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Lucky Foods – New Year’s Day

I am not superstitious. Not very much anyway.

Though it is true, as a rule, that I don’t break mirrors, walk under ladders or open umbrellas indoors, and I certainly never, ever utter the name MacBeth aloud in a theatre.  But despite what you may think, it’s not superstition – it’s practical magic.  After all, shards of glass are decidedly unlucky, as is a hammer, or any object, when dropped from an elevated position; and while I don’t mind raindrops fallin’ on my head, a wet entryway has only ever brought me unhappiness and a sore backside.

As for saying the name of Shakespeare’s bewitched tragedy – I don’t worry about bringing a curse upon my head by saying the name aloud.  I do however, worry about other people who worry.  Believe you me, you meet one neurotic actor who believes in that superstition, and you’ll honor it all your days.

Nonetheless, I eat lucky food on New Year’s Day because I believe.

Almost every culture has a set of good fortune foods. In the South, many of us make a habit of eating collard greens and black-eyed peas, often with fried hog jowl or any bit of pork in order to guarantee good luck for the coming year.

Prep is Done

Where Collards are concerned, my mama says it’s all about the color of money.  And that sounds reasonable enough to me, though one wonders if this hearty green is thought lucky because of its preference for cool weather.  Green vegetables that taste better after a frost seem like a providential find for folks who grow their own.

Black eyed peas come with a whole host of luck associations – some tracing the tradition to a reference in the Babylonian Talmud about foods to eat at Rosh Hashanah, and others crediting the humble but plentiful pea with saving countless starving Southerners after the Civil War.  But, as with collards, both of these associations may have their roots in more pragmatic thought than a concern for fortune.  A good bowl of peas can last you for a couple of days so you don’t have to cook daily, and it’s an abundant crop that keeps well.

In many parts of the South black-eyed peas are mixed with rice and, thus, create Hoppin’ John.  Rice itself is an ancient symbol of prosperity and fertility, and, I reckon, putting the two to together makes some powerful juju that can carry you through 365 days of life’s varied twists and turns with a favorable edge.

But, of course, it’s only good juju if you actually eat it.  And honestly, a plain old can of peas and instant rice isn’t gonna be very

Ready to Eat…. Lucky You!

tempting.  But if you’ll take a look at Mahasti’s recipe below, at the very least you’ll have pretty good luck at getting folks to eat your New Year’s creation.  It’s a simple recipe with an unexpected and delicious ingredient that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Plus, Mahasti tops her Hoppin’ John with a vibrant collard green salad that adds a very healthy crunch and a welcome splash of the color of money.  I can’t swear that it’s good luck, but I can assure you that it all tastes good.

At the end of the day, though, I believe less in good luck than I believe in good habits.  This simple dish is nutritious, frugal, and easy to make at home in family-sized batches that keep well.  And while I don’t make resolutions for the New Year, I do believe that making a start with good food habits is a sensible response to the sheer indulgence of the previous weeks; I can weigh the sugar I’ve consumed in pounds.  And getting into the habit of eating well and eating things you’ve cooked with or for people you love is the kind of good sense that may not make good luck but will make you feel pretty darn lucky.

Find our recipe for black-eyed peas here and one for the collard green salad here.

Gingerbread


Cookies are magic.

Gingerbread People

We know it instinctively.  It might be that some of us grew up believing that little elves who live in hollow trees make magic in the form of fudge stripes on shortbread and the like.  For me, the magic is in the memory of family kitchens filled, especially at this time of year, with palpable enchantments; the lust of the forbidden cookie dough followed by that bewitching but tortuous aroma of cookies in the oven.  Just writing those words makes my head spin like no love potion could ever hope to do.  To this day, even the memory of that smell can cast a craving on me that won’t quit until answered.

And of all that aromatic cookie magic, the most potent is gingerbread.  The secret, methinks, is in the formidable combination of ginger and molasses which creates a darkly sweet but lively dough that produces a rich baking aroma that gets inside of me and makes me feel warm and, of course, very, very hungry.

It’s not a new magic by any means, gingerbread in various incarnations populates the histories of many cultures.  Likewise, the magic of shaping food into shapes for a little magical mischief is an ancient bit of sorcery.  Of course, it probably all started with clay and idols, but those aren’t particularly tasty.

In Medieval England, ladies would sometimes eat gingerbread husbands in hopes of acquiring the real thing.  I can’t imagine that was particularly efficacious magic – gingerbread is sweet and adorable and, from what I can tell, men in medieval England were not overly sweet as a rule.

