Friday, November 28, 2008

Pomegranate Pointer

Psst... wanna know a secret? Pomegranates are actually super simple to seed. Really. If you're avoiding buying fresh pomegranates that are in abundance right now because you envision a lot of work for very little reward, fear not. No need to spend hours with an ice pick digging out the stubborn seeds, only to wind up with a kitchen resembling a crime scene from all the vibrant red juice. Use my method, and you'll have nuggets of pomegranate joy within minutes - and a clean kitchen to boot!

Here's the secret: Quarter the pomegranate, and then "crumble" the wedges under water in a bowl. That's it. The seeds will sink to the bottom, and the flesh and peel will float to the top. Strain the water, and voila! Perfect pomegranate seeds every single time.

Wasn't that easy?!

Persimmons: Pleased to Know You!

I know I know... we're all lamenting the seasonal end to luscious, juicy summer fruits and berries. But really, there's no need to be sad when there's just as many Autumn goodies to be had: apples, pears, pomegranates, and my favorite: persimmons!

Growing up as I did in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah, I had no idea what a persimmon even was until I moved to Northern California. But now, I wait eagerly for them in the fall, and gorge on them while I can. When I met my husband, my persimmon fanaticism was in full swing, and it very well could have been the prolific persimmon trees on the grounds of his cottage that sealed the deal (actually, our relationship wasn't all thanks to the persimmons, there were also fig, pomegranate, apple and pear trees at the self-titled "Weed Farm and Spider Ranch" - how could a girl say no?).

To the uninitiated, persimmons are an Asian fruit - gorgeous orange in color - and there are many, many varieties. But there are perhaps two that you are likely to encounter: Fuyu persimmons, which resemble a tomato in shape and can be plucked right from the tree and enjoyed just like a crisp apple, and Hachiya persimmons, which give the fruit a bad rap! The Hachiya are the more globe-shaped persimmons that are astringent and very, very bitter if you bite into them before they are ready. And by ready, I mean squishy - almost rotten if compared to the standards of other fruit ripeness. But when the flesh becomes soft, the fruit is delicious as a puree that has countless uses in baking.

My favorite (of course, since I don't really bake), are the Fuyu. As mentioned, I eat them just like an apple, but learned a simple trick from my friend Aerial last persimmon season: squeeze some fresh lime over sliced Fuyus, and the flavor explodes on a whole other level.

And since now is the persimmon/pomegranate season, it's only fitting that I include a recipe that incorporates both, courtesy of the lovely and talented Betsy Mueller. Enjoy!

Persimmon and Pomegranate Tart
  • 1 sheet ready-made pie crust (or make your own, if you're so inclined)
  • 6-10 ripe Fuyu persimmons, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
In a bowl, combine sliced persimmons with brown sugar and coat well. Let fruit macerate and become juicy. Lay out pie crust in a 12-inch round on a cookie sheet. Arrange persimmons in the center of the crust; sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the top. Fold in the edges of the pie crust, and brush with some of the persimmon/brown sugar juice. Dust crust edges with cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg. Bake in a 375-degree oven until crust is fully cooked and fruit filling is bubbly (approximately 30-40 minutes). Let cool before topping with a syrup of pomegranate reduction (recipe below), serve and enjoy!

Pomegranate Reduction

  • The seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 1/2 cups water
Place ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Mash the pomegranate seeds and continue to boil for about 5 minutes, mashing the seeds every minute or so as they continue to soften. When you feel like you've mashed the seeds as well as can be mashed, strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a second saucepan. Return to the heat, add the red wine, and continue to boil until the juice has reduced to a syrup, perhaps another five minutes. Add sugar in tablespoon-sized increments until desired sweetness.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Fare to Remember" Cookbook on Sale Now!

The wait is finally over! Co-author Carolyn Hindes and I are pleased to bring you "Fare to Remember." This 200-page cookbook features full-color photos for each and every recipe, the majority of which were prepared and photographed in the Hindes "Test Kitchen" and enjoyed in the company of friends throughout the course of the last year. Available from in either Hardcover with dust jacket: $56.95, or softcover: $43.95 ('s retail pricing; there has been no additional mark-up). The book makes its debut just in time for the holidays! This unique, homemade book makes for a wonderful gift for all of the foodies in your life. Tasty indeed!

