On not wasting food

Spiced Persimmon and Walnut Muffins

Persimmons are very pretty. They are a lovely dusky orange color and their stems look like a blooming flower. I admired them for quite some time on my kitchen counter before I reminded myself that they were food and fresh fruit does not last forever. I pureed them after cutting out a few squishy bits and the equally lovely puree went in to the refrigerator. It came out for a spectacular batch of persimmon muffins and then went back to sit some more. By the time I was ready to use more, it was too late. The puree had been colonized and had to be pitched (at least in to the compost bin). This just about laid me low. I get rather angry when food gets wasted or spoiled. It is a hyper-reaction from being raised by people who know what lean times are. I paid good money for these lovely local persimmons courtesy of the Beneficial Farms box and I just let them rot. Times are tough; and though I haven't started saving string yet, there is not much room for frivolous wasting. I also let one of our fragrant Meyer lemons from the box get too squishy and that just about put me in tears. Do I have so much in the produce bin that these precious ingredients get lost? Perhaps I need to run the pantry on a just in time model, rather than just in case.

Despite those frustrations, there was some good food to come out of the kitchen this week with the help of items from the box. I'm finding that several recent recipes have fit with the bits and bobs around the house and can be conjured up with only minimal defrosting. For example, I made Sunset's Devilish Chorizo Chili with Hominy for a warming dinner one evening. By some miracle, I had a blob of chorizo, a bit of home cooked hominy, some home cooked pinto beans (I used instead of the ground beef) and in went green chiles and hydroponic tomatoes from the box. It's New Mexico, damn straight we have green chile around. It was filling and tasty. I could have gone heavier on the green chile but it was still a good winter's night meal.

Also, the one success out of this batch of persimmons was National Public Radio's Spiced Persimmons and Walnut Muffins. I made these for a weekend breakfast, thinking "how long could muffins take?" Long enough that I was twitchy from hunger by the time they were ready. They were tremendously tasty but it was a long list of ingredients. I used an apple instead of the diced firm persimmons called for and it was just great. In my usual lipo-phobic style of baking, I usually replace any calls for oil with applesauce. I had no applesauce around the house and in an attempt to move this recipe along followed the directions and used a quarter cup of canola oil. Readers, the difference was immediate. The muffins were springy and moist and came out of the pan and off their muffin cups easily. As much as it pains me to say, oil might have its place in the pantry. I appeased my guilt by doing the math and realizing that it was only a teaspoon of oil per muffin.

People also came over for a belated Chinese New Year's party last week. Welcome to the Year of the Ox. I finally had a good reason to make use of the daikon from the box. It was used in a very simple salad of a Asian vinaigrette with shredded and briefly drained daikon from Jack Bishop super-great Vegetables Every Day. I had my suspicions about a bowl full of shredded radishes especially how peppery smelling the daikon was upon shredding. It and the other vegetable salads were hits. It was a refreshing and crunchy addition to the plate. The daikon had been contentedly sitting in the vegetable bin awaiting its purpose and here it was.

I have been most appreciative of the sturdy sprouts in the box that have made fine salads. Riffing on Gourmet's Endive and Pear Salad, I used the sprouts instead of the chicory and was happy to have something green and crunchy to accompany dinner in the dead of January. We'll be happily making more roasted potatoes, eating apples and grapefruits, and in general enjoying what the box brings this coming week.

For your cooking pleasure:

Endive and Pear Salad

Spiced Persimmon and Walnut Muffins

Devilish Chorizo Chili with Hominy