Persimmon Tea Cake

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It’s the season for persimmons! This is the time of year when persimmon lovers rejoice because persimmons are a sumptuous fruit, sweet and soft (or crunchy, depending on which you get).

Persimmons are a rather expensive fruit, so when I get my hands on some, I usually just eat them as fruit. However, recently a co-worker brought in a huge bag of persimmons from her own tree (how I wish I had one!). So, with that opportunity, I decided to try baking something with them.

So here now is my Persimmon Tea Cake. This is a dense but moist loaf that doesn’t IMG_1838need any embellishment. It’s great for an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee or tea.

Make sure that you use the larger Hachiya persimmons and not the smaller Fuyu. Fuyu are delicious to eat out of hand, but it remains somewhat hard and the pulp isn’t as soft and creamy when pureed. You can puree a bunch of persimmons and keep it tightly sealed in the freezer until you need it.

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Fully ripe persimmons

And while Fuyus can be eaten hard, Hachiyas most certainly cannot. Hachiyas are ready to be eaten when they are extremely soft and look like they’re on the verge of rotting. No, really. Hachiyas are astringent and if you eat them before they’re ready, I guarantee you that you will regret it and remember it as long as you live. Every drop of moisture in your mouth will dry up. I jokingly tell people that an unripe persimmon will dry up their whole head. Believe me, it will feel that way.

But once they’re soft and ready, their flavor and sweetness are sublime. Unfortunately, their flavor is also delicate and won’t come out strongly in cake. Rather, the cake will have an unusual, undefinable flavor, but absolutely pleasing. I’m working on a gluten-free version, so one of these days, I’ll post that recipe.

In the meantime, enjoy this one.

Persimmon Tea Cake

Makes 1 loaf.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, preferably organic
2 large eggs
1 cup persimmon pulp (from about 3 medium-large persimmons)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper (I like to do both for easy removal).

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Using an electric mixer or food processor, puree pulp until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in buttermilk and zests.

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With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat it in, then add the other one and beat it in.

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Mix in the persimmon pulp. Add the flour mixture in a little at a time and mix just until blended.

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Transfer to loaf pan and bake 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pan and let cool completely.

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Filed under Baking, Cakes, Fruit, Recipes, seasonal cooking, Uncategorized

Bourbon-Coconut-Pumpkin Cake

I love having leftover pumpkin in the refrigerator because it prompts me to bake something new with it, and that’s one of the best things about the holidays. I’m not much of a pumpkin pie fan, but I love other baked goodies made with pumpkin.IMG_1820

This started off as a basic pumpkin cake, but I veered off a little and added a couple of items that I thought really brought it up a notch (or two): bourbon and coconut. The flavor and texture made it a huge hit. My only regret is that I didn’t get a shot of the cake after I’d iced it. I hope you all like it.

Enjoy!

Bourbon-Coconut-Pumpkin Cake

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup organic sugar or coconut sugar
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons bourbon or whiskey

Icing

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Grease an 8-inch square or round cake pan (or line with parchment).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.

In a large bowl, whip butter and sugar until fluffy (the consistency should be sort of like wet sand). IMG_1812

Gently mix in the pumpkin, coconut, eggs, and bourbon.

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Fold in the flour mixture.

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Spoon into pan and smooth out the top.

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Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly dry (a couple of crumbs is okay), about 1 hour.

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Move to a wire rack and let cook 5 minutes. Invert it onto the rack, then invert it again to be top-up. (If you used parchment paper, you can just lift it right out of the pan.) Let cook completely.

Make icing: Combine sugar and 1 tablespoon bourbon in a small bowl and stir until smooth. If too thick, add a little more bourbon; if too thick, add more sugar. Pour over top, spreading it out so that it falls over the sides. Sprinkle coconut over the top.

Makes 1 10-inch cake.

