Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Monday, October 13, 2014
As autumn begins to fully engulf the Diablo Valley, it becomes obvious that the sexy fruits of summer are on the wane departing almost as quickly as the seasonal farmers markets close until spring. Tastes must adjust to winter fruits and vegetables and for this writer that is an easy task to accomplish. Apples are everywhere in every shape, size and flavor palette from tart to sweet pleasing all involved. Grapes are massive in their bulk at year round farmers markets and also come in just as many varieties. Thomcord is a really interesting mix of a Thompson seedless, for the sweet no seed person while it is crossed with the Concord grape reminiscent of childhood snatches off the old lady across the streets grape arbor and jam on your P B and J. Seed less, purple and super sweet, brings complete joy with every bite.
Persimmons have gained enormous popularity in the past several years mostly due to the availability of Fuyu varieties. Persimmons are plentiful the world over being grown in over 30 countries for business as well as pleasure. The Unites States doesn't even measure on the export scale coming in even under Iran. Divided into astringent and non astringent varieties both have equal beauty and magnificent taste value. Fuyu persimmons, flat sort of smashed and squat looking translucent orange orbs calyx intact at stem end, are the non astringent kind eaten crunchy as you would an apple. Many different kinds of non astringent persimmons exist out there but most common ones easily found at farmers markets are Fuyu, Chocolate Fuyu and Jiro. Being a little newer to the party than bosom buddy Hachiya, Fuyu’s and friends can be confusing as the massively astringent ones, mainly Hachiya, need to be eaten when totally soft. Not so there but they are still good when they are super ripe and soft to use for baking in cookies and bars….Cut firm Fuyu’s into crunchy romaine and crisp spinach greens along with creamy chevre, toasted almonds and orange segments for a fabulous holiday salad……Any holiday party is enlivened by a bowl of Fuyu’s on the table to be eaten at will.
Elongated heart shaped Hachiya, astringent variety, is sometimes referred to a God’s Pear or Jove’s Apple going back into history when drought or freezes would brutally conquer an area in Asia where they originated, but these trees would be standing with fruit waiting to be picked. Persimmons are extremely generous with healthy agents for our bodies and have staved off hunger over the millennium. Fiber, vitamins C, K, A and iron are present and willing in every one you eat. Hachiya are full of tannins and will cause brutal pucker up if eaten totally unripe. Leave on a counter or if you are in a hurry, place in your freezer till solid and defrost for instant gratification and yummy cookies. Persimmon pudding is a seasonal treat not to be missed. Days of yore had you steam it in a coffee can on top of the stove but I just bake it in the oven for a heartwarming and tummy tingling treat. In Southeast Asian countries after harvesting, 'Hachiya' persimmons are prepared using traditional hand-drying techniques leaving a mysterious white film on the incredibly sugar sweet slices. In some countries fruits of astringent varieties are sealed in jars filled with limewater to get rid of bitterness. Persimmon trees drop their leathery green leaves around October leaving all the bright orange orbs undressed but gorgeously ready for the autumn party.
Until the rains commence, trails on local ridges are astounding in stark beauty. Spider webs caught glistening in the sun, drops of dew trapped by thirsty silk, coyotes frolicking mere yards from you, hawks actively, noisily, musically seeking love and refreshment, owls topping trees of all kinds including us in their secret language among each other, we live in wonderland. Get out and feel it.
Makes 50 cookies
1 cup butter or coconut oil
¾ cup molasses sugar (from Trader Joes) or turbinado or brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
11/4 cup persimmon pulp (about 2 large or 3 small persimmons)
21/2 cups wheat flour
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons fresh ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped and toasted walnuts
1 cup raisins (the dried Thompson Seedless grapes from the Farmers’ Market are awesome)
Preheat oven to 350* and spray cookie sheets with canola oil or line with parchment paper.
Mix flour, salt, soda and spices together and set aside.
Combine butter and sugars and beat until smooth.
Add the egg and persimmon pulp and beat well.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated.
Add the raisins and nuts and mix until incorporated.
Drop by spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
These cookies are cake like and will seem too soft but pull them out anyway as they will be nice and moist.
