You may wonder what you are eating when you pick up a persimmon, as it is
unlike any other fruit you find in the produce department. Well, if you must know,
the persimmon is actually considered to be a juicy berry. While we do have a persimmon
native to the eastern U.S., it grows wild from Connecticut to Texas and it is most
likely not what you buy at the store. We generally eat an oriental persimmon that is a
native of China and spread to Japan. We can thank Commander M.C. Perry
for introducing them to us in 1856, and the USDA for importing them in 1870
for planting. Over 2,000 varieties exist, but two Japanese varieties, Hachiya
and Fuyu, grown primarily in the San Joaquin Valley of California, are the most
common to us.
Persimmons can be heaven’s honey when properly ripened. Diospyros,
persimmon’s botanical name, means “food of the gods” – but if you’ve ever eaten
an unripe heart or globe-shaped Hachiya you would probably think of someplace
besides heaven. So better make sure it’s ripe before you bite. This can take
about 7-10 days at room temperature before it becomes soft and jellylike, with a
nearly translucent skin. A quicker way is to cover persimmons with uncooked dry
rice for 3-5 days. Or, even faster, freeze them for 24 hours for similar results. Firm
Hachiyas can be peeled and dried whole, which gives them a sweet, date-like
consistency and none of the astringency we all hate. If you want to try this I found
easy instructions here.
Persimmons are a wonderful winter fruit – and this is truer than you may think,
as Fuyu in Japanese means winter. Fuyus are the flat, orange and squarish-round shaped variety that is harvested and ready to eat when fully colored. The
Fuyu is non-astringent so it can be eaten hard like an apple — you won’t get that
offensive taste common with a hard, unripe Hachiya. For best flavor, allow them
to soften slightly after harvest. Stay away from start-of-the-season fruit with a
green tinge as this is generally a sign of being picked too early and will affect the
Whichever you choose I’m sure you’ll pick the best one FUYU and until next
week HACHIYA later.
I first saw you shyly blending in with the others
As the months passed you began to stand out
Though green I could see the change occurring
Each day it became more obvious that you wanted me to pick you
And so on a beautiful autumn day with softest of blue skies as my witness, I did!
Still you needed time and I was patient
Each day you grew bolder and brighter
Softer and riper until the slightest touch would cause you to burst
Finally you were ready and so was I
I raised you to my lips and bit ever so lightly
And with that opening you surrendered
Every bit of your flesh oozing with deliciousness
You lingered in my mouth long after you had given in
And once again I was in love.
Serves 6 – 8
This recipe smells, tastes, and feels like Fall, warming you with its aromatic herbs and spices and luscious pureed squash. Winter Squash is an excellent source of Vitamin C as well as cancer-protective carotenoids. Do you really need more reason to whip up a batch tonight? This dish is also rich in calcium from the sesame tahini and B-vitamins from the nutritional yeast. Okay, now you really don’t have an excuse to not make pronto.
12 oz penne pasta, cooked
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 small shallots, thinly sliced
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons tamari or shoyu
1 ½ cups cubed pumpkin or squash
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly minced sage
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and when warmed, add the shallots. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the shallots, stirring frequently, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add a generous pinch of sea salt followed by the sliced shiitake and garlic and saute until the shiitake is tender, about 5 additional minutes. Add the tamari and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, steam the cubed pumpkin or squash until fork-tender. Combine the cooked squash with the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Stir the shallot-shiitake mixture in with the seasoned squash, and toss with hot pasta. Enjoy with a warm side spinach salad with toasted walnuts.
-Sitarani Brian, Vegetarian Chef
You’ve been seeing them around your produce department or farmers market
for the past couple of months, adorning the top of a produce display or piled near
the winter squash. You may have even bought one to add to your holiday table
to go with the Indian corn and autumn leaves. But now’s the time to eat them!
