Tangerines, Persimmons, & Cherimoyas . . . oh, my!

IMG_1545I’m so, so lucky to live in SoCal (southern California).  We have an abundance of warm weather and sunshine that affords us something yummy growing all year long.  No downtime for winter here!  Yeah, we’re dealing with that nasty drought.  And the 5 or so inches of rain so far this winter haven’t helped, yet.

This drought is why local farmers aren’t using all their acreage for farming.  This farm I went to with my local farm tour group is a pesticide free private farm owned by Nino, an older Italian farmer.  He owns six acres, but can only afford to water and work 1 acre.  But  this acre is packed with fruit trees.  And he speaks with and gets to know each person that comes to his farm to “u-pick” his fruit.

We wandered around the persimmon-tree covered hills, using shears to harvest both fuyu and hachiya (aka Japanese) persimmons.  The Fuyu is short and fat, crisp like an apple or pear, and is eaten when it is firm. You eat the skin, and all you need to remove is the top green leaves and maybe a small center core. Fuyus don’t oxidize, so if you pack them sliced for lunch, they hold up without discoloring.  And, unlike the hachiya, the fuyus are not bitter or tannic if chomped into before ripeness.

The hachiya MUST be soft and squishy to be ripe, almost bursting out of its skin!  If not, you’ll taste bitter, tannic dryness that will make you never want to pick one up again!    But when ripe, the jelly-like goo drips sweet deliciousness.  The hachiya is an elongated orb with a deep hue of jewel-like orange.  Don’t even try to slice this piece of fruit!  Use a spoon to scoop out every last silky bite!

Nino has a large selection of tangerine trees bundled together on a nearby hill.  But I recognized the first tree I came to as a Dancy tangerine, the same variety I grew in my   garden in Murrieta.  These tangerines are deep orange, super sweet with a few seeds, and “zipper-skinned” or easy to peel and segment.  The Dancy makes a perfect snack to include in lunch boxes.  Yes, these went fast!

Nino walked me around his various cherimoya trees (aka custard apple).  I have to admit I had my first cherimoya only a month ago, a taste and purchase at a local farmers market.  And Nino told me he started his cherimoya orchard after tasting, and loving, his first fruit only a few years ago.  This large dusty green & knobby fruit is brought to us from the Andes.  Nino picks the fruit while firm, then suggested I leave the cherimoya on the counter until it “gave” when pressed, similar to the feeling of a ripe avocado.  Nino has several different varieties growing on his farm, and chose 2 different styles for me to take home and try.

Cherimoyas are soft and custardy inside when ripe with large shiny black seeds that are easily removed.   The skins can be eaten, but they’re a little tough and not nearly as delicious as what they contain.  One of the fruits I brought home had more of a banana with lime custard taste.  The other fruit had a pineapple custard taste.  The creamy white/yellow flesh of the cherimoya can be sliced, chunked, or scooped with a spoon.  Its taste also, like papaya, can be enhanced with a squeeze of lime.  As Mark Twain described it:  “the most delicious fruit known to man.”

Yes, I’m so, so lucky!

 

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Foodie Penpals Part Deux

penpalsI had so much fun last June participating in the Lean Green Bean’s foodie penpal program (http://www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/) that I was anxious to participate again.  And I am definitely not disappointed!  The Lean Green Bean site belongs to Lindsay, a Registered Dietitian, who blogs about healthy living.

Someone who’s interested (like me!) signs up each month on Lindsay’s website, then Lindsay matches you with another foodie penpal so you can exchange a collection of foodie items, usually that locavore stuff you find at your farmers markets or at your local small food stores.  Each box of food stuffs has to be less than $15, needs to include a note of why you chose those items, and can be sent out USPS flat rate.

My foodie penpal for October is Kerrey who hails from Amish country in central Pennsylvania (I’m in California).  I received this great box of goodies from Kerrey:

IMG_1367The first item I tried was the Orange Pineapple Cherry Marmalade from a local gourmet store, Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses.  Spread on a piece of whole grain toast, I was delighted to find that the cherry flavor dominated — yum!

Kerrey let me know she’s a former Texan (me, too!), so she had to include a homemade peach salsa — smooth and sweet with a kick of spiciness at the end.  Yeah, I poured that all over my eggs!

