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Persimmon Black Pepper Tarte Tartin

What do you do with a free case of Persimon© Persimmons?

Well, aside from eating them straight out of the case, I made a persimmon chutney to serve with some sous vide pork and then I played around a bit with the rest. Out of everything else I made, this tarte tartin was my very favourite.

I have been making an eggplant tarte tartin in cooking classes this year and it's a huge hit every time. The eggplant cooks down in the gooey caramel until it is reminiscent of stewed figs and the hit of freshly cracked black pepper in the caramel is almost as unexpected as the fact that you are actually eating eggplant for dessert. If it's fabulous with eggplant, it's kind of a no brainer to assume it's going to be even better with persimmons.

I threw in a bit of cardamom and some pecans for good measure and I can now say, in my best FogHorn LegHorn voice, all puffed up chest and with a full air of confidence, that this is going to be my go to holiday dessert this year.

Persimmons are a seedless fruit from Spain that are almost like a cross between a peach and a mango and are in season until January so they are perfect to keep on hand all throughout the month of December. If you have a couple persimmons and your handy, dandy ready made puff pastry in the freezer, you will have a show stopping dessert in no time.

thanks again to the fine people of Persimon© for the fruit!

Persimmon Black Pepper Tarte Tartin 

2-3 persimmons, sliced into wedges ( I used Persimon© persimmons)
1/4 cup + 2 tbls room temperature butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 or 4 cardamom pods (sub in about 1/4 tsp ground if you don't have pods)
freshly ground black pepper
handful of whole pecans
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted and rolled out to 1/4" thick

preheat the oven to 425F

Spread your butter over the bottom of a 10" oven proof skillet. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and crush them in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder and then stir the cardamom into the sugar. Distribute the sugar evenly over the butter. Finally, grind a generous amount of black pepper over the whole thing.

Arrange your persimmon slices on top of the butter/sugar in a tightly packed concentric circle, fitting in pecans where you can along the way.

Let this cook, undisturbed, over medium heat until the caramel is bubbling and starting to turn golden brown - it should take somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it so that you don't let it burn.

now, take our your puff pastry and cut a circle to fit snugly into your skillet - if there is excess, just tuck it in.

Pop this into the oven for 25 minutes. Let it rest out of the oven for about 5 minutes before you invert it out onto a serving plate. If some of the fruit stays in the skillet, just scrape it out back onto the top of the tart (if the caramel has started to harden a bit, just warm it up again over low heat and that will soften up the caramel so that it can all be scraped back onto the tart.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream or creme fraiche - basically , any of the creams.

*you can make this up to 3 hrs ahead, leaving it in the skillet, uncovered, until you are ready to serve it. At that time, reheat the skillet over med low heat for a few minutes to soften the caramel back up before inverting the tarte.

Taking Persimmons Out For A Test Drive - Persimon® Chutney with Pork Chops

I'm not gonna lie, when the fine people from Foods from Spain offered me a free case or two of persimmons to experiment with, there was no way I was going to refuse. After being introduced to this fruit in Spain,  I realized that we only eat them raw and that I have never tried to cook with them before. Now was my chance to rectify that situation.

These sweet, seedless little beauties have finally arrived in Ontario all the way from Ribera del Xuquer, Spain (at Metro and Sobeys) and they will be available until mid January. Actually, they are available until January or until they are all gone so you should grab some soon to incorporate into your holiday menus. Because these Persimon®  persimmons don't need to be ripened, they are ready to use straight from the store. Knowing that they are already ripe takes some of the guesswork out of purchasing a fruit that might not be so familiar and you won't have to stand in the aisle, shaking it, squeezing it and knocking it off your forehead to try to figure out if it's ready to eat.  

Make sure to look for that blue sticker that says Persimon® on it to guarantee that you are getting the right kind though because some other varieties can be quite astringent. When you get them home, store them in a bowl, away from other fruit, on the counter and that's that.

I was asked to choose one of the recipes that was provided and, as always, I also experimented with them myself and those resulting dishes will be coming soon.

Since I had these big, fat pork chops burning a hole in my freezer, I settled on this Persimon® Chutney with Pork Chops. To be honest, I always think I don't like fruit with meat, but sometimes I have to remind myself that even I need to break out of my comfort zone from time to time and this was one of those times because it was delicious. The chutney was a bit spicy, a bit sweet and the fruit kept it's shape even after the 15 minutes of simmering.

One big change:
I cooked my chops using my sous vide at 140F for two hours  (a big pat of butter, kosher salt and a sprig or two of thyme on each chop) and after searing them in lots of butter, I deglazed the pan with some chicken stock, a splash of cream and a dollop of grainy mustard to make a pan sauce as well. The creamy, mustardy pan sauce was the perfect partner to this sweet and slightly spicy chutney so keep that in mind too.