Preview and purchase it at the links provided (click on the blurb link above or the badge below) - but make sure to send me any comments about the book right here on the blog. I want to know what you think!

By Morry Anne Angell...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Finding a Cure: Let the Olive Harvest Begin!

Check out my latest endeavor: curing olives! Courtesy of four very ripe olive trees on the property of the winery tasting room where my husband, Randall, works, we harvested a new hobby. We were out plucking the olives from the trees with Italian music on the stereo and a glass of champagne in our hands - an impromptu tango interrupting the picking. Such a fun morning!

But actually getting the bitter raw olives cured into something palatable is a whole other story. I've never done it before - so I'm hoping the experiment bears fruit, so to speak! I scoured the internet for curing recipes - and they are all over the map; none very specific. Oil cured? Salt cured? Lye cured? (I don't think so!) So, I cobbled together a brine - the quantities of the ingredients purely an educated guess at this point. But I'm recording it here for future reference, successful or not!

Cured Olives

  • 1 10-gallon bucket of ripe olives
  • 1 pound sea salt
  • 2 ounces citric acid
  • 12 lemons, halved
  • 5 heads of garlic
  • 24 dried Bay leaves
After individually scoring each and every single olive by hand (there goes my day!) - I then soaked and rinsed them in clear, cold water, filling and draining the bucket probably 5 times until the water ran clear of debris. I then filled the bucket one last time, submerging the olives by about 1 inch. To the water, I then added all of the other ingredients, and mixed well. I placed a large dinner plate weighted with a rock over the water to keep the olives submerged. And now I wait. I guess I change the brine solution every few days, or as bubbles and scum start to form around the edges of the plate. I'll test them after a week or two to see if the bitterness has been leeched, and hopefully I'll have something edible by Christmas! Stay tuned...

Let's Talk Turkey

This time of year, it seems as though supermarkets are just giving away turkeys. Literally. I went grocery shopping a couple of days ago, and lo-and-behold, I was given a free turkey by the cashier (apparently, my purchases qualified me for an in-store promotion). I got the bird home, and wouldn't you know it - I didn't have enough room to store it in my freezer (it was a big bird!). So I roasted it up, and even now as I type this, I am still enjoying the aromas (with the finished bird all carved up for sandwiches, soup and enchiladas, I'm making stock from the leftover bits). But it occurred to me that roasting a turkey is intimidating for some. There are enough places out there to get recipes for prepping your holiday bird, so I won't go there - but I will outline a few things that I do that ensure succulent, juicy roasted turkey every time!
  • Stuff the interior cavity of the bird with aromatics. For the turkey pictured here, I used lemon wedges, garlic cloves, fresh rosemary and fresh sage. I seasoned the exterior of the bird with only salt and pepper.
  • Slip little pats of butter underneath the skin in strategic locations (the breast, in particular). Just make small incisions to the skin, poke the butter through the holes, and then flatten it out sub-derma with your fingers. The more places you sneak in the butter, the juicier (duh!).
  • Roast the turkey in high heat - I use a 400-degree oven. As such, tent the bird with aluminum foil until the last 30 minutes or so to keep it from over-browning. By removing the foil at the end, you'll get a beautiful caramel-colored exterior.
  • USE A MEAT THERMOMETER! It may seem obvious, but you just have to do it. Otherwise, you'll run the risk of over- or under-doing it, and there's just no turning back. Place the thermometer's probe at the deepest part of the breast. I turn off the oven when the temperature reading reaches 180 degrees; when it reaches 190 degrees, I take the bird out of the oven. I then let it continue to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes before carving.

The Vegetarians Are Coming!

So my dad and his girlfriend, Anju, came to dinner this weekend. Anju is a vegetarian, and although my dad doesn't necessarily adhere to a vegetarian diet, he subsists mostly on foods of the plant variety. In addition, my dad is watching his carbs at the moment (just all the refined white stuff). I had a fun time coming up with a menu that covered all the bases in terms of dietary preferences, and think I succeeded in making it pretty darn scrumptious as well. On the menu was
lentil soup, courtesy of Anju (I'll have to get the recipe for a future post - it was delicious), a delicate rocket lettuce salad and a seasonal vegetable polenta pie that took advantage of the last of this year's heirloom tomatoes. For dessert, gala apples baked with pecan/maple granola and topped with honey Greek-style yogurt (a total copycat of a dish I recently had prepared by my friend Betsy's mom - I've been craving it ever since!). Enjoy the recipes!

