Growing Communities Workshop

Categories: Events | 3 Comments
Posted Monday, November 30th, 2009 at 6:49 pm


On December 4-5, I’ll be attending a two-day conference, part of Robert Mondavi’s “Giving Through Growing” program.  It promises to be a “leadership workshop on community building, leadership, and organizational development through community gardening.”

I’ll drink to that!

Here’s further description from the press release:

  • Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi is proud to announce Giving Through Growing – an innovative partnership with the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) to support the development of community gardens across the country. The program will begin on the first day of summer, June 21, 2009, and continue through the end of the year. Giving Through Growing seeks to create awareness around the ever-growing community garden movement by donating funds to create educational sessions in four cities throughout the U.S.

I’m pretty sure there’s still space.  If you’re interested, contact:

  • Teague Weybright, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, 323-526-1460,

  • Blanca Fuentes, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, 323-526-1460,

This workshop is especially timely for me since I just watched The Garden, a gut-wrenching Academy-Award nominated documentary about the South Central Farmers’ struggle to save the largest community garden in the country from being destroyed by Ralph Horowitz, a real-estate developer and cold-hearted capitalist.

If you’re not familiar with the story, I’ll be writing a post on it in the next couple of days. In the meantime, watch the trailer here

The documentary made clear the absolute necessity of public green spaces for people to grow food or simply develop a closer connection to the land.  This is especially true in so called food deserts, inner-city urban areas that lack supermarkets or access to fresh produce.  Also, these gardens provide a powerful way to bring people together and get them involved in their community in a positive way.

Business owners like Mondavi, who so generously give back to the community, are an anecdote for amoral greed mongers like Ralph Horowitz, the guy who couldn’t wait to bulldoze over 13 acres of food.

To show my appreciation to Robert, I’ll be drinking as much of his wine as I can between now and December 5.  I’ll try and sober up for his workshop.


Farm Apartment Calendar

Posted Monday, November 30th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

The days of an apartment farmer start with the sunrise and end with the last dying flicker of John Stewart on the Daily Show.  Many have asked how I fill the time between my weekly CSA harvests.  Well, the wondering can stop.  I’ve posted a calendar on my sidebar which will be regularly updated with good green stuff I’ll be immersed in.  Perhaps we’ll see each other out on the range?


Pumpkin Three Way

Posted Saturday, November 28th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

3 pumpkins

Caution: This material might not be suitable for an unripened audience.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We spent it with my husband’s family where we enjoyed a pot luck feast.  I brought a Pumpkin Pie (recipe below), cranberry sauce and my Persimmon Chutney, which was a big hit.  The chutney ended up being served on the cheese platter, a brilliant combination.  The best part was that no one died of botulism!

My fridge is now stuffed with delicious leftovers which we’ll be eating for days.  Right now I’m making a turkey broth from the bones my mother-in-law so generously gave to me.  I’ve have a turkey pot pie on the menu too.

But what I really want to talk about is pumpkins.

This is the first year that I’ve experienced the wonders of this handsome squash, so often dismissed as mere eye-candy.  The amount of food one of these shapely beauties can produce is astounding.

Thanksgiving seemed like the appropriate time to use the pumpkin made famous by its appearance in the Farm Apartment header.  This is my fourth or fifth pumpkin of the Fall, and I’m not sure I’ll be getting anymore.  Before saying goodbye to them all together, I thought I’d share my favorite recipes, in case you still have a few lounging around your kitchen.

Please take note that all of these can be made from one medium sized pumpkin.  Not kidding.

This recipe is adapted from The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook

Drunken Pumpkin Pie

Note: This is only a recipe for the filling, since I am a total chicken about making pie crusts.  I used a pre-made Arrowhead Mills Graham Cracker Crust which, while a little mushy, I think worked fine.

I have added a secret, sinful ingredient: whiskey. It makes everything taste better.