I’m talking about pie pumpkins, which can be used in so many ways – roasted like
other winter squash, made into rich creamy soup, or steamed and topped with
butter for a wonderful side dish to any winter dinner. If you are going to take the
plunge, here are a few things to know to make your pumpkin the best you can
Look for the smaller varieties, between 4 -8 pounds, as they have denser
flesh, a smooth texture and higher sugar content. This will make a difference no
matter how you choose to prepare them. While you may be inclined to look for
the shiniest pumpkin in the display, it’s ok to choose one that has lost a little of
its luster. Pumpkin shells get dull as they age, and most of what is in the market
now was probably picked last month. Though slightly dull in appearance, the
flesh should remain intact – and can even get sweeter! While a dull skin is o.k., stay
away from one that is bruised or blemished as it will not hold up for long, especially in
a warm winter home.
If you are eyeing something different than the traditional orange pumpkin, consider
the white ‘Lumina’ pumpkin. It is becoming a favorite amongst pumpkin lovers and
although its outer shell is ghostly white, the flesh inside is still a bright and very
tasty orange. The Cinderella or Fairy Tale Pumpkin that you see on doorsteps
and centerpieces is also delicious, but very hard to shell, which is the reason it
lasts for months. If you want to eat one of these beauties, ask your produce clerk to
cut it for you, or if you want try it at home you can use this handy trick. Bake it in a
pan for about 20 -30 min at 375 degrees and it should soften enough to cut. Be sure to let it
cool enough to handle before cutting, then remove the seeds, and continue baking.
Place it cut side down in about half an inch of water for another 30-50 minutes or until it
can easily be pierced with a fork.
And don’t toss those seeds! Keep the pumpkin seeds around for a great
nutritious snack. All you have to do rinse them (a colander works best) and let them dry.
Then lay them out on a greased baking pan and bake at 250 degrees for one
hour – for final browning, increase to 400 degrees for five extra minutes. Add your
favorite seasoning and store in an airtight container.
One last note: you may tempted to save a little money and buy the conventionally
grown pumpkin, but that attempt to save a little could bring you more than you bargained
for. You see, pumpkins can clean pollutants out of the soil. The process is called
phytoremediation, and scientists in Canada recently discovered that pumpkin
is particularly good at it. DDT and other pesticides, as well as PCBs and dioxin,
get sucked right out of the soil and into the plant, which end up in the pumpkin.
This may be great for ridding the soil of these unwanted toxins, but I’m sure you’ll
agree they would be unwelcome on your dinner table.
Mom always says “Eat your fruits and vegetables” and you’ll get big and strong. Doctors tell you that eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you ward off heart disease, help control blood pressure, and even help prevent some types of cancer. Magazines, TV and radio remind us daily that produce is essential for a healthy diet and even the USDA’s latest dietary guidelines call for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Add to that the fact that farmers’ markets have grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years and can be found in nearly every region of the county. Even organic produce sales grew a whopping 38% in 2009. So why do the latest statistics on fruit and vegetable consumption show that the average American eats a total of just three servings of fruits and vegetables a day?
It could be that many folks feel preparing fruit or vegetables is too hard or time-consuming, or it could also be that we think that five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day is a lot to consume. Well, perhaps if we look at it differently it might make eating the produce we need a little easier.
This recommended serving breaks down to about 2½ to 6½ cups per day, total. And for a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight and diet, this breaks down to only nine servings, or 4½ cups per day (2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables). If you go and look at a cup measure you’ll see that a cup is very little in actual quantity and eating your daily amount won’t seem so daunting.
Another way to look at it is to break it down into how many carrots or grapes you need to eat to make a serving!
Here are some typical serving sizes for fruits and vegetables:
One-half cup of orange or other fruit juice
Five broccoli florets
Ten baby carrots
One Roma tomato
3/4-cup tomato juice
3/4-cup vegetable juice
Half of a baked sweet potato
One ear of corn
Four slices of an onion
When you look at it this way, if you had a banana and cup of OJ with your cereal, a handful of grapes for a morning snack, some sliced organic tomato and onion, and a leaf of lettuce on your bologna and cheese sandwich, an apple or peach for afternoon snack and five broccoli florets and ten baby carrots with your dinner, you would have eaten what you need for the day. If you make even a basic dinner salad with a couple of cups of romaine lettuce, 5 or 6 slices of cucumber and 3 or 4 rings of red pepper, you’ve got your veggies covered for the day.