Rocket Lettuce Salad
  • Baby arugula (rocket lettuce), washed and dried
  • Sliced almonds, toasted
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved
  • Simple lemon vinaigrette: whisk together equal parts freshly-squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil; salt to taste.
Dress the greens lightly with the simple vinaigrette. Top with almonds, parmesan shavings and fresh-cracked black pepper.

Vegetable Polenta Pie
  • 1 cup polenta, dry
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 4 cups button or crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 3 small zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
Begin by making the polenta. Combine the dry polenta and water in a saucepan and let come to a boil, stirring constantly. The polenta will absorb the liquid and become thick. Stir in the olive oil and continue to cook until creamy (continue to stir). When complete, spoon the soft polenta into a deep casserole dish and spread to cover the bottom evenly. Brush the top with olive oil, and pop into a preheated 400-degree oven. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until the top of the polenta "crust" is firm to the touch (but not crispy!).

While the polenta crust is in the oven, prep and assemble the vegetable pie filling. For the zucchini and onions, use a mandolin to achieve a uniform slice. When the polenta crust is removed from the oven, start to layer the vegetables on top of the polenta base: a layer of tomatoes, followed by the onions, followed by the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Continue layering with the zucchini, followed by the chopped basil, followed by the fresh mozzarella. The final layer is another tier of tomatoes, artfully arranged. Return entire dish to the 400-degree oven, and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and vegetables are cooked through.

Baked Apples
  • Gala apples
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Granola mix of your choice (I used a pecan/maple granola)
  • Greek-style yogurt, plain or honey-flavored
Cut the gala apples in half; remove the stems and seeds. Place skin-down in a deep-sided baking dish that has been oiled. Sprinkle each apple half with a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg; add a teaspoon off brown sugar to each as well. Top with a spoonful or two of granola. Add a splash of water to the bottom of the baking dish. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until apples are tender. You may need to cover or tent the dish to avoid burning the granola. Garnish with a dollop of the yogurt.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not a Cupcake - a Cakelette!

At the office last week, we initiated co-worker and friend, Sierra Fish, into the "28 Club" (those were the days!). Sierra - a fan of cookies for breakfast - had to go on a campus-wide scavenger hunt first thing in the morning to round up some lovingly-made baked birthday treats. Affectionately dubbed "Cakelettes" by baker Nancy Olivas, these scrumptious mini cakes differ from cupcakes in that she filled the cupcake holders only halfway, providing a more even proportion of cake to icing (less mound of cake, more room room for creamy topping - brilliant!). Here's her delicious recipe (and if you go the full cupcake route, I guess that's ok too!).

Chocolate Cakelettes (or Cupcakes - whatever!)
Contributed by Nancy Olivas
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine the first six ingredients in a medium bowl. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer on high speed, about 5 minutes. Next, add the eggs, one at time. Reduce speed to low and add chocolate, then the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk, then the vanilla and mix gently.

Spoon batter into the cupcake liners and fill about 1/2 full for cakelettes (2/3 full for cupcakes). Bake until a tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk
Combine all the icing ingredients until well combined, and spread over cakelettes.

I'm Blogging! A Little About Me and How the "Fare to Remember" Blog Came to Be

This blog is the result of a year-long cookbook project that I worked on with my good friend, Carolyn Hindes. The response to the book was pretty enthusiastic, and it became obvious that people may be hungry for more (I was getting requests for Volume II before the first book was even completed!). My qualifications to blog about food? Virtually nil. But I love to cook, love to eat (even though I admittedly have a love/hate relationship with food!), and am surrounded by friends and family members with similar interests and talents. We are unabashed foodies. I am fortunate enough to live in Northern California, where fresh, seasonal, local, organic and sustainable ingredients are readily available, and world-class restaurants are at my door; it has made me acutely aware of what good food is, and how to appreciate it. And living in Napa Valley doesn't hurt either - everything is better with a glass of wine!

