Friday, November 27, 2009

Persimmons (Hurma)

One of the tastiest fruits, persimmon is among the top of my favorite fruits. Persimmons can come in different varieties. The most common types are the tomato shaped or the heart shaped ones. Both types of persimmons are astringent prior to ripening and become extremely sweet once ripened.

When the tomato shaped persimmon is firm, usually the outer peel has a bright orange color or sometimes still greenish color while its flesh contains numerous super tiny, dense, brown spots which make the color of the persimmon flesh brownish. The denser the brown spots on the flesh, the sweeter the fruit. The fruit also may have from 4-8 brown seeds, although in some varieties, the seeds maybe non-existent or so small and fresh that they are unnoticeable. I think it depends on the variety of the fruit. This type can be consumed while firm or after softened.

The heart shaped ones can look ripened on the outside with a bright orange color, but still astringent inside. In order to lose its astringency, it has to become extremely soft. Similar to unripe dates, if you keep the unripe persimmons at room temperature or under the sun, they will ripen off the tree. In my opinion, the tomato shaped persimmons with the brown spot flesh are the best ones.

Persimmon branches and persimmon fruits also can make beautiful centerpieces at your home. I personally would never pay money for the branches with the fruit for my vase, but if I had a tree, I certainly use them to make my home beautiful.

In the area I grew up in Southern Turkey, persimmon trees grow easily. My father has many trees in his garden (again, I never had the chance to taste them). Persimmons were abundant while I was growing up and enjoyed them very much. I can eat many persimmons and never get sick of them. They are harvested between October and December in the Mediterranean region.

Persimmons also grow in Texas; in fact we went persimmon picking last year with some friends at a persimmon farm. My initial plan was to write about it last year, but since we found the owner of the farm really grouchy and rude to his customers (other customers too) I changed my mind, so I created this post instead.

Similar to figs and pomegranates, they are very expensive in the United States. However, since persimmons are very popular with Asians (and persimmons probably originated in Asia), Asian markets sell them at a much cheaper price. Instead of paying from $2.50 to $2.99 per persimmon at regular markets, at Asian stores you can find them at $1.50 to $1.95 per pound! Even here in Calgary, I went to Chinatown one day during lunch hour to search for persimmons. I found them at a very reasonable price.

Personally, I have never attempted to cook or bake with persimmons. Occasionally, I plan for cooking with them, but we end up eating the fruit raw as they are which I really enjoy. Probably the nutrients in the fruit are maximized when the fruit is raw. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron and may contain many other health benefits.

If you are not familiar with this fruit and never had it, do not miss any opportunity to taste it. Enjoy.

Note: The persimmons in both pictures are different. The persimmons in the first picture were purchased last year at the farmer’s market in Houston. The other ones with lighter color and cut in half are purchased from Calgary’s Chinatown. The persimmons purchased at the Chinatown were more delicious.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eggplant Kebap (Patlıcan Kebabı)

Here is a quick recipe that is delightful and not very time consuming. I had prepared this recipe while I was in Houston and had not gotten the opportunity to write a clean version of the recipe. Finally, I got the chance to write the recipe and publish it.

Similar to other kebabs, patlıcan kebab tastes much better when cooked on charcoal grill. This kebab can be placed in thin and wide bread and wrapped or can be eaten with rice or bulgur pilaf along with a bowl of cold plain yogurt. Grilled green peppers and tomatoes would be a perfect complement to this kebab.

For the Meat:

½ lb ground beef
½ clove garlic
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

For Eggplants:

3 long and thin eggplants
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
½ clove garlic
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt


To prepare the meat, all the ingredients for the meat (garlic, cayenne, salt and black pepper) in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until all the ingredients are integrated. Let the meat sit for 30 minutes. This can also be prepared the night before.

Cut the eggplants in about 1 inch length. Place in a bowl and add the olive oil (if you desire), garlic, cayenne, black pepper and salt. Mix thoroughly and let them sit for 10 minutes.

If you are using bamboo skewers, soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes prior to cooking. When soaking the skewers is finished, oil the skewers slightly so that the meat does not stick to the skewers.

With your hands, pick about 1.5 tablespoons of the meat and roll with your hands to create a small meatball. Place one eggplant piece on the oiled skewer and follow with a piece of meatball. Alternate the meatballs and the eggplant pieces, until the skewer is full 3/4s of the way.

