Tuesday, January 31, 2012

African Inspired Pumpkin Mash with Peanuts & Spinach

Joe in the Kitchen Chopping Pumpkin
Joe Attacking Pumpkin with Cleaver & Mallet

Recipe by Joe

My friend Joe mentioned this recipe a couple of times before I asked him to come over and cook the large pumpkin I’d been procrastinating about since last fall’s harvest. Joe cooks like many of us, with a little of this and a handful of that, simmering it till it looks right, etc., so it’s not easy to quantify this recipe. Truthfully though, quantities don’t matter much, as long as cinnamon isn’t overdone. The amount of pumpkin, potatoes, greens, and peanuts can vary quite a bit and still make a delicious and healthful dish. It’s appropriate that quantities be flexible, since the concept for this dish comes from northern Africa. The African cooks that I know never measure, and excel at improvising with quantities and ingredients at hand.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chen Pi: Dried Tangerine Peel

Homemade Chen Pi

Recipe by Robin

A while ago I became obsessed with traditional Chinese herbal ingredients and their health benefits. Much of this interest came from reading The Chinese Herbal Cookbook by Penelope Ody, Alice Lyon, and Dragana Vilinac. The authors, according to the introduction, are trained herbalists in European and Chinese traditions, with medical rather than culinary training. Still, these “enthusiastic amateur cooks” have invented some unusual and intriguing recipes for specific health purposes. Their cookbook is one of my favorites, with sections about eating foods in season, immune-boosting, women’s health, and much more. Read my complete review on Goodreads.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Week 5 Veggie List & Menu

Orange Persimmons Being Stirred into Yellow Batter
Stirring Persimmons into Batter
I’m a couple days late posting my weekly menu, as we spent some time in San Francisco this weekend. Our walk through Golden Gate Park this afternoon was decidedly un-winterlike, even for San Fran. Magnolias and early rhododendrons are blooming, and even I was too warm in a jacket. Sweet as this weather is, central coasters are longing for the windy wet stuff, nostalgic for stormy 2011. The water table and our local crops need it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Raisin Date Persimmon Muffins or Cake

6 Bundtlettes on Cooling Rack
Bundtlette Muffins

Recipe by Robin

Winter is the season for rest and contemplation, especially at the beginning of a new year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean isolation. I’ve become fond of inviting a friend or two to tea or coffee on an afternoon when I know I’ll be home alone. Catching up with conversation brightens the day and reaffirms our friendship. There’s always at least one strange story, some personal insights, and quite a few laughs.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roasted Chickpea (Garbanzo) Appetizer or Snack

Bowl of Roasted Chickpeas
Roasted Chickpeas Ready to Share
 Recipe by Bruce and UC’s Living Well Program

My second favorite perk of the jobs at University of California is their Living Well program. Once per year employees can take an online health assessment and receive suggestions for setting and achieving health goals, plus get a gift card. My husband took the assessment recently, and received some menus for healthy snacks, among other things. One recipe was for Roasted Chickpeas, which he zapped up with added spices and served at our African inspired dinner party last week.  The idea is to cook the chickpeas till they’re crispy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Persimmon Cake Roll

Slice of Cake with Whipped Cream Spiral
Slice of Festive Persimmon Roll

Recipe by Robin

Gung Hay Fat Choy! That’s Happy Chinese New Year! It’s Year of the Dragon, the most auspicious of all signs, associated with high energy and prosperity. The Dragon brings the Four Blessings of the East: wealth, virtue, harmony, and longevity.  For the first time in 60 years, we have a Water Dragon year. This is particularly good, as the Dragon’s fixed element is Wood, and Water nourishes Wood, as in making plants grow. Water amplifies the Dragon Year’s forces of creativity, good luck, and accomplishment. It is said that “bigger than life” events of all sorts can happen this year.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

African Inspired Chicken in Red Pepper Sauce

Plate with Drumstick, Millet, and Red Pepper Sauce
Chicken & Red Pepper Sauce over Millet

Recipe by Robin

Way back when in ’89, I started studying African drumming. My Nigerian mentor, Danjuma, not only played hand drums, guitar, bass, trapset drums, and trumpet, but also cooked up a variety of spicy hot tomato-based stews.  He used chickpeas, potatoes, spinach to make a vegetarian stew, and sometimes would make chicken stews. All of these were fiery hot. He also prepared “foufou,” a thick millet, which could be rolled into balls and dipped in the stew, a tradition enjoyed in many African cultures. Many variations of red pepper stewed chicken are prepared throughout Africa.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Week 4 Veggie List & Menu

Large Pumpkin on Kitchen Counter
Pumpkin Ripe for Cooking
It’s raining. That’s big news in Santa Cruz, where it’s been drought-dry this winter. Since it only rains in winter here in central California, we’re happy to see our water table replenished. Local farmers are happy too. At Live Earth Farm, our CSA, Farmer Tom has been irrigating not only vegetable plots, but cover crops, which is unprecedented in the farm’s life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Persimmon Nut Bread

