My First Persimmon

IMG_3129 (2)I only discovered persimmon when I was visiting my brother Carlos, in Sacramento, California, 13 months ago. He had a basket of it on his kitchen counter that his neighbor who was growing it had given him. Carlos had never tasted the fruit either. So we sliced one open and ate it. I was astonished at how good it tasted. So Carlos gave me a few of the precious bounty and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

When I saw persimmon trees on sale at my local nursery this past May, I took one home, even though persimmons don’t usually fruit well in south Florida. The variety I purchased– Fuyu Persimmon– is bred for our hot climate and is supposed to need less cold days to develop fruit. The little tree had three tiny persimmon growing on its’ limbs, which the saleslady told me would fall off because the tree was still too small to fully develop the fruit. But I held out hope that they would grow large enough to eat.

I placed the new tree along the side of the house until I could figure out where I wanted to plant it in my yard. Then I sort of forgot about it. By the time I began to pay attention to it again, it had dried out. All the leaves had fallen off, but the three tiny persimmons still clung to the tree. I promptly planted the tree and began to faithfully water it. Leaves grew back. Then one immature fruit fell off. Then the second immature fruit fell off. But the last remaining fruit (pictured) tenaciously hung on and did eventually grow large enough to eat. Can’t wait till next year’s crop!

The Perfect Peppermint Bark

AIMG_3476One of our much anticipated holiday traditions is the making of Peppermint Bark. It started with my mother who purchased some Bark, which she shared with us, about 6 years ago. Everybody loved the sweet treat. Then the following year she read a recipe in the newspaper and decided to hand-make Bark for the family. The first batch was a little too thick and difficult to cut, but yummy anyway. The next year, she collaborated with my brother-in-law John to produce a fantastic Bark. The year after that, John enthusiastically took over the Bark making completely, tweaking the recipe with his top-secret ingredients. He has been perfecting it every holiday season since. Here’s this year’s formerly secret recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 oz. dark chocolate
  • 5 oz. white chocolate
  • 5 oz. Hershey Kisses (candy cane variety)
  • 4 to 6 candy canes

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cover a large cookie sheet with wax paper. Melt the dark chocolate and pour onto the lined cookie sheet. Smooth it out into a thin layer with a plastic spatula. Put it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden. Melt together 3/4 of the white chocolate & all the Hershey kisses and pour on top of the hardened dark chocolate layer. Smooth out to cover completely. Break up 4 – 6 candy canes and sprinkle on the top layer. The final artistic touch is to spoon the left-over white chocolate on top. Put it back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden. Remove from the refrigerator and cut the Bark in squares with a pizza cutter or knife. Place the squares into a holiday tin. Put the tin in the freezer for 10-15 minutes for the Bark to harden completely. And now it’s ready to eat!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

The Papaya Whisperer

IMG_3354 (3)I am so thankful to my gardener for helping me cut down these large papayas from my very tall papaya tree. I just couldn’t maneuver the fruit-picking pole between the high hedges and the electrical wires to get at these beauties. He got them easy…although a fourth papaya was accidentally knocked into the yard of my NeighborWithCameras. We weren’t able to retrieve it because there is a wall protecting their side yard from mine, not to mention the security cameras trained on us. I hope they are grateful for the tasty treat that fell out of the heavens onto their grass!

Pasta with Collard Greens

IMG_3376 (2)I wasn’t fond of collard greens so when I saw a big bunch of them in my CSA box, I thought I’d incorporate them in a pasta dish. I started with the recipe in the newsletter and modified it a bit. First of all, I added more garlic. My motto is that if you add enough fresh garlic to any greens, they will taste better. So here are the ingredients:

  • 12 large collard green leaves (stemmed & ripped-up)
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • olive oil
  • half of a fresh cayenne pepper (chopped finely)
  • ground black pepper (optional)
  • pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat rotini noodles)
  • parmesan cheese (optional, omit if vegan)

Sauté the onion and garlic in a little olive oil in a deep skillet. When the onion has just turned tender and translucent (in about 5 minutes), add the collard greens and cayenne pepper to the skillet. Add a little water to the pan and simmer until the greens are tender (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently. Add fresh ground black pepper, if you wish. Cook the pasta in a separate pot. When the pasta is done, you can serve it on plates and add the collard greens mixture on the top, as I did, or blend it with the noodles before serving. If you eat cheese, sprinkle shaved or shredded parmesan on the dish. Serves 2-4 people.