Because the texture of these particular persimmons is similar to a peach or a mango so you can use this fruit in any recipe that you would normally use peaches for. Throw it in fruit crisps, pies, cakes, puree it, chop it and throw it in a smoothie, turn it into a salsa, jam or a chutney and, as I mentioned before, it's great on a cheese platter or served with charcuterie. 

Pork Chops with Persimon® Chutney

1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) shallots, finely diced
3 tbsp (45 ml) pine nuts
2 cups (500 ml) Persimon®, peeled and diced
2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice

1/2 cup (125 ml) water
1 tsp (5 ml) ginger, minced
1/4 cup (60 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1/2 tsp (2 ml)paprika

1/4 tsp ( 1ml) red chili flakes
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
4 bone-in loin pork chops, cut 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh cilantro, chopped

In a small saucepan, add the olive oil and sauté the shallot on medium low heat until soft and translucent. Add the pine nuts and stir till lightly toasted, 4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the chops generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a large skillet to medium high and add 1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil. Put in the pork chops and sear for 5 minutes. Turn over and brown well on the second side for a total of 10 minutes. Add the Persimon® chutney to the skillet and sprinkle with cilantro. Place a lid on the skillet and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Transfer the pork chops to a serving plate and top with compote.
Makes 4 servings

Makes 4 servings
I was given free persimmons so I could try them out and share it with you but, as always, opinions are very much my own

For more info on Persimon® Persimmons, click here

Evening at the Market - Eat Good, Do Good, Feel Good

the calm before the storm, admiring the beautiful crystal chandeliers installed just for the evening

I can get really passionate about the subject of food education and because of that, I am a huge fan of Food Share. This Toronto based, non profit organization works with our communities and schools to provide them delicious, healthy food and give them with the education and tools needed to empower those communities to start taking over themselves. The catch phrase for all of this activism is "food security" so if you haven't heard that term yet, it's only a matter of time until you do.

Food Share has helped to revolutionize school cafeterias and has pioneered ideas like rooftop school gardens and urban agriculture across the city. They teach people how to grow, cook and eat with hands on training, community kitchens and a wealth of other amazing programs. The bottom line is that the people of Food Share believe that everyone deserves access to affordable, good quality, fresh food.

For the last two years I have attended the annual Food Share fundraiser, Recipe for Change, held in St Lawrence Market's North Hall but this time, a fundraising evening of food, drink and entertainment was held in the historic South Market.

Each vendor who sells their wares in the market was on hand with a delicious offering and there were bars pouring wine, courtesy of Niagara's Union Wines and beer from Amsterdam Breweries while Chefs Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk were entertaining people with a cooking demo up in the Market Kitchen. There was a DJ playing music on the main floor and a band playing downstairs so it was a riot for the eyes, the belly and the ears. If anyone could say they were bored, they were lying. Everyone could just wander up and down the aisles, stopping in to see what their favourite food vendors was up to and sample the night away.

As always, people were lining up for freshly shucked Oysters while circus performers entertained them from the floor and on high. From Portuguese Churassco to Korean Braised Beef with Kimchi and a never ending array of baked goods, sweets and tarts, cheese, risotto and crab cakes, there was truly something for everyone.

I took a friend with me and after two hours, we both had to admit defeat, unable to even stuff one last little morsel of food into our mouths. We spent so much time upstairs that by the time we made it downstairs, we realized that we were too full for more and had to leave but promising each other we would return next year and start in the basement and work our way up.

acrobats from Zero Gravity Circus on silks wowed the crowd

I hope that this event becomes an annual occurrence because at $75 for all you can eat and drink, it's not only a very worthy cause, but a fantastic culinary event.
Eat Good, Do Good, Feel Good.

To donate to Food Share, click here
To get involved with Food Share, click here

TVO's The Food Chain, Girl Eat World and My Own Travel Musings

The first thing I do when I arrive in a new place is to visit a grocery store. Sure, eventually I will visit some lovely museums, take a hop on and off bus tour (I LOVE THOSE THINGS) and see the sights but, for me, to know a place and it's people is to know what they are eating. I want to know HOW they eat, where they eat and who they eat with.

I chose Portugal for my 50th birthday trip basically so I could visit Pasteis de Belem, the birthplace of these pastries

I learned more about the heart and soul of the Jordanian people by their constant invitations to come into their shop for a cup of tea or coffee, than I did from visiting their mind blowing historical sites. I will admit that, as a woman, I was a bit wary about visiting a Middle Eastern country that just happens to sit in the eye of a political/social firestorm. Would I be expected to cover my head? Would my son and I be safe to travel around on our own? Would we feel welcomed?

From the minute we stepped out of customs to be met by the first of many wonderful drivers that would treat us like precious cargo, we were made to feel warmly welcomed with our first cup of thick, dark, cardamom laced coffee and a warm smile.