The last item is a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, chicken pot pie soup mix, a first for me.  The Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is served with square-cut noodles and no pastry, unlike the pot pie I familiar with.  From Wikipedia I discovered:

“In the Pennsylvania Dutch region, some people make a dish is called “bot boi” (or “bott boi”) by Deitsch-speaking natives. Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is a stew and has no pastry.  It is usually made of a combination of chicken, ham, beef, or wild game with square-cut egg noodles, potatoes, and a stock of onion, celery and parsley.”

The Pennsylvania Dutch are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants.  And it appears to me that their food reflects their German heritage with hardy meals to warm and nourish the body.  I can’t wait to try my first chicken potpie soup!  But it’ll have to wait until it cools down below 80 degrees here in California!  Come on, autumn!

Foodie Penpals is such fun!  I hope you’ll try it, too.  Lindsay has foodie penpal lists for both the U.S. and Canada, and she includes this link for the UK and Europe:  http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/.  Lindsay matches you with a new foodie penpal every time you sign up.

So check out the site and join us!  Isn’t it time you had a penpal, too?

www.passportdinners.comPassport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.

Prescriptions for Dining Out

It’s not often I go out to dinner, or even lunch, during the week.  Just too busy for that sort of thing.  And that’s what weekends are for, what I live for.  And I’m also not a fast-food junkie, EXCEPT for the occasional street taco or breakfast burrito!  Or Kennebec french fries with truffle oil?  Yeah, that’s where my weakness lies!

So though I’m always thinking about my girlish figure during my busy week, when weekends come, all bets are off!  So I really enjoyed the attached article on what to enjoy, or not enjoy, during meals out.  Like one participant in the article stated, “A fine restaurant is not the place for dietary dogma. ‘It is barbaric to go to a restaurant like this and order only things that some dietitian has told you to eat’ ”

I LOVE that!  I also agree with the statement “As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.”

So what’s your take on eating out?  Do you order the salad, sans dressing?  Only grilled or steamed fish?  No alcohol?  Or do you reach for the bread AND butter?  The fish with the butter sauce?  The pork belly with some other scrumptious sauce?  AND a bottle of wine?

So take a look at this New York Times article; interestingly, it’s from April 1986.  As for me, I’ll be truly dining!

Prescription for Dining Out: 2 Health Experts Face Menus

 

www.passportdinners.comPassport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.

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France’s 4th of July: Bastille Day

This?Guillotine

Or this?imagesWhat is your image of Bastille Day?  I guess I’ve always gone with the former.  Revolution.  Down with the Monarchy.  Let them eat cake.  Yeah, I know, that was not real.  And the guillotine.  Oh, yes!  The Bastille, which only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, became the symbol of the fight against oppression for all French citizens.  Long gone.

A more accurate picture of Bastille Day, or La Fête Nationale, or Le Quatorze Juillet, involves a big military parade on the Champs-Elysées in the morning.  Oh, and there’s the dance, or ball, in every village in France.  It’s a big social occasion.  A little food.  A little drink (or a lot).  Some music.  A time to get together with neighbors and friends, and to make new friends. Then there’s the fireworks.  OK, kinda’ like our 4th of July.  But without the grilling.

So I’m sure I’m not alone in loving to include a little francophile-ness in my life.  And Bastille Day is a great excuse.  I started with a beautiful breakfast of thinly sliced ham, a little gruyere and a blue cheese (from my recent trip to Switzerland and Italy), a cafe, and some fresh fruit.  Perfect.

Dinner.  So many choices.  I finally went with a ham & gruyere buckwheat crepe, or Galette Complete.  I’ve made regular flour crepes for ages, but this was my first time with buckwheat.  One cup milk, 3 eggs, 1 cup flour (buckwheat, this time), a splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt . . . my basic recipe thrown in a blender (easy to pour).

IMG_1204A little darker.  A little less pliable.  But tasty.

IMG_1206Heat large flat skillet (mine’s almost black from years of use as ONLY a crepe/egg skiller), adding a little olive oil or butter, pour in enough batter to cover bottom of skillet, and swirl to form crepe.  Cook on each side 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.  Collect crepes on a plate.

 

Assemble your ingredients for the Galette Complete (mise en place):  IMG_12081 egg for each serving; 1/4 cup grated gruyere mixed with 1-2 T. grated parmesan for each serving; 2 slices thinly-sliced ham for each serving; 1 crepe for each serving.

 

IMG_1209Warm one side of each crepe for 30 seconds, flip and add half the cheese per serving and warm for 1 minute.

 

 

Layer ham slices over melting cheese, then add remainder of cheese per serving.  Fold in IMG_1214each side of crepe (I used toothpicks to keep folds) to make a rectangle, then place egg in center.  Cover pan with lid and allow egg to cook until white is firm (about 3-5 minutes).

