Monday, November 30, 2009

Mushrooming - November 30

More chanterelles - the weather is warm and mushroom hunting on motorcycle in easy to access spots is a great way to trip link... :)


You can hide! But we'll find you, little chanterelle!

Our harvest!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vegan Persimmon Salad Dressing

On a whim - I grabbed a container of persimmon pulp and put it in the blender as I was whipping up a salad dressing.  It was REALLY good - so, I did it again with similarly awesome results.  While this isn't exactly a recipe - here is a list of the ingredients I put in, correcting to my taste.

  • 2 c persimmon pulp
  • vinegars of your choice (I like orange champagne, rice wine and apple cider vinegar in salad dressings)
  • nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 olive oil (use even less olive oil than you normally would, if at all)
  • 2-3 purple shallots (not the long skinny green onion kind)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2-4 Tb coarse prepared mustard
  • fresh or dry herbs
  • pepper
  • salt or a dash of soy
Puree the heck out of it - add vinegar or other liquid to make it thinner, nutritional yeast to make it thicker.  Got a tomato? Throw it in!  :)

I threw in 1-2 (hard to tell) smoked red jalapenos packed in olive oil (about 2 cups survived my attempt at smoking on the fire pit).  Came out super smoky and yummy!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Collard Greens & Golden Chanterelles

Collards don't need to be prepared with fat and meat - they are a fantastic and versatile vegetable that can tolerate long cooking periods without falling apart.  After reading through some traditional recipes, here's my current favorite way to prepare my collards.

  • 1 large bunch of collards 
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 1 cup dried chanterelles (or other dried mushrooms like shiitake, but for black trumpets or porcini, use 1/2 cup due to stronger flavor)
  • 2 red Pimiento de Padron peppers (or other mildly spicy red pepper)
  • 1-2 small sweet red peppers (or Anaheim)
  • 2 Tb tomato paste
  • 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
  • water, to cover
  • salt, to taste

  1.  Prepare the collards by cutting out the thick ribs.  Reserve the ribs for broth or to chop into fine dice to cook as a separate dish.  Roll up the leaves lengthwise and cut off 1/4" - 1/2" strips.
  2. Place all collards into pot and cover with water, turn on high heat.
  3. Add vinegar.
  4. Fine dice half onion, thin slice remaining half and add to pot.
  5. Crush dried mushrooms in your hands to break up large pieces before adding to the pot, along with finely minced peppers and tomato paste.
  6. Bring to a boil, add water as necessary and then reduce to simmer until broth is thickened.  You can serve with a slotted spoon (reserving the broth for other uses) or cook down until there is nearly no broth left (more goodies on the greens).
Note: this could take a couple hours on simmer.  Get this started early and let the scent fill the house while you prepare the rest of your meal.

    Fourteen Cups of Flour Later...

    I just made a 7x of the Basic Persimmon Cookie recipe, and have a few notes:
    • when you hit the "blend" button to puree the persimmons, make sure the lid is secured tightly as the persimmons tend to be thick and will "jump" when the blades move
    • when you are cleaning up the 1 cup of persimmon from the wall, counter & floor, don't forget to unplug the blender (or make sure the lid is on tightly) when you move it to clean around it or you will end up with another 4 cups of persimmon sprayed up into your closed cabinet and all over your dishes
    • get out the Very Large Food Service stainless steel mixing bowl before it gets dark & cold outside
    • blending in the baking soda &  powder with the puree is a very good idea - it's more evenly distributed in the overall mix for large batches
    • potholders
    Now, I just have to get these cookies bagged and put into store in my friend's empty freezer and figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my weekend.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Persimmon Jam

    PERSIMMONS are a bit tricky.  They are not exactly chop or mash-able.  So, I put them in the blender and whiz them - but that introduces a few air bubbles into the puree.  It spreads really nicely on dehydrator sheets for fruit leather, though.  Since persimmon pulp is taking over my fridge, I decided to try making some jam out of the pulp - put it in the blender and ended up with a thick, persimmon-butter like jam.  It's so good - my taster says that he can't believe that there are no other spices added because the persimmon flavor is so rich and yet so subtle and complex.

