon several times before it finally did. There it was, my beautiful Ananas melon, ripe and ready to eat. Into the house I went. I cut it in half. The aroma was sweet and the juicy ivory colored flesh had a blush of orange color in the center where the seeds were. Now the test, my first bite. Well, the flavor didn’t blow my socks off but it was good. I harvested three melons from my little vine and enjoyed each of them but I think I will go back to my Ambrosia next year, unless something else peaks my curiosity.

Here’s a bit of information I found when I was doing a little research on the Ananas; “The Ananas melon is one of the most popular heirloom melons grown in the United States today and is also widely grown in the Middle East. Another common name for this variety is Pineapple Melon.” Interesting that it is supposedly one of the most popular heirloom melons grown in the US and I had never heard of it and the farmer who I bought the plant from was trying it for the first time also.  Melons are part of the plant family Cucurbitaceae, which consists of squashes, melons and gourds, including cucumber, and luffas and those with edible fruits were amongst the earliest cultivated plants in both the Old and New Worlds.  The fruit is often a kind of modified berry called a pepo (a modified berry with a hard outer rind). For more information on “true” berries including a good description of the term check out my post  “Persimmons are true berries – What?”.

Strawberries Have Been Consumed Since The Stone Age

Did you ever wonder where the strawberry originated? The Woodland Strawberry, (Fragaria vesca) it is said has been consumed by humans since the Stone Age. I really don’t want to think about how archaeologists figured that out but it is written that they did, so we’ll leave it at that. Evidently strawberries were first cultivated in ancient Persia. Seeds were traded along the Silk Road towards the Far East and into Europe where they were cultivated until the 18th century. These species were largely supplanted by cultivation of F. X ananassa over the last 250 years. Native American strawberries were enjoyed by early settlers in the eastern USA, and in the early 1800s, F. X ananassa cultivars were brought to America from Europe. Plants selected in Pajaro, California became the basis of the California industry sited near Watsonville, the main strawberry region in California. Today, strawberries are cultivated in 73 countries worldwide with the USA producing about 27%. California alone outproduces most other countries.

Even though Strawberries have been a favorite food of man for it looks like forever, strawberries are not one of my favorite fruits. But, sometimes they smell so good it’s hard to pass them up.  Such was the case Sunday when I purchased a beautiful basket of plump brightly colored, fragrant, organic strawberries at the Farmers’ Market. I also picked up a couple of lemons, some beautiful snap peas, a couple Fuji apples and some more Japanese sweet potatoes.

After lunch I spent some time browsing through recipes and found a clipping for Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries. The clipping touted the cake as the perfect foundation for unstructured strawberry shortcake so I decided to give it a try thinking it might be the perfect dessert for Mother’s Day.

Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries

Unsalted butter and cornmeal for preparing the pan

1 ¼ cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour

6 Tablespoons yellow cornmeal

2 Teaspoons baking powder

¼ Teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 Teaspoon grated lemon zest

½ cup milk (I used soy as that’s what I had on hand)

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9” round or square pan with 2-inch sides, then dust with cornmeal, shaking out excess.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.

Using an electric mixer beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually and beat, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice, until creamy and light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add lemon zest.

Combine milk and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with milk. Beat just until blended, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Bake until top is golden brown and firm to the touch, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack, then reinvert onto another rack. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a serving dish.

Hull two baskets strawberries. Put half of them in a large bowl and crush with a potato masher. Slice the remaining strawberries and add to the bowl. Sweeten to taste with sugar. Add enough lemon juice to give the mixture a refreshing tart edge. Cover and Chill.

Just before serving, whip 1 cup heavy cream to soft peaks with 2 Teaspoons sugar. I flavored this with a touch of brandy.

To serve spoon berry mixture into shallow bowls, top with cake, whipped cream and a little more of the berry mixture. Serve immediately. Serves up to 8.

I really liked this cake. It’s not too sweet and has a really nice texture. I also think replacing the lemon with orange with work well. This would be a nice cake to eat along with any berry mixture.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Kumquat Digestif – The Perfect Ending To a Party!

Are you one of those people whose  friends are always giving a little bag of this or that? I am. My friends know that I don’t like to waste anything and so often their excess becomes this weeks project on how to use what ever it is they have given me.  Such was the case when a friend gave me a small sack of kumquats. I knew that they were a type of citrus and I had heard that the rind was edible and tasted sweet, but that the flesh was quite acidic and sour. Acidic is not one of my favorite flavors but I thought, there must be something I can do with these outside of making marmalade, which I don’t really like.