Ok, so mine aren’t too pretty!  But that runny egg with tastes of ham, gruyere, and crepe . . . so good!

Remove toothpicks before serving.  I added a salad of greens, goat cheese, and walnuts, lightly dressed.  I also picked up some cute little shells filled with scallops and a bread topping to accompany our meal.

Don’t forget the wine!  A perfect wine to complement the crepe is Les Portes de Bordeaux, a white Bordeaux and a sauvignon blend — nice and dry.IMG_1219For all you francophiles out there, and to everyone else who enjoys good food and drink, Salut!

 

www.passportdinners.comPassport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.

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http://davidplusworld.com/happy-bastille-day/

http://passportdinnersblog.com/2013/07/15/off-with-their-heads-what-did-you-eat-for-bastille-day/

 

Foodie PenPals

penpalsRemember when you were a kid and you had a penpal?  Someone from your country, or, even better, from some other exotic country?  Remember the excitement of opening up the mailbox and receiving a letter with that country stamp on the envelope that was so exciting?  Exciting because it was new and different?

I haven’t had a penpal in a long, long time.  I’m a busy person who uses email and social media to communicate with friends, old and new.  But I came across a website on the internet that intrigued me.  And especially intrigued the foodie in me.  It’s the Lean Green Bean foodie penpal program http://www.theleangreenbean.com.  This site belongs to Lindsay, a Registered Dietitian, who blogs about healthy living.

Someone who’s interested (like me!) signs up each month on Lindsay’s website, then Lindsay matches you with another foodie penpal so you can exchange a collection of foodie items, usually that locavore stuff you find at your farmers markets or at your local small food stores.  Each box of food stuffs has to be less than $15, needs to include a note of why you chose those items, and can be sent out USPS flat rate.

My foodie penpal for June is Nancy from Wisconsin (I’m in California).  I received this great box of goodies from Nancy: IMG_1156Nancy’s box of fun foodie things from Wisconsin included baby rice popcorn (yep, had some for lunch today!), Dashelites hot sauce, Gail Ambrosius dark chocolate/almond dusted squares (those went fast!), crackheads (chocolate/coffee caffeine jolts), Really good raw bar (yes, it was really good & healthy), marinated mushrooms and a carrot cake jam.  I haven’t had a chance to try everything yet, but can’t wait.  Yummm!

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All I can say as a foodie and as a locavore:  Fun, fun, fun!  So check out the site and join us!  Lindsay has foodie penpal lists for both the U.S. and Canada, and she includes this link for the UK and Europe:  http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/.  Lindsay matches you with a new foodie penpal every time you sign up.  I won’t be participating EVERY month, but I definitely want to do it again soon.

It’s time to have fun like a kid again with Foodie Penpals.

 

www.passportdinners.comPassport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.

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Gooooooooooooal! World Cup and World Food!

fifa-world-cupThough the U.S. lags behind, much of the world has their eyes glued to TV screens to watch their favorite country compete in the 2014 FIFA World Cup taking place in exotic Brazil.  Though I have to admit I love American football (go Chargers!), I find world football, or soccer, to be an amazing fast moving high energy contest.

My spouse grew up in Argentina and Chile, and was an avid soccer player.  And he has the scars (cleat marks across his back) to prove it!  Yeah, Argentina is our team this time around!

So our homage last Friday to 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil  was Feijoada (pronounced fay-ZWAH-da), Arroz Brasileiro, and pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).  Feijoada, a black bean stew with cured pork, is a meat fest, a sodium fest, and delicious!

IMG_1153IMG_1149IMG_1151

 

My version, and each mamae’s version is unique, has pork chops, smoked pork chunks, pork bacon, linguiça, and chunks of corned beef along with onions, garlic, dried red chilis, and, of course, black beans.

 

 

 

 

I simmered it on the stove for a while, then stuck it in the oven for the flavors to meld and thicken.

 

We served it with Arroz Brasileiro, rice with garlic, onion, and tomato.  And those little cheese bread puffs, Pao de Quiejo.  I realized as I was putting the batter together that they are just a variation of the French sweet profiterole or the American sweet cream puff or the Spanish savory bunuelos:  Hot milk, butter, tapioca flour (instead of wheat flour), eggs and cheese.  So easy!  Mix, roll, and throw in the oven!

soccer ballsSo who’s your team?

 

www.passportdinners.comPassport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.

Check us out at www.Passportdinners.com.