    • 12 cups of pureed persimmon pulp
    • 3 cups of sugar
    • pectin as directed by Pomona's Pectin
    Heat up the puree in the pot before adding the sugar.  It helps if you thoroughly mix the pectin with the sugar, first.  However, since the persimmon is so thick - I found that the sugar and pectin didn't dissolve very well.  Next time, I will try reserving some of the puree mix the pectin and sugar in the blender before adding it to the rest of the pulp already hot in the pot.

    • 11 - 8 oz jars persimmon jam
    • 5 - 4 oz jars persimmon jam

    Sunday, November 22, 2009


    I love applesauce.  I hate quartering, coring and peeling apples.  I've been doing it since I was 10 years old - and always found that the hand pain was just no fun at all.  This year, I decided to try something easier - I halved the apples and used a melon baller to scoop the cores, cooked up the apples and then put them through the food mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid.

    I was amazed and pleased to discover that this worked a lot more easily - with no clogs! - than the tomatoes!  And, in fact, there was way less waste than if I had cleaned the apples by hand!  I ended up with about 2 cups of skins & centers from the apples instead of a whole bowlful of seeds & cores.

    Next time - I'm just going to quarter them and leave the seeds/cores and run the cooked apples through the food mill.  Even less work!  Even less waste!


    8 - 16 oz jars of applesauce

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Mushrooming - November 21

    After some showers on Friday, I was excited to head out to some newly discovered moist spots for more chanterelles with my trusty mushroom hunting protegee, Scott.  We skipped "the usual" spot and went to the spot we discovered a couple weeks ago and explored more adjacent areas.  We even went in for a walk on some trails closed to mountain bikes because we were on foot - and Scott had never been on these trails because he was always in this area on a mountain bike.  Scott noticed that "there are a ot of cobwebs across this trail!"

    Of course, that's a GOOD sign - and I kept scanning the ground. After the second or third time he said that, I stopped him and said "Well, we could go back or - we could pick those mushrooms."  Wouldn't you know it - after picking several pounds of chanterelles, we nearly stepped on some growing ON the trail.  We crawled into the underbrush and picked more mushrooms, returning home victorious with 5# of beautiful golden chanterelles.


     Giant banana slug



    Little white funguses that look like mung bean sprouts everywhere:

    Pretty - large - shrooms growing under bay trees:

    Yup! It's a chanterelle!

    Growing right on the trail!


    More beautiful fungi -

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Strawberry Jam, Redux

    The strawberry jam I made in June was tasty but - it wasn't the deep ruby red color that I wanted.  I wasn't sure quite what happened there, til I came across this fantastic Bay Area Bites article on Strawberry Jam using directions based on a Helen Witty "Good Stuff Cookbook" recipe.

    The basic premise is simple - macerate with sugar, capture the juices, simmer the juices to syrup, add berries, put in jars - voila! No pectin!

    1. Weigh your strawbs, add the sugar and some lemon and let it macerate in a non-reactive container - overnight in the fridge of several hours on the counter at room temperature, stirring occasionally to get the sugar mixed in and dissolved.  
    2. Heat in a pot and bring to a simmer for a couple minutes.
    3. Return berries & juice to non-reactive container for a few more hours or overnight.
    4. Sterilize your jars - I like to wash mine in hot water and keep the in the oven at 150 on a cookie sheet.
    5. Strain the berries from the juice. 
    6. Simmer the heck out of the juice until it starts turning into a syrup
    7. Add the berries.  Mash if necessary (I sliced mine before macerating).
    8. Simmer again until the berries are translucent and the jam thickens.
    9. All usual tests for setting apply.
    10. Put into hot sterilized jars, seal and lick all your spatulas, spoons and fingers before washing them.  OK, that last bit wsn't in the instructions but it happens.
    • 3 lbs berries
    • 3 cups sugar
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    4 - 8 oz jars strawberry jam
    2 - 4 oz jars strawberry jam

