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Persimmon Prediction Winter 2011-2012

Before it dumps a foot or more of snow, rendering my prediction moot, you should know the persimmon seeds indicate another white winter even though we didn’t have a white Christmas AND today’s temp may reach 60 degrees. Ignore those facts and pull out the snow melt, shovel, and Yukon-duty boots.  According to these we’re going to need them…

All Spoons

2011 Persimmon Seed Sample

Eighteen seeds from six fruit were split and nothing but spoons showed themselves. It’s also interesting to note only one utensil was found in each fruit. In other words regardless how many seeds a particular fruit held, the same utensil was in all of them.

2011 Persimmon Seed

The Farmer’s Almanac Blog gives the possible utensil discoveries and their prediction for the coming winter: “A knife shape will indicate a cold, icy winter (wind cuts through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out all the snow.”

Naysayer?  Don’t believe a wet head or bare feet will make you catch cold or that Vicks rubbed somewhere on your body can’t cure winter ills?  Check out this scientific data before you laugh too loud: But First, Persimmons.

Other persimmon related posts:

A Spoon In My Persimmon

A Big Fat Persimmon Lie

Panforte and Persimmons: Road Trip Discoveries

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

But First, Persimmons

This is not the post I expected to write. It’s been awhile and maybe the cogs really do get rusty with abstinence. The reacquaintance with the keyboard brought visions of words that would convey the hum of warmth from the low slung New Mexican sun, the scrubbed clean scent of the juniper warmed by it, and the exaltation at the long shadowed, iconic Western images favored by it.  But it all became abstract and elusive when I sat down.

I did take the long-awaited solo road trip. You know the favored Fall one that starts with a bit of fear my running away may be permanent and ends with a proud shot of the trip odometer? It was a stellar trip from beginning to the 2,500+ mile end. And Arizona got into the mix this time.

But first, persimmons.  They’re the fruit of the gods you know.  I love the twig cross bar – beautiful and reminiscent of Asian pottery jars (the fruit originated in China).

There are several varieties, but most have this distinctive (and very memorable) quality – the unripened fruit is so high in tannins, your mouth will be welded shut upon the slightest nibble of the unripened fruit (technically a berry). It’s a common joke pulled on unsuspecting southern children, who will in almost all instances eat anything. Captain John Smith described them best: “If it not be ripe it will draw a man’s mouth awire with much torment. But when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an apricot.”  What’s not to love about a fruit this complex?

Wild Persimmon

The seeds – about the size of a watermelon seed – are hard as a hammer and slick as black ice (I compared this characteristic to snot last year). They protect a translucent white center that cradles a very distinct cooler-than-cool utensil.

If you manage to split one perfectly without blood tainting the lucite center and an ensuing trip to the emergency room, you’ll see something like this:

A Spoon In My Persimmon.

This was from two years ago, but it’s onehelluva perfect split (thank you Dooley McGyver). And not a bad shot.  Great light will do that.

The Farmer’s Almanac Blog gives the possible utensil discoveries and their prediction for the coming winter: “A knife shape will indicate a cold, icy winter (wind cuts through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out all the snow.”

I’ve wondered about finding a spork.

This is last year’s seed samples.  There were several spoons as well, but none worth photographing. And these were hard earned so if you don’t clearly see a knife, use your imagination.

Accuracy so far?  Here’s the winter associated with the perfect spoon above:

Winter 2009-2010

And here’s the winter associated with last year’s knife:

Winter 2010-2011

So far for the two years I’ve been tracking this older than Methuselah harbinger, there have been only spoons and knives. Not a single fork (mild winter predictor) have my eyes seen.

So how about this year?  The wild persimmons are abundant on my parents’ ranch. The tree was a real beauty dripping with the unripened fruit – a color I mentioned in a previous post that was so glorious fashion designers would need a brown paper bag.  Deer were camping out around it waiting for the fruit to ripen and fall. Not really.

Here’s my “take” from the recent persimmon gathering treasure hunt – a turtle shell and a fossil.  Almost as thrilling as the year I found a perfect arrowhead.

the annual persimmon sample

The seed you ask?  What’s the cute little utensil in the seeds of this year’s crop?  The turtle shell has protected them until this weekend. I’ll be splitting and photoing and baking a new recipe with them, so you’ll just have to check back.

