Persimmons. The first time I had one I bit into an unripe Hachiya persimmon. The tannins and my tongue did not agree. At the time, I was ignorant of the differences between our two main persimmons, the Fuyu and Hachiya. The Fuyu can be eaten like apples, while the Hachiya pretty much have to become mushy to be edible.
Either way, they’re both delicious and one of the only fruit crops abundant in late fall/early winter. I did some research and found a couple of leads about a nice little persimmon operation out in Moorpark. I recruited my farm friends and we set out to find this farm. I had no real concrete information. No farm name, phone number, or hours of operation. Just a random address and two tips from the internet.
As luck would have it, we happened upon a few tattered signs for persimmons. We followed them and found ourselves at Ellie’s Persimmon Farm. The orchard is planted on a hillside, so it can be a little treacherous. The orchard is mostly Fuyu trees with some Hachiya sprinkled in at the top. The persimmons were perfect, organic and cheap. There is no admission fee and you can eat as many as you like and no one seemed to mind that we brought a pup.
Back before I went to Hawaii I made one last farm trip. I wasn’t sure if we’d find the super secret persimmon farm (future post) I had heard about upon my return. So, what I’m saying is this could have my last CA farm trip of the year. I had been wanting to pick some pears, but unfortunately all of the farms I knew of that offered u-pick pears had lost most of their pears to frost. The leftover pears were snatched up right away. I thought I was out of luck when I called Yingst Ranch and they happily reported they had pears.
A couple of friends and I made the pilgrimage out to Yingst and delighted in pear picking. We also picked a few random apples and plums we found hanging around.
Before running off to Maui, I decided on a vegan version of this pie from my favorite place, Eat the Love.
I love that quince turns pink when you cook it. I also thought the blueberries added a nice touch.
This was a really lovely day. We went thrifting near the farm and each of us found some rad treasure. But, this post is like this day and pie; quick. I’ll be back to tell the story of that secret persimmon farm real soon.
Let’s get one thing straight; I don’t drink coffee. Not because I don’t like it, but it gives me the shakes and keeps me awake and jittery. Bothers my stomach too. However, every now and then I like to enjoy a little coffee. I mean…literally a little because more than 6 ounces would destroy me.
The Big Island of Hawaii is pretty famous for its Kona coffee. I haven’t been to the Big Island since I was little, but I remember my parents getting coffee in Kona and I remember it smelling really, really good. I decided I wanted some Kona coffee to incorporate into dessert and to make some homemade Kahlua with. I bought some organic medium roast Kona old style from Kuaiwi Farm.
These cookies taste like those chocolate brownie frappuccinos that Starbucks used to sell.
Kona Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 c AP flour
1/3 c Kona coffee beans, ground
1 tsp baking soda
1 heaping c Earth Balance
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer, dry
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ c chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with a silpat or parchment.
Combine the flour, coffee, and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of your standing mixer, cream together the Earth Balance and both types of sugar. Add the Ener-G and vanilla, mix. Slowly add in the flour mixture and run the mixer until just combined. It may seem a little dry, but that is okay. It should stick together if you pick some up and squeeze it together. Fold in the chocolate chips. Dampen your hands and grab tablespoon size scoops of cookie dough and form them into cookies. Press them down just a bit as these are not really going to spread. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Cookies have a very tender, yet delicious crumb and lots of crunchy coffee ground bits creating a really lovely texture.
I’ve never eaten Kalua pork. It’s popular in Hawaii and from what I’ve read it’s smoked pulled pork. Since jackfruit makes such a great pulled pork substitute, I thought I would dump a bunch of stuff in my slow cooker to try and create some kinda smoky jackfruit. I don’t have measurements, but I used a combination of:
2 cans young green jackfruit in brine, rinsed, drained, extra moisture squeezed out
Hawaiian sea salt
Maui turbinado sugar
I cover the jackfruit with liquid and let it cook in the slow cooker until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 6 hours I’d say.
First I used it to make a sandwich.
Then I saw a recipe for a pulled pork and goat cheese quesadilla and I really wanted to make a version of that.
I love this tofu chevre recipe, so I made a batch of that. I also went and bought some Daiya for good measure. The mozzarella or jack wedge would both work. I sautéed some sweet onions and cut some chives from my garden. I layered the ingredients onto a whole wheat tortilla and heated it in my panini pan. The result was a fine quesadilla. I know there are sort of a lot of elements for just a quesadilla, but worth it.
Last year I saw this cake on Eat the Love. All of the components really jumped out at me, as Eat the Love recipes often do. I start reading the flavors and in my mind I’m going down the ingredient list saying yes. Yes. YES. Oh, I make right now! Honestly though, everything on Eat the Love is inspired, but this one was destined to be in my mouth immediately. Well, boo to me. It was May and while I was scuttling around town collecting the very last of the season’s blood oranges, I knew it would be absolutely impossible for me to find bergamot oranges.