Mini Persimmon Bread Cut in Half
Bundtlette Style Bread

Recipe by Robin

According to Wikipedia, China produces over 71% of the world’s persimmons, measured in tons. Oddly enough, the Hachiya persimmons are ripening late this season in California, and the Lunar  New Year is early.  So this year, by coincidence, synchronicity, or persimmon whimsy, we can enjoy fresh persimmon goodies for Chinese New Year on January 23. It’s the Year of the Dragon, a most auspicious year and cause for celebration.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spicy Tomato Poached Fish with Veggies

Plate of Spicy Fish with Veggies
Spicy Fish With Veggies

Recipe by Robin

According to WebMD, three ways to lose weight are to eat protein at every meal, spice food up so it’s more satisfying, and eat more veggies. This recipe incorporates all three. Many of us are ready to eat lighter fare after the holidays, so I thought this recipe would be perfect for January. Bonus: it's easy to make.

Originally I came up with this idea to use up the spicy homemade tomato juice that our CSA supplies to us in winter (made in summer with their tomatoes). While I have used two summer veggies, zucchini and bell pepper, this recipe still seems wintery because it’s a hot and spicy fish stew that’s warming on cold days.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Herbed Turkey Mini Meatballs

Meatballs Over Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce
Mini Meatballs, Spaghetti Squash & Baked Tomato Sauce

Recipe by Robin and Bruce

Regular readers have likely perceived that I’m involved in a love affair with herbs. Ever since picking up a paperback copy of Craig Clairborne’s Cooking with Herbs and Spices in college—the original un-enlarged, un-revised edition—I have been fascinated by the variety of plants that can be used to flavor foods. The many kinds of herbs and their individual flavors, the fact that some herbs play well together and some do not, how certain herbs compliment certain foods best—the unveiling of these mysteries is to me pure alchemy. So sometimes I push my herb use to the max, like in this recipe.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cooking Spaghetti Squash

Two Large Plates of Spaghetti Squash
From 4.5 lb. Squash

Recipe by Robin

Many people have resolved to lose weight in 2012, and to start losing it as soon as possible. I wouldn’t mind knocking off 5 or 10 lbs. myself, which is not that easy for a food blogger with a sedentary day job and a whole lot of persimmons to cook up. Nonetheless, I believe that over time small choices can make a big difference—like choosing to eat spaghetti squash in place of regular pasta. It’s filling and satisfying, and doesn’t have the addictive textural quality that wheat pasta seems to for me. Plus, spaghetti squash still available in stores from last autumn’s harvest, and is often discounted.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Herb Steamed Fish with Vegetables

Pan with Four Cooked Fish Fillets on Bed of Veggies
Tilapia on Bed of Veggies

Recipe by Robin

While preparing one of my most popular recent posts, Yankee Magazine’s Rosemary Chicken with Fennel, I was reminded of a similar dish that I make with fish. My mom used to make delicious chicken fricassee flavored with carrots, celery, and a few onions, mostly in winter when few other veggies were available.  I reworked this idea once when the only veggies that we had in the house to accompany our fish were carrots and celery. This one-dish meal is quick and easy to prepare, and makes a light yet warming meal.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Persimmon Bars: Persimmonies

Two Teacups, Two Persimmonies, One Plate
Twelfth Night Tea for Two

Recipe by Robin

It’s the very last day of the holiday season, the feast of the Epiphany. I’m happy to see that some of my neighbors still have the holiday spirit, and have lit their Christmas lights again tonight (one household lights theirs year-round, but let’s disregard that for the moment). This night, also known as Twelfth Night, celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. Twelfth Night is also a Pagan holiday, a time for masquerades, practical jokes, and for turning the usual social order upside down. Agricultural customs such as wassailing the fields to drive out evil have been traditionally observed on this night.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Preparing Hachiya Persimmons

Ripe Persimmon Split in Half
Perfectly Ripe Hachiya  Persimmon

Instructions by Robin

While house-hunting a couple of winters ago, I remarked on the brightly colored Fuyu persimmons that our realtor had around his office as decorations—or so I thought. “Would you like some?” he asked and when I said yes quickly swept up as many as I could carry and handed them to me. They were from his tree at home, and as a former owner of two Hachiya persimmon trees I understand his haste to give them away. Persimmons are a most misunderstood fruit, unlike apples or lemons, which are more popular giveways because recipients know what to do with them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rosemary Chicken with Fennel

Plate of Rosemary Chicken with Fennel
Warm and Savory Winter Meal

Recipe by Yankee Magazine

Welcome to 2012! I like to believe that the first few days of the new year set the tone for the entire year, and intentionally create the kinds of experiences I like during those days. So today I finished up a bit of old business, spent cozy time with my husband, chatted with a friend, took a walk, and simplified my New Year’s Day dinner plan.