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Blood Orange Agar Agar Jelly

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)


Blood orange is one of my favorite citrus fruit.  I love its bright ruby color and the sweet orange flavor.  The season is not very long so I buy dozens, and use them to make juice and sometimes to make jellies.  



At the recent soba workshop in San Francisco Cooking School, I introduced blood orange agar agar dessert.  I love this dessert because agar agar jellies are simple to make, and so refreshing.  I make this with different types of fruit purees and juices.  Citrus fruit in the winter, strawberries in the spring, stone fruits and berries in the summer, and persimmon in the fall.  I can have colorful seasonal desserts all year round.


Recipe:

400 ml Fruit puree or juice (blood orange, persimmons, pineapple, strawberries, any seasonal fruit – one or a combination of fruits)

2-2 gram bag of Agar Agar (Kanten Powder)

4 tbls cane sugar to taste 100 ml boiling water Mint for garnish Sauce (optional)

Mint


Instructions:

Combine the agar agar powder and sugar in the boiling water and mix well. Add the puree or juice and continue mixing for a minute. Pour the mixture into a mold. Refrigerate.  Garnish the jelly with mint and serve.

Hachiya Persimmons Hoshigaki - The Art of Drying Fruit

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Fall has come to LA and it is still lingering.  I spent the month of November exploring Hachiya Persimmons - a fruit that I didn't care for as a child.

I loved to look at persimmon trees especially in the autumn when the leaves change bright red. My mother would make pressed salmon sushi wrapped in those beautiful crismon color leaves. But I didn't look forward to eating any type of persimmon. It was a common tree, like an orange or lemon tree is in Los Angeles. We took the persimmon for granted and when my mother served wedges of persimmon as dessert instead of a pear on an apple, I wouldn't eat it because I didn't like the flavor. It reminded me of the tropical fruits like mango and papaya that I didn't care for while living in Mexico.  My mother told us that persimmon was the only fruit available to eat during the war. She and my uncle would climb neighbors' persimmon trees to steal the fruit, and sometimes they got into trouble.

 

Palates can change over time. I am now completely hooked on persimmon and it happened this year. I had encounters with the most deliciously ripe Hachiya persimmon, gelatinous and floral in fragrance, and the sweetest crispiest Fuyu persimmon; I also discovered Chocolate persimmon - that has a brownish meat. It tasted similar to Fuyu - crispy and refreshing.  I became hooked on persimmons, so much so that I decided to even take a hoshigaki -dried persimmon workshop so I can learn how to preserve the persimmons and enjoy them even when they are not in season. Here is the story about Hoshigaki making, which I wrote for Zester Daily. (here is the link).  



The National Fruit Collection, Faversham, England

Posted on October 23, 2011 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (1)


My English friend Caroline sent me this picture she took of apple varieties displayed at the National Fruit collection in Faversham, England.  They grow 2,300 varieties, 2 of each tree.  Caroline and her partner, Evan, went on  a guided walk and tasted various apples directly from the trees. I didn't know that many varieties of apples existed.

 

Green Apples - A Souvenir from Tehachapi

Posted on August 20, 2011 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (1)




Tehachapi is the land of four seasons. It is a good place to grow apples, lilacs, peonies, berries, grapes, etc.   Ha's Apple Farm is near us.  Some of you may be familiar with their apples from visiting the farmers markets in Los Angeles.  I met Mr. and Mrs. Ha for the first time at the Pasadena Farmers Market. I went up to introduce myself as their new neighbor in Tehachapi.  Some of the locals in Tehachapi think we are Mr. and Mrs. Ha. Not too many Asians live there. I don't mind being mistaken as one of the Has. They produce beautiful apples and pears.