Firstly, they are an extraordinarily rare fruit to find. This is not something you will likely ever see in a grocery store or even at the farmer’s market. They are most popular in Italy where they are commercially grown and I believe they’re also grown in the south of France and tiny handful of other places. Of course one of those places is California because California is amazing. For years and years I did not appreciate living here. I was always grumbling about our traffic and distinct lack of seasons, but I’ve evolved and now a deep appreciation lives inside of me for this gorgeous and unique land. I could still do without certain things, like all the Hollywood douche types I’m surrounded by, but what this lovely place may lack in people’s humility, it certainly makes up for it with the best tasting, best looking fruit and veggies in this grand country. And the best weather…..hence our fabulous fruit and veg.
So here I am in wonderful California and naturally there is a charming little farmed named Pearson Ranch up in Porterville that grows bergamots as well as lots of other great citrus. I placed an order for bergamots over the phone thinking I would be getting something like a dozen. Little did I know that I would come home and find a giant crate of them on my doorstep. I ended up with about 30 or so oranges and began getting a little nervous. I only had plans for one cake….which I needed like 2 or 3 oranges for. I started researching what else I could do with these fruits and could not find much. Then it hit me….Kevin West! Kevin West writes this amazing canning and preserving blog called Saving the Season. He is a master preserver and also teaches classes at The Domestic Institute of Technology (join me in February’s citrus workshop!). I feel like I knew from his blog that he lived in LA, so I took a chance and emailed him. To pick his brain and to see if he would like some of the oranges in exchange for some information and ideas. I was delighted to hear back from him and we discussed bergamots and various other bits about canning and such. I do my fair share of canning, usually small batch stuff because big batch stuff overwhelms me. My favorite things to make are liqueurs and preserves, although I’d like to do more pickles and would love to try my hand at beer making someday. Anyhow, Kevin was an absolute plethora of knowledge as well as completely delightful person. He gave me a jar of boysenberry jam—which suited me so well. It was the first flavor I fell in love with as a kid that wasn’t regular ol’ strawberry or Welch’s grape jelly (which I now think is NASTY.) Kevin was nice enough to mention me in his own blog and he’s posted an amazing recipe for bergamot marmalade. Pearson Ranch is still taking orders for crates of bergamots. I’m not sure if they ship nationwide, but California orders arrive in 1-2 days. I got about 30 oranges for around $40 which is a STEAL in my opinion. It’s a lot to spend on fruit, but if you’re into baking, preserving or just rarities in general, it’s a must. Plus, the people over at Pearson are the nicest and the friendliest, so give them a call and they’ll set you up nice.
As for me, I now have bergamot sugar infusing, as well as simple syrup, plus some juice for freezing and some finely grated zest for dehydrating among other things. But on to the cake. This is a delightful and delicious cake. It’s very Italian tasting to me….semolina and olive oil will do that I guess. Perfect for dessert or for afternoon tea.
When I go back to Maui I am looking to forward to trying the mangoes from Yee’s Orchard. I somehow missed them last time and I hear they are the best mangoes, no strings supposedly. I did have a couple of good mangoes from a little vegetarian market, but I’m pretty sure they were from the Big Island.
Anyhow, I was feeling mangoey and had all of that Hawaiian Sweet Bread to eat. So, I decided to make Hawaiian Bread Pudding w/ Mangoes, Coconut Milk and Macadamias. This dessert is yummy. Not sure there are ever any “cold” days on Maui, but if there were, I’m sure this is what they’d eat.
Hawaiian Bread Pudding w/ Mangoes, Coconut Milk and Macadamias
1 heaping c silken firm tofu, pureed in food processor until smooth
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ to ½ c chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a saucepan, add coconut milk and heat over medium heat. When the milk starts to bubble, add the Earth Balance and sugar. Don’t let the milk get too hot. You just want to melt the Earth Balance and dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool.
Add vanilla and cinnamon to your tofu mixture and then add the tofu mixture to the cooled coconut milk/sugar.
Grease a 9×13 or 9×12 (I used a 9×12) baking pan. Line the bottom of the dish with some sweet bread. Then add a layer of mango and nuts. Repeat layering until you’ve used all of your bread, mango and nuts. Pour the coconut milk/tofu mixture over the bread and mango. Let your dish stand a few minutes for some of the milk to absorb into the bread and mango. Bake 30 to 35 min. When this dish becomes completely cool, you can slice this pudding into pieces. I think it tastes better like a hot, gooey mess straight from the oven, but I’ll let you make your own choices. 😉