2 eggs

2 cups fresh roasted pumpkin (smallish Sugar Pumpkins are the best)

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup pack dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice

2-3 tablespoons of whiskey

To roast the pumpkin:

Preheat oven to 375.  Pierce the pumpkin in a few places with a knife or a fork.  Place on a baking sheet.  Put it in the oven whole.  Roast until brown and shiny and is easily pierced with knife: about 1 hour for a 5-lb squash.

Cut the stem off the pumpkin.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the strings and the seeds.  (Separate and save the seeds for roasting later – yum).  Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or food processor.

To make the filling:

Preheat the oven to 425.  In a large bowl whisk the eggs until blended.  Add the pumpkin, milk, brown sugar, spices and whiskey and whisk until thoroughly mixed.  Pour the filling into the prepared crust.  (If you have too much, put the pie in the oven and wait about 10 minutes.  The filling will have settled and you can add to it.)

Bake on the lowest oven rack for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 and continue to bake until the filling jiggles slightly in the middle – about 35 to 45 minutes.

Let cool completely before serving.  The pie can be made a day ahead.


For me, squash equals “no butter baking”.  That’s right, squash is an excellent substitute for butter in most recipes.  I learned this from one of my favorite cookbooks,Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy

With my leftover pumpkin puree, I kept all my spices out and  made a Pumpkin Spice Bread that’s the best baked good I’ve made in a long time. Or ever?

This is an adaptation from one of Michel Stroot’s Recipes.

No Butter Pumpkin Bread

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree

1 banana, mashed

1/2 cup or more chopped dates, raisins or Turkish apricots

2 tablespoons canola oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey or agave

2 eggs lightly beaten

1 egg white lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups semolina flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice

Roast a pumpkin and make a puree.


Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the banana into the pureed pumpkin and mix.  Mix in the dried fruit, brown sugar, oil, honey, and beaten eggs and egg white.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.  Pour the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well until combined.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.  Bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or let cool.


After making both of these, I still have some pumpkin puree left.  So I’m going to cook a Pumpkin Soup with the turkey broth I’m making.  As I only have about a cup of the puree left, I’ll adjust the recipe accordingly.

This recipe is adapted from How to Cook Everything

Pumpkin Soup

1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound pumpkin, roasted and pureed

1-2 largish  tart apples, such as McIntosh, Granny Smith, Braeburn cored, peeled and roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups chicken, beef, turkey or veggie stock, preferably warmed

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon fresh tarragon leaves, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 cup heavy or light cream (optional)

minced fresh parsley leaves or snipped chives for garnish


Roast the pumpkin and puree the flesh.

Place the butter in a large, deep saucepan turn the heat to medium. When the butter melts, add the apples and onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pumpkin, wine, tarragon and enough stock to cover most of the solids.  Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, partially cover, and cook for about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree the soup in a food mill or blender.

Return it to the pan and cook gently over medium-low heat until heated through; do no boil. Stir in the cream and cook, stirring, until hot, about 1 minute (do not boil). Garnish and serve.


Can Doers

Posted Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 at 5:42 pm


The constant sunshine and good weather can lull us Angelenos into believing that we live in a land of plenty.  Put a seed in the ground and chances are it will grow. Yet, the reality is that hunger remains a serious problem here.

Here come the hard facts.

According to Fed Up With Hunger’s “Blueprint To End Hunger” (click here for PDF):

  • 1,000,000 Angelenos feel hungry every day.

  • The recent economic crisis has exacerbated the situation, resulting in increased unemployment, home loss and a 41% rise in those seeking emergency food services.

  • Most disturbing is that children and the elderly are the most at risk with 25% of LA children and 50% of independent elderly facing food insecurity on a daily basis.

Rick Nahmias of Food Forward came up with a juicy idea to help combat these staggering statistics.  Started in 2009, his organization gathers volunteers to glean excess fruit from trees in private residences and then donates the bounty to food banks.

They work with SOVA, JFS’s Community Food and Resource Program and M.E.N.D Poverty.  Combined, these food banks distribute the fruit to 30,000 hungry people a month.