Heck – a vegetable omelet with ½ cup of sliced mushrooms, ½ cup of green pepper, and ½ cup of chopped onions could make up almost ½ of your days needs. It doesn’t seem so monumental this way does it?
Of course it would be great if we would eat more than the daily recommendation but if you are eating little or no fruits and vegetables at all this is a good place to start. And once you get started you’ll see that organic produce can be a pretty nice addition to just about any meal or snack routine.
Cabbage is a vegetable few people really appreciate. Many of us will walk by it during our visits to the produce department unless we’ve been inspired to make coleslaw or cabbage rolls. Perhaps we should reconsider our view of cabbage – after all it is a hardy, abundant, and mostly inexpensive vegetable that is a dietary staple throughout the world that can be used in so many ways. It is good sautéed, slawed (warm and cold) in soups and stews and much much more. And now is a great time to try it, as it is best during the late fall and winter months when the cooler temperatures bring out its best flavor.
You’ve probably heard of some of the many vegetables known as brassica vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and collard greens, Brussels sprouts and Kohlrabi, and their reputation for having cancer-fighting properties.
Well, guess what? The word “brassica” in Latin means “cabbage,” which is closely related to all of the above vegetable superstars. Perhaps cabbage should move to the top of the list!
There are three major types of cabbage: the familiar green and red, which can be found in every produce department, and the more tender and curvy-leafed Savoy.
When choosing green and red or Savoy cabbage, pick a tight, compact head that feels heavy for its size. It should look crisp and fresh with no cracks or blemishes. The Savoy cabbage variety will not feel as heavy as standard varieties, since the leaves are not as tightly furled.
Once you get it home put the whole head in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator, this will keep your Savoy for about 1 week and your red and green cabbage about 2 weeks.
Here are a few other tips for getting the most from this nutritious head.
Though often seen off the cold rack during big in-store promotions, keeping cabbage cold will keep it fresher and help it retain its wonderful vitamin C content.
If you need to store a partial head of cabbage, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and use as soon as possible, as cabbage loses its vitamin C quickly after being cut. To preserve its vitamin C content, cut and wash the cabbage right before cooking or eating it. Phytonutrients in the cabbage react to carbon steel by turning the leaves black after cutting, so it is best to use a stainless steel or ceramic knife to cut your cabbage to avoid this color change. The best way to get the most cancer fight enzymes is to cook by quick steaming. Recent studies have shown this to be much more effective and it is much better than microwaving for preserving some myrosinase enzymes.
Another important tip is to slice, shred, or chop your raw cabbage and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cooking to get the most enzyme benefit.
Lastly if you don’t care for the “sulfury” smell that comes with cooking many brassica vegetables, use it fresh as the older it gets, the stronger the flavor and odor will be. Also, avoid cooking it in an aluminum pan and steam it in a small amount of water for a short time. Shortly after cooking begins, uncover the pot briefly, as this will release the sulfur smell and keep it to a minimum.
Makes 24 stuffed dates
This simple dessert is as delicious as it is nutritious. Labneh, a cheese made from strained
yogurt, is packed with protein and lactobacillus, healthy bacteria that improves digestion.
Dates contain tryptophan, the essential amino acid that is the precursor to serotonin and
melatonin, helping the body to relax. Have a sugar craving, but don’t want a sugar high?
This recipe is your solution.
24 medjool dates, top sliced open and pit removed
1 cup yogurt cheese, made the night before
1 large orange, zested and suprèmed
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
½ cup almonds or pistachios, toasted and chopped
To make the yogurt cheese, line a colander with cheesecloth or a thin linen towel and set
over a bowl. If the cheesecloth is loosely woven, use triple thickness. Pour the yogurt into
the lined colander, then gather the edges of the cheesecloth and tie into a bag. Allow to sit
in the refrigerator overnight to drain, or for a few days for an even thicker cheese.
