Persimmon salsa

persimmon-bestw

It is persimmon season in California. These beautiful orange fruits are not well understood, which is a shame. There are 2 common types of persimmons, the Fuyu and the Hachiya. The Fuyu has a rounded bottom, the Hachiya has a pointed bottom.

hachiya and fuyu examples

Hachiya Persimmon on the left, Fuyu Persimmon on the right

Many people have never eaten persimmons at all. Most of those who have eaten persimmons are familiar only with the Hachiya persimmon. These persimmons are the astringent type and must be very soft, almost jelly like to be sweet. If you eat one that is not ripe the mouth-puckering experience will be memorable. The majority of these persimmons seem to be used in baking. Most people say “oh yes, my (insert grandmother, aunt, mother)…made persimmon cookies”.  Certainly they can be eaten when soft with a spoon, or frozen and eaten like ice cream, or added to smoothies, but the majority of them seem to be eaten in baked goods. I like baked goods, but do not think that is the best way to increase our daily intake of fruits and vegetables. I want to eat A LOT of fruits and vegetables, and 2 cups in a cookie recipe does not have much of an impact unless I eat A LOT of cookies, which is not a good idea!

In contrast, the Fuyu persimmon is the non-astringent type, and can be eaten like an apple when it is crispy ripe. It is also tasty when it gets a bit softer. Unfortunately, because of the astringent reputation of the Hachiya persimmons, many people seem to avoid the Fuyu as well. But they really are a delicious fall fruit that can be eaten in many ways.  I like to add Fuyu persimmon to salads, or slice it to eat out of hand. We also dry them just like we dry apples in our food dryer. I find the skin a bit tough so I prefer to remove it, but many people eat them skin and all.

Mango salsa is delicious, but unlike persimmons, mangoes are not commonly grown in California. The texture, color and flavor of a slightly soft-ripe Fuyu persimmon is similar to mango and it makes a nice California alternative to mango in recipes.  I started making this persimmon salsa several years ago, and serve it on grilled chicken or fish, or as a topping for that oven fried fish recipe I posted several days ago.

Use slightly soft Fuyu persimmons if you can. However any Fuyu will work, whether it is still crisp or it is dead ripe soft.

fuyu example

I like the persimmon peeled, so I peeled it, removed the seeds and chopped it coarsely. I also used about 1/3 of a very hot poblano chili that had turned red. I chopped the chili very finely.

I then mixed it in the bowl with the other ingredients:

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup finely diced avocado (1/2 large or 1 small – about 4 ounces by weight)

½ cup chopped scallion or ¼ cup very finely chopped red onion soaked in water for 10 minutes ( I used red onion because we grew a lot of them this year so I use them in all my recipes)

¼ cup fresh lime juice

1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger

If you do not have fresh chili, (for example jalapeno) you can use Tabasco sauce to taste. The amount of chile is up to your discretion. I usually just taste it until it is as hot as I would like.

This is delicious over grilled chicken or fish. In the next few days I will post a recipe for oven fried fish. I love to serve it over the crispy oven fried fish, or in a fish taco as well.

finished-salsa-1w

Nutrition Notes: persimmons are a good source of carotenoid compounds (vitamin A like compounds) and lutein and zeaxanthin. This compounds can promote eye health.

By the way, if you are interested in purchasing Fuyu persimmons, we do sell them at our farm. Check out our website www.burgesonfamilyfarm.com for more information.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

The Easiest Home-made Olives Ever

It has been “olive week” here at Burgeson Family Farm.  We made olive oil, which was a 2 day process, and we have been finishing up some batches of home cured olives.

I am going ahead with the post even though I am not crazy about the photos. Starting a blog before you know anything about photography can get you into trouble and that is where I am right about now. Nevertheless, we are getting to the end of olive season here in California and if I do not post this now it will be a full year before olives are around again. So here we go…please excuse the photos…

Olives grow everywhere in California. I am not sure what the history is on that, maybe in the past more people made home-made olives, or maybe they were planted because they are such beautiful trees. But In the fall, olives become somewhat of a nuisance as the olives fall off the tree and litter the ground all over California.  I have always loved olives, I remember putting the pitted California black olives on my fingertips when I was little and eating them off one by one. So when I would see olives on the ground in the fall, it always seemed like such a waste to me. But the methods required to turn those incredibly bitter fruits into something deliciously edible had always seemed foreign and unattainable to me.

We have been making our own olive oil with some friends now for about 10 years, and recently we planted our own little olive grove. I finally decided several years ago to give olive making a try using home-grown olives.  I first tried a lye cure, which is fast and produces very mild green olives, and I have done that for the past few years. I have also tried a slow salt water soak, which took about 6 months to produce tasty black olives, and I have been using last year’s batch in my salads for the past 6 months. I was planning to make some olives using both of these methods this year when I ran into a bit of a problem.