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15 Things to Do With Leftover Stuffing

Well, now that another Thanksgiving has come and gone, many of us are left with the stuffingserious question of what to do with all those leftovers, especially the stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you are). Personally, I just eat it the way it is for days. But others want to use their leftovers in different and creative ways. So, here are some ideas for using up all that delicious stuffing in your fridge.

These ideas will work with any kind of bread or cornbread stuffing. Other kinds of stuffing (such as those based on rice or other grains) may or may not work, depending on the recipe and what you add to it.

I’d love to hear from you and find out what you made with your leftovers this year.

15 Things to Do With Leftover Stuffing

  1. Stuffed Peppers (Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and membranes, and press the stuffing into the cavities. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until peppers have softened.)
  2. Frittata (Beat 6 eggs and stir in about a cup of stuffing. Cook in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat until underside has browned. Flip over or place in a 350 degree oven until other side has browned.)
  3. Turkey casserole (Replace the rice or bread in your favorite turkey casserole recipe with stuffing.)
  4. Dumplings for soup, stew, or chili (Mix 1 beaten egg into 4 cups stuffing and roll into balls. If too loose, add breadcrumbs. Drop into soup, stew, or chili and let cook.)
  5. Vegetable pie (Using the stuffing as the bottom layer where mashed potatoes would be used.)
  6. Stuffing cakes (Flatten stuffing into a patties and pan fry; serve with leftover cranberry sauce or gravy.)
  7. Turkey sandwich with stuffing (Self-explanatory.)
  8. Stuffed artichokes (Trim artichokes. Press stuffing between the leaves. Place in a baking pan with a 1/2 inch of water in the bottom and cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees until tender.)
  9. Stuffed chicken breasts. (Flatten chicken breasts with a mallet. Place a tablespoon or two of stuffing and roll up the chicken. Pan fry or bake until cooked through.)
  10. Vegetable calzone (Make your favorite calzone recipe and just mix some stuffing into the vegetables.)
  11. Vegetarian meatballs (Add 1 beaten egg to 4 cups stuffing. Add grated tempeh or crumbled tofu and, if you like, some grated cheese. Pan fry or bake at 350 degrees until browned.)
  12. Rice balls (Add stuffing to any kind of rice–this is a good way to also use leftover rice–and roll into balls. Dip in beaten eggs and roll in breadcrumbs. Pan fry or baked at 350 degrees until lightly browned and heated through.)
  13. Vegetable sauté (Make your favorite vegetable saute recipe and mix in some stuffing. Keep cooking until well blended and heated through.)
  14. Meatloaf or Veggie Meatloaf (Replace the breadcrumbs in your favorite meatloaf recipe with stuffing. If the stuffing is moist, reduce the amount of any liquid you use.)
  15. Veggie burgers (Mix stuffing into your prepared vegetables. Form patties and cook as you normally would.)

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Filed under Holidays, Recipes, seasonal cooking, Uncategorized, Utilitarian Cooking

Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist

cranberry enhancedWell, here we are again, preparing for that iconic American holiday, the Most Important Meal of the Year: Thanksgiving.

Every year, I make fresh cranberry sauce. Some people prefer the canned variety to freshly made, but when I see that gelled log with can rings around it, I can’t help but feel that I can do better. In fact, anyone can. Fresh cranberry sauce is extremely simple, and the end product is so much better than the canned log. (Although, I know some of you feel like it’s truly not a traditional Thanksgiving without that log with the rings around it, so I say, whatever floats your boat.)

Cranberries are a tart fruit and cranberry sauce requires plenty of sugar to make it palatable enough for most people. But I always cringe a little when I start dumping the amount of sugar that most recipes call for into my pot of cranberries. So, this year, I decided to try some of the sorghum molasses that I brought up from a trip to the South.

