An Ancient Quince Recipe

quince

The Karp’s Sweet quince in our front yard, despite struggling in terrible soil, has finally started producing. This year we got about three pounds. Some of the fruit gets sunburned (note to self–put up some shade cloth next year!). But I’ve been able to cut out the browned part.

Each year the question comes up as to what to do with the fruit. You can eat Karp’s Sweet quince raw, but the texture is still quince-like, which is to say somewhat gritty and course. And each year I promise I’ll pick up a copy of Barbara Ghazarian’s comprehensive book Simply Quince, but somehow I never get around to it.

Last year I tried to make quince jelly, but overshot the jell point and ended up with jars of delicious tasting, but disagreeably hard quince gum. And Kelly just threw out my burned membrillo from last year.

This year Kevin West, author of Saving the Season came to the rescue with an ancient (the first known reference to a sweet preserve) and simple recipe by Pliny. The full recipe is on West’s website,  but to summarize you simply cook quince in equal parts honey and water until it turns red. The addition of a small amount of cracked pepper cuts the sweetness ever so slightly. You can then process the jars in a hot water bath. The end result is quince slices preserved in honey. It turned out great and, without having to worry about the jell point, reduced the anxiety level associated with preserving my entire harvest at once.

Do you have a quince tree? What do you do with the fruit?

Kimchi Class this Saturday!

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Chef Hae Jung Cho, our guest on episode 006 of the Root Simple Podcast is holding another Kimchi class on Saturday September 20th from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. in Koreatown:

The 3-hour class is a hands-on experience where you make two kinds of fermented kimchi – napa cabbage (poggi) and radish (kkakdugi) – and one quick pickle. We then share a light meal of rice, kimchi, soup and other side dishes. You leave the class with three containers of kimchi and pickles that you have made, printed recipes and the know-how to replicate the kimchi at home. Cost: $75

To sign up head over to Hae Jung’s Facebook page.

Seed, nut and fruit energy bars

fruit and nut bar

Erik is going off to the Heirloom Festival tomorrow, leaving me to helm the Root Simple empire while he brushes up on his clogging and squash ogling. Today he asked me if I would make him some energy bars as road food. I was happy to, as this is the easiest thing to do in the world. These date-based, no-bake bars are all the thing in the raw vegan precincts of the Internet (or maybe rather they were all the thing c.2009) but it just occurred to me that maybe not everyone has encountered them yet.

As fast snacks go, these are better than 99% of commercial energy bars, and far better than truck stop donuts. They’re all fruit and protein and good fats. They one downside is that they’re pretty sugary, but all the sugar is from dried fruit. The trick is not to eat these in quantity–they’re as packed with calories as they are with nutrition. One little square should hold you over ’til your next meal.

DIY Larabars

I first started making these when I wanted a DIY version of a Larabar. If you’ve ever had a Larabar and looked at the ingredients list, you’ve seen that the ingredients are dried fruit and nuts, period. Which is great–I don’t like soy and added sugar and wheat filler material in my snacks–but Larabars are pricey for something so simple and replicable at home. Admittedly, dried fruit and nuts are pricey too, but you’re still going to come out ahead if you make your own.

A Not-Recipe

Now, the problem with this post is that I don’t have a recipe for these. It’s too simple a process to warrant a recipe.

Anyway, it strikes me that about half of any group of recipe readers has no intention whatsoever of following the directions, so this should make you gonzo types happy. As for you folks who yen for structure, trust me. You don’t need a recipe for mud pies, do you? (By the way, have you seen this piece on The Toast on recipe comments?)

All you have to is mix roughly 50% dried fruit with 50% seeds and nuts of your choice in a food processor until it forms a dough which will hold shape. If necessary, add more fruit or nuts until you reach this consistency. This stuff is very forgiving–you have a lot of leeway. How much should I usee, you ask? 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of each  is enough to start with.

(Yes, you do need a food processor, though I suppose you could cowboy this whole thing using a mortar and pestle and a strong arm.)

Press this blob into a pan, in a flat layer–you don’t even have to grease the pan–and chill for a couple of hours, then cut into bars. Or you can roll it into bite sized balls and chill those. It’s best to keep your bars or balls in the fridge, though you can wrap them up in wax paper and take them to go.

See? It’s easy.

The bars Erik is taking with him tomorrow contain dates, raisins walnuts, pistachios, chia seeds, ground flax seed, wild sedge seed (gathered while foraging) and Erik’s favorite part–cacao nibs. I used these ingredient because they were in my cupboard. It turned out good. The thing is, these always turn out good.

Some fussy details:

1)  It’s all about the dates!

The dates should be Medjool dates, the soft, sticky kind, for both their sweetness and their binding properties. If you want to use another dried fruit in the mix, I’d recommend you still use dates for at least half the fruit component, just because they are so much the foundation of this recipe.

If you can’t find soft sticky Medjool dates, and have to use the lesser, drier kind, try soaking them in water first until they soften up. I’ve heard this works, but haven’t done it myself.

Other fruits to consider would include anything sticky, like raisins, dried cherries, dried figs and dried plums. Dried apples, for instance, are not sticky, so can’t help bind the mix. You could use chopped dried apples, but count them more like a dry ingredient.