The answer came amazingly not after an Internet sleuth but after digging around in my recipe clippings, Kumquat digestif. A digestif, for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, is it is a drink that’s imbibed as an aid to digestion after a meal and is often more alcoholic than an aperitif which is served before. Armagnacs, cognacs, scotch, brandies and whiskeys and some heavy and sweet wines such as, Madeira, port, and sherry, all of which I like, are digestifs. So based on how much I like all of the aforementioned,  I thought the Kumquat version would be perfect. I also had a party coming up and thought it would be fun to try the Kumquat digestif on my friends.

The recipe is from Sunset Magazine, November 2009 and I find it interesting that I had clipped a recipe for a fruit I had never tried and one that I knew to be acidic in taste. Funny how some things happen.

 

Kumquat Digestif

Makes 2 ½ cups

Time About 20 minutes, plus infusing time of at least 3 weeks

½ cup sugar

2 cups vodka

10 kumquats cut in half lengthwise, plus 5 to 6 whole

Several branches fresh thyme

In a medium saucepan, heat sugar with ½ cup water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir in vodka. Pour mixture into a decanter or jar and add kumquats (halves first) and thyme. Chill at least 3 weeks. Serve ice-cold, in shot glasses.

I’d definitely try this again and my guests gave it a “two thumbs up” rating too. The article said that this was good over ice cream too.

A little history: There are several kinds of kumquat, round and oval. The kind I was given was the oval variety. Kumquats come from trees that are native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in Chinese 12th century literature. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 and to North America shortly thereafter. The English name “kumquat” derives from the Cantonese word kam kwat, which translates to “golden orange”.

An interesting article: Here’s an interesting story written in 2008, by Susan Russo for NPR, Kumquats: Discovering the Sweetness of Sour. It contains a lot more information and some tasty sounding recipes.

Persimmons Are True Berries – WHAT?

When I saw the statement, persimmons are true berries, I had to find out more. What is a true berry and how could a persimmon be considered a berry? The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. OK, so in every day English what does that mean? It means that any small edible fruit,  that doesn’t have a stone or pit, although many seeds may be present is considered to be a “true berry”.  Think, Persimmons, grapes, red currants and tomatoes.  So now that we understand the “true berry” definition let me tell you a little bit about the winter true berry called persimmon.

I bought this Fuyu persimmon at the Farmers’ Market on Sunday. Actually I bought a nice little bag of small Fuyu for $1. I usually don’t buy fruit that is already bagged but these, although small in size, looked good and the price definitely was very good.

I became a fan of Fuyu within the last five years. Before that I was aware of them and had done some baking with the heart-shaped Hachiya, the most common variety of astringent persimmon. The Hachiya are the heart shaped persimmons that are unpalatable (or “furry” tasting) if you try eating them before they are soft, or ripe. The Fuyu, on the other hand, are non-astringent and may be consumed when still very firm, or soft like the one I ate today. Eating them when firm is definitely my preference but the soft one today tasted just fine. Of the two varieties I much prefer the Fuyu.

Researching tonight I found out there is a third type, less commonly available, the flesh is brown inside -known as goma in Japan, and the fruit can be eaten firm. Tsurunoko, sold as “Chocolate persimmon” for its dark brown flesh, Maru, sold as “Cinnamon persimmon” for its spicy flavor, and Hyakume, sold, as “Brown sugar” are the three best known. After reading about these I’ll definitely keep my eye out for them at my Farmers’ Market.

I like eating the Fuyu like an apple. I just slice it and eat it. I have read and heard that some prefer to peel the skin before eating, I don’t.  I’ve also discovered an enjoyable way of eating them at breakfast. I make my oatmeal, adding a little cinnamon before I cook it. Then, chop a Fuyu into small chunks and add it to the cooked oatmeal along with a small handful of coarsely chopped walnuts then finish it with a nice sized dollop of unflavored Greek yogurt. It’s a really nice way to start the day. I also use Fuyu in salads, much like I would a tomato in the summer.

If you have a favorite way to use persimmons please share them with us. And speaking of sharing here is a little trivia tidbit for all you golf enthusiasts.

Persimmon trivia for golf enthusiasts: Persimmon wood was heavily used in making the highest-quality heads of the golf clubs known as “woods” until the golf industry moved primarily to metal woods in the last years of the 20th century. In fact, the first metal woods made by TaylorMade, an early pioneer of that club type, were branded as “Pittsburgh Persimmons” (Wikipedia).