As of November 12, Food Forward has collected 60,649 pounds of fresh fruit in 2009.

Though this number is astounding, it is not hard to believe.  As a native Angelino, I’m used to seeing trees sitting in yards pregnant with fruit that is never picked. Many home-owners treat their trees as mere decorations.  They don’t know what to do with all they produce and they don’t have time pick it.  So the fruit dangles, like so many dusty Christmas ornaments, rotting away.

With Food Forward in the picture, hopefully there won’t be many un-harvested trees left in LA.

So, how do we preserve all that fruit?  Can it of course!

On Sunday my husband and I were lucky enough to participate in Food Forward’s brand-new canning venture at M.E.N.D’s kitchen in Pacoima.

M.E.N.D stands for Meeting Each Need With Dignity.  Started in the early 70’s in a garage, the organization has now grown into the largest poverty agency in the Valley.  They provide emergency food, clothing, medical, vision and dental care in addition to several other services. In 2008, they served over 368,969 individuals.

Kevin West of the and Surfas Canning Class fame, and Nina Corbett of were generous enough to donate their time and lead a workshop for Food Forward volunteers in M.E.N.D Poverty’s kitchen.  The idea being to train gleaners to preserve their fruit to donate or sell as a means of raising money for the organization.


On this Sunday afternoon, about 20 FF volunteers gathered around a table  filled with fruit and listened as Nina and Kevin gave instruction.

The canning process is straightforward and, in practice, pleasing in its Zen-like repetition.  First peel the fruit, then chop it, wash the jars, heat them, boil the water, make the simple syrup, poach the pears, stuff the jars with as much fruit as possible, then seal the jars, boil them, cool them, and eventually eat them.

Each volunteer brought 12 jars to donate.  So with 240 jars, 10 crates of pears, and 7 huge pots we split into groups and got to work. I grabbed a peeler with the dullest blade I’ve ever used and picked a pear to peel (say that three times fast).

Soon, everyone was moving apace: peelers, choppers, syrup makers, water boilers, timekeepers, jar washers, talkers, photographers, and jokers. We were a jolly group, buzzed with the easy camaraderie of folks who think spending a Sunday afternoon canning is a fun idea.

My husband seemed to be having the best time, challenging anyone close by to try squeezing more pears into a jar than him. Needless to say, nobody could – for which he gave praise to many years of playing Tetris.


After a few hours, it was time to can the canning.  There was no official count, but I’d say we made about 50 jars of pear preserves which were all donated to M.E.N.D.  Not bad!  Plus, FF now has a small army of expert canners at the ready.


Nina Corbett of

Afterwards, we were treated to a smorgasbord of Kevin and Nina’s gourmet preserves.  Kevin’s Fire-Roasted Peppers in Red Wine Vinegar (a recipe that is thankfully published on his blog) were transcendent.  Nina’s raspberry jam was about the best I’ve ever tasted.  Oh and the pickled okra – yum!

For those of you out there with fruit trees in your yards, Food Forward is always looking for new trees to harvest.  Contact Erica, the Property/Harvesting Coordinator at

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



Diggin’ School

Posted Monday, November 23rd, 2009 at 8:34 pm


After watching Food Inc. and learning how big Agri-business has us by the Brussels Sprouts, my day spent volunteering with Garden School Foundation was a much needed ray of sunshine.

My husband and I pulled into the 24th Street Elementary School’s parking lot bright and early on Saturday morning not knowing what to expect.  Located right alongside the Western Ave. exit on the notoriously traffic-laden 10 freeway in the West Adams district of Los Angeles, it certainly seemed like an unlikely place for a garden.

Walking onto the grounds, however, we were soon found ourselves in a lush, green landscape.  Classrooms surrounded a charming garden courtyard beneath a giant weeping willow.  We later learned that this was the school’s initial “test garden” that was now used as an inter-curricular learning area.  Two large banners boasted “Outdoor Classroom” and “Good Eats”.


