USING THE AUTUMN HARVEST
The trick of great cooks is to think of each season as an event so unique so intoxicating that years from now, at first warming of spring, your family thinks of rhubarb and cream. At first turning red of the leaves outside, your family will remember certain foods automatically, as an intense nostalgia and craving for guavas or lemon flavored persimmons or Pumpkin pie.
How do we capture the essence of the Autumn event on our dinner table so that diners will be stunned by the esthetics and crave a repeat of these foods every autumn for the rest of their lives and teach the use of these foods to their own children?
How do we make the sweetness of summer's final gasp, the autumn harvest, last through the coming cold months? How do we get fragile, temporal foods of autumn onto our table to be celebrated in our fall or winter meals? How do we get them into a jar on the shelf or into the freezer and keep these precious things around all winter and keep them tasty??
AUTUMN presents a challenge not dissimilar to stuffing young love in a jar and keeping it fresh and tasty during marriage. You know, ripe passion versus stable marriage issues. The answer is, by knowing the secrets PRESERVING the delicious foods of Summer in abundance now in Autumn! Let's even strive to keep these foods around all winter. Let's capture a firefly in a jar, capture the spark and LET THE GOOD TIMES of summer ROLL ALL YEAR LONG.
POMEGRANATE RAIN-Man these suckers will deluge you with little bombs. All of us have a friend with a tree and can get'em by the bushel and they scream to be USED. Anyone who's been spattered by the juice and had that stain ruin a shirt will never eat them twice so mostly nobody eats these. We just look at them And if you don't use 'em, they dry hard as rocks and get useless so damn quickly and then we're living with these reproachful fruits! Until now, we've only been able to eat a few of these mouth-puckering little ruby grenades each year? (Did you know the word 'grenade,' literally traces back to 'granada', the Spanish word for Pomegranate?) Humans think they have a pomegranate limit! So what's the world to do with the the huge harvest? Ask a third worlder. The Turks and Persians made pomegranates into thick, tangy red syrups which they sloshed in drinks all year long. There's the ticket! Try juicing a few dozen, LIKE ORANGES on that spinning electric juicer, boiling the result with sugar until it thickens, putting it in old bottles. That's the secret of the SHIRLEY TEMPLE drink which I adored as a kid. (7-up or generic lemon/lime soda and a slice of orange and a red maraschino cherry! ) Use the red syrup in any and all beverages. I make pomegranate juice fast and easy, slice 'em in two, juice 'em like oranges and throw the perky red sap fraiche into the bottle of 7-up, Squirt, Hawaiian Punch, that's in current use in my fridge. It gives pop a dose of fruity verisimilitude. I also take a tsp. of vitamin c crystals and drop that into each glass, or a tbs. for a whole bottle, magically zapping up the holism in that frothy sugary nada so now if it rots your teeth, or chubs your hips, at least pop gives your immune system a boost against flu and the phyto-vitos prevent worse diseases.
POMEGRANATE DUMPSTER JELLY OR JAM - With electric orange juice machine, juice five pounds of pomegranates. Just a big bunch. (I get mine out of the dumpster, (bagged well) outside 99c store, HUNDREDS of pounds, free. ) With sharp knife, take rind off lemons, limes, oranges. (WASH them well, first). These also are free in the dumpster. Also every tree in this valley to the north of LA CALIF discards citrus, totally ripe, much better than market fruit, drop it on the ground. I brake for ripe citrus! Drop in the punch, add sugar to taste, could be two cups, maybe... simmer for 5 min. then (AS YOU DO NOT WANT GRENADINE SYRUP,) you must add a peeled grated apple, grated on a grater (!) for that needed pectin. The second you drop those apple flakes into the boiling syrup it will thicken into jam and begin to climb walls of the pot. You gotta turn off fire or you're going to decorate your entire stove with a red carpet! When spread on toast, you'll never know there's apple in it! Punchy! Make a turkey happy on Thanksgiving, too.
SOUR MAKES SWEET! LEMONS:Lemons are ripening NOW. It taint' natural to get a fully ripe lemon at any other time of year. Now is when they're really ripe. So buy bags of them, farm fresh, wash the lemon of SMOG RESIDUES on skin, (or orchard spray), grate the lemon rind onto a plate or pitcher type bowl, then squeeze their juice into/on top. Mix these two items. Pour into non-metallic (!) ice cube tray, freeze. Drop cubes into bag, seal tightly. Use no foil. Use in puddings, pastries, homemade jams, fruit salads, beverages and pies and cake batters and butter frosting above all, all year long. Who knew we could turn this sour little thing into heaven for a whole year! GOD must be ironic as he DID!