The recipe I’ve always used calls for 2 cups granulated sugar. That’s a lot of sugar. So, I started with 1 cup brown sugar. Brown sugar is a nicer product to use than granulated sugar because it lend the sauce a delicate molasses flavor and it thickens it up better. My sauce was still a little too tart, but I really didn’t want to add any more sugar, so I reached for the sorghum molasses. I started with 2 tablespoons and I liked the results. However, I knew that most people would want it sweeter (I don’t have a big sweet tooth), so I added 2 more tablespoons. It worked wonderfully.

Sorghum molasses is a Southern staple, but it can be found in specialty stores elsewhere in the U.S. If you can’t find it, substitute brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, or honey (the honey will be sweeter than the others).

If you’re looking for that cloying candy-sweet taste of canned cranberry sauce, this isn’t it. But if you want something that is a little more complex, texturally pleasing, and not as loaded with refined sugar, give this a try.

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Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist

Makes 3 cups

1 16-oz. package fresh cranberries
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
¼ cup sorghum molasses
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon nutmeg or ground cloves
1 whole star anise
Tiny pinch sea salt

Combine all ingredients with 1 ½ cups water in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to low and simmer until cranberries start to pop. Continue simmering and stirring for about 5 minutes, smashing the cranberries along the sides of the pot (you can leave some whole). Taste and adjust sweetener level to your taste.

Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a jar or bowl and refrigerate until needed. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise before serving or use them for garnish.

Variation: Add a tablespoon of raspberry or cherry liqueur or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Beet-Apple-Chia Salad

Laugh if you will, but chia seeds are the new superfood. Well, not so new, since they’ve been around since ancient times.

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

Yes, I’m talking about the same chia seeds that get watered on a head or little kitties and grows into a little mini landscape. Those seeds contain antioxidants, essential minerals, such as phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium, more iron than spinach, and more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon.  (Don’t use the ones that come in the Chia Head packages for consumption, though.)

Like quinoa, chia seeds are one of the few plant-based sources of complete protein, and have been used for hundreds of years for sustained energy. They were once a staple of Native American diets of both North and South America. In fact, I’ve read that “chia” is a Mayan word for “strength.”

Chia seeds purportedly increase strength and energy, helps retain hydration, and aids in weight loss. It’s great for diabetics because it lowers blood sugar levels. It’s also been said that chia seeds help in relieving thyroid conditions, IBS, acid reflux, hypoglycemia, and even Celiac disease.

You can use chia seeds in just about anything you would use flax seeds in: salad dressings, smoothies, yogurt, or just sprinkled on top of any dish. If you’re looking to replace eggs in baked goods, grind chia (or flax) seeds and use that in place of the eggs. The quantity depends on how many eggs are called for in the recipe, but here’s a general formula:

To replace 1 egg:
1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds—grind in a spice grinder
Mix with 3 tablespoons water

Note that products made with seeds instead of eggs will have a chewier consistency, so be judicious about what products you use them in.DSCF0002

This is my recipe for Beet-Apple-Chia Salad, which I like to have for lunch. Between the walnuts and chia seeds, there’s enough protein in here to get you through the afternoon. It makes 2 portions if you’re making it to serve alongside something else. But for lunch, I eat the whole enchilada.

Beet-Apple-Chia Salad

4 small beets, roasted or boiled, peeled
1 tart apple, cored but not peeled
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 tablespoon chia seeds*
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the beets and apples into bite-sized pieces. Combine them in a bowl, along with the walnuts, chia seeds, oil, and vinegar. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Makes 2 servings.

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*Chia seeds can be purchased in natural/health food stores, but may also be found in larger supermarkets with an organic/natural food selection. I found my bag at Trader Joe’s.DSCF0003

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GF Pumpkin-Coconut-Walnut Cupcakes

’Tis the season for pumpkin.

As we enter November, everyone loves finding new recipes that use pumpkin. And when the recipes are gluten-free, that makes a whole lotta people happy.