Winding our way around the buildings, we came upon GSF’s flagship garden and were truly awe-struck.  Three-quarters of an acre of verdant land, abundant with fresh herbs, vegetable and fruit trees. With the roar of I-10 in the background, this patch of green seemed miraculous. Instead of exhaust and pollution, we inhaled the scent of freshly laid hay, rosemary and honeysuckle.


Dr. Nat Zappia, an environmental historian specializing in Native California and Director of GSF, greeted us with a warm smile and happily answered our multitude of questions.  In 2003, the LAUSD was going to lay down a fresh new coat of black asphalt in order to “beautify” the grounds.  Classic.  Second grade teacher Linda Slater and principal Yongpyo Grace Yoon, approached the community to see if they couldn’t think of something more imaginative and inspiring for the children then a concrete jungle.  In short order, an enthusiastic group of parents and community members got together and GSF was born.

In 2005 GSF asked Nancy Goslee Power to draw up a plan that would fit all the needs of teachers, parents and students.  The garden is a testament to her outstanding work.  Here is just a sample of the wealth of learning experiences the garden provides:

  • Cooking Curriculum: Volunteer chefs Jennie Cook and Gino Campagna lead two weekly “Slow Food Cooking” classes where students forage, prepare and cook their own food.

  • Herb Project: Students grow herbs that they then sell to a local restaurant, Pitfire Pizza, developing skills in gardening, marketing, packaging and financial literacy.

  • Science Garden: Standardized state science curriculum is integrated into garden-based lessons.

  • Animal Habitat Workshop: Students learn the relationship between animal habitats, gardens and ecosystems.

  • Yoga Workshop: Yoga in the garden!

Not only that, GSF has also started a Wild Food garden.  1/4 of an acre of the schoolyard is now devoted to edible native plants.  Lessons about food foraging and native Californian botany will also be worked into their school curriculum.

Let me just interject here that I am a product of the LAUSD.  I have vivid memories of jumping out of my chair at recess and running as fast as my legs could carry me onto the playground – a vast, imposing landscape of black asphalt that appeared to stretch far into the horizon.  A chain link fence let us know where the playground ended and the city streets began.  There was not a tree in sight.  Like desert buttes, two handball courts jutted through the concrete in the Southwestern corner of the yard.  All other play areas – four square and hopscotch courts, a race track – were simply painted lines on the ground. The rest was left up to our imaginations.  Hopefully, we were involved enough in whatever games we concocted to ignore the heat blasting off concrete beneath us.

Prison?  Schoolyard?  Schoolyard?  Prison?  Certainly the architecture didn’t offer any answers.

So seeing this garden was truly a revelation.  Each classroom had its own raised garden bed.  Sweet, hand-painted signs proudly announced the bounty within: kale, chard, cilantro, lavender, eggplant, melon, tomato.

My husband and I were directed to the tool shed where we grabbed two shovels and some gloves.  There were many projects to choose from and we decided to plant some fruit trees that had been donated.  Howard, the head of the Native Garden project, taught us the proper methods of tree-planting, which I had never done before.

Then the digging began and, boy, was it hard work!  The soil was impacted with clay and rocks.  This was truly and an urban garden experience. I reveled in the symbolism of breaking through the land that had once been covered with concrete to plant a tree whose root system would naturally fight the clay, loosen the soil and create a rich environment for future plants and gardeners.


Before long, a shy third-grader came over to see what I was up to.  I asked his name and, barely audible, he answered Hunter.  I handed him a trowel and we set to work battling the earth.  Hunter enthusiastically started scooping dirt out of our hole and tossing it over his shoulder, muttering to himself, “I know there’s treasure down here somewhere.”  Every once in awhile he’d hold up a large piece of hard clay and exclaim “Look!  Indian Glue!”

As he worked, he became more and more animated, forgetting his initial shyness.  Actually, the fresh air, the green plants, the community working together was putting all of us in a great mood.

After using a pick-ax to get deep enough for the tree’s root system to spread, I went over to the giant compost pile created by community members and with food donated from Mozza.  I  put the tree in the hole, filled it with a mix of dirt and compost and voila!  One apricot tree planted.

