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Panforte and Persimmons: Road Trip Discoveries

New food discovered on road trips do just as Fannie Farmer’s 1912 cookbook says – they inspire me. In the span of a month of mostly local road trips, I’ve discovered panforte and persimmon bread, tackled one of them, eaten a lot of the other, made a mental investment on how the two lack the exaltation they merit, and arrived at this conclusion: panforte is to fruitcake what persimmon bread is to quick bread.

 

fanniefarmercookbook

“The art of cookery, when not allied with a degenerate taste or with gluttony, is one of the criteria of a people’s civilization. We grow like what we eat: bad food depresses, good food exalts us like an inspiration.” — Fannie Merritt Farmer from her 1912 cookbook, A New Book of Cookery.

Fruitcake is made with things I don’t want to nibble while in the process of making it. What exactly is candied peel other than chunks and bits of glycerin color that show up on grocery shelves for a few weeks of the year in plastic containers that can’t be recycled?  The only thing that makes fruitcake marginally palatable for most is a generous soaking of whiskey and a shot of the same thrown back with every bite.

Panforte on the other hand, is an epiphany.

Panforte

Panforte (pan-FOHR-tay) is a dense, chewy, traditional Italian dessert created around 1200. Fruit, nuts and spices are suspended in a peppery, mahogany lava of sugar and honey that’s cooked to a candy consistency before troweling the concoction into a shallow round pan and sliding it into the oven. Yes, I said “peppery”, as in black and/or white pepper, and plenty of it. Confectioner’s sugar is dusted liberally on both sides while still warm. You won’t know whether to pour yourself a glass of sherry or yank out the milk jug.

Persimmon bread, or the persimmon bread I’ve been making, has a quick bread ease, but further comparison to quick bread halts there.  The batter has the eye popping color of a 64-count box of Crayolas. The texture is complicated – heavy and damp, with the grain of the bread fine and light.  The distinguishing ingredient, persimmons,  conveys something rare and misunderstood – an uncommon fruit with a bad rap. Maybe the confection is so memorably good because expectations are low going in.  But maybe it’s so good, because it’s ambrosial. The ancient Greeks knew the fruit as that of the gods.

persimmon bread batter

Buy either the hachiya or fuyu persimmon, roast some nuts, and get to stirring!

Fuyu Persimmon

I first posted a persimmon bread recipe when I wrote about the persimmon seed being a harbinger of winter. I’ve since adapted that recipe because that’s what I do. No recipe comes into my kitchen and exits unscathed. Here’s my version adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Bread.

Persimmon bread ingredients

Recipe: Persimmon Bread

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups sifted AP flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
    2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
    2½ cups sugar
    1 cup melted butter, cooled
    4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
    2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey
    2 cups persimmon puree (from about 6 squishy-soft Fuyu persimmons)
    2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
    2 cups dates or raisins

Instructions

    1. 1. Butter 2 full size loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess. If you want to use the paper loaf pans, the recipe will make several of these, depending on the size of the pans.
    1. 2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    1. 3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
    1. 4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins/fruit.
    5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Persimmon bread

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Too Much Chocolate, Cheese, and Red Meat

Telling my editor the chicken tortilla soup recipe I’d acquired from one of my favorite chefs in Oklahoma City was “a huge coup” and should be included as a side bar to the article I’d submitted wasn’t a lie until I added that it was the best chicken tortilla soup I’d ever had AND I’d had it all over the world.  All over the world?  Is chicken tortilla soup something you can get outside the lower sash of America’s skirt?

Yummy!

So I lied to my editor to trump something up.  Sometimes I don’t wash fruit before I eat it. Often don’t eat enough of the rainbow of foods unless you count salsa on chips that have a melted three-cheese blend oozing atop. Talk with my mouth open occasionally when I’m eating. Drink more than the doctor recommended two cocktails a week.

And believe men in their 50s/60s driving fast black low-slung cars with foreign names are not going through a mid life crisis.  They’ve wanted a car like that since they exited the womb and can finally afford it for the first time in their risqué-starved hard working lives.  The fact their seat mate may be a 23 year old platinum blonde with sparkly skin is beside the point. SHE’S attracted to the fast black car.  The old guy behind the wheel knows that, but doesn’t care.  I hardly believe he can be condemned for his predicament.  Give the guy a break.  Besides he needs someone with bouncy bones to help him out of the car. It’s too low to exit gracefully at his age.

When the menopause hits, I will take whatever drugs I can get my hands on.  Shorten my life?  From what? The normal age of 101 that the women in my family call it quits to say, oh maybe 90? I’ll take it.  I drive too fast and wear a seatbelt under protest, seething at the law that fines me under the guise of telling me it’s for my own protection. I’d wear it even without the law. It’s the law forcing it upon me by telling me what’s best for me that I can’t abide…  If they’d pull their heads out long enough to look around, they’d realize making cell phone use illegal while driving would save OTHER people’s lives, and would leave those of us age 18 and above to decide what’s best for our own skin.