But how gingerbread men came to be a part of the Christmas tradition is unclear – perhaps it evolved from the German tradition of creating gingerbread houses which were associated with the yuletide.  Or maybe it’s just one of those things that happens – somebody put a cookie on a tree for decoration and, abra cadabra, a tradition was born.

But the real magic of gingerbread isn’t in the shape, per se – it’s in the creation, the fact of the making, the act of the shaping and most importantly, the cooking of it.  The rich aroma of gingerbread in the oven is the aroma of home. And isn’t the magic of home a big part of what we observe this time of year?  No matter what holiday we celebrate, it’s always better at home – whether that’s a family moment or time shared with close friends, perhaps even pets, spending time with those we love is the real enchantment.

Homemade gingerbread is the by-product of love, which, of course, is the greatest magic of all.  And it’s never too late to find your inner wizard.
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Gingerbread Cut Out Cookies

3 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour

1 cup, packed Light Brown Sugar

½ tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Soda

4 tsp Ground Ginger

½ tsp Ground Clove

4 tsp Ground Cinnamon

2 sticks plus 1 TBL Unsalted Butter at room temperature

3 TBL Whole Milk

1 cup Blackstrap Molasses

Mix together the Flour, Brown Sugar, Salt, Baking Soda and spices in the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment until all the ingredients are mixed together well.  On low speed gradually add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse sand.  Mix together the milk and molasses.  With the mixer running gradually add the molasses mixture to the mixing bowl and mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and a soft dough is formed.

Divide the dough up into 2-4 balls.  Flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.  Dough can also easily be frozen for up to 30 days.  Simply remove from the freezer 24 hours prior to baking.

Cooling Off

When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.   Line your cutting board with a sheet of parchment paper big enough to cover the board and also fit your cookie sheet.  Remove your gingerbread dough from the refrigerator.  Dust the surface of your parchment paper heavily with flour and roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut your desired shapes into the cookie dough, leaving ¾ of an inch, enough room for cookies to expand in the oven, between each shape.  Remove the excess dough from in between the cookies shapes and reform the excess dough into a disk, which you can either re-roll out or refrigerate or freeze for future use.  Lift your cutting board off of your work surface and gently tilt it towards your cookie sheet, sliding the parchment paper with the cookies onto the cookie sheet.  Gently re-arrange the cookies if necessary, giving them enough room to expand in the oven.

Bake the cookies for 10 – 12 minutes for a soft cookie and 12-14 minutes for a crispy one.  Allow cookies to cool.  Ice with Royal Icing and decorate with sprinkles.  Allow icing to harden and enjoy.

Check out our recipe for royal icing to decorate your cookies.

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Stand Mixer

Cutting Board

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Glass Measuring Cup

Rolling Pin

Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutter

Gingerbread Girl Cookie Cutter

Royal Icing

This is a great icing for icing sugar cookies and gingerbread cut out cookies

Piping Royal Icing

 1/3 cup Pasteurized Egg Whites

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3-4 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted

Beat the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with your hand-held mixer until the mixture looks frothy.  Add the vanilla and with the mixer running on low speed gradually add the powdered sugar.  If you want an icing that is easily spreadable add enough sugar to get the icing to slowly ribbon off the beater or whisk.  For an icing that can be piped, add enough powdered sugar to get the icing to form stiff peaks and cling to the beaters or whisk without leaving the beater or whisk when held away from the bowl.    Divide the icing up into smaller portions for coloring or use white.  Place the icing in pastry bags fitted with the tip of your choice and pipe onto cookies.

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Flour Sifter

Cranberry Muffins & Cranberry Sauce


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Muffins

7 TBL Unsalted Butter, melted

1 Extra Large Egg

1 Egg Yolk

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/3 cup Whole Milk

1 ¾ cup All Puprose Flour

¾ cup Sugar

2 ¼ tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

1 recipe Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Additional sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a Lodge cast iron mini cake pan with butter and set aside.  Or line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners and set aside.

In medium bowl whisk together  flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a small skillet over low heat, melt butter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.  Gradually whisk in melted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once.  With a wooden spoon mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until almost all the dry ingredients are incorporated.  A few bits of dry ingredients are fine so you don’t over mix your batter.

Using a 1.5 oz ice cream scoop  – scoop batter into each mini pan.  Dip a spoon in water and gently spread the batter into the pans.  Spoon 1 -2 tsp of prepared cranberry sauce on top. Scoop about ½ a scoop of batter on top of each muffin and spoon another 1 tsp of cranberry sauce on top.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake muffins for 10 minutes at 425, then drop the temperature to 375 and bake an additional 20 – 25 minutes, until the tops are cracked and nicely browned.

