Sunday, January 28, 2007

mas fuyu, por favor

Huh? What the hell is that a picture of you might ask? It is the inside of our worm bin, ready for a new batch of semi-rotted plant material (read: the inevitable fruit gone mushy or rank). If this were one of those photos where someone had drawn animation on top for that comic book-like effect, there would be a tiny message spelled out in individual coffee ground particles on the skin of some sweet potato that reads: NO MOR PURSIMNS! PLEEZE! or DON'T YA NED MOR COUGH-EE?

Two years ago, in a stupid decision (mine most likely) we put the worm bin outside so that it would not be a source of entertainment for our then rug-monkey. Problem was, red wigglers don't like it hot or cold. They prefer the ambient temps found in our local fog, and not much on either side of that. When we rescued them from their abusive outdoor conditions, the population in the bin had been reduced drastically. With them now safely inside, and with an injection of new annelid genetic stock, our "Wriggly Ranch" is now back on line, with a growing population when fed regularly. I'm back to feeding them about once every week or so, as they will only eat roughly their own body mass in food per day. If you "only" have a few hundred (500? who really knows, they're hard to count as you can imagine) then they are more fun than functional and it takes more than a few days for them to go through one day of compostable kitchen waste. They have their routine fare; coffee grounds, various peels and ends of things like potatoes; but I was afraid if I gave them persimmon again it might erupt in some bizarre protest. You see, after my last post, there were STILL 5 gooey fuyus on the counter, waiting for a purpose besides being fodder in the worm bin. I needed to try something new. No way around it, I'm going to ingest these frickin' fuyu if it kills me.

I went with the blended theme from last time as a base to start with. I was imagining something along the lines of a smoothie with fresh ground spices creating something reminicent of a chai tea, but with chocolate. I peeled the fuyus, plopped them in the blender and gave it a whirl. Mmmm, baby food. It was time to play spices. I had my lovely assistant to help me add and pulverize the spices that flowed out of the cabinet and into the mortar. I started with a few cardamom pods, peeling away the skins and mashing the seeds.

"What do we add next Daddy?" she asks, grabbing the pestle and clutching it in her hands. How about some cinnamon honey?


"What do we add next?" Some clove. THUMP, BASH BASH.

"And now Daddy?" Uh, how about a little ginger? The bottle gets turned past horizontal in her little paws, resulting in at least a full teaspoon dumped in. She begins shaking her head: "yeah, I like ginger, but not too much cause it's really really spicey." Not TOO much honey? Here let me have that bottle, thanks. SCRAAAAAAPE SCRAPE SCRAPE, THUMP.

"What's next?" Mmmm, black pepper. You know how to handle the peppermill, give it a few cranks over the mortar. SHICK SHICK SHIIIIICK SHICK.

The kitchen now smells like we're swimming in chai tea. Perfect. Now for some chocolate. I hand this to the monkey, counting on an ample addition of powder to our mix. FWUMPF!

SCORE! At least two heaping tablespoons of the chocolatl are now added. I look at the powder mix we have going, give it a whisk with a fork a few times and sample it by licking the tip of my finger and dabbing a taste on the end. The monkey, seeing this licks two full fingers and most of her palm, then begins to put her whole hand in the mortar for a fistfull of the concoction, until she looks up and sees my reaction. Thinking twice about the possibly forfeited spice grinding rights she now enjoys, she gives me a coy smile, dips her index finger in and says "I was just being silly."

It tasted nice and chai-ee, so I added some more chocolate (almost always a good decision, right?) and pondered how to mix it into the persimmon without it clumping. I drizzled some vanilla soy milk into it while the monkey whisked away. We poured the resulting syrup into the blender, added some sugar and hit play. It needed a bit more soy milk to get it circulating freely. When finished, I gave it a taste. Yummy? Well, not quite. It was a touch frothy in consistency, and along with the aromatic cardamom fumes it was somewhat hard to get down. I was about to ditch the couple cups in our compost bin outside, maybe even pour a bit in the worm bin for experiments sake. I thought about my options. Then I poured it into a few ceramic cups and put it in the freezer, intuiting that making it colder might somehow help while I thought some more.

A few hours later it dawned on me. Dilution is the solution to your polution (A joke saying I heard from my days working in the environmental field) We needed more mass, like at least 25% more. And of course, in the form of more chocolate and ginger. Scharffen Berger chunks, and diced crystalized ginger. Mmmmm. Talk about a no brainer though, I mean you could probably add this to cat turds and make it taste good (thanks JM).

With the proportions within my imagined parameters, and many bits of chocolate having "fallen" into my mouth, I removed the semi-frozen cement from the freezer and mixed in the aggregate. It looked good and promising, and a little nibble gave me hope that I had saved this free fruit from being recycled by the wigglers. Time would tell.

The following day, I tried it again, serving it up in one of those tiny little ramekins, embellished with some "theme" toppings. My first impression was that somehow I had managed to make a decent sorbet, that believe it or not, I would serve again, should anyone be brave enough to eat it once they are told the ingredients. I gave a bite to Aunty, knowing full well that persimmons aren't her thing, but wanting some feedback on the spicing from someone older than three.

"Whoa, chai! Damn D, that's a lot of cardamom......oh, okay, now there's the chocolate." What do you think, is it too much ginger?

"No. Cardamom though, yes."

So, I thought about my spice proportions, and figured that it might help if I wrote this one down, but adjusted the recipe to fit more of how it could have been altered for greater appreciation by others possibly infested with those pernicious, too soft to eat out of hand, persimmons.


4 cardamom pods
1 small cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2 t ground ginger
1 t black peppercorns
3 T chocolate powder (Scharffen Berger, just chocolate)
5 soft fuyu persimmon (very soft hachiya should work too, but maybe use 1 less as they tend to run bigger)
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk (substitute freely here)
1/4 cup diced crystallized ginger
1/2 cup coarse cut dark chocolate

Grind spices to a fine powder, add chocolate powder, mix well and taste. Feel free to add more chocolate, please. Mix whatever liquid you are using, a little at a time to the spice mixture until a runny syrup -like consistency is reached. Peel and seed (if necessary) the persimmons and puree in a blender. Add the spicey chocolate syrup, the sugar, and continue blending. Use more of the milky ingredient if needed to get the mixture circulating and smooth throughout. When thick enough to stick to the sides and certainly requiring a spatula for complete removal, transfer the mix into a bowl. Chop the chocolate into big chunks and the ginger into small ones and add. Mix thoroughly, then transfer into freezer safe containers (preferably serving sized) and let sit until firm. Serve. If its too hard for your liking, set it out for a minute and try it again later.

And yes, a disk of crystalized ginger and block of chocolate, sprinkled with chocolate shavings will make it taste even better.

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