Want to read more about this ancient compact jewel?  Here are three previous posts.

A Spoon In My Persimmon

A Big Fat Persimmon Lie

Panforte and Persimmons: Road Trip Discoveries

 

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

 

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

Somewhere on the outskirts of Paris, Texas was a heavenly little burger joint.  Our stops there were the rare exception to home cooked meals and would have been pure giddiness had I ever been allowed to have two of those small gems.  For that cruel dictum I fought back by eating the huge roll on my lunch plate first. And my skinny friend’s for dessert.  I can’t recall the superheros of the time because Wimpy balancing that stack of burgers was the only hero I required.  Iron Man recently bumped Wimpy as a more modern version of burger clutching role model. Stopping for an American cheeseburger was first priority upon his return from three months in captivity – my kind of hero despite the Burger King bag.

Lander Bar & Grill Kitchen Sink Cheeseburger

Burger King wouldn’t know what this is. Lander Bar & Grill Kitchen Sink Cheeseburger, Lander, Wyoming

Since fast food is off limit during a solo road trip, I’ve become part bloodhound in detecting the smell of a well seasoned flat iron grill.  Oh I’ve ordered burgers in upscale restaurants (just in case you’re a first time reader I use ‘upscale restaurants’ loosely).  But haven’t eaten one yet that surpassed the cheap ones cooked on a blackened grill of high quality beef, American cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and pickles – in Oklahoma with onions fried in.  Always capped with a white flour bun toasted on said grill and slicked on top with a shimmer of oil – pulls the whole thing together. Not unlike the rug in The Big Lebowski.

Brownie's Tulsa Oklahoma

the basque beret bun is the perfect lid. Brownie’s, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Brownie's Tulsa Oklahoma

That’s the basic architectural structure but no condiment or food item plopped atop is doubtfully frowned upon. Mom’s “eat the damn thing before you judge” was taken to heart at an early age.   Which brings me to the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.

Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail Map

Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail Map

No single state can lay claim to a burger component like New Mexico to the hatch [chile]. Roasted, then sweated to shed the skin, halved or chopped and blanketed with cheese, the first bite yields a soft tomatillo wang that settles on the front of the tongue; mild to medium heat creeps toward the back. The taste bud conference in the middle is unmistakably green pepper, a stab of sunshine, and a swish of buttery chardonnay.  Wimpy would have pawned his waistline for this coupling.

66 restaurants (in honor of Rt. 66) made the trail for 2011.   Some, like Blake’s Lotaburgers have multiple locations. My favorite? The green chile cheeseburger from Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu. Clayton’s The Rabbit Ear Café was good.  I couldn’t get past Blake’s Lotaburger in Espanola being part of a chain. Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe (in a very un Santa Fe location) grinds their own chuck roast. While bigger than Bode’s, it lacked something. Could have been the karma from Bode’s table cloth – an intangible advantage that may not have a leveling component. I’m guessing those table covers aren’t available just anywhere.  Sorry Bobcat.  If you’re headed to New Mexico or near any of its borders, plan on taking the burger trail map and stopping for a New Mexico gem, or two.

**   No caveman cookery will take place tonight. I’ll give the arteries a break and grill the Boca Burger in my freezer. They now make ¼ pounders!  I can’t decide if this is more of a good thing or a harder slap in the face.  The cheese will remain in its cellophane package. A stack of tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce will be piled high between a whole wheat bun that I’ll give a good lick on top to mimic the oil slick.  And I’ll dream of being Wimpy’s best friend on a day he was flush with burger money.

Green Chile Cheeseburger

Bode’s General Store Green Chile Cheeseburger and the Rockin Table Cover – most burger joints can’t compete with that

Bode's General Store

Bode’s on the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail and home of the SRT favorite Green Chile Cheeseburger.

** For more fun travel and taste bud ideas, check out Wanderfood Wednesdays at Wanderlust & Lipstick. The Pan Fried Chive Bun recipe is on my list. Check out the July 12th post.