In your indoor oven broiler or outside grill, cook for about 8-10 minutes on each side. This can vary from oven to oven, so keep watching the cooking process in order to make the meat is not overcooked.

Enjoy with rice or bulgur pilaf and plain yogurt on the side.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Pomegranates (Nar)

Hello from Calgary! I have been away from my blog for a while and I apologize to those of you whom I left your e-mails unanswered for a long time and/or published your comments late.

Many things have been going on in my life (in a good way), so I have not been able to dedicate much time to my blog since this summer. The biggest change is my husband and I are in Canada now. Due to my husband’s work situation, he has moved temporarily to Calgary, Canada recently. Luckily, my company also has an office in Calgary which allows me to work from the Calgary office. I will be traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Canada for a while. Yes, from one extreme to another, in terms of weather. Both of us look forward to this adventure while we’re still young and with no kids.

I have been here a few weeks and have not been doing much cooking yet. I have had the chance to browse and shop lightly at grocery stores in Calgary and all I can say is I miss my specialized upscale grocery store in Houston very much (sorry if I sound like a food snub). Not only the food is very pricey here (I pay almost double in Canada for regular food compared to what I used to pay in Houston for organic food), but also the variety of natural and organic food is very limited. This was no surprise as a Canadian colleague of mine had warned me prior to coming to Calgary about the food not being as good as in Houston. Although, there is one supermarket that sounds similar to my favorite Houston supermarket, but I have not explored the supermarket portion of it. Their prepared lunches were impressive though and what I would call, good quality.

When I first arrived to Canada, my husband’s solution to food was to eat sandwiches everyday! I thought he was joking, but no, he was not. Eating sandwich everyday? No way… I did stock up my pantry on basics and started cooking a little. Although I love my new kitchen very much, no heavy cooking will happen here since all my kitchen tools are in Houston. Mostly, I miss my knives. Someone who loves cooking has to have a decent set of knives. So far, my husband seems to enjoy the practical food I cook occasionally, but I know that once I go back to Houston, he will go back to his sandwiches!

Before I go on further, I would like to add that the next few months will be also eventful and I will not be blogging as much. After that, I look forward to starting blogging regularly. I miss reading my favorite blogs and as soon as I am completely back, I will have to check what I have missed. Now, I leave you with a post on another fruit of the autumn season.

Fall is the season for my favorite fruits. Pomegranates, were so abundant in my both late grandparents’ and neighbor’s gardens, I was taking them for granted, until I came to the U.S. For the past few years, my father also has been growing some pomegranate trees in his garden in the mountains, but I have not had the pleasure of tasting them since I usually visit in the wrong season. Pomegranates had not caught my eyes in grocery stores until the past few years in the States.

Pomegranates are grown and harvested from September to February in the Mediterranean region. Pomegranate fruit is made up of many small, pink/red juicy sacks containing tiny seeds forming tight clusters which are lined with a thin, soft, light yellow and bitter tissue. The tissue and the leathery skin of the fruit are bitter (yes, I’ve tasted them!). The size of a pomegranate can vary from a small apple size to a large grapefruit with a small crown on the upper part of the fruit. The outer part of a pomegranate can be yellow, pink or red.

Pomegranates grow on a tree with small leaves that have a glossy feel. The bright red flowers of the pomegranate tree can be a beautiful centerpiece at your table as can the branches and the leaves, not to mention the pomegranates themselves. Pomegranates can make an excellent centerpiece as they last long and do not spoil easily. My grandmother used to burry pomegranates under the soil in her garden for a year and they survived without spoiling!

In Turkey, pomegranates are used not only as fresh fruits, but also as sauces. The pomegranate sauce made from pomegranate juice is a wonderful tasty replacement for lemon or vinegar. Pomegranate sauce (or molasses) can make an incredible difference in the taste of ‘Kısır’ and ‘Dolma’.

Pomegranates are very rich in antioxidants, prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol and reduce various types of cancers just to mention a few.

If you do see pomegranates in your store and have not tried them before, give them a try! I have met some people who have never seen or heard of pomegranates. So, if you do not know how to eat a pomegranate, just follow these steps.

1) Slit a square around the narrow crown of the pomegranate with a sharp knife without removing the crown

2) Slit the pomegranate from the upper to the lower part from the four round corners of the fruit

3) Remove the crown
4) With your hands, separate the cut sections of the fruit

5) If you desire, you may remove all the seeds from the fruit and place in a bowl
6) You may also eat the seeds right out of the fruit

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