SUNBEAMS IN THE FREEZER-PUMPKIN- Let no jack-o-lantern rot on the patio with a big moldy smile on its face! I fridge the thing Halloween night even if the neighbor kids kick them into chunks. Next a.m., I make it into freezer pumpkin. Remove the candle wax, and burnt surfaces or if you still have a fresh pumpkin around in the yard, ream the squash, taking all seeds and drying in oven and washing the globe until free of the internal fur which goes on compost heap. Cut pumpkin into cantaloupe half sized pieces, steam on rack for a half hour. Cool, scoop out meat, throw skin on compost pile. Throw a few cups of meat into a plastic bag, freeze. You may use foil for this one. USE: Pumpkin soup, the most delicious squash soup ever.
INGREDIENTS: pumpkin, onion, garlic, milk (or half and half), sausage. Cilantro, and to finish it, a slash of soy sauce or Amino Broth or Oyster Sauce (Chinese Soy sauce with oyster flavorings).
METHOD: Sauté onions, garlic, maybe a little jalapeno, black pepper corm (which is removed later) browned in olive oil, with a few sausage pieces, any sausage. I recommend nitrate free italian type, that are 'fresh' and they are often turkey, sometimes pork, found in supermarkets everywhere. After this is Lightly lightly browned you remove that black pepper corm! Ground pepper is not good for the body, so we add the flavoring this way. You can add spice through jalapeno at this stage or just put a tsp. of hot sauce in later.
AFTER SAUTÉING, you add A BIG brick (3 or 4 cups) of crushed, steamed, peeled pumpkin.* Mash it into the flavored oil, then add half and half or milk to make a thick soup. Maybe a cup of milk, maybe more. And a slosh of the soy or amino flavoring. I always have Oyster Sauce in the house as I make Tofu with shitake Chinese style a lot. I like a slosh of that. *NOTE: MARTHA STEWART wrote that the butternut squash makes a better pumpkin pie than the real stuff, so why wouldn't this also work for soup?
ITALIAN PASSION - THE TOMATO- They're just getting sweet by autumn. When tomatoes are ruby red, and no trace of acidity, Wash, cut in half. Heat olive oil with onions, jalapenos, garlic, simmer for one minute with black pepper corms. Throw tomato halves on top, simmer five minutes, throw into glass jars with basil sprigs through it. NO Bay leaf, as it poisons the entire thing with a bitter taste. Just thyme, celery seed, oregano. Put in bain marie, steam for an hour if you want to keep on pantry shelf.
RED FLAMES OF TEMPTATION! QUICK RASPBERRY JAM- Rinse one 2$ 16 oz bag of raspberries, (4$ for half as much if you buy fresh, raw, so why do it?) Drain, put into copper bottomed all steel pot with equal amt of sugar, just eyeball it, and rind of one lemon.
I slice rind off like peeling apples, doing the ENTIRE lemon in under a minute. For each bag of berries, I add an entire lemon rind. I don't want the white part, just yellow outside which has the aroma. Simmer 4 min. Then, add a 1/2 tsp. of pectin powder per cup. (NOTE: Pectin is expensive, 2$ a box, so I freeze it, make one box last for a dozen jam makings!) When you add the pectin, at same time, add lemon juice, the juice of the whole lemon. Simmer l more minute. Pour into washed, old mayo or peanut butter jars; keep in fridge as it isn't sterile. You can freeze it for up to a year. Or until next raspberry season. If you want to make jam and keep it outside fridge, study up making perserves in old cookbooks. That takes sterilization which I never bother with. I make a big quart jar a week, keep it in fridge til it's gone.
CONCORD JAM- do same recipe as above with concords, which REALLY require lemon juices and rind as they're very sweet, with no citric note. Also, as they're so watery, you simmer longer, add more sugar and after you add the pectin, add part of an envelope of knox gelatin, let it melt, stir it in well. If you have a press, pour hot jam through it, squeeze, then boil the rest another minute. Cuz Concords DO HAVE big SEEDS. Sieving is needed. I NEVER put acid foods near aluminum so invest in a steel press, masher, or wide grid sieve.