Cool the muffins and serve warm with butter and additional cranberry sauce.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

12 oz bag fresh cranberries

1 cup apple juice

½ cup sugar

zest of ½ and orange

place cranberries in a medium bowl of cold water.  Lift the cranberries up out of the water by the handful, and pick out and discard any bad ones.  Put the good cranberries in a medium pot.

Add apple juice, sugar and orange zest to the pot and give it a quick stif.  Place the pot on high heat and bring to boil, then reduce the heat to simmer, stirring occasionally.  When most of the cranberries have popped and the sauce is starting to thicken, about 20 – 25 minutes,  remove from the heat, cool to room temperature and serve, or refrigerate.

Cranberry sauce can be warmed back to room temperature or served cold.

Sauce keeps for at least 1 month refrigerated.

Makes 2 cups.

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Lodge Cast Iron Drop Biscuit Pan

Stainless Steel Disher

8″ Open Skillet

Stainless Mixing Bowl

Whisk

Measuring Cups

Measuring Cup

Measuring Spoons

3-Quart Saucepan

Zester/Grater

Gretchen Adreon – Featured Artist

“What does it mean?”

I haven’t taken a poll, but it might be interesting to ask how often an artist working in the Abstract hears that particular question.  It might be more enlightening to ask if that question becomes challenging to hear over time – not because it’s necessarily a bad question, but because most people ask the wrong person.

It’s not a question for the artist: It’s a question for you.

Gretchen Adreon’s exhibit at our Market Square restaurant is an opportunity for you to pose that question to yourself over and over again.  And that’s just how Adreon likes it.  When a work is complete, she says, her hope is to “leave an open space and the viewer will be able to add their own feelings and connect with the piece to complete the process.”

And of course, that means that there are many answers to the question of what’s all about.  “From the very beginning I have had

Ghost of a Chance

people telling me their feelings and impressions of my work. I LOVE that – that’s when the whole process comes full circle to me. When someone is engaged in the work, I feel I have succeeded. Sometimes one viewer sees what another cannot see at all but sees or, even better, feels something totally different. “

Adreon comes of an intensely creative background.   She describes her father, a sign muralist who climbed some of the tallest buildings in Chicago to paint sign fronts as  ”the most fearlessly creative artist I’ve known. He used our house as his canvas in almost every room to paint, sometimes we would go to school in the morning with one thing on the wall in a given room and come home to something totally different.”

This literal immersion in creativity led Adreon to her own artistic expression at an early age – one that, over time, she thought might lead her into her father’s medium, graphic art.  But an encounter with a passionate artist and teacher changed her perspective and fueled her passion: Artist Anton Weiss, “…changed my thinking completely on what my own art might look like. He was such a force to his students, had actually studied with Hans Hofmann, and for the first time ever I began feeling freedom and passion at what I was doing.”

Adreon’s art begins as an emotional expression that, through any number of implements and materials -from trowels to sandpaper, and more- remains an open and emotional experience to share with the people who see it.  Although this may leave the definition of her imagery in the eyes of others, Adreon is more than comfortable with that process: “My emotions went to abstractions rather than concrete imagery. I have never regretted taking that direction, however many, many people see images, figures and, yes, landscapes as well.”

Return

Looking at Adreon’s paintings is an adventure in perspective: at one glance, one feels present in an infinite horizon, but a moment later, the waters rise, the wind blows, and the sand shifts.  But each moment is your own and that’s beautifully liberating in a world where facts and figures can overcrowd the brain.  The paintings have a sense of depth but, even more, they are full of possibility.  Adreon’s work is an invitation to think and to feel and to express that all for yourself.

As for what it all means?  Well… why don’t you tell me.

Gretchen Adreon will be on view at the Market Square Tomato Head from December 4th through January 7th, 2018.  She will then exhibit with the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from January 9th through February 5th, 2018.

Pinto Beans and Cornbread and Sauteed Greens – Facebook Live Episode 5

In an age of convenience, it’s pretty easy to grab a can of well-seasoned beans, a can of whatever kind of greens – mixed or not- that suits you, and you can even grab a round of cornbread neatly wrapped in cellophane and head to the self-scan checkout in about 10 minutes if there’s no line.

You can do that for almost any kind of food that suits you – if that suits you.