California has a pest called the olive fruit fly, which will bore a hole into the fruit, leaving brown tunnels in its wake. These tunnels make cured olives unacceptable. There are organic ways to control these, but as I have mentioned, we are lazy and don’t tend to spray much of anything, organic or not. This year, when I went to pick olives, the majority of them had the tell-tale spots on the outside that are the hallmark of the fruit fly.

I had been reading about a method of curing the olives with only water, and decided to try a modification of that method to deal with my problem olives. We have now finished one batch and have started on the second and I am happy to report that this also is the easiest and fastest method for making olives ever. If you have access to an olive tree I urge you to get outside in the next few weeks, pick at least a quart or two of olives and give this a try.

We picked these Sevillano olives when they were still green. Sevillano olives are very large, so they are one of the preferred olives for preserving. You can pick them with a bit of color on them as well. If you have smaller olives, such as the Kalamata variety, this water method is a traditional way of preserving them.

Now sort through the olives and get rid of any that have obvious spots on them from the fly. Next, put the olives on a board. Here is one of the Sevillanos.

Now get a mallet or something heavy similar to a mallet and give the olive a smack. Don’t hit it so hard that you crush the pit or smash it to pieces.

My olives were relatively crisp and cracked fairly cleanly. If the olives are black and mushy this method is not going to work!

At his point the normal method is to leave in the pit and cure the olives in this manner. However, I needed to inspect the olives for fly damage in case I missed any. So I went ahead and broke the olives in half and got rid of the pit.

This is an olive with fly damage.

Only one side was damaged (the left, see the brown marks?).  So I took out the pit, threw that side away, and saved the good half.

Once you have cracked all the olives (and removed the pits if you so choose), just put them in a jar and cover them with a lot of good fresh water. Make sure the jar is filled to the top, and put on a lid, so the olives are kept under the water as much as possible. You can even put a smaller plastic jar lid under your wider mouth jar lid if necessary to keep the olives under the water. When they are exposed to air they will turn a bit brown. I really did not care if mine turned a little bit brown so I just filled the jar all the way up and put on the lid.

Let them sit somewhere near a sink, because for the next 7 days or so you will be changing the water every day.  All you do is drain off the water (I put a strainer over the mouth of the jar) and refill with water.  After about 7 days, taste one of the olives. If they are no longer bitter, you are finished with this step. If they are still bitter, continue with this process until the bitterness is gone.

Now they are ready to be flavored. Olives are perishable, so at this point you need to either use them quickly or preserve them in a fairly strong brine.  The recommended brine is made by putting 3/4 cup vinegar in a jar or large container, adding water to equal 1 quart total liquid, then adding 5 Tablespoons of salt. Mix it well to dissolve the salt. You can add dried garlic and/or chili flakes for seasoning. Cover the olives with this brine, and make sure you put a plastic lid or some such under the outer lid to hold the olives down in the brine. Then refrigerate them. I would use them within a few months. If the brine makes them too strong for you, you can soak them in water in the refrigerator for a day or two right before you use them, but then you should use them up right away.

Here are my olives before they were tucked away in the refrigerator:

They are very crisp, so if that is not to your liking, you can bake them for 30 minutes or so, then let them cool before eating. I just put them in the microwave for a minute or two and that softened them up nicely as well.

You also might try baking the unseasoned olives with lemon, salt,  garlic, rosemary and olive oil in a covered dish when you take them out of the water bath, and then you can eat them right away.  MMM, that sounds so good I may need to scrounge up so more olives to preserve so I can give it a try.

I got the original recipe idea from Penna olives. They have directions for making other types of olives, including lye curing, and they sell both uncured and cured olives.

http://greatolives.com/2011/08/29/cure-your-own-olives/

© 2011. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

Roasted maple chicken with winter squash and apples

I put this recipe on my recipe pages awhile ago but today I made it again for dinner and decided I really needed to encourage my readers to try it. I updated the photos, made a few modifications, and decided to post it on the blog tonight. This recipe was made and posted after I got home from my real job on a Friday night at 6:30 pm after fighting Sacramento traffic in rain for an hour. My point? It is an easy low stress Friday night dish for a cold fall or winter night. This dish has many of the flavors I associate with fall: apples, winter squash, maple syrup (or honey). Put it all in one pan, add a little bit of caramelization from roasting and you have one of my favorite easy dinners.

These Winesap apples were harvested from one of our apple trees on the farm here. I used these and some of our butternut squash. The squash is incredibly easy to grow and it will store for months in our cool garage.

The apples will store for several months in the refrigerator. That is another reason why I make this dish often in the fall; I usually have the ingredients on hand.