EMERALD HEAVEN! THE NEW MEXICO GREEN CHILE! These are useful in many dishes. They are only found in south west. Green chiles, like bell peppers but more teardrop shaped, elongated. They are sold as Anaheim, Poblano or Pasilla at bargain rates in autumn, in barrio latin markets especially cheap. These are the non plus ultra of eating so get yerself some! In New Mexico, Late August, September is CHILE TIME! Everyone frequents the guys with the CHILE roasters. A circular whirling grill that does fifty pounds at a time, and you buy the whole bag for 8$ or so, you take it home and have a peeling party. Then you freeze the chiles in plastic for rellenos in winter. Often, the peelers who bought the bag split it four ways, and everyone has chile rellenos and tamale cassaroles all year long. Super markets charge a buck an lb so go to barrio markets for this delicacy at 44c an lb.
ONCE HOME, Set chiles on gas flame burner on stove. Keep turning until skin blackens in places, but mostly you can see skin is well cooked. I can do 4 on a burner, two burners at a time. Four burners is asking for the crazies. Wear canvas gardening gloves if you're afraid of slight scorches as your fingers are reaching into flame to turn each chile about twenty times minimum. Twenty separate turns. Plop the scorched chile into a brown paper bag, then another then another. Twist neck, let sit. They steam for ten minutes, and cook evenly. Roast each other. You might need two bags. If you're good you can get them all into one bag simultaneously. Twenty chiles, Two people and two bags and four burners could be fun. Let steaming chile sit for five minutes, then start peeling, one by one, under water of sink. If there's a weak spot in chile wall, that's where you do thumbnail slit and pull out seeds and pulp. Drop on a dish. When there are four there, freeze them in a piece of plastic or a ziplock bag.
CHILE RELLENOS- Dredge those chiles' OUTSIDES in flour. Fill with stuffing (below) dip in egg batter, (Way below) fry. Drain and put hot tomato sauce on top, adorn w. cilantro, pomegranate seeds, tomato sauce. That's the whole thing. NO BIG DEAL. You need more info?
RELLENO FILLING: jack cheese, garlic flavored if possible. Take an oz slice, kind of a fat oz. OR, make a meat filling with garlic, onion, almonds and raisins, or make a vegie tofu burger. YOu can fill with all three, or mix or whatever. Tofu, almonds, water chestnuts and any protein like millet with cheese for 'stick together' is good. I have recipes, for the acme tofu burger, ask me.
BATTER- One and one half eggs per chile. Ten chiles, 15 eggs. The only trick is separating eggs so no yellow gets in white. Ten eggs do batter for 7 chiles. BEAT THE WHITES with whisk or beaters 'til stiff, add yolks, salt, pepper. Now, stir gently, with big spoon, only until blended. Dip flour-dredged chile (stuffed) in this batter, lay carefully in frying pan and fry in hot veg oil, both sides, drain on toweling, set into your big serving platter filled with tomato sauce. ADORN- cilantro, pomegranate seeds, onions, olives and serve with hot corn tortillas, salad, white rice.
MADE FOR THE MOUTH! GUAVAS- Any fruit that's really user friendly to the MOUTH has to have a strong nose to it. Guava fills this bill. ONE fruit in the house and the entire place smells like tangy, lemony gardenias. Get the mexican yellow or pink guava, the one that is so fragrant that two raw fruits on a dish make a house smell like Hawaii. Cut in halves, use equal amt or size sugar, not weight, but size. It's not hard, just eyeball it. Mash over flame. Round balls soon simmer into yellow liquid. Simmer l0 min, add pectin and simmer 2 min more, cool. Press it through the jam press, to remove seeds. COLLECT ALL SEEDS in a pitcher of water. Put into jam jars, freeze. Or bain marie until sterile then it can stay in closet. Cubans make a cream cheese cake and use a thick layer of guava jam on top. WOW! Makes your mouth know why it was born. Home Depot has the pink guava tree. Yellow skin, pink inside. 15$ a tree.
GUAVA JUICE-After you make the jam, Stir that seed refuse with water, let it sit in fridge overnight, shake and strain into glasses. Save old plastic bags, old juice jars, jam jars and nectar of the Gods is almost a total freebie!
ITALIAN RED BELL PEPPERS- Get the really big, fat red ones, fry in olive oil with jalapenos, bay leaves optional, black pepper corms, garlic, onion not optional. Slosh the hot stuff into jars, pour oil on top so no pepper sticks out. Fridge 'em and eat in a week or freeze 'em for longer. The Vit C in them prevents their remaining in fridge for more than a few days. Want to use? In quiche, eggs, as a fresh, cold salad. At parties, a tray of these red peppers in oil served with homemade crackers and a good garlic cream cheese (make your own) will drive guests out of their minds.
PERSIMMON-This fruit is scorned for one reason. PAVLOVIAN RESPONSE. Anyone who has ever bitten into an unripe persimmon, had his mouth pucker up for a few hours, HIS TEETH turned into emery boards, his tongue became a strangely numb foreign object. That person will never go near this fruit again.