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Sweet Red Pepper & Persimmon Chutney

    Chutney is one of my favorite things - on bread, on potatoes, on a nice vegan wheat gluten "field roast" - and it's a great way to use up a lot of persimmon!  Using the same winning spice combination as the Fig-Early Girl Tomato chutney recipe from 2 months ago, I whipped up a big pot (but not too big - lest I get myself into trouble as I did with the gigantic proportions of last year's persimmon chutney recipes!).  This time - I built the recipe to the pot, minding the proportions of my favorite chutneys, and happened to have on hand a pile of sweet red peppers from Mariquita's Mystery Box - so the combination fell into place.

    Sweet Red Pepper & Persimmon Chutney
    • 6.5# persimmon pulp - scooped from skins & coarsely chopped (you don't want it to be fibrous/stringy after it cooks)
    • 3# finely chopped white or yellow onions
    • 2# - 2.5# finely chopped sweet red peppers (stems, membrane & seeds removed)
    • 2.5 oz garlic, fine chop
    • 2.5 oz ginger - chop, put into blender with 1/2 c vinegar and add water as needed - blend til smooth and then press through metal strainer with a rubber spatula - reblend with a bit more water if you think you can get more pulp out (goal: no ginger "hairs" in chutney this year!)
    • 2 c. apple cider vinegar
    • 2 c. packed brown sugar
    • 2 Tb chili flakes
    • 2 Tb salt
    • 1 tsp each: white pepper, coriander, fenugreek, black mustard - ground in spice grinder & added to pot
    Simmer til onions & peppers are soft.  Pack in jars & process in hot water.  Eat what doesn't fit into jars with a spoon or on warm bread.  Yum.

    • 4 - 12 oz jars sweet red pepper & persimmon chutney
    • 16 - 8 oz jars sweet red pepper & persimmon chutney
    • 9 - 4 oz jars sweet red pepper & persimmon chutney

    Persimmon Cookies - Update!

    As it turns out, the basic recipe is probably the best one.  The additional persimmon did not make the cookies taste more persimmon-y - though the texture was pretty good out of the oven.  The real test has been the way the cookies stand up to the passage of time.  The original recipe came out a lot more cakey and has kept from hardening very well in the past week.  The modified recipe - well - warming them in the toaster oven makes them less hockey-puck like, but they are still dryer inside.  So, how does this work -  you put in more moist ingredients and the cookie dries out faster?  More research needed - sticking with the original basic persimmon/pumpkin cookie recipe as posted.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Golden Chanterelle Risotto

    Risotto is one of my favorite dishes - I don't make it nearly often enough and when I do, I always make plenty to eat for several days after. Since picking a wonderful bounty of chanterelles last weekend with my friend Scott -- instead of dry sauteeing and freezing them as I often do -- I've been making up delicious chanterelle dishes every night so that my friend can develop a taste for them and will want to go hunting more with me all winter.