Legs quivering, lungs burning, scaling mountain tops, previously unthinkable to achieve, after an astoundingly steep, rocky climb, we conquer yet another summit. After 350 miles of hiking, we reach the commanding Cruz de Faro. Cross of Light, symbolizing that which is no longer of service to us, can be released to the cross. Worries, troubles, anxieties and anguish can be transferred to a rock, and left under the cross. Accompanying this release of worldly worries, the cross also represents a guiding torch to those who have passed this life before us easing their souls away from sorrow into joyous eternity, leading some to leave a ribbon or gift for those departed loved ones assuring them all is fine down here, no need to worry about us. Traversing the seemingly endless Meseta, plenty of time accrued to transfer cares to our rocks along with wondering how much a rock can absorb. This amazing rose quartz rock, a luminous cross etched in its center, crossed my path, perfect for the long awaited experience of surrender along with a ribbon carried for 350 miles, tying up for Kate and Riley, hoping to ease their worries of family sorrows accumulated in the past year.
Precariously stepping down the mountain, more difficult than crawling up, the terrain returned to astoundingly beatific, precious villages with winding stone streets, gorgeous stone houses sporting planter boxes overflowing with tender scarlet geraniums delightfully greeted us around every curve. Looking over each valley to cathedral spires in the distance seemed surreal and almost unattainable but there we were looking for shelter and food, a place to wash out our clothes and a glass of wine to complete the day. Scaling two 4200 foot peaks over 6 or 7 hours, we cross into Galicia through the mystical, magical village of O’Cebreiro, imagined or real, images flashed and lost in the same instant of civilizations came before us, guiding us closer to the completion of our journey. Galicia was settled originally by Celts only to be conquered by Spaniards leaving many Druidic traditions intact. Music became laden with bagpipes and kilts were not unusual along with mud made round houses called Palloza’s. As we trudged into Fonfria looking for a nights rest, we came upon the only Albergue available in town and found a room along with a meal. July 25 is the Feast of St. James and we hit it so good. Our hosts had a fiesta planned for the occasion in the manner of the Celts with a Quemate midsummer gathering complete with Aruzo and incantations. Aruzo is white lightning liquor in a pot with apple juice, apples, oranges, peppercorns, coffee beans a whole lot of sugar and some other secret ingredients. Our hostess, Angela of Celtic and Spanish ancestry, holds forth at the ceremony, mixing the cauldron and lighting it on fire, issuing incantations meant to release fears holding us back from anything for the year ahead. Lights out, pot ablaze, singing and shouting, we pass a delightfully amazing evening culminating savoring the torte de St Jacques, an almond and orange tart, breathtaking, intoxicating.
We used every ounce of that ceremony to complete an unkillable distance to Sarria, a brutally hilly, blazing sun day of 20 miles that ended with yet another of these wonderful villages that for some inexplicable reason has 100 steps up, literally, I counted, to get into old town and our pension our evening slumber. Well worth the effort into a village offering traditionally succulent seafood as well as an uncompromising view of town through our window plus the added perk of being shocked awake at midnight by exciting, brilliant fireworks celebrating a local wedding. Sarria represents the last 100 kilometers of the Camino where many people commence their journey as the government awards anyone completing minimum the last 100 km of the trail with the Compostela or certificate of completion. Our trip changed overnight as all the “short timers” crowded the trail as we were following the sunrise out of town the next morning. More people than we had seen in 5 weeks. Smoking, loud, music blaring out of phones accosted us at every turn. Culture shock we needed to get used to. We saw many injuries as people carelessly ran and power walked the 60 miles to get their piece of paper. A few mornings later as we started out with headlamps, chasing the sun, our last day on our path into Santiago arrived. Mixed emotions logically rise to the surface as 35 days of backpacking come to a close. Passing by a huge Albergue, 500 beds, on the outskirts of Santiago, I emotionally tumbled into the enormity of our adventure. Tears filled my eyes as I at last found Santiago in my focus below us. Sorrow and joy, blended into a luscious soufflé of adventure and liberation permeating every cell as our last view of the amazing cathedral appeared on the horizon. Santiago greeted us with live music scattered about the old town along with fireworks and crowds of raucous party people celebrating the last day of July signaling the end of the feast of St. James in the village where his body lies beneath stones in the enormous and hallowed cathedral. After completing the trail with a trip to the end Of The World, Finnistere, on the Spanish Pacific Ocean, with a coastline rivaling our Big Sur’s, as the billowing botefumeiro swayed back and forth spilling incense perfumed plumes of smoke at our final pilgrim mass, I reflected on many wonderful new friends met on the trail with uncountable lessons on survival and endurance in my heart. The Camino De Santiago, a journey for the books and one recommended highly by this unboundingly grateful pilgrim and I vow to use the steely strength I gathered physically and emotionally to embrace new as well as old challenges in my life, overcoming and assisting where I may. Buen Camino.