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Archive for October, 2010

If I accomplish nothing else through this blog than encouraging a few people to try persimmons, then I will have done my small part to make the world a better place.

Persimmons have a lot going for them:  They’re photogenically attractive fruits; they offer a bright note of summery, almost citrusy sweetness in a mellow, autumnal package; they’re portable, durable and easy to eat (no messy rind to peel off, no seeds to spit out).  Since I’m obsessed with savory salads based around fruit, the discovery of persimmons and pomegranates at a recently opened nearby produce market inspired me to create this salad for a crisp October day.

I think one thing that may discourage people from buying persimmons, though, is the existence of two distinct and very different types of persimmons:  Fuyu, which can be eaten when they’re as hard as an apple (as the sticker attached to my persimmons told me), and Hichaya, which are painfully astringent at any point of ripeness shy of custardy-soft.  (This article from NPR nicely expounds on the virtues of these two fruits.)

Use Fuyus for this salad.  If you have a mandoline, you can make quick work of both the persimmons and the fennel.  The pomegranates add enough tartness to the salad that vinegar or lemon juice is unnecessary:  Just drizzle with the best extra virgin olive oil that you have and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

  • 4 Fuyu persimmons
  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 1 pomegranate
  • olive oil

Wash the persimmons; trim off and discard their ends.  Using a mandoline (or your kung fu knife skills), slice the persimmons to a 1/8-inch thickness and add to a large mixing bowl.

Wash the fennel.  Using scissors, snip off some of the fennel fronds (say, 1/4 c worth); set aside.  Cut off the stalks and reserve for the vegetable stock bag.   Trim off and discard the root end of the fennel.  Slice the fennel bulb crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices.  Add to the persimmon slices.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the pomegranate in half.  Working over a separate mixing bowl, remove the red seeds from the yellow pith; add the seeds to the bowl and discard the pith (and any gray or rotten-looking seeds).  Add the pomegranate seeds to the persimmon and fennel.

Roughly chop the reserved fennel fronds.  Add to the persimmon, fennel and pomegranate.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and add a healthy amount of salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Serve.

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OK, I’ll be the first to admit, the picture above does not look very appetizing.  But trust me:  This batter will produce whole-grain pancakes that you won’t even think of as “whole-grain pancakes”, but as a delicious breakfast treat which beautifully complements a range of sweet and savory accompaniments so well that you’ll find yourself making these some Sunday morning instead of your traditional, white-flour pancakes.  While they are certainly great with maple syrup, their hearty corn flavor combined with the nuttiness of the quinoa lends them to a range of Southwestern and Latin American flavors.  I’d happily serve a mess of black beans over the top of them, or perhaps use them as an accompaniment for a bowl of green chili or posole.

This is one of those recipes which sounds more complicated than it actually is.  Simply substitute some cornmeal for the flour in your favorite pancake recipe and stir some cooked quinoa into the finished batter.  If you have buttermilk handy, feel free to use it instead of the milk and lemon juice.  Finally, I just happened to have the tail end of a container of almond butter in the fridge, so I stirred it into the batter (and was pleased with the results).  If you have any peanut or other nut butter (preferably just ground nuts and salt), add it in place of the almond butter, or omit the nut butter entirely.

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 c fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T butter, melted (or 2 T olive oil)
  • 1 T olive oil (or 1 more T of melted butter)
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T almond or other nut butter, preferably freshly ground (optional)
  • 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • butter and/or olive oil for cooking the pancakes, as needed

Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, or its lowest setting.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients (i.e., the dry ingredients).  In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, butter and/or olive oil, milk, lemon juice, brown sugar and almond butter, if using.

Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon just until combined.  Stir in the cooked quinoa.  When the skillet is hot, add a pat of butter or a little olive oil to it.  (Butter tastes great, obviously, but burns quickly.  Olive oil is healthier and has a much higher smoke point, but it’s not, you know, butter.  I usually use a little of both for this and many other recipes.)  Ladle three pancakes into the skillet and cook until they are brown on the edges and the top is covered with bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Flip the pancakes with a spatula and finish cooking on the second side, about 30-60 seconds.  Transfer the pancakes to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you finish cooking the rest of the pancakes.  Serve immediately.

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Two questions:  How could it possibly be October already?  And why in the world is there a picture of raw ground beef on TMCCFHVW?

Mea maxima culpa for the extended absence, my loyal and intrepid readers.  Major events in the life of The Militant Carnivore have caused me to neglect my blog for a while, but I’m back on the horse, and will be attempting to post something new once a week from this point on.  Thanks for bearing with me.

As for the “ground beef” above, look closely.  What you’re looking at is actually this:

A roasted beet and a roasted potato, about to be run through a food mill.  Nary an animal product in sight.  What we have here are the makings for beet gnocchi.

I’ve long made gnocchi with sweet potatoes, and the latest Bon Appetit had a recipe for butternut squash gnocchi, which I found perplexing:  How could that possibly have a high enough starch-to-moisture ratio to stick together?  The answer was that the recipe called for two parts potato for every part butternut squash.  I couldn’t decide if the addition of potato to “butternut squash” gnocchi was dishonest and deceptive or brilliantly elegant, but I figured I’d steal the idea anyway.

I’ve just recently gotten into beets, and I’ve realized that they’re a lot of fun to play with.  They provide a welcome sweetness to many savory dishes, and their inimitable color is unlike anything else in the vegetable world.  I figured that mixing some potatoes into the dough would work just as well for beet gnocchi as for butternut squash gnocchi, and a simple brown butter with rosemary would be the perfect sauce for these bright fuchsia orbs (which look somewhat like uncooked meatballs and which are therefore likely to shock and horrify your vegetarian guests before they realize just how delicious these gnocchi are).

By the way, some people make perfect-looking gnocchi; I don’t.  I add only as much flour as needed to make a dough that has barely enough cohesion to form spheres and to stay together in the cooking water.  While these gnocchi will never be pretty enough to feature on the cover of Saveur, they are deliciously tender.  If you want more traditionally shaped gnocchi (with the characteristic ridges created by rolling the gnocchi off the tines of a fork), add more flour:  Your gnocchi will be chewier, but if you’re careful not to knead the dough too much, they shouldn’t be tough (I think).  The choice is yours.

  • 1 large beet, roasted and peeled
  • 1 large russet potato, roasted and peeled
  • flour, as needed (at least 1/2 c)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • olive oil, a slug or two, as needed
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, plus more for mincing and garnishing
  • 1/2 c Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

Pass the beet and potato (which should be good and thoroughly cooked) through the coarse holes of a food mill into a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then cover with a good coating of flour.

Stir together with a spoon.  The mixture will be extremely sticky.  Stir in more flour until the mixture is just dry enough to be handled.  You should be able to roll it into logs.

Stick the gnocchi dough in the fridge while you bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When it’s at a rolling boil, salt it generously.

Smash and peel the garlic clove.  Add it along with the butter, olive oil and the spring of rosemary to a large skillet over medium heat.  Take out the gnocchi dough and cut it into 1-inch pieces.  Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water.  Cook until the gnocchi rise to the surface and are pleasantly firm, about 3-5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the butter-olive oil mixture.  Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, to coat the gnocchi with the brown butter mixture.

It still looks like raw meat, I know.  But trust me:  It’s good.  Mince up a little bit of rosemary and strew it with the grated Parmesan over the gnocchi.  Serve immediately.

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