For someone who had never liked collard greens, this dish was a tasty revelation! I also loved the extra zest the cayenne pepper provided.

Cream of Potato & Fennel Soup w/Mushrooms

IMG_3374I wasn’t sure what to do with the giant fennel bulb that came in my CSA box yesterday, so I started with the soup recipe that came in the newsletter and modified it a bit. Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 onion
  • 2 medium thin-skinned potatoes
  • 2 ½ cups water or stock
  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • ground black pepper

Chop-up the fennel bulb and onion and cook in a little water, until soft. Add cubed potatoes and rest of water. Simmer until potato is soft. Use a hand-blender (or other method) to cream the soup. In a separate skillet, sauté the mushrooms in oil or use the mushrooms raw if you prefer. Pour soup into bowls, add mushrooms and a feathery fennel garnish to each. Serves 4.

The soup tastes similar to potato/leak but with a hint of anise from the fennel.

CSA

IMG_3344 (3)Washing the vegetables I received in my CSA today: baby carrots w/tops, Asian salad turnips, collard greens, fennel w/tops, lettuce, eggplant, cucumber, bell pepper, cubanelle pepper (sweet), cayenne pepper (hot) and dandelion greens. If you’re not familiar with CSA, it means Community Supported Agriculture. You subscribe to receive a share of the harvest of a local farm or various local farms during the growing season, which in South Florida is approximately 5 months. The food is delivered fresh, in season. Thanks to Bee Heaven Farm for a great box today that contained produce from Paradise Farms, Worden Farm and C&B Farms.

Artichoke & Avocado Salad

IMG_2803 (2)The Day 2 Dinner recipe I made from The22DayRevolution is Artichoke, Tomato and Avocado Salad. The ingredients listed in the book are:

  • 1 box grape tomatoes
  • Haas avocado
  • 1 BPA-free can artichoke hearts
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp Kalamata olives
  • Dash paprika

I used chopped-up plum tomatoes because that is what I had at the time I made the salad. Instead of the olives I used olive oil and mixed it with lemon from my tree. If you have fresh artichokes, use them rather than the canned ones. Lastly, I garnished the dish with fresh basil from my herb garden. This was an easy, basic recipe that makes 2-3 servings. Thumb up on this one!

Beans over Sweet Potato

IMG_2811 (2)The Day 2 Lunch recipe I made from The 22-Day Revolution is called Spanish Beans over Sweet Potato. The ingredients are:

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 cup black beans
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • dash salt & ground black pepper

I used oregano from my herb garden and garnished with tomato and avocado. There are no fancy foods here, just basic stuff. I loved this meal; it was easy to make and very satisfying. The recipe makes 2-3 servings.

Lean Green Juice

IMG_2733 (2)The Day 2 Breakfast recipe I made from The 22-Day Revolution is Lean Green Juice. The ingredients listed in the book are:

  • 4 stalks of kale
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (cored)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 1 frozen banana

I used fresh lemon from the little Meyer Lemon Tree my aunt gave me. It’s a “miniature” plant that I have growing in a container on my patio, but the fruit is regular size. The first time I made this juice I prepared it exactly as described. It was very tasty. The second time I whipped it up, I substituted Star Fruit for the apple just because I have a ton of Carambola in my yard. Also very tasty. Thumb up on this recipe, which can be a healthy meal-replacer if you’re trying to lose weight.

Miami Art Week

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“Camellia Flower 1”

I love the first week of December in Miami. The weather is cool and a multitude of artists, art dealers, collectors and art enthusiasts from all over the world converge here for modern and contemporary art. The most well-known art show is Art Basel/Miami Beach. This show alone features 267 galleries exhibiting the work of approximately 4000 artists. There are numerous other art fairs scattered throughout the city—more than 20– in addition to Art Basel. Tonight I attended the opening of Scope, which is housed in a temporary pavilion, on the sands of Miami Beach, off historic Ocean Drive. Scope has 120 international exhibitors from 22 countries. A couple of my favorite pieces were the bright Camellia Flower 1 & 2, by Joung Joa Kim. When I got up close I could see that the yellow pollen of the flowers contained tiny mother-of-pearl birds, stars and flowers. Below are a few other favorites.