Other posts in this series:

The Abiquiu Inn

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Abiquiu – The Dar al Islam Mosque

Abiquiu

New Mexico Travel Sites:

Hatch Chile Festival – September 3,4, 2011

New Mexico Tourism

Where to buy hatch chiles

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

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. 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.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
    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

More Foodie Travel Ideas at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

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Oklahoma Fried Potatoes & Rocket Science

The hot, powdery sand sifts into every nook of my flip flop clad feet. It’s the same sand from which a garden has annually erupted for as long as I can remember – more than 3 decades. The same except for the fluffing of it by fertilizer; some years from the best fertilizer — shoveled from the chicken coop by my sister and me. The same exceDSC04789 copypt for the fertilizer and the various crops of vegetables that have been rotated through to ward off the weariness from the same ole plants year in and year out. Gardens get bored too.

Close to embarrassing myself in front of citified nephews that have no idea what a potato plant looks like, I recognize the row of plants from which my Dad has already enjoyed several suppers. Prying the plant from the ground takes a bit of doing. The soil is hard and protective of its treasure. Large and small, red and white, the pebbled potatoes show themselves.  The tops are chopped; the potatoes drop into a brown paper bag. The same befalls the onions.

DSC04801 copy

The yellow crooked neck squash is just blooming. Darn. And I don’t see any okra this year. Pride checks my yell to question where the okra might be.  I grew up here. I should know this. The nephews are watching.

Every supper of my youth witnessed a platter of fried potatoes cooked in a black, tar bottomed cast iron skillet. Being the family cook most nights, I learned the process well.

Like most dishes of this deceptively simple sort – biscuits, pie dough, venison, and fried chicken all fall in this lot, the lie behind the perceived ease to whip up one of these dishes drives many a Southern woman insane.

In other words, there’s a technique. It takes the right temperature, the right amount of oil, when to turn, how much to turn, how long to leave the lid on while the potatoes soften to the perfect consistency before the browning begins, etc.

So maybe it’s not rocket science…

Classic Southern Fried Potatoes

  • Potatoes — any kind, any color, any size
  • Onions — the same
  • A bit of yellow squash and/or okra if you have it or your parent’s is past the bloom stage and you can pluck whatever size you can get away with. And of course, find the okra.
  • Salt & pepper
  • Oil — to your taste — I like peanut or vegetable oil. Canola will work. Olive oil too, but it will lend a different flavor. And then there’s lard.

DSC08508 copyI don’t peel a new potato, but you can if you want.  As far as the cutting up technique, I tend to cut the potato from end to end into something less than 1/4 inch slabs; then from side to side into shorter pieces but still about the same thickness.  Chop the onions.  For the yellow squash, I slice into rounds of about 1/4 inch. The same with the okra. Yep, all in the same bowl will do just fine.DSC08510 copy

IF you’re using a bit of squash and/or okra with the potatoes, sprinkle some flour and cornmeal over everything. Sometimes I’ll do this even with just potatoes and onions.  The grit from the cornmeal is a learned craving, or a crazed learning. Take your pick.

Put enough oil in either a seasoned cast iron skillet, or a non-stick skillet (like the one I use when my Mom’s not looking) to come up to a bit less than 1/3 of the depth of the pan. You’re making fried potatoes here, NOT french fries, so we’re not deep frying.  Heat the oil to about 375, or until a slice of potato sizzles.  Dump it all into the pan.

DSC08515 copy

Salt and Pepper the top layer liberally and put on a lid, or like my Mom, turn a plate over the skillet. If the lid doesn’t rest firmly on the skillet, don’t panic. It will do its job just the same if resting initially on the heaping pile o’ potatoes.

Here’s where the rocket science comes in: cook until the potatoes begin to soften (test with a fork), then remove the lid. Start checking the bottom of the potatoes for browning. Once they start browning, turn.  Don’t expect to turn them like a pancake. No. Turn whatever your spatula will hold, then turn the rest the same way.  Salt & pepper again.  You may need to turn a few times after this first turn.

They’re done, umm, when you say they are. You ARE the cook, aren’t you?  Done correctly, you can pull them apart in chunks of alternating layers of creamy potatoes and crunch.  P.S. They’re fantastic cold. If you have any left.

DSC08520 copy

Oklahoma Rocket Science

For more foodie fun, check out Wanderfood Wednesdays over at Wanderlust & Lipstick!

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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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