Place the prepared dates on a flat surface. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt cheese,
orange zest, vanilla, and mint. Fill each date with some of the mixture. Piping the yogurt
mixture from a pastry bag is the easiest way to fill the dates. Sprinkle the dates with
chopped nuts nuts.
Transfer dates to a platter, garnish with the suprèmed orange slices, and serve.
Author: Jennifer Miller, Bauman College Natural Chef
This sweet dish is as good in the morning as it is after dinner. Fiber-rich Asian pears, dates, and oats help slow the absorption of sugar in the body, and the health fats from the coconut oil and pine nuts will satiate you, day or night.
Drizzle of oil (olive oil, coconut oil, or other)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup water
4 large ripe Asian pears, peeled if desired
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons arrowroot
½ cup rolled oats, pulsed in food processor
½ cup pine nuts, pulsed in food processor
4 dates, pulsed in food processor
¼ cup flour (whole wheat pastry flour or whole grain gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
½ cup cold coconut oil, cut into small cubes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9×9” baking dish with a light brush of oil. Set aside.
Stir together the ground oats, pine nuts, dates, flour, ginger, and sea salt in a medium mixing bowl. Cut the coconut oil into the mixture with a pastry cutter until well combined. Place in freezer until ready to use.
Prepare a bowl of acidulated water by combining the juice of 1 lemon with 1 cup of water.
Thinly slice the pears, placing slices in acidulated water to prevent browning.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and arrowroot.
Once all the pears are sliced, drain the water and toss the pears with the maple syrup mixture. Transfer to the baking dish making sure the pears are evenly distributed.
Remove the crumble mixture from the freezer, breaking it up with the pastry cutter until it can be sprinkled overtop the pears. Evenly distribute the crumble over the pears and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crumble is golden and the pears are tender.
Cool slightly before serving. Enjoy with coffee, tea, ice cream – or a side of sautéed greens! Yes, I said greens. You can never eat too many greens.
-Sitarani Brian, vegetarian chef
Do you eat cauliflower?
If you said yes, you are in good company with Sita, Helge and I – as well as Mark Twain who famously remarked that cauliflower is “cabbage with a college education.” If you aren’t fond of this elegant cousin to broccoli, you may want to reconsider. Cauliflower has grown from the standard white (or beige, as some may call it) into a new range of colors ranging from lime green to violet. Green cauliflower is available in 2 varieties: the more familiar broccoflower, which similar in flavor to broccoli yet is considered to be sweeter and milder than regular cauliflower. The second is the less familiar and more exotic Romanesco. This is a cauliflower that would make MC Escher proud. As matter of fact, when you look at the florets you’ll notice that they form individual spirals that resemble small cones and those contain even smaller cones within the cone. No, I haven’t been drinking too much Yerba mate – take a look and you’ll see what I mean.
Romanesco and broccoflower both have a mild flavor and soft texture when cooked, and even better, they both maintain the pleasant green color. Cheddar cauliflower – known for its bright orange color – has 25 times more vitamin A than its pale counterpart variety, but has a similar flavor. Purple cauliflower can recognized across the produce department from its bright royal color and has a mild flavor similar to broccoli. This vibrant member if the cabbage family has a softer texture than white cauliflower and is best eaten raw or lightly steamed if you want to maintain its beautiful color.
Besides the color and flavor there are plenty of reasons to like this nutritious vegetable. Cauliflower is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and considered a very good source of vitamins B6, C, and K, along with folate, potassium, pantothenic acid, and manganese. How good of a source of vitamin C is it? Check this out: just 1 cup of raw or lightly steamed cauliflower gives you a full day’s allowance of vitamin C. A cup is nothing! Move over bell peppers, cauliflower is challenging you on the C delivery.
Some final notes on cauliflower – stay away from iron cookware when cooking, as some of the phytonutrients in this vegetable have a reaction with iron and will cause the cauliflower to change from white to brown. Also, if you want to cut down on that sulfury smell that comes with cruciferous vegetables, keep your cooking time to a minimum.
