Category Archives: Fruit

A Prickly Affair With Persimmons

While this is a faux persimmon, my new-found adoration of Hachiya persimmons is very much real.
While this is a faux persimmon, my new-found adoration of Hachiya persimmons is very much real.

Like so many great love affairs, this one began with trepidation.

After all, an astringent personality is not something one warms to readily. What was required was untold patience for its latent sweetness to reveal itself in time.

Such was my relationship with Hachiya persimmons.

Now, with its cousin, the Fuyu, the attraction was immediate. Cheerfully hued, beguilingly sweet, and ready to eat in a flash while still crisp, the Fuyu is thoroughly captivating in salads or pickled.

But the Hachyia? Well, it was more like that demon lurking in the shadows in a horror movie, biding its time as it transformed ever so slowly but surely into something blobby, oozy, and frightening.

Can you blame me for trying to avoid it for years?

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Lamb and Butternut Squash Ragu with Mint, Orange, and The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe

Whole canned cherry tomatoes in their juices from Europe make this pasta dish even more of a treat.
Whole canned cherry tomatoes in their juices from Europe make this pasta dish even more of a treat.

Ancient landmarks, breathtaking artworks, artisan foodstuffs perfected over generations, and the intricate fashions crafted by Prada, Dior and Givenchy.

Those are some of the things I most love about Europe.

Now, comes the newest addition to my list: canned tomatoes.

Yes, really.

I never thought I’d get that excited over such a basic pantry staple until the Italian Association of Canned Vegetable Industries and European Union founded the marketing program, The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe, to spread the word far and wide about its canned tomatoes. As part of the program, they began sending out free samples to food writers like myself to give them a try.

I received two cans, 400g each, of Davio Gragnano whole, peeled long, oblong and cherry tomatoes, vacuum-sealed with their juices. When you open the cans, what’s most striking is that the plump tomatoes are afloat in a fairly thick puree of a sauce, not the weak, watery liquid usually found inside most supermarket canned tomatoes. I dipped a spoon in to taste a very vivid tomato flavor. While you might strain out and discard the liquid in other cans, it would be a waste to that here because it was actually a bonus — getting tomatoes and sauce in one.

Samples from the Greatest Tomatoes From Europe.
Samples from the Greatest Tomatoes From Europe.

Inside my sample box were also packages of Pastificio G. Di Martino Italian dried pasta. So there was no question that I’d be making a bountiful pasta dish out of it all. Of course, not that I ever need an excuse to make pasta.

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Autumn Was Made For Gingered Apple Pork Chops

Easy cooking, easy clean-up in one pan.
Easy cooking, easy clean-up in one pan.

Pork, apples and grapes are an unbeatable trio especially at this time of year.

Best yet, “Gingered Apple Pork Chops” can be prepared in just one skillet. It’s practically fast enough for a weeknight meal and impressive enough looking for company, too.

It’s from the new cookbook, “Half Baked Harvest Super Simple: More Than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped, and Easy Comfort Foods” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

The book is by Colorado recipe developer Tieghan Gerard, creator of the blog, Half Baked Harvest.

Included are more than 125 recipes, most of which take 30 minutes or less to make. As the title implies, these are dishes that make use of organized prepping, streamlined techniques, a well-stocked pantry, and helpful gadgets at times.

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Sorrento Limoncello From A Carmel Restaurateur

The family recipe for this limoncello dates to 1902.
The family recipe for this limoncello dates to 1902.

Rich Pepe may have grown up in New Jersey, but his family’s southern Italian roots have lived on deliciously since his grandparents emigrated here.

His upbringing, surrounded by a large extended family who made their own wine, jams, breads and pastas, had a profound impact on him. Indeed, after arriving on the Monterey Peninsula, Pepe worked as a baker, and eventually purchased the historic Carmel Bakery in Carmel-by-the-Sea. He, his wife and two sons now oversee half a dozen Italian-inspired establishments in the area. Besides the bakery, they include Little Napoli, Bistro Italian; Vesuvio; and Peppoli at Pebble Beach.

If that weren’t enough, he also makes his own limoncello. PepeCello is hand-crafted in small batches in Sorrento, using only certified organic Sorrento lemons.

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Who Can Resist A Sunny Slice of Tahitian Pineapple Pie?

A taste of Hawaii in a pie.
A taste of Hawaii in a pie.

What do two Centers for Disease Control scientists know about making pies?

Apparently, a whole heck of a lot.

Married couple, Chris Taylor, an epidemiologist specializing in Alzheimer’s and aging, and Paul Arguin, retired head of the CDC’s domestic malaria unit, are avid home bakers. After meeting, they began entering amateur baking contests together — and winning them like crazy. To date, they’ve won more than 600 awards, trophies, ribbons and certificates for their glorious pies.

Now, they’re showcasing their fanciful creations in their first cookbook,

“The New Pie: Modern Techniques for the Classic American Dessert: A Baking Book” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

There are pies for every occasion and for every baking level, from the “Mocha Mystery” and “Guavaberry Apple” to “Strawberry Margarita with Salted Rim” and the one that garnered them “Best of Show Winner” at the National Pie Championships, the jaw-dropping “Peanut Butter Checkerboard.”

As befitting two scientists, this is a very technical book, which means the recipes are quite long because they are extremely detailed. So, don’t freak out when you scroll down at the one below.

Their “Tahitian Pineapple” pie is the one I tackled. While I’ve made my share of pineapple upside-down cakes, I’d never made a pie with fresh pineapple at its heart.

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