A friend of mine asked me to make cupcakes to bring to a bridal shower. This friend has health issues that necessitate her to be on a gluten-free diet and she asked that I make the cupcakes gluten free, and she specifically requested pumpkin. I came up with this recipe, and they were a hit.

I took the basic combination of ingredients for pumpkin cake and altered the recipe to make it less sweet than most cakes and, of course, gluten free. Actually, I should probably say “low gluten” instead because I substituted all-purpose flour with spelt flour. Spelt is a low-gluten wheat variant, so most people with wheat sensitivities can tolerate spelt, but those with full-blown Celiac Disease usually cannot.

I also wanted to make it lower in sugar, so I cut back on the amount called for in most pumpkin cake recipes. And because I substituted brown sugar for white, it made it a little fluffier and more flavorful.

Now here’s where I had to make a decision between a whole-food/holistic diet versus a weight loss diet. In the first category lies the basic tenet that you should eat foods in their whole forms—i.e., all its edible parts. In the case of dairy, that means with full fat. When fat is removed from dairy, the enzymes which make it digestible are also removed, making it a bigger issue for lactose-intolerant people than full-fat dairy would be.

BUT everyone is concerned about their weight, cholesterol, etc. My friend was concerned about bringing the cupcakes to the shower in the first place because the bride is overweight. She asked me if I could make them even lower in sugar than the samples I brought her. I told her that if I took out any more sugar, they would taste like nothing. Then she asked me if I could keep the frosting off, and I explained that cupcakes without frosting are muffins and hardly party fare. At first, I offered to try and experiment with alternate sweeteners (honey, applesauce, maple syrup, maple crystals) but I was faced with a time crunch. Experimenting like that—substituting ingredients that are vastly different than the original—often takes multiple tries to get right. I didn’t have the luxury of time in which to do that.

So, to compensate, I made the decision to use low-fat cream cheese for the frosting. My teachers at the Natural Gourmet Institute would tsk-tsk me, I’m sure. But I think they would also agree that we have to compromise sometimes—they themselves taught me that we can’t be “good” one hundred percent of the time. All we can do is do our best as often as possible. So, here’s my recipe for a gluten-free, low-sugar, low-fat (not vegan) but really delicous (no, really!) Pumpkin-Coconut-Walnut Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

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Pumpkin-Coconut-Walnut Cupcakes

Yield: 20 cupcakes

3 cups spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 to 2 cups brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
4 eggs
1 (15-oz. can) pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
½ cup desiccated (unsweetened) coconut
¾ cup chopped walnuts

Frosting

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 (8-oz.) packages low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place 20 paper muffin cups into muffin tins.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in each one before adding the next. Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat until well blended. (The mixture will look curdled but that’s okay.)

4. At low speed, add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the pumpkin mixture. Increase speed and beat until well blended. Fold in the coconut and walnuts.

5. Place about ¼ cup of the batter into each paper cup. (Pour water into any empty muffin wells, about ¼ of the way up, to prevent them from scorching.)

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer them to racks and let cool completely. Meanwhile make the frosting.

7. Beat the butter until white and fluffy. Beat in the cream cheese and then the vanilla. Begin adding the sugar a little at a time; alternate beating at low speed (when first adding the sugar) and high speed (to blend it in well). Stop adding when you’ve reached the consistency you want. Continue beating until completely smooth.

8. When cupcakes have cooled, spread or pipe on the frosting. Decorate as desired.

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Romanesco Cauliflower

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a romanesco cauliflower, or broccoli, but it’s a gorgeous vegetable. Its shape is what they call “fractal.” Merriam-webster.com defines fractal as “any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size.” I’ll just say that it’s amazing. I mean, take a look at it.Romanesco

Also known as broccoflower and Roman cauliflower, romanesco is part of the brassica family, which includes cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and was first seen in Italy around the 16th century. Although its color is closer to broccoli, its texture and flavor is that of cauliflower.