You can make the dish with whole skinless or skin on chicken thighs with bones.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, then rub the roasting pan with a Tablespoon or two of olive oil to keep the food from sticking, and add the chicken thighs. 7 were used in this batch. Put the chicken in the oven while the apples and squash are being  prepared. This should take about 10 minutes.

Peel and core the apples and cut them into quarters. Peel the winter squash and cut it into similar sized pieces. I use one apple and about 3/4 cup squash for each chicken piece but you can use whatever amount you would like. This was a whole large butternut squash and 7 apples. Throw these on top of the chicken in the pan, spread it out evenly, then put it back in the oven while preparing the sauce. Usually the chicken, the apples and the squash spend about 10 more minutes in the pan before I add the sauce.

The sauce is a mixture of 1/2 honey or maple syrup and 1/2 Dijon mustard.  For this batch I used 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup Dijon mustard. Mix it until it is well blended, then put it on top of the vegetables and chicken and stir it all up well, to coat all the squash, chicken and fruit.

Now put it back in the oven to bake.  Every 10 minutes or so take it out and scrape the bottom and lightly stir it to keep it from burning. After about 30-40 more minutes the chicken should be done, the squash and apples should be nicely caramelized and the whole thing is ready to serve.

Roasted Maple Chicken with Winter Squash and Apples

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

 

Pomegranates: How to get to the seeds and how to make juice

My husband loves growing pomegranates. He has planted several varieties on our property. The most common variety is called the Wonderful pomegranate. We recently also planted some Utah Sweet and Parfianka pomegranates. The Utah Sweet has incredibly dark color, and the Parfianka has arils (the seeds) that are very soft and small, not hard and crunchy like your typical pomegranate. We tasted about 30 varieties of
pomegranates that we obtained from an experimental orchard and we liked these
ones the most. We were able to find them at Harmony Farm Supply which is a
small nursery in Sebastopol.

http://www.harmonyfarm.com/

Often the pomegranates you buy in the store have been picked before they are fully ripe. The best pomegranates are the ones that are so ripe they have started to crack. Obviously at this point they do not store well but this is when the color is the darkest and they are the most sweet.

We use most of the pomegranates we grow to make juice. We love to
mix the juice with tonic water, or spirits such as vodka or tequila to make
cocktails. It also can be boiled down to make pomegranate syrup to use in
cooking.

We tried using citrus presses and other easy methods to make
the juice, but we have found that the skin and pulp impart bitter flavors to the juice
so we have gone back to using this somewhat laborious method which involves
first removing the seeds from the pomegranate, then getting juice from the
seeds.

Here is how we get the seeds from the pomegranate:

First we remove the skin from the top and bottom of the
pomegranate. We cut around the circumference but only through the skin, not
deep enough to cut the seeds. This will prevent the task from becoming a big
juicy mess!

Now we peel off the skin. Notice the seeds are whole.

We cut from top to bottom in about 5 or 6 locations around
the perimeter of the pomegranate. Again, these are shallow cuts that only cut
the skin, not the seeds.

Now we break the pomegranate apart along the natural
segments, and remove the seeds from each segment.  This is less messy if it is done under water.

The white pulp will float to the top and the seeds will sink to
the bottom of the water. We can then skim the pulp off the top of the water,
and strain the seeds, and they are ready to go.

If you dry the seeds on a cloth and then store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator, with folded paper towels on the top of the seeds, they can last for weeks. You can sprinkle them on salad, on your yogurt and oatmeal or just grab handfuls for snacks.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can make juice.

Here is a huge soup pot filled with pomegranate seeds ready for making juice.
Adrian often does this job while he is watching TV.  He covers the sofa with a sheet because he prefers to not use the water, so it can become a somewhat messy job.  Check out that sheet.

The juice can be made with either raw or cooked
pomegranates. We have found it is somewhat sweeter if we cook them. If you are planning to make juice and do not have a juice press, you should heat them to get the maximum yield. Put a small of water in the bottom of the pot, smash them down slightly with a potato masher to release more liquid, put on the cover, and slowly heat the pomegranates, stirring occasionally, until they have broken down but have not boiled, and the juice has been released. Then let them cool.

These are the pomegranates after heating and cooling. They are now ready to be pressed.

The seeds are then placed into a juice bag which we
purchased, along with our little tabletop press, at The Beverage People, which
is in Santa Rosa.  www.thebeveragepeople.com. You can also use a large piece of  muslin if you are planning to squeeze the juice by hand.

Before we had this tabletop press, we used a large old wine
press we had, and before that we just used muslin or a cloth bag and squeezed by hand.  The little tabletop press is by far the best way to go when you have a lot of pomegranates and are planning to make juice every year.