I went looking for Hunter, who had wandered off,  to show him the fruits of our labor.  I found him over at the outdoor kitchen area in front of the toolshed.  Megan, from Root Down LA was teaching the kids to prepare the food from the garden.


Root Down LA trains youth in South Central LA to build demand for real food by teaching them what it is and how to make it delicious. Basically, they teach kids to eat their veggies.

Pulling from a giant wheelbarrow of freshly harvested greens, students were at work chopping up kale, chard, onions and a donated bag of fruit for lunch.


About a dozen volunteers sat down for lunch in the eating area next to the kitchen. As we at our delicious whole wheat pasta salad with fresh greens from the garden,  I was filled with a optimism for this city.

In my brief involvement with Angeleno-style food activism, I have been constantly amazed by the inspiring work so many people are doing to foster the health and well-being of our future generations.  And the food is delicious!


More pics on Flickr!


Eat Your Corporations – Food Inc.

Categories: Films | 4 Comments
Posted Thursday, November 19th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

food inc.

If we are, as the adage goes, what we eat, then most of us are multinational industrial Agri-corporations.  So says Robert Kenner and Michael Pollan in their enthralling, important documentary about our Brave New World of farming, Food Inc.

The California Endowment hosted a screening on Tuesday night as part of a panel called Greening The Food Desert.  Before the film, Market Makeovers did an inspiring presentation of their work.  They train high-school kids in South Los Angeles to “makeover” their neighborhood corner stores that only sell liquor and candy by installing produce sections. Additionally, they educate the students in how to to document the entire process and make videos which they can then use as marketing tools for their program.  Pretty genius.

After the presentation, the lights went down, the film began and the dark reality of our industrialized food system began to reveal itself.  Very.  Disturbing.

The filmmakers did an excellent job of clearly laying out the complex landscape of how corporations control our food and why it got to be this way.  I took pages of notes, but really, you should just go out and see the documentary for yourself.  It will fundamentally change the way you think about food.

Below are my thoughts on the issues raised about the meat industry.  Check back later for my thoughts on how our produce is grown. Please indulge the following rant.

There’s a reason man didn’t design the planet. What with our greed and small imaginations, we would never have been able to come up with the intricate ecosystem in which everything interconnects and is dependent on each other.  Now agri-business has put that ecosystem into factories and labs and transformed it into something truly grotesque. Then they stomp around the planet and brainwash us into believing that what they’re serving up is “food”.

But it isn’t food, it’s money, and money tastes terrible!

I’m a meat-eater and don’t have a philosophical problem with the idea that humans eat animals.  However, it’s morally imperative to treat the animals with respect, to honor them by giving them the lives that nature intended for them.  To let them exist as they are meant to exist.  By doing so, we acknowledge that they, like us, are living creatures.  It is this life-essence that connects us, and contributes to the nourishment we get from the food animals provide.

Rather than honoring this connection, Agribusiness “sanitizes” this concept right out of our profit-driven food system.  They have instead opted for a monstrous fun-house mirror reflection of Nature, an ecosystem of their own invention, that exists to line the pockets of a few and throw toxic food at the masses.

The gruesome footage of farms where the animals are raised, the slaughterhouses where they’re killed and the plants where their meat is processed paints a nightmarish picture of this abhorrent state of affairs.

The animals are shoved together by the thousands, living in their own feces, collapsing under the weight of their bodies bio-engineered to develop the most meat over the shortest period of time.  Then they are taken to slaughterhouses where low-wage, mostly undocumented workers are treated only slightly better then the animals they’re killing.  The meat goes to a processing plant where thousands of carcasses hang from hooks circling around the factory on byzantine configuration of conveyor belts.  Before being packaged, the meat is often sprayed with ammonia to kill any bacteria that developed during its so called “life.”

And then it ends up in the supermarket at cheap, cheap, cheap prices.