It’s such a visually stunning vegetable that whenever I see it, I can’t pass it up. Nature is a wonderous thing.Romanesco

This is a very simple old Italian recipe that usually uses regular cauliflower, but romanesco is easily substituted.

Pasta with Romanesco Cauliflower and Pignoli

1 small head romanesco cauliflower
1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
3 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pignoli,  toasted
1 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Grated parmigiano or pecorino romano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and 3 teaspoons salt; and cook until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, cut up cauliflower into florets. Heat olive oil in a large pan; add garlic and saute for one minute; sprinkle in paprika then immediately add cauliflower. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water; cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook until tender but firm, about another 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the pignoli and salt to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, drain well and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the cauliflower mixture on top and mix. If the pasta seems dry, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top and mix. Sprinkle some parmigiano or pecorino over the top and serve hot.

Makes 2 servings.

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Meskouta (Moroccan Orange-Almond-Yogurt Cake)

The past few months, I’ve been working on a special project, which led me down the road of Moroccan cuisine and ended up at Meskouta. Meskouta is a traditional cake, usually made with yogurt (although I’ve seen a few recipes that did not use it). This is also known as “butterless cake” because it was created during the French/Spanish colonization in the early part of the 20th century, a period when butter was scarce and expensive.

There are many variations, the most popular of which is an orange version, which also seemed to frequently be the one that did not have yogurt in it. I also found some recipes that used almond flour and others that did not.

In the end, I took the elements that I wanted and created an entirely new version. Here it is.

Meskouta (Orange-Almond-Yogurt Cake)

 Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Meskouta

Meskouta

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water or orange extract
1 tablespoon orange zest

Orange Syrup:
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar

Garnish:
Orange strips
¼ cup almond slivers

Grease an 8- or 9-inch Bundt pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar; add oil and yogurt, then add orange juice, blossom water or extract, and zest and blend.

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Add dry ingredients to wet and mix just until fully blended.

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Pour into Bundt pan and bake 45 to 60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Invert it onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.

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Meanwhile, make the syrup. Whisk together juice, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl.

When cake is cooled, poke holes all over the top with a toothpick or skewer. Pour syrup over the cake, letting it absorb. Sprinkle almond slivers over the top and decorate with orange slivers, if you like.

Refrigerate leftovers.

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Kantola Secret

Okay, that was a very bad play on words. Forgive me. But kantola is a secret, at least to the Western world.

Kantola

Kantola

Kantola, also known as spiny gourd, is a member of the gourd family and is used mainly in India and parts of South Asia. I saw them in my favorite Indian market and was fascinated. I bought a few and looked up how to use them.

Most recipes I found called for slicing and frying them, or, occasionally, boiling them. I decided to fry them for my first experiment, but kept the spices to a minimum, since I wanted to taste their natural flavor. I added a little salt, a bit of crumbled chile flakes, and a dash of turmeric, since that seems to be the spice de rigueur for this vegetable. Some sources said to peel them, while others said not to peel them. I peeled a couple and found it to be tedious because they’re so small. In the end, the skin was not an issue.IMG_1254

So, I sliced up the kantola and, as you can see, they have seeds very much like squash or cucumber (also part of the gourd family).IMG_1256

I heated up some oil (I found this extra virgin olive oil-sunflower oil and I wanted to give I a try). I toasted the chile flakes, then added the kantola and, after a minute, the seasonings. Then I transferred them to a paper towel to drain.IMG_1257

And you know what? They tasted like—surprise—fried squash. The flavor was very mild, although a few had a slightly bitter aftertaste, but it wasn’t unpalatable.

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So, that was my timid first adventure with kantola. I’m going to go get some more and just go crazy. Maybe I’ll even mix them with other ingredients!

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Jamaican Black Cake, aka Christmas Cake

As stunned as I am that it’s late September, I have to face the fact that summer is over. With that comes the realization that it’s time to start my Jamaican black cake, which is also called Christmas cake.