But I suppose my love of all things culinary started long ago, when my most-adventurous cook of a mom would prepare exotic meals from scratch at home. We were eating spicy Mexican food and sizzling Asian creations long before anyone in my casserole-and-jell-o-salad suburban Utah neighborhood knew what a taco or a samosa was. From her, I learned the value of a garden (what I would give for my childhood raspberry patch!), the importance of variety, and the spirit of adventure and experimentation in the kitchen - even if I didn't know it at the time. She encouraged trial and error, and more than accommodated my culinary ambitions.

One of my earliest memories (albeit not necessarily a good one) - was when I was just a toddler, and reached for a spoon on the stovetop where my mom was making candy of some sort. The spoon flipped hot molten sugar onto my face, burning me on the cheek. My catchphrase became "Burn-A-Face!" But, the episode didn't scar me - literally or figuratively - and I've been reaching for the stove ever since.

I'll never forget my first published recipe: I was in kindergarten, and it was in a school cookbook. I contributed an original meatloaf recipe. It wasn't an eloquent recipe (wasn't much of a writer at 5), but vividly remember several adults in my life chuckling over my basic instructions (along the lines of "crack an egg, squish it with the hamburger, bake it in the oven"). As a youngster, I didn't realize everyone wasn't comfortable improvising behind the stove or manning a grill; it had just always been a matter of course for me. So it was inevitable that I was always the one to assume the role of cook - whether it was whipping up after-school snacks or dreaming up dinner party menus. As such, my friends knew I was a foodie long before I ever did. The gifts I would receive even as a teen were food-related, from those who recognized that my affinity for making and enjoying good food was closer to my heart than most other things. (Honestly - who gets a 16 year-old a salad spinner or a cast iron Dutch oven? My friends - that's who!)

And I suppose that if you poke around my resume a bit, I do have a pint-sized history of food writing. While in college, I was the Food and Features Editor of a local community newspaper, "The Cache Citizen" (now defunct, sadly!) - a position that suited me perfectly! While my more investigative journalist-type peers filled the food pages with in-depth reporting (Salmonella: Can It Happen To You?), I gravitated toward the really juicy subjects (Edible Flowers: Pretty AND Tasty!).

But it wasn't until I moved to the Bay Area that my appreciation for food became anything more than half-baked. For visiting friends and family, farmer's markets and restaurants became just as important to show off as the Golden Gate Bridge. Courtesy of a volunteer role with Marin Ballet, I got to know a great many of the Bay Area's most prominent and talented chefs through their "Great Chefs in Great Homes" fundraiser. It became my privilege and passion to watch these chefs work, taste their glorious creations, glean from them a few tricks of the trade, and make relationship that garnered me access to their kitchens. Add in my husband, Randall's, restaurant and food connections (he works in the wine industry) - and my life very quickly became surrounded by fantastic food and wine on all sides.

It was through "Great Chefs in Great Homes" that I started photographing food, and developing an eye for what makes a compelling food photograph. I'm still working on it, but with this blog, I hope that my food photography and styling continues to get better, as it already has after spending a year on the "Fare to Remember" cookbook.

And speaking of the photography - I really have no qualifications in that department! I just like to think I have a good eye, and get lucky most of the time. I certainly am not a technical photographer by any means - talk of F-stops and aperture settings is largely lost on me. But I know what I like, and will work hard to see my vision materialize. What I can guarantee is that my photos don't rely on any of the food styling tricks that some photographers employ - what you see is what you get; hopefully, I will do justice to the many recipes that will grace this site.

And speaking of recipes, my weakness in the kitchen is baking. Anyone that knows me, knows that I don't bake. I'm not a dessert freak, so I've never been compelled to bake. Couple that with the fact that I grew up with a very talented baker (my sister, Kendra) and my reasons for taking up baking were few and far between. And all the measuring - I just don't have the patience! So, any of the baking that appears on this blog will undoubtedly be done by someone else, and certainly the recipes will be contributed by others. So, if you see a conspicuous lack of baked goods here, I apologize in advance, but will always welcome submissions!

So welcome to the "Fare to Remember" blog - please subscribe! (It's easy - just follow the instructions at the top of this page, right hand side.) I encourage you to leave your comments in the spaces provided at the end of each article - your feedback will be most appreciated! Let me know what you think of the posts, give your suggestions for future articles, and comment on your own success with any of the recipes. And, as mentioned, send me your submissions! I want your recipes to share - so if you've got a winner, send it my way.

Thanks everyone - here we go!