The former owners of our ranch didn't get around to pruning our apple trees last year.  We have about six.  There is a lot of fruit on the trees but I don't expect them to get very big.  The deer have been coming into our property to check on the apples nearly everyday.  So they must think they are good. One branch of the tree broke off this morning. Sakai brought it back to Pasadena.  It had more than fifty small apples on it.  No wonder. They are still too tart, but maybe I can make applesauce or tart tatin with it.  It's going to be a lot of work to peel them but I can't wait to taste our first apples.

Tarte Tatin

Posted on November 25, 2010 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)





I come from a family of apple pie makers.  I wrote about my mother's legendary apple pie for the LA Times some years ago (here is the link).  For some reason, I didn't inherit the pie genes.  My pies are okay but I have yet to taste one that blew my mind. I need more practice.  On the other hand, I have taught myself to make a pretty good tart tatin.  I got introduced to this dessert in France.  You can always find it in a bistro and it is a popular dessert for home cooks. I have made it so many times. It helps to have one dessert recipe that you can brag about.

Everyone loves the caramalized flavor of the apples in this dish. The apples are borderline burnt.  I have seen severely burnt tart tatins in French bistros.  I like them on the verge of burnt but not black because it tastes like charcoal and looks like a mistake. It probably is.  In fact, legend goes that this tart was invented from a mistake but the restaurant (they are a few that claim they were the first to invent this dish) served it anyway, people loved it and it became history.  I find caramelized apples have better flavor than apples in pies. I dislike apples that are coated with excessive amounts of cornstarch and spice, which is often the case with apple pies. Tart Tatin, on the other hand, is made with apples cooked in butter and sugar. That's all.

 





The crust of a tart tatin can vary.  I make a cookie dough. There is always more than enough cookie dough so I make cookies with the leftovers. That's my favorite part.  This year, I made  a small tart tatin, using my 6 1/2 iinch cast iron pan.  I was still able to pack seven apples.  This will feed about four people. When making dough, I do every thing by hand.  Two knives and a rolling pin are my only tools. I  cut the butter into the flour. The dough rests in the fridge for at least an hour to overnight.  It also freezes well, so I can make it in advance.  




The apples take about 25 minutes to caramelize. Stay near the pan while you are cooking the apples. You may have to adjust the temperature.  I flip each apple once to cook the other side. This is the trickest part because if you have mushy apples, they won't flip. They fall apart.  That's why you want to use firm apples like pipin.  Granny smith is good but not always reliable when it comes to the mushy test.  Golden delicious is the other firm  apple but I like the flavor of pipin better.




I leave small chunks of butter in the dough and try not to mix too much. This way gets me closer to my mother's flaky pie crust . You don't see the finished crust in the picture below because I turned the pan upside down while it was still warm. Sorry. But that's what you have to do. This way, the tart doesn't stick to the pan.  Don't forget to run a knife around the pan so the apples don't stick to the side.  The tart tatin came out very nice.

 


Recipe:
Serves 3-4

6-7 apples, pipin or golden delicious
6 tbls butter
1/2 cup sugar

Cookie crust:
3/4 cup flour
2-3 tbls powder sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbls butter
1 egg yolk

Heavy cream (optional)

https://secure.lodgemfg.com/storefront/product1_new.asp?menu=logic&idProduct=3923" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">1 6 1/2" cast iron skillet  

To make the cookie dough.  Sift together flour, powder sugar, and salt into a bowl.  Use a knife or pastry cutter to work butter into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal.  Stir in egg yolk.  Assemble the flour mixture into a round ball. Then flatten it into a disc.  Wrap disk in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to overnight.

To make the apples, peel, core and quarter apples.  Melt butter in a 61/2- inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and the sugar and mix evenly and let the butter melt completely.  Remove from heat.

Tightly pack apple wedges around inside edges of skillet.  Make concentric circles, the larger circle surrounding the smaller circle.  The inner circle will be made up of three or four wedges.  Set aside 3-4 apple wedges for later use.