    Golden Chanterelle Risotto
    • 3 c Arborio rice
    • 1 lb Golden Chanterelles (chop the stems into discs, thinly slice the tops)
    • 1 Delicata squash, roasted & chopped into 1/2" chunks
    • 1-2 shallots chopped (the small red onion variety, not spring or Welsh onion variety)
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    • 2-3 yellow carrots, diced
    • 1 bunch of radish greens, chiffonaded (or sub a cup or so of other savory greens arugula, white mustard or kale)
    • 1/2 c dry cooking sherry
    • 1 T dried thyme
    • 3-4 T fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1 c. of the tiniest cherry tomatoes you can glean from your garden
    • salt, to taste
    • black/white pepper, to taste
    • olive oil, as needed
    • saffron (optional)
    • 8 c veggie stock
    1. STOCK: Pour veggie stock into a stockpot at the back of the stove and start to warm up on low.  You want to keep this at a simmer while you're actually adding it to the risotto.  I threw in the stems from dried thyme for extra flavor - stems from other herbs might work nicely, too.
    2. SQUASH: Start to roast your delicata before you start the risotto - they cook up pretty quickly and the squash does not need to go into the risotto in the first part of cooking (unless you want it to cook down and blend in more).
    3. SOFFRITO: Sautee carrots, garlic & shallots in several Tb of olive oil on med-high until softened - but don't burn!  Add chanterelles & cook until the chanterelles start to release all their liquid and then add the dry cooking sherry, radish greens, parsley and dried herbs.  Once the greens are a bit soft, scoop all the veggies out with a slotted spoon (I like to use a mesh disc with bamboo handle for stir fries that I picked up in an awesome Asian  housewares store on Clement St).
    4. TOSTATURA: Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil to the reserved juices in the pan and stir in the risotto.  Cook on medium til the rice is transluscent - you'll hear a clicky-clicky sound that is different from when it is first put into the pan.
    5. COTTURA: Add your first ladle of broth and stir in the reserved veggies & delicata squash.  Stir the risotto gently to keep it from sticking, and once it has absorbed the broth a bit, add more.  The trick is to always keep the rice just slightly covered with broth and don't cook it on too high a heat or it will stick.  This is the stage when the rice releases the starch and starts to look creamy. 
    6. ALL'ONDA:  don't forget to taste your rice! You want it to be "al dente" - not totally mushy but cooked with a little "bite" in it.   Just before it gets to the "al dente" stage is when you want to toss in those tiny cherry tomatoes -- the bigger they are, the earlier they should go in - but you don't want them to cook - just to warm up so that they burst with warm tomato goodness when you take a bite of risotto.
    7. The last stage is MANTECATO - when butter & cheese are added, but that is up to the cook - not necessary in my vegan kitchen when the risotto is so delicious without!  I just add salt, pepper and in this case - some saffron.  Stir in the additional spices and serve.
    8. LEFTOVERS - you want leftovers, trust me.  Remember to "heat gently" - you don't want to overcook the rice.  Short spurts in the microwave work, or leave it out to warm to room temperature and then heat in a pan adding a little hot water/broth in small amounts just like you did to cook it.  Warming it in the oven (with cheese on top if you insist) also works pretty well.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Persimmon Cookies

    After reviewing 2 dozen recipes for persimmon cookies online, it seemed that they were all so very similar, despite claims of individual authorship or creation.  One website has three different persimmon cookie recipes - which all have the same ratio of the same ingredients!   For further analysis, I pulled about 18 of them into an excel spreadsheet and organized the ingredients so that I could see the patterns.  You can download my spreadsheet as a 2 page PDF (printable as horizontal-legal).

    With few exceptions, the basic persimmon (or even pumpkin) cookie looks like this:

    Basic Persimmon Cookie
    • 2 c flour
    • 1 t baking soda
    • 1 t baking powder
    • 1 c sugar
    • 1/2 c fat (shortening/butter)
    • 1 c fruit, pureed
    • 1 egg (or replacer of your choice)
    • 1 c raisins
    • 1 c nuts (optional)
    • salt (from a pinch to 1 tsp)
    • cinnamon (1/2 to 1 tsp)
    • ground cloves (1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
    • other spices - ground nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom
    Instructions: cream sugar & fat.  Sift dry ingredients together in separate bowl.  Add persimmon & egg to creamed sugar/fat & reblend.  Add dry ingredients.  Add raisins.  Spoon onto cookie sheet, bake 12-15 minutes.

    RESULT: I made a 4x batch of this recipe and my conclusions and taster responses are as follows:
    • Scott: tastes like Thanksgiving/Xmas, can't tell if it's persimmon or pumpkin
    • Scott's vegan co-worker: approved.
    • Front neighbors: offered that if they were millionaires, they'd give me the start-up cash to go into business creating my own line of foods.
    • Me:  too sweet and not persimmon-y enough.
    After thinking about it - and running some ideas past my friend Lacey (author of "I Can't Believe It's Vegan" and partner in new vegetarian wine bar in Oakland called Encuentro) in a chat session last night - I decided on these modifications to the recipe, including omitting nutmeg.