But, as if to prove that timing is everything, if you let this unique fruit get buttery overipe and soft as a grandma's buttock, --- and if, where you poke it, the flesh's give is such the dent is permanent, we're talking pure mush….. you then have a persimmon worth falling into face first. There's only one amendment required. Persimmons have no citric note and they require one, so squeeze a lime, add its zest, drop into the fruit, mash in well. Consume with passion. Only close the windows so the neighbors can't hear you scream with delight. If you want your guests to beat their own heads, screaming ' bravo encore' do the same recipe to a dozen persimmons, with a dozen limes, add some sour cream, stir and serve as pudding with a single Lorna Doone. Throw away your anti-oxidents and Vit A as nature knew best. That's why she put this fruit's time of ripening at the beginning of winter. She knew a persimmon and a lime could get you through the dark time! (Ancients dried them as they had no freezers but you could take a plastic box and fill it with a limey pudding persimmon sherbet…) I had a neighbor with a persimmon tree. She gave them ALL to me. I never told her about the lime thing as every year, she let me loose in her yard with a picker. Why would I tell her about the lime thing? She'd have kept them!
ENCHILADAS ROJAS O VERDES Take four or five big, wrinkly chiles, they are reddish black, dried, avail in bags, a dozen for 2$. Reliably fresh at barrio markets. Open them up, take out the seeds and put them in envelope on your desk, to plant in spring. Soak the chile pods in water for an hour. Or put them in boiled, pure, spring water that's still hot! Now, when they soften up, throw them through a grinder blender with the liquid, strain off the skin which is useless. It's like all pepper skin, indigestible. You now have a brownish red thick sauce. Saute some onions and garlic in oil, maybe a black pepper corm some cumin seeds or powder ; add the red sauce, salt, simmer a minute. Now cool it down. (Or buy a good enchilada sauce in a can, not cheap by the way)
MEXICANS heat pan w. oil and drop tortillas in when it's super hot, just for a sec to soften them, IN THE OIL. I often just flame heat the tortillas to make them soft. EITHER WAY, FILL THEM, roll them like flutes. Stack in pyrex dish, add more sauce on top, olives, green onions. FILLING : MEAT and cilantro or almond meal, tofu, or cheese or chicken w. cilantro. Depending on taste. Can be burger or steak, or leftovers. Or mashed squash, or pumpkin with beaucoup cheese, some chopped almonds/celery. Or my tofu burger recipe which is sauteed shrooms, tofu, bell pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro, toasted blanched almonds. Cover with cheese, onions, scallions, olives, lots more red sauce. Bake 20 min at 350.VARIATION would be
ENCHILADAS VERDESmade with tomatillo. Called ENCHILADAS SUIZAS in Mexico. (Swiss ) Boil two cups of halved tomatillos, jalapenos (eviscerated) in equal amt water, 5 min. Aside, SAUTEE onions, garlic. Mash the boiled tomatillos this thick, green soup with a masher, drop into sauteeing onions. Add lots of chopped cilantro, salt. GREEN SAUCE results, delicious with roast pork. But we can fill enchiladas wi. Cheese, chicken, or pork, or beef. In this case, in addition to cheese all over the top before you bake it, LOTS OF SOUR CREAM!
AUTUMN QUICHE- (requires Autumn vegetables like red sweet peppers)
CRUST- Whole grain flour,salt, the amt for one crust. Eyeball it. Cut a half stick of butter into it, pelletize the butter with fingertips, so you have pea sized pellets in the flour. Add ice water or milk, keeping dough very dry and crumbly. NEVER let it get too wet or you get hard dough. Half hour in the freezer makes the water soak in so even if it's crumbly it will adhere. Roll out, patch if you must but don't handle too much, just line a pyrex pie dish. You can bake it l0 min without filling, then fill it.
FILLING- 4 eggs, a cup of milk or half and half, a cup of grated cheese is the custard part. You can add either or all, onion, sauteed first, BACON, HAM, sauteed RED sweet PEPPERS, Maybe a few hot ones, green variety or sauteed eggplant, herbs like cilantro, parsley, tomato sauce. Bake 325 for an hour.
EASY SQUASH- BUTTERNUT is my favorite, the one shaped like a Schmoo. Or a pear. Heat olive oil, onions, garlic, slice squash pieces into it, no peeling req'd. Seeds cook up with the meat and make good eating. Sautee lightly both sides, add water or broth, seasoning, cilantro, a few pcs. chile, cover, slow steam for a half hour.
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