I suspect we all want to eat better, fresher food and to eat with our families, perhaps even to cook with them, too.  It’s an ideal and authentic urge that we watch happen on screen, we talk about it and even write passionate posts about it, but, like Mark Twain said about the weather: everybody talks about it, but nobody actually does anything.  Perhaps that’s a little too broad – many of us try to cook.  Even if it’s just frozen fish sticks, we feel the need to make the effort from time to time.

We eat with our aprons on

But regardless of nutritional consideration, there are a host of good, solid memories that never get created if we don’t take a little time in the kitchen with the ones we love.   And these memories are investments that keep paying out for a lifetime.

In today’s episode, Mahasti’s making a simple country dinner – maybe you call it soul food, or maybe it’s comfort food to you; for me, it’s a memory of Mamaw Ethel and a special time and bond that we created nearly 40 years ago.  Even thinking about it makes me miss her and love her and feel special all over again – just like I did then when she and I would sit alone in the kitchen with a bowl of beans and big shaker of garlic powder.  Nobody else in my family seemed to love this seasoning like we did, so when we shared this moment, we would giggle as we made the surface of our beans white with garlic.  It was our moment.

It’s a simple memory, I know, but my heart swells and my eyes water with longing to live it once more.  Mamaw Ethel left us 17

The finished dish

years ago, but her cooking, beans, yes, but also stack cake, and oyster dressing, and cornbread and apple dumplings and more live in me so much that she’s with me every time I smell and eat them or any of the food that she made and shared with a heart full of love.

You can’t get that from a can.

It’s not just good nutrition that you give your family when you take the time to cook and break bread with them – it’s a lifetime of

comfort and love that you’re creating.  Maybe you have memories like that?  If you do, you know the value of time spent in the kitchen.  We hear a lot about gifts that keep on giving – this is one of the best of them.

When we say Food Gotta Cook it isn’t just a tag line for us – it’s a way of living and a way of loving that sticks to the ribs of the soul.  It’s not as convenient as a can, but it lasts a whole lot longer.

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Pinto Beans

Finished beans with toppings

1 cup dry Pinto Beans

3.5 cups water

½ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Black Pepper

Look over the pinto beans and discard any rocks.  Place the beans in a small bowl and cover with enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches, and let soak overnight.

Drain the beans in a sieve and rinse with cold water, then place them in a small pot.  Pour 3.5 cups cold water on the beans and bring to a boil.  Cook the beans for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans are soft.

Add the salt and black pepper.

Serve the pinto beans immediately.  Beans can be made a day or 2 ahead and re-heated or frozen, thawed and reheated.

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time 5 minutes

Inactive time 12 hours

Cook time 1 hour

 

Sour Cream & Buttermilk Cornbread

Cornbread batter ready to bake

¾ cup Sour Cream

¾ cup Vegetable Oil

2 Eggs

1 cup Buttermilk

1 ¾ cup Cornmeal

1 TBL Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl whisk together the sour cream, oil, eggs and buttermilk.   In another medium bowl mix together Cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with whisk until all the ingredients are mixed well.

Pour the cornmeal batter into a greased 10-inch cast iron skillet.  Bake the cornbread for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or a thermometer register 195 degrees.

Cornbread can be frozen, thawed and reheated in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until warm in the center.

Prep time:  15 minutes

Bake Time 25 minutes

 

Sautéed Greens

Sauteeing the kale

4 cups Kale leaves or other greens

1 TBL Vegetable Oil

2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar

¼ tsp salt

Wash Kale.  Cut the stems into ½ inch pieces and set aside.  Cut the leaves in half lengthwise, and into ½ – ¾ inch strips.  Keep the stems and leaves separate.

Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add kale stems and sauté for 1 minute.  Add leaves and sauté just until the leaves are beginning to wilt.  Add the Vinegar and salt and sauté 1- 2 minutes longer.  Remove from heat and transfer the greens to a small bowl.

Serve Family style or to assemble:  Cut a piece of cornbread and place on a plate, top with a ladle of pinto beans, followed by sautéed greens and chopped onions.  Serve Immediately.

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 5-7 minutes

Purchase Mahasti’s Suggested Utensils

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Measuring Cups

Glass Measuring Cup

Measuring Spoons

Whisk

Silicone Spatula

10″ Iron Skillet

12″ Iron Skillet

2-Quart Saucepan

Strainer

Stainless Tongs

Scott’s Sage Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

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2 cups All-Purpose flour

1 Tbl Baking Powder

½ tsp Salt

3 Tbl chopped fresh Sage leaves

4 Tbl Butter

A smidge over 1 1/4 cups Buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, add chopped sage and mix well.  With a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut in cold butter until all the butter is pea size.  Gently stir in buttermilk.  Mixture should be wet so that it can spooned.