I eat too much chocolate, cheese and red meat. I’m at my ideal weight but take a BP pill everyday. Something about genetics.  Can cuss like a sailor with “ass” being a favorite and most creatively enunciated word in my vocabulary. I’ll contemplate a face lift when needed and will pursue it if I can afford to. I figure I’ve used cheap ass soap and water all my life, so compared to the hoards of women falling for the promises from the $175 department store creams, I’ll be financially  ahead in the end. And look a hell of a lot better than they do when my scars heal. Furthermore I’ll be proud of the results and will not make the embarrassing mistake of saying I went to some spa in Arizona for a week of pure relaxation or something equally ass weak as that.

It won’t negate all these admittances or the future infractions I’m sure to commit. But here’s Oklahoma City’s Cheever’s Cafe Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe. It really is the best I’ve had. No lie.

Cheever’s Café Chicken Tortilla Soup from Head Chef Ryan Lawson

  1. ½ of a yellow onion
  2. Olive oil
  3. 2 ½ cans (16 oz) diced tomatoes
  4. 4 oz can green chiles
  5. ¾ lb of cream cheese
  6. 1 TBL Chili powder
  7. Salt
  8. 1 TBL Cumin
  9. 1 tsp Cayenne
  10. 1 tsp Minced garlic
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. Diced cooked chicken 1 lb +
  13. 1 ½ qts of chicken stock

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Sauté the onions in the olive oil.  Note: Saute = throw the heat to the onions.  Brown bits of goodness is what we’re looking for.

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Add tomatoes, green chiles and spices to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes.  I prefer less acidity so only use 2 cans (or less) of the tomatoes.  And I use the 1-4 oz can of chiles and add another can of whole chiles.

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Add cream cheese and slowly bring to a boil.

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Mash the mixture to fully incorporate everything.

Add the chicken. You could roast your own, but why would you do that? Buy a plain rotisserie chicken,  pull from the bone, tear into pieces, and call it done.

Then add the chicken stock and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 more minutes.

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Decorate, I mean garnish. And enjoy.

The Final Product

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick. Check them out!

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Scandinavian Food Break!

We interrupt the broadcasts about photography for a food break. There will be a Part III of the Now, What? series, but only after a discussion about what’s been haunting my dreams of late.

For my birthday I asked to climb a mountain…  just me and a guide. I stated out-loud that I was going to climb Grand Teton. Then I made it very public by discussing it here. Grand stands at 13,770 feet and is a technical climb.  I’m scheduled to summit over a two day period sometime late August/early September, depending on weather conditions on the mountain.  By that time I will have devoted 4 months of my life to this pursuit. I’m a non-athlete. This is a big deal.

While I’ve been eating, actually more than usual to fuel my workouts, all sugar and fried foods have been deleted like a sad regret at the computer.  When Beth Whitman at Wanderlust & Lipstick asked me to guest post for her Wanderfood Wednesdays, never wanting to miss writing opportunities, I agreed. True to my penchant for self-torture, I’ve made and posted about the things I’m craving.  Like fried potatoes, szechuan green beans, and now Scandinavian Almond Bread.

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You can see why. The bread is sweet, fragrant, dense, buttery, and pulled from the refrigerator is as refreshing as a glass of lemonade on a hot, humid Oklahoma day.  What’s interesting is I didn’t know it existed until my son fell in love with Joie Sherman, a North Dakota girl of Swedish descent (and soon to be guest cast member on AMC’s Mad Men). The love affair happened even before I accidentally discovered Kansas’ Little Sweden (Lindsborg).

While Joie describes Scandinavian food to be “white and bland”, my experimentation has not confirmed that.  White, largely. Bland, sometimes. Delicious, always.

lefsa, butter, eat

Upon returning from my solo road trip to the Dakotas, I ordered a case of lefse from Freddy’s Lefse in Fargo.  Grocery stores here don’t carry such northern delicacies. Our loss.

Scandinavian refers to the food, customs, products, and peoples of the countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark.  It seems the Swedes have the market cornered on recognizable food items, but lots of familiar products are rooted in these countries.

Swedish pancakes. Swedish meatballs. Swedish rye bread. Swedish ostkaka (cheesecake). Lingonberry everything. Swedish pepparkakor (ginger cookies). The Dala horse. Spritz cookies. Glogg. Schnapps. Lutefish. Kuchen. Lefse. Almond cake. Pippi Longstocking!?

Thank you Joie for introducing me to Almond Bread!  Since I couldn’t eat the loaf I made for this post, I gave it away to my neighbors. I only have one thing to say about that — Uff Daaaaaaahhhhhh!!!

Scandinavian Almond Bread

Almond Bread Ingredients

1 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 1/2 tsp almond extract, 2/3 cup milk, 1 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 stick melted better, Blend all with a hand mixer. Bake in a buttered & floured pan at 350 degrees for 50-60 min. or until a toothpick comes out clean. It will be VERY brown on top. Cool completely in pan before attempting extraction. Very refreshing when put covered in refrigerator.

Slices of Delight

 

The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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