Autumn Quince, Kale and Grain Salad

  • Posted by: Tomato Head, Market Square Manager • November 16th, 2017

 

It seems like only yesterday when we were all gaga for cheese plates – especially ones heaped with glistening mounds of Marcona almonds alongside thin, tender wedges of a Spanish cheese called Manchego.  If you can remember those days of not-too-long ago, you may also remember that Manchego and Marcona almost always came accompanied by a curious little wedge of fruit paste.  That paste, aka Membrillo, represents one of the few modern 15 minutes of fame enjoyed by a fruit almost forgotten and certainly neglected by modern American cookery – the quince.

Of course, you might have met the quince via Edward Lear.  He mentions the fruit in the “Owl and the Pussycat,” though he uses it just before the word runcible – a word he seems to have created – that fact, as far as I was concerned, threw suspicion on all the other unfamiliar words in the verse:

 

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

 

It’s really a little sad that more of us don’t know the quince.  It is a fruit of noble pedigree; almost certainly present in the Fertile Crescent (which we called the “cradle of civilization” when I was a lad), it was well known to the Ancient Greeks.  The fruit was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite and may have been the prize that Paris awarded her in the fateful beauty contest that started the Trojan War.  Nice legacy, eh?

Quince is available at most grocery stores during the fall.

But in colonial America and up until the 1920’s the quince tree was a regular resident of gardens and orchards of all degrees.   Unlike its cousins apple and pear, it’s not a fruit well suited to casual munching – though rumor has it that there are a few varieties that can be eaten straight from the tree, most quinces are chalky and tart – not a pleasant combination.

But after some quick Google research, the quince’s reputation isn’t all Greek to me –  it looms large in Persian cuisine and was mentioned by the Roman chef, Apicius.  When cooked, this hard and tart orb transforms into a tender, magical and luxurious bite laced with flavor associations like honey, pear, vanilla, and guava. Because of its extraordinary pectin content, it produces a rich, nearly unctuous syrup when cooked in liquid.

But in both Iranian and Roman cooking the quince is used as a part of savory dishes.  Apicius’ has a recipe for Quince Stew with Leeks that features a good plug of Garum – the Roman incarnation of fish sauce.

Mahasti’s not using fish sauce for this recipe, though, of course, you’re welcome to do what you want.  This dish calls for sautéing the quince with onion and kale before tossing it with shredded beets and whole grain.  The result is a nutty, toothsome and deliciously unique riff on Autumn flavors that’s right at home on the Thanksgiving table.  It has the added advantage of being something that no one else will bring but that everyone will love.

Tomato Head’s Quince, Kale and Whole Grain Salad

1/2 cup spelt or other whole grain such as Farro, Wheat, or Kamut

3 cups kale, cut the stems into ¼ inch pieces and the leaves into ½ inch strips, keeping the stems and leaves separate

2 medium quince, quartered, cored & sliced about 3 cups

2 small beets, shredded, about 2 cups

1/8 cup vegetable oil

½ cup onion, diced

3 Tbl Balsamic

2.5 tbl olive oil

1/2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Soak grain berries overnight.  Bring 1.5 cups water to boil in a small pot.  When the water comes to boil, drain the grains and put them in boiling water and cook on a gentle boil for 10 minutes.  Drain the grains and set aside

Meanwhile, peel and shred the beets then toss them with 1 TbL Olive oil, 1 TBL Balsamic Vinegar and ½ tsp salt

In a large skillet sauté the onion in vegetable oil for 1 minute until just starting to get soft

Add the quince and kale stems and sauté 7-8 minutes min on medium low heat until the quince are soft.  Transfer the quince to a large bowl and set aside.

Return the same skillet to the stove.  On low heat add the balsamic vinegar and allow to vinegar reduce for about 1 minute.  Add the olive oil, honey and the grains.  Stir briefly, then add the kale leaves, turn the heat off, and sauté the kale, just until it starts to change color.

Pour the kale mixture in with the quince.  Then add the shredded beets, season with salt and toss.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Prep time 30 – 45 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Chef’s Knife

Stainless Mixing Bowl

Cutting Board

Glass Measuring Cup

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Box Grater

Vegetable Peeler

12″ Iron Skillet

12″ Stainless Skillet

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