Drop biscuits onto a parchment lined baking sheet and baker for 14-16 minutes.

Biscuits can also be used for topping your favorite pot pie.

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Glass Measuring Cup

Stainless Mixing Bowl

Dough Blender

Wooden Cooking Spoon

Turkey Pot Pie with Buttermilk Sage Drop Biscuits

Every holiday has a unique set of traditions, of course, but Thanksgiving is special because it comes with an extra set of conventions for the flip side of the holiday.  Naturally, there’s football, football and football, but there’s more: many families use the day after Thanksgiving to put up a Christmas Tree; there’s the annual depleting or deploring of stores that open on Black Friday; and there’s also the ritual complaining or rejoicing about the abundance of leftovers.

For many folks, eating the remains of the day is a simple thing; turkey sandwiches are legion and come layered with dressing, perhaps a generous spread of mashed potatoes and a side of gravy for au jus style dipping.  And it can be a fun way to close the holiday and play top chef as you present your creation with chefly jargon like “a clever riff on the holiday” or “a deconstruction of the feast.”

And as much fun as all that can be, leftover turkey presents yet another opportunity to gather together at table, touch the souls of your family and friends, and maintain the comfortable mood of the holiday regardless of bad punt returns, strands of lights that expire only after they’re on the tree and even the stress of maddening crowds at the mall.

A steaming pot pie, fresh from the oven is a nearly iconic symbol of the special kind of comfort that comes with a Sunday at Grandma’s house. But it’s easy to create that feeling at your own home with Mahasti’s simple recipe – especially since the bird is cooked, and you’ll probably have many of the other ingredients on hand, too.

There are two things that make Mahasti’s Pot Pie stand out. One is the inclusion of pumpkin.  It will be easy to think about leaving that out, but, if you do, you’ll miss a rich and almost mysterious flavor element that really amps up this recipe.  When cooked like this, adds a subtle sweetness and earthy flavor that matches perfectly with potato and cream sauces.  And it enhances the velvety, even luxurious texture of the sauce.

The other element that makes this recipe stand out is that instead of a pie crust or puff pastry, Mahasti tops the pie with biscuits.  I don’t have to tell you what a biscuit can to do a meal, but when it sits on top of a pot pie it gets a beautiful brown top, a fluffy middle, and a bottom that’s happily situated in the pie’s gravy-like sauce.  These particular biscuits get a seasonal surge from the inclusion of fresh sage that fills every bite with flavor – and if you haven’t tried sage and pumpkin together, you’re missing a very fine savor sensation.

Pot Pie is a simple way not only to put those leftovers to a delicious use but also to extend the warmth and fond memories of family time around the table.
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For the Filling: 

¼ cup oil

1 cup celery. diced

1 cup carrot, sliced into half moons

¾ cup onion, diced

1 medium sized potato -1 cup diced

1 cup cooked turkey, shredded or diced

Peel the potato, cut into ¼ inch thick slices.  Cut the slices into strips and dice the potato.  Place the potato in a pot of cold water.   Place the pot on the stove and cook the potato until it the chunks are just firm, 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the size of your chunks.  When the potatoes are cooked through, drain them and place them in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, dice celery, carrots and onion, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for about 1 minutes, then add celery and carrots and sauté for 2-3 minutes until vegetables are just beginning to soften.   Add the vegetables to the bowl with the potatoes.  Add the cooked turkey.

Place skillet back on the burner, over medium heat and make the sauce.

For the cream sauce:

2 ½ Tbl unsalted butter

2 Tbl all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

1 cup water

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup pumpkin puree, optional

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 Tbl fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Add the butter to the skillet.  When the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk until all the flour is absorbed into the butter and no lumps remain.  Mix together the milk, water, and heavy cream, pour the mixture into the butter mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens slightly.  Add the pumpkin puree, if using, then add salt, pepper and parsley.  Pour the sauce over the cooked vegetables and turkey mixture and stir until the everything is mixed well.

Pour the pot pie filling into an 8×11 baking dish.  Top with Sage Buttermilk Drop Biscuits and bake in a 400-degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until biscuits are slightly golden brown on top, and the mixture is bubbling.

Remove the pot pie from the oven, and serve.

Serves 6-8.

Prep time: 30 – 45 minutes

Cook time: 20 – 25 minutes

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Cutting Board

Chef’s Knife

Vegetable Peeler

8″ x 11″ Rectangular Baking Dish

Autumn Quince, Kale and Grain Salad

 

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.
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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

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design