"Welcome to Jordan" was bellowed at every turn, quickly followed by the invitation to come in for refreshments. To refuse them would be to disrespect their hospitality so my son and i ended up drinking a lot of tea and coffee. I have been to  far too many places where I felt like I was nothing but a walking wallet but here, even in the poorest of areas, Jordanians were eager to share what little they had with us, hear our stories and share theirs with us. They shared their fears for their future, their concern for the region, their desire for peace - all over hot cups of hot sweet tea or that ubiquitous cardamom laced coffee.

As a Canadian, it's just a drink to get me going in the morning but in the Middle East, it is a way of life. Families gather for hours over coffee to discuss the world, politics, life and the news of the day. You will find families lingering for hours at cafes, business men conducting their affairs with coffee and shisha at all hours. Sharing coffee is about showing respect and building trust in Arab society and if you are going to spend any time in the region, you should go in knowing that.

For the last 30+ years, I have filled my suitcases not with postcards, local crafts and trinkets but with cans of octopus in olive oil from Portugal, tins of lebkuchen from Germany and bags of dried chilis from Mexico. I have incorporated the spices and flavours of every place I have ever visited until my kitchen resembled the United Nation. One bite of ceviche on a cold winter day brings me immediately back to the white beaches of Tulum and I am almost embarrassed to admit that we often choose our next travel adventure solely based on what kind of food we feel like overindulging in.

Food culture also crosses borders, religions and oceans. What is eaten in one country can have a direct affect on another country, half a world away. Do you ever think about how the Portuguese came to fall in love with cod? Their consumption of Newfoundland cod, their national dish despite the fact that it doesn't exist in their waters,  has affected the lives of those East Coast fisherman and their families. The overfishing of cod off Canada's East coast to provide Portugal's insatiable need for the fish has caused the collapse of a natural resource that sustained and defined East Coasters for hundreds of years.

think about the socio economic implications behind bacalhau the next time you are in Portugal

Because I am a culinary tourist of the highest order, it follows that I am insanely jealous of Kamini Pather, winner of South Africa's 2012 season of Master Chef and host of the new show "Girl Eats World". She is living my dream, travelling around the world to meet her favourite food bloggers while they give her an insider's tour of their city's culinary heritage and introducing her to the people who provide food in their communities, sharing their tables and their customs.

As part of TVO's series, The Food Chain, Girl Eat World is an upcoming 10 part series and watching her visit cities that I have either been to myself or that i have on my radar sparked a flood of memories from a lifetime of travel. From Lima to Dubai, Kamina will show you a slice of the world, their food, their history and their culture. The Food Chain will attempt to look at the current state of the world through the lens of food - they will look at how the food we eat, where it comes from and how it ends up on our plates.

Girl Eat World will look at how the rest of the world eats but there will also be programming that turns it's eye inward, closer to home and expose the state of affairs in Canada, from the changing challenges for farmers to the problems facing communities in the woefully under serviced far north. How is it that a wealthy nation with an abundant food and water supply can tolerate Aboriginal communities living without potable water for decades while the rest of the country drinks their weight in bottled water and washes their cars with gallons of clean water that those communities would give their eye teeth for?

So, am I alone or do you choose your vacation locations based on the cuisine?
Have your travels changed the way you cook, eat and approach food?

The Food Chain on TVO will air Girl Eat World on Mondays at 9pm and you can also stream it here
Follow TVO on Twitter and Facebook to get in on the action

*I was compensated for promoting TVO's Food Chain but, as always, my opinions are my own 

Evening At The Market - Win Two Tickets

I have written about Food Share before here and here after attending their annual fundraising event, Recipe for Change. Food security and education is a cause near and dear to my heart so I am always thrilled to be asked to share the love. 

For those who don't know about them, Food Share is a non profit organization that works with communities and schools to deliver healthy food and provide food education. You can also dig into your wallet and donate to Food Share here too.

I am giving away two tickets (worth $150) to a lucky winner so that they can join me on Thursday, November 12ths at the St Lawrence Market for " Evening at the Market " 

If you aren't the lucky winner, you can still attend and join in the fun.
Tickets sell for $75 each (you can purchase tickets on the St. Lawrence Market website).

Evening at the Market is coming up on November 12th and is sure to be a night not to be missed. This is a great night out to celebrate the merchants of the St. Lawrence Market. From 7pm-10pm the entire South Market will be open to guests for and exclusive culinary adventure featuring unlimited food and drink, with tickets selling for $75. Each of the Market merchants is preparing a unique food offering to showcase their best products including specialties like flaming spaganaki, oysters shucked by Guinness World Record holder Patrick McMurray and the St. Lawrence Market tradition - pea meal bacon sandwich. Guests will also be treated to exciting live entertainment including cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk and aerial performances from Zero Gravity Circus. The event proceeds benefit FoodShare Toronto and we'll be hosting a silent auction to benefit FoodShare as well.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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