If you are doing this by hand, just place the pomegranate seeds in a fine mesh strainer and let the juice run out freely. Then put the seeds in a bag or in the middle of a large muslin piece and twist the top until the juice is squeezed out of the bag. Continue to twist and squeeze the bag or fabric until you can get as much juice out as possible. You can get about 3/4 of the juice out without using a press. We got about 1 cup of juice per pound of seeds squeezing by hand. This is the seeds from 2 large pomegranates.

We put the bag of pomegranate seeds in the press, gradually
screw it down to create pressure on the seeds and the juice runs out of the
spout into our collection device.

From there we pour it into bottles and freeze it to use year round.

Nutrition Note: pomegranates are high in phytonutrients
associated with a reduction in disease. Much of the strongest research has suggested that eating pomegranates or drinking the juice can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. The research on prostate cancer has been especially promising.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

Dried Apple Crisps

The weather here in Northern California is starting to get cold. We had our first rain, and we have made a fire in the wood stove the last 2 nights. The mandarins trees are starting to show a bit of color, and it is time to harvest the rest of the Winesap apples.  They sweeten as they stay on the tree, up to a point, but then they start to fall on the ground. So before they drop, I pick them all, and put them in the refrigerator for storage. They will last for a month or more that way.  We have a Granny Smith apple tree also, and I leave those apples for at least another month if possible, because late harvest Granny Smith apples have a sweet tart flavor that I have never tasted in a store-bought apple. Here is one of our Granny Smith Apples waiting for the harvest.  Why is it in the bag? Because we do not like to spray our apples and apples are a magnet for worms.  When I cook with apples I cut out the wormy parts, but I do not like to bite into a wormy apple. So early in the season, when the apples are small, I pick some of the best ones, remove all the surrounding apples so I have a nice defined stem, and tie these bags on the apple. Now those worms can’t get in there, and the apples are protected from sunburn as well. These are special apple bags, but I have used wax paper bags also.

I picked a good-sized basket of Winesap apples and set Adrian to work making his dried apple crisps. This is one of my favorite ways to use apples.

As I mentioned, some of the apples have holes in them.  We are organic! (We are also too lazy to spray the organic sprays every few weeks.)  That means we slice around the worms. He slices them thinly in a little apple slicer which cores and peels them at the same time. It slices them very thin, which is perfect for drying.

By the way, if you have kids, they love this little device. Adrian spent many of his lunch hours slicing the school lunch apples for the kids in his classroom when he was a teacher. For some reason, they liked the apples better sliced like this. Hey, I am all for whatever it takes to get kids to eat more fruit. This apple slicer is very nice because rather than having a clamp, it has a suction device to hold it to the counter. That gives you more flexibility in where you can use it.

You can get this device from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply which is where we get most of our fertilizers and organic sprays. They also have a variety of home canning and food preservation supplies.

http://www.groworganic.com/

Once the apples have been peeled and cored he cuts them in half and removes any bad slices.

He then soaks them in some “fruit fresh” which is a natural acid solution that keeps the apples from turning brown. Lemon juice can also be used as a pre-soak.

Finally he brushes them with maple syrup, or other sweet syrups such as honey. Sometimes he even brushes them with liqueur like Amaretto. I like them with brushed with maple syrup, then sprinkled with cinnamon. Finally he places them on drying racks in our little table top dryer and plugs it in.

(Update: you can just put them all in a bowl, pour maple syrup over them to taste, then stir them around with your hands to coat them. This will save having to brush each one with syrup by hand).

When the apples have gotten very dry we remove them from the trays. They may be slightly soft when they are warm, but when they cool they should be very crispy.  If they are not crispy, let them go a little bit longer. It will take almost a day to dry them. Use the setting for drying fruit on the dehydrator. Ours is set to 135 F.

The finished apples:

To keep them crispy we store them in mason jars with desiccant packages we have saved from other foods, shoes, anything we buy that has a package of desiccant in it. You know..those little bags that say “do not eat”! Just make sure the package will not leak into your food.

These apples are delicious; a tasty treat for kids and adults alike. They are great mixed with some toasted almonds for an afternoon snack. We also add them to oatmeal when we cook it to make apple cinnamon oatmeal without buying that packaged sugary stuff.

Nutrition Note: A recent Dutch study suggested that eating white fleshed fruits and vegetables such as apples may reduce the risk of stroke.  Apples contain quercetin,  which is a flavonoid, one of the multiple compounds in fruits and vegetables that are antioxidants associated with reducing inflammation and damage to the body that may lead to chronic disease. Apples are also very high in the soluble fiber pectin, which has been shown to reduce absorption of cholesterol and to stabilize blood sugar.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com