Composting Your Green
Have you ever found yellowing broccoli or wilted lettuce in your refrigerator? How about a too-ripe banana or a moldy orange in your fruit bowl? If you are like most Americans the answers is probably yes. And of course most of us don’t give it a whole lot of thought once it’s put in the garbage or compost bin, but perhaps we should.
According to a report done by researchers at the University of Arizona in 2002, families tossed out an average of 470 pounds of food per year (worth about $43 billion mostly because it’s gone bad.
If you break it down, this equates to:
-More than half a pound of fruits and veggies every day
—About 14 percent of all food brought into the home
—At an annual cost of $600.
Now that was 2002 just think how much is being tossed today with our lives being even busier and with national surveys showing that folks are buying more fresh fruits and vegetables these days.
So What’s the Solution?
First off knowing how to store produce can make a huge difference in the shelf life.
For longer life, keep your produce whole cutting it only when you are ready to use it.
Secondly it’s important to keep fruits and veggies at the right temperature.
Cold-sensitive fruits and veggies lose flavor and moisture at low temperatures, which means produce such as mangoes, avocados, tomatoes, nectarines, peaches all should be kept at room temperature until they are ripe and then they can be put in the refrigerator, but only for a day or so.
When you’re ready to eat them, return them to room temperature to ensure the best flavor.
A common rule is never to refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. They are best kept in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more – but keep them separated so their flavors and smells don’t migrate.
Another important step in keeping things fresh is understanding ethylene gas.
Nearly all fruits emit some ethylene gas. What is ethylene gas? It’s a gas that speeds ripening and can lead to premature spoilage. You won’t see it or smell it, but it is being released.
If your produce breaks down in just a few days, chances are you are storing fruits and vegetables incorrectly. As a rule, it’s best to keep them separated.
Here are some tips on monitoring your ethylene exposure and keeping it to a minimum.
Apples, Apricots, Cantaloupe, Figs, and Honeydew melon as the cold will not hurt them.
Avocados, Bananas, (unripe) Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, and Tomatoes as these are cold sensitive.
KEEP THESE AWAY FROM HEAVY ETHYLENE PRODUCERS SUCH AS APPLES:
Bananas, ripe Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce and other leafy greens, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Squash, and Sweet potatoes.
It’s best to keep your refrigerated fruits and vegetables in separate areas to eliminate exposure to ethylene. As you can see, paying attention to how you store your produce and monitoring the ripeness can have positive results! Though it may be a little more effort it will be worth your time.
Lastly, have an eating plan.
Eat your more perishable items first and save your heartier items for later in the week – or better yet plan some meals around the produce you buy. Every little step you take can give you more produce to enjoy and keep more money in your wallet.
Serves 2 to 4
The sharp, tangy flavor of goat feta amplifies this Mediterranean dish to beyond ordinary. It also has
extraordinary health benefits – goat feta is highly digestible and a great source of protein. Make this dish
stand out even more for your Halloween celebration by using black quinoa and orange bell peppers.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed, drained, and soaked overnight
1 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces crumbled goat feta
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 heaping tablespoons chiffonade basil
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup vegetable broth
2 bell peppers, mixed colors of red, yellow, or orange, rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sunflower sprouts or pea shoots for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the sea salt, olive oil, and quinoa. Bring back to a boil,
then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and cool.
While the quinoa is cooling, cut the peppers in half length-wise, going through the stem if possible.
Remove the seeds and white ribbing and rinse well. Toss the pepper halves with olive oil, salt and pepper.
When the quinoa has cooled completely, stir in the crumbled feta, mint, parsley, basil, coriander and
vegetable broth. Fill each pepper half with the quinoa mixture and transfer the stuffed peppers to a small
sheet pan or casserole dish.
Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the feta has melted and stuffing is warmed through. Bake
longer if you like a more tender roasted pepper.
Transfer the stuffed peppers to serving plates and garnish with fresh sprouts or pea shoots.
Sitarani Brian, Vegetarian Chef, www.chefsita.com