2) For extra flavor, you can add all sorts of things, like a pinch of sea salt, spices, vanilla extract, coconut flakes, even honey if you have a very sweet tooth.  Most importantly, you can add chocolate: cacao nibs, a few spoonfuls of good quality cocoa powder or raw cacao powder, or heck, a handful of chocolate chips. I’d add the cocoa sparingly, tasting as you go, to make sure it doesn’t get too chalky. The sweetness of the dates and other fruits usually does a fine job of balancing bitter cocoa flavors, but of course you can add sweetners if necessary.

3) These bars are a good chance to use seeds, which are nutritional powerhouses, but sometimes hard to figure out how to use. Substitute some of the nut volume with seeds–and it’s okay to go over a little, to be more like 60% nuts and seeds. Consider using chia, hemp, flax, poppy, sunflower and sesame seeds. There are also lots of wild seeds that you’ll know about if you forage, and foraged seeds are often dull, so this is a good use for them.

4) Walnuts are a great choice for a base ingredient in any energy bar. They  just have a nice consistency, and I’d recommend they have a place in almost any batch. A simple bar that’s half dates and half walnuts is classic and delicious.But almonds, pistachios, pecans–well, heck, I really can’t imagine any nut that would not work well.  You can use nut butters too, but they are wet, so you’ll have to play with the ingredients a bit– or maybe add something starchy like oats to balance it out.

5) I’d recommend adding a spoonful of coconut oil toward the end of processing, if you have it on hand. It just makes everything a little smoother and better looking.

Some mixing advice

Mix up the nuts and seeds and any flavorings, like salt, first, before adding the dried fruit, just to make sure they’re evenly distributed before things get sticky.

It’s a good idea to hold back some of the nuts for two reasons. First, so you can add some bigger pieces back into the finished product, so you have some visual interest and crunch. Second, so you have spare ingredients if you need to adjust the mix.

For the same reason, hold back some dried fruit so you can make the mix stickier if need be.

The dough–or paste?–or whatever you call it–will look loose and sandy when you first process it, but go ahead and reach in there and squeeze a little ball together. It should hold shape. If it doesn’t, and it seems too dry, you need more dried fruit. If it’s crazy sticky or goopy, you need more nuts and seeds.

Keep your hands wet when working with the mix to avoid sticky fingers.

Enjoy!

The Arroyo Co-op in Pasadena

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Back in the 1970s the phone book for Los Angeles had dozens of food co-ops. Until just recently that number had dwindled to one (in Santa Monica), in a region of some 13 million people. Which is why I’m happy to help get the word out about the new Arroyo Co-op.  If you’re interested in joining here’s the press release I was sent:

When you shop at your local supermarket, do you feel like you really belong there? Do you wish you had an alternative – one that would offer you products you trust, and employees who will engage with you? Do you wish your shopping could help you build and support your community?

Welcome to the Arroyo Food Co-op!

The Arroyo Food Co-op is our effort to bring community and social values to the residents of Pasadena and surrounding areas. A dream in 2009, given an address in 2013, the Co-op officially opened its doors in 2014, as an on-line grocer coupled with a brick-and-mortar market. Co-op members can select from hundreds of items on our website (http://order.arroyofoodcoop.com/), and orders are ready for in-store pick up twice a week. Located at 494 Wilson Avenue in Pasadena, the Co-op is open for in-store shopping and order pickup on Tuesdays, from 4 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. More hours coming soon – ultimately we want to be open 7 days a week. This is only the beginning!

Our goal is not just to offer another shopping opportunity, but to provide an alternative to traditional markets. The Co-op provides a line of products that reflect our values and our hope for the future, made with sustainable manufacturing and marketing processes, healthy, natural, non-GMO and organic ingredients, minimal packaging and a low carbon footprint. We have pantry basics, personal care items, pet supplies (including chicken feed!) and, as a co-op, we can be responsive to member requests.

In addition to building a neighborhood market with a conscience, Arroyo Food Co-op is building a community around it. We bring people from all walks of life together at the co-op, for educational and social gatherings that share the theme and values we pursue in our product line. In an effort to foster connections and growth, we host a weekend meeting called “Food for Thought”, where we invite those in our community who are working to make a difference, to come and share their knowledge and experience with our membership.

Our store has opened on a shoestring, but that won’t hold us back! We’ve come a long way in 5 years, from a dream to a real store, through the efforts of a core of dedicated volunteers. We still have a way to go – and we’ll get there faster with more members!If you want to be able to shop your conscience, and meet other like-minded folk, please check out our product offerings and consider joining us. It only takes $30 to get started, and every purchase you make helps our dream of community come closer to reality.

The Arroyo Food Co-op – Good People, Good Stuff

015 Worm Composting and Skunks

Our worm bin.

Our worm bin.

On the fifteenth episode of the Root Simple Podcast Kelly and Erik discuss how our cleaning project is going, worm composting, the ongoing skunk menace in our garden and we review two books. Apologies for some clipping in the audio and the cat interruptions.

Worms
During the worm composting segment we cover:

Skunks

What are we reading

Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.

Bread: A Global History By William Rubel.

Kelly mentions Werner Herzog’s Happy People: A Year in the Taiga.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.