Saturday, January 20, 2007

plentiful persimmons

Winter fruits. Good thing they last real long on the counter, in a cold house that is. We have had persimmons now for over a month, so when cousin Rohan dropped by and saw them (Bloody hell, is this another of your "biodegradation experiments?") he insisted that we take immediate action. He grabbed four of the softest, arranged them on a pillow and put them in the light in order to better contemplate our next order of business.

After a few moments of warming our faces in the sun, staring at the leathery looking orange skins and dried leaves, he announced "go clean out that mortar and pestle." I jumped to action moving toward the kitchen, allowing me to get most of the way out of earshot before he continued "I hope your arms are nice and rested cause its time for a workout!" After giving the mortar a cursory rinse, Rohan got down several bottles of whole dried spices, threw various amounts into the mortar and told me to get to work, while he arranged the rest of the ingredients on the counter and began outlining our plan. With my arms now numb with fatigue, he placed the ground mixture next to our produce and started giving directions. "Okay, now I'm gonna grind some almonds, so we can have a creamy component for our sauce......oh, and we're gonna need some dahl to go with this korma."

"Did you just say korma? But I thought we were doing something with these persimmons?"

"We are. Or will, that is."

I looked at our collection. Onions, garlic, tomato sauce, bell pepper, potato, rutabaga, mushrooms, and persimmons. I was struggling with just how this was going to come together when Rohan asked for a food processor. He peeled the fuyus, plopped them in the cuisinart and blended them to a bloody pulp (or so he said). With this done I chopped the onions and mushrooms and started cooking them in some olive oil over medium heat. When these were just starting to turn translucent, Rohan stirred in the spices and the kitchen came alive with aroma. With the sauteed mix looking sweet and just beginning to brown it was time for the fuyu fun.

We loaded on the tomato sauce and ground almonds while we were at it, adding a bit of veggie stock to get the right thickness for simmering without acting like a boiling mudpot. "Now we let these flavors meld together, for maybe two hours, while I enjoy your sourdough."

"And what shall I do?"

"Make us some dahl. I saw some leftover cilantro, an onion, and some oranges. I think you can make do with those. Oh, any chance you scored a used tandoori oven recently?"


"Then I guess I'll make this dough into pita instead......that is, providing you have a baking stone around here."

"Yeah, which one?

".......and an oven that it fits in."

Funny guy that Rohan.

I chopped the cilantro and sauteed it in a small pan with a small white onion. After five minutes of cooking, I squeezed an orange worth of juice into the pan and deglazed it, setting it aside until the lentils were boiling. The lentils were started in a mix of about 3/4 water to 1/4 veggie stock, so with the added onion mixture I was hoping they were tasty. Rohan asked how the sauce was looking. I thought it was still a little lumpy, maybe the almonds weren't ground finely enough or something. "Nothing a wee osterization can't fix now, hmm?" he suggested.

We blended it in batches until rather smooth. Now was time for the veggies we had leftover, and a block of tofu from the fridge. I cubed a potato, rutabaga and the tofu, then sliced up the carrots and bell pepper. With everthing added and simmering, we rolled out some dough balls, and put the stone in the oven, cranking it up to 500 degrees.

With the dahl done, the veggies in the fuyu korma tender, and the stone hot, Rohan baked some pocket pitas. I just couldn't help myself: "So Rohan, how is it you can make pita for this dish and still call it Indian."

"I never called it Indian my friend. Besides, like us eating seasonally I have to make do with what is currently available, and right now your home is lacking the proper oven for naan."

"Okay, I get it. And just because you had to bring it up again, you get to serve."

"Fair, bloody fair."

So eating it again, as lunch the next day with the monkey, I looked at my meal and laughed out loud. That cousin may be a pain sometimes, but I just love it when I'm part of one of his experiments in my kitchen. But I was left wondering, and I suppose I'll have to ask him next time, why it is he abhors all animal products in his food, yet freely and enthusiasticly uses the term bloody? What gives, it's not like he's from India, or any other former colony of England for that matter.

For now though, I'm thankful for getting some of those persimmons off of my counter, and for Rohan encouraging me to take them from the sweet side of my brain and place them firmly in the savory. Now in theory, I have twice as many opportunities for keeping them from sitting around for so bloody long.


Grind together the following:
1 T coriander
1 t cumin
6 cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 t black peppercorns
1 t turmeric
2 t ginger
2 t poppy seeds
1 t brown mustard seeds
When finished, toast for a few minutes in a dry pan and set aside.

3 onions (red, yellow, white)
5 large cloves garlic
6 baby portabellas
4 soft fuyu persimmon (I imagine Hachiya would also work as long as they are plenty soft)
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups almonds
2-6 cups of veggie stock
Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic together. Add spices and cook until onions begin to brown. Skin the persimmons and puree. Grind almonds (blend, chop, whatever) and add to saute along with tomato sauce and persimmon goo. Adjust the consistency with some veggie stock and/or water. The almonds will "soak" up a bit of liquid and you may need to adjust the thickness in order to attain a nice, smooth simmer. No flop, flopping, or pflapt pfoothing, think Don Ho, think Tiny Bubbles, and you'll get what I mean. Cook this together for at least an hour and feel free to blend it further if it is not smooth enough for you. After desired mouthfeel is achieved, cube up whatever root veggies you have on hand, and tofu if you like and add, cooking at a low simmer until the veggies are tender. We used:
1 russet potato
1 rutabaga
1/2 lb carrots
1 bell pepper
1 lb tofu

BLOODY ORANGE DAHL (Is not actually orange in color please note)

1 cup pink lentils
1 small onion
1 small bunch cilantro
1 blood orange (Cara cara actually, not quite the same thing, but Rohan insisted)
5 cups water
2 cups veggie stock
Saute the onion and cilantro. Squeeze the orange juice and add. Remove from heat before all of the liquid has evaporated and set aside. Boil the liquids together and add lentils and onion/cilantro. Lower heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered, checking frequently until lentils are tender. Give them a slight mashing if you prefer, before serving (with that fresh chutney you have just for this occasion of course)


1/2 cup starter (active)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup water
Combine these ingredients into a large bowl and leave covered for several hours in a warm place.
An hour before baking add:
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1-2 cups more flour (as needed, 1/4 cup at a time) until dough is no longer sticky.
Separate into a dozen or so balls and set aside to rise for an hour. Put pizza stone (or similar baking stone, I use a 12x12 inch, unglazed paver I got at the tile store for 3 bucks) into the oven and heat to 500 degrees. Flatten the dough balls, a few at a time, and toss onto the heated stone. After a few minutes the "pita" will puff up, and are more or less done, you can flip it over to bake some more but it is not necessary. Place into a basket with a towel to keep warm and serve with large scoops of korma and dahl. Oh, and as Rohan always suggests, a nice hoppy beer. Cheers.

1 comment:

Callipygia said...

I am so impressed with your culinary efforts with a little help from Rohan. I think of myself as being pretty adventurous, but mashed up persimmons...I'd never think to mix it up with rutabagas et al. Living in CA it is easy to get sick of them (trans. let them get soft and mushy). Berkeley Bowl used to have piles of gushy ones, but here it is almost impossible to find!