    Vegan Persimmon Cookies, Take 2

    • 2 c AP flour
    • 1/2 c Sucanat
    • 1/4 c shortening
    • 1.5 c persimmon pulp
    • 1 t baking soda
    • 1 t baking powder
    • 1/4 t salt
    • 1 T flax meal + 3 T water
    • 1 c raisins
    • 1 t cinnamon
    • 1/2 t ground cloves

    Cream sugar & fat. Puree persimmon in blender, add baking soda/powder/salt/spices & blend again. Add persimmon to sugar/fat & cream again. Whip flaxseeds & water in blender or food processor til frothy. Add to wet mixture & combine thoroughly. Add flour & mix till combined, scraping the sides and bottom. Add raisins. Spoon onto silicone baking sheet liner with teaspoon, rounding batter with fingers or spatula. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Optional: top cookie with 1/4 tsp size of persimmon paste.

    RESULT:  if you overbake, the cookies are a bit dry.  The persimmon flavor comes through a bit better; the cookies are more cake-y than crisp/chewy.  I am going to do another batch with 1/3 c shortening instead of 1/4 c to see if that improves texture a bit. I am also going to do a version with granulated maple sugar instead of Succanat.  I'll just update this blog entry instead of starting over.

    Sunday, November 08, 2009


    While mountain bike riding with friends in the Oakland Hills this morning, I stopped to move a dead squirrel off the road since "roadkill makes more roadkill."  As I started to remount my trusty steed, I nearly stepped on two golden chanterelles growing in the gravel inches from the paved road.

    Needless to say, I grab those little golden fungi and dropped my bike.  In just a minute, I had 2# of chanterelles in my hands - and no place to keep them.  I wrapped them in my polar fleece vest and stashed them in Scott's CamelBak. Then
    we high-tailed it for home to put on long pants & hiking shoes.

    First we went to "the usual spot" - where we found about 3/4 lb of Oyster Mushrooms and 1# of chanterelles. Then we returned to Dead Squirrel's Spot - it was probably the most ideal first mushroom hunting trip ever - Scott had a great old time comparing it to a children's Easter egg hunt. We also collected trash (being so close to the side of the road, it helps make a plausible excuse) and picked every chanterelle we could find - bringing home about 8# in mushrooms.

    Saturday, November 07, 2009

    Wednesday, November 04, 2009

    Persimmon Paste

    A review of my freezer tells me two things - first, I still have frozen persimmon puree from last year.  Second, roasted tomato sauce, persimmon puree and carrot soup all look fairly similar in the freezer and should be labeled appropriately.

    After rave reviews of my quince paste (dulce de membrillo) it occurred to me - why not do this with some other fruits? Like, for example, persimmon?

    I measured out equal quantities of persimmon & sugar, mixed and heated it.  Concerned that it would not set as well as the dulce de membrillo (remember - quinces have more pectin in them than other fruit), I added some pectin (based on volume) and cinnnamon to the persimmon paste.

    Let me tell you - this stuff sticks to the pan at higher temperatures a lot more readily than any jam or quince paste has!  You have to keep the heat low and stir often - once it reduces, then put it into low dishes or cookie sheets lined with canola oil rubbed parchment paper and put into the dehydrator.  The persimmon paste set a lot more quickly than the quince paste (likely the pectin) and according to one friend, "it tastes like Thanksgiving!"

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Persimmons - 2009!

    Today I went to my friend's house and helped harvest unripe persimmons.  We cleared probably less than 50% of the tree - there are still a lot on the tree.  It seems like more than last year - perhaps because we picked so many last year that the tree was very happy about it!  I brought home two big blue tubs weighing about 75# each. 

    This year, instead of laying the persimmons out in a single layer on the floor and tables of my project room - I decided to utilize the solar dehydrator.  The weather is cool enough and the right setup would keep the ants out - Dobson, of course, helped.

    Now, I just have to wait and start figuring out what to do with the ripened persimmons!