Jamaican Black Cake

Jamaican Black Cake

Several years ago, a co-worker, who was from Jamaica, introduced me to black cake and I asked her for a recipe, which I shared on Epicurean.com. It’s a tradition in Jamaica (and other parts of the West Indies) to serve this cake at Christmas, as well as weddings and other special occasions.

The problem is that in order to get a really good black cake, you have to begin the process at least several weeks in advance, and who’s thinking about Christmas in September? (Okay, well, many of you probably start your Christmas shopping in July, but the way my life has been going the past several years, my thoughts about Christmas have had me on the brink of nervous breakdowns trying to find gifts on Christmas Eve.)

Black cake/Christmas cake is also sometimes called plum pudding because it’s derived from the traditional British Christmas cake of the same name. Plum pudding is basically fruit cake and it was soaked in brandy to keep it fresh on long voyages across the seas. (Plum pudding is traditionally lit aflame at presentation time. I suspect that this was done the first time by accident as a result of being so soused in brandy and someone getting too close to it with a candle or something.) When the British began trading through the Caribbean, the plum pudding went with them. But rum, rather than brandy, was the liquor available on the islands, and sugar and molasses became the sweeteners. The addition of allspice and nutmeg are more Island touches on the old recipe.

It is said that the original recipe for plum pudding dates to Medieval times, when it called for 13 ingredients—1 for Jesus Christ and 12 for his apostles—and was to be made on Christmas Eve. Since then, it’s become a more elaborate affair. As with other fruit cakes, a black cake contains various dried fruits that are macerated in rum and, sometimes, port wine for weeks. The ideal time to bake it is a couple of weeks before Christmas, and as the days go by, it’s periodically basted with more booze.

The photos here are from last year, so that you can see the process from start to finish. So, in September, I put my fruit—raisins, golden raisins, plums, figs, dates, and cranberries—in a large container with a cover and poured in a wee bit of rum and port wine and let that sit until December. About a week before Christmas (I couldn’t get around to it before then), I baked the cake, basted it a few times, and brought it for Christmas Eve dinner. It came out really, really good. It’s not like any fruit cake you’ve ever had, I guarantee it. Normally, black cake is served as is, but I wanted it to look a little more festive so I iced it with a basic powdered sugar icing (which eventually melted). The only thing was that my cake was not as dark as it should be (it is called black cake, after all). I was told to increase the amount of browning or molasses. This recipe contains the increased amounts. (Browning is also known as burnt sugar and can be found in West Indian markets.)

Give it a shot. This is one fruit cake that will not get passed around. Enjoy!

Christmas Cake (Jamaican Black Cake)

4 cups mixed dried fruits (raisins, currants, prunes, citron, cherries, dates)
3 cups port wine
3 cups white rum (preferably Appleton)
1/2 lb. butter
1 cup brown sugar
6 eggs
12 oz. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp browning
1/4 molasses
1 tsp Benjamin vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp lemon juice

Preparing Fruits for Baking:

Wash fruit well. Soak fruits in 2 cups port wine and 2 cups rum for at least 4 weeks before baking.

Soaking the fruit

Soaking the fruit

To bake the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grease a 10-inch baking tin with butter or margarine. Line the tin with wax paper.

3. Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating until mixture is smooth.

Dried fruit after soaking several weeks

Dried fruit after soaking several weeks

5. Add flour and baking powder and continue to mix.

6. Blend in browning, molasses, vanilla, almond, nutmeg, allspice, and lemon juice.

7. In a blender or processor, grind fruits and add to mixture.

8. Add 1 cup rum and 1 cup wine and mix well. Place in oven.

Baked Black Cake

Baked Black Cake

Cake is baked when a knife is inserted into center of cake and comes out clean. Check cake after an hour. This will make approximately 4 lbs. of cake. If you’re baking it weeks or months in advance, continue basting it periodically with wine. Decorate if you wish, but it can be served as is.

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