Return the skillet to the heat and cook the apples over medium heat until butter and suagr carmelize to a rich brown, about 15 minutes.  The apples will shrink as they cook. Use the leftover apple wedges and fill in the gaps. 
Carefully turn the apples once to cook the other side.  Use a fork to turn the apples.  Try to keep the concentric shape. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat.  You can do up to this step earlier in the day.

When you are ready to bake that tart tatin, pre-heat the oven to  375 F.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into 6 1/2" inch circle, about a 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out the circle so that it fits the top of the 6 inch skillet. 

BESs

BESs

Bake in oven until the pastry is golden, 25-30 minutes.  Allow tart to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen edges with a knife.  Place a plate on top of skillet and invert quickly.  Serve warm with whipped cream or plain.

Hoshigaki - Dried Persimmons

Posted on January 3, 2010 at 8:22 PM Comments comments (0)
Gozen Shirogaki 


Every new year, a beautiful wooden box containing Gozen Hoshigaki -  dried persimmons arrive from Tsuchiya - the two hundred year old artisanal pastry shop in Ogaki, Gifu.  It is a New Year's gift, Onenga, from Keiko Tsuchiya, the owner of the shop whom my family has known for more than forty years. Keiko was my Japanese tutor when I was living in Mexico city as a girl. When her family moved back to Japan, she married Tsuchiya, and has lived in Ogaki ever since.  I have not seen her since my Mexico days but I spoke to her on the phone this year.  She was full of nostalgia. She said my family is her connection to Mexico. My connection to both Japan and Mexico is this hoshigaki. 

The persimmons used to make Gozen Shirogaki are the cream of the crop. The chosen fruit is carefully peeled, strung and hung on bamboo poles to dry for forty days. My father likes to take trips to Ogaki during the fall when hundreds of these bright orange persimmons are hanging out in the open air to dry.  It inspires him to write haiku.

They say the cost and labor of making one Gozen Shirogaki compares to producing a bushel of rice. The persimmon makers sleep in the storage room to attend to the persimmons during the production season. Each persimmon is massaged by hand with a special  brush - a process that creates a fine crystalized white coating on the fruit.  These hoshigaki have tender skin with a very moist inner meat. They taste heavenly.  I feel lucky if I can eat one in the new year. I am off to a good start. 


Hoshi-gaki goes very well with tea. The tea master, Senno Rikyu, wrote about the hoshi-gaki of this region in his chronicles. 

To obtain Gozen Shirogaki, you must special order them from Tsuchiya in the fall.  

39 Tawaracho
Ogaki-shi
Tel 0584-78-2111



Basque Gateau with Apricot jam

Posted on July 26, 2009 at 11:27 AM Comments comments (0)




Just out of the of the oven




 

 

Something smells good. My sister Fuyuko is always testing recipes. I am the happy guinea pig. In general, I find French pastries too sweet for my palate but this Basque Gaeteau is not. You can have it for breakfast with coffee. Basque Gateau is made with an almond meal cookie base so it has a nice crumbly texture. It is filled with a custard creme but today Fuyuko filled it with Apricot jam and I thought it worked very well. Slowly but surely the cake disappears.

 

RECIPE

Serves 4

For the pastry

2.5 egg yolks (50 grams)

65 g powdered sugar

65 g granulated sugar

125 g softened butter

125 g unbleached all purpose flour

65 g almond meal

5 cm vanilla bean, split and scrape seeds

1 teaspoon rum

Apricot Jam - enough to fill the cavity, about 2/3 cup (see Apricot Jam with Vanilla)

 

Making the pastry

Combine all the ingredients for the pastry without overworking it.

Cover and let rest in a cool place for 4 hours.

 

Assembly

Butter a 16 cm round cake pan.

Roll out half the pastry to a thickness of approximately 3 mm.

Line the bottom and sides of the cake pan with the pastry.

Spread the apricot jam evenly in the pastry case.

Cover with the remaining pastry. Brush with egg yolk.

Bake in a 180° C oven for about 20 minutes. Then lower heat to 150 ° C for 10 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

 


Apricot Butter

Posted on June 30, 2009 at 1:48 AM Comments comments (1)


One of the first pictures I took for the blog in May was my apricot tree. The fruit was still green then. I thought it would take between 6-8 weeks for the aprictos to ripen but 4 weeks later, here I am making apricot jam with the harvested fruit. I am leaving for Tokyo in a few days and I would like to take some jam back as a souvenir. The tree produced about 300 apricots this year. Raw, they tasted best when they were firm and still slightly on the green side. Riper, the fruit became sweeter but slightly mushy. This is the trouble with apricots. You love them but they don't quite deliver. So we picked most of the fruit slightly early and decided to try jam making with them.


 

 

 

 

Apricot butter cooling in the jars


 

 

 

 

Since I knew I couldn't get to the fruit right away, I froze the fresh picked apricots. Freezing is a good way to preserve certain fruit but you want to make sure they are clean, firm and not bruised. I found an apricot butter recipe in Joy of Cooking. I defrosted 8 lbs of apricots overnight and spent Saturday cooking the fruit in my big Le Creuset pot. When defrosted, the apricots go brown and look like they are about to melt but the flavor remains intact. The apricots were sweetened with sugar and spiced with cinnamon, allspice and clove but I found The Joy of Cooking recipe too generous with spices for my taste so I cut back. Also, since every fruit has different levels of acidity and sweetness . you have to be flexible about how much sugar and lemon juice to add. I kept tasting the apricot butter with a spoon. I's good to have a nice loaf of bread when you are making jam so you can try it on a piece of bread. I had a beautiful loaf of Brioche that Huckleberry gave me yesterday for free. They wouldn't let me pay for it because it was past 6 pm and the cash register was already closed. Got lucky. By the time I finished straining all the fruit, and tasting it, adjusting the spices, I felt tired. I decided this was more than a day's work. I let the apricot puree rest in the fridge for a couple of days. I came back to it and finished the rest of the recipe today. This was a good strategy. The apricot butter turned out nice and the spices were a good accent. I might make it without the spices next time and to keep it pure apricots with just a hint of lemon. I will see what my Japanese friends have to say about the apricot butter.

 


APRICOT BUTTER

  • 8 lbs apricots, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup sugar to each cup of pulp or more to taste.
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon, optional
  • 1/2 tsp cloves, optional
  • 1/2 tsp all spice, optional
  • 1 grated rind and juice of 1 lemon (or less lemon juice if acidity of the fruit is strong)
  • 11/2 cup dry white white

 

  1. Wash and pit 8 lbs of apricots. Cook very slowly in their own juice until soft. Stir occasionally. Crush the apricots, using a potato masher.
  2. Put the fruit through a fine strainer. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to each cup of sugar. Add more sugar if needed.
  3. Add cinnamon, cloves, sllapice, grated rind and juice of 1 lemon. Let the pulp cool down.
  4. Stir 1 cup of white wine. Place 3/4 of the puree in a large heat proof crock pot. Keep the rest in reserve. Put the crock pot in a cold oven. Set oven to 300 F. Let the apricot butter bake until it thickens. As the puree shrinks and the color darkens, fill the crock pot with reserved apricot puree. When the butter is thick, but still moist, put into sterile jars. This will take about 3.5 to 4 hours.
  5. Makes approximately 6 cups of Apricot Butter.

 

  

 


Santa Monica - Fuzzy Peach

Posted on June 19, 2009 at 2:10 AM Comments comments (0)

My Fruit Trees

Posted on May 29, 2009 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)


Peaches and Apricots in my Garden


This year, I am going to have a lot of fruit.  Jam making is in my mind. Myfriends in Tokyo are waiting.  It will be at least six to eight weeksbefore the fruit will be ripe but they are so beautiful to look at.  Onthe other hand, my two plum trees are dormant this year.  It's good tohave a garden that rotates fruit.