The most horrifying footage obtained with hidden cameras was of the Smithfield hog slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, North Carolina. Smithfield is the world’s largest pork producer and processor.

Many believe the Smithfield hog farm in Perote, Veracruz Mexico is ground zero for the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak.

At the Tar Heel plant featured in the film, they slaughter 2000 pigs an hour.  Low-wage workers are bused in from a 150 mile radius, because most people, no matter how desperate, will not work there.  The people who do become employees don’t last long.   The appalling working conditions are dehumanizing.  Often they suffer from diseases contracted by the bacteria of handling the guts of that many hogs.  It is common for their fingernails to fall off.

The ghoulish cacophony of thousands of filthy, feces-covered pigs squealing as they were being shoved toward the Kill Floor is something that I will never forget.  These practices must be stopped.

Polyface Farm in Virginia is offered up as a refreshing contrast.  On their website they describe themselves as “ a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.”

Their machine?  A grass field.  That’s right.  They send their cows into a grass field.  The cows eat the grass.  They poop.  The farmers send in the chickens who eat the gifts left by the cows.  They poop.  Then the pigs come in and eat everything else.

The animals themselves are the machines.  Nature has already invented all the technology we need to produce our meat and vegetables.

It is madness that we have given our bodies over to these agri-corporations.  Food Inc. underscored the necessity of acquiring our food with the utmost awareness and to find the closest connection we can to the source of our food.

The urban homesteading movement is clearly a reflection of the public’s rightful distrust of our destructive system of food production.

So what can we do?  The power of consumer opinion will go a long way toward changing these practices.  If you think it’s hopeless to go against these mega-corporations, the filmmakers ask us to look at what happened to Big Tobacco.  Demand sustainable food at your local supermarket.  Grow our own food when possible, support local farmers through CSA’s and farmer’s markets, buy free-range organic sustainably raised meat and dairy products, get politically involved.

Honor your food.



Off The Wall

Categories: News | No Comments
Posted Thursday, November 19th, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Who needs a patio or a roof?  Grow a garden on your wall.  Bio-Art.  Cool.

The Rooftop Garden Climbs Down a Wall –


Yes, I Canned

Categories: Canning | 5 Comments
Posted Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 at 10:50 am

I have two words for my first canning experience.  Nerve.  Wracking.  I suppose I’m an excitable type, but rarely in the kitchen have I gotten my adrenaline going to such a pitch as I did puttin’ up chutney.

It began simply enough.  Peeling the leathery skin off the sunset-hued persimmon and  chopping the sweet smelling apple all created a meditative calm.  Then mixing the ingredients with the vinegar, lime juice and spices, releasing an exotic, sour aroma.


Putting the chutney in a pot, I was soon lulled by its gentle simmer.  Then I remembered I was in the middle of an experiment.  I  pulled out what I intended to use as a canning rack and saw that it wouldn’t work at all!

A canning rack is something used to elevate the jars from the bottom of the pot so they aren’t in direct contact with the flame or the metal…so they don’t explode.  I panicked.  Wasted fruit.  Time I would never get back.  Zero jars of chutney to show for it.

Luckily I’m blessed with neighbors who love to cook.  I emailed Brooke and Edie an SOS: “Help!  Immediate need for canning rack.  You are my only hope.”  With the chutney half-way done, I knew I only had minutes to “MacGyver” a solution.

Like  canners’ angels they both wrote back right away. Brooke had the goods and said I could borrow hers.  But the water was boiling fast. Luckily, my brilliant husband called, responding to my anguished text, and came up with a quick solution: use our trivet.  Turned out it fit perfectly in the bottom of the pot.  Problem solved, I went back to work.

After putting the jars in the oven for 15 minutes at 225, they were well heated.  The chutney was done, the water was boiling, the clock was ticking, the heat was rising.  Everything had to happen all at once.  I had no idea what I was doing.

I went into this with only cursory understanding of the process.  I figured learning in the heat of the moment  would permanently seal the correct methods into my brain, like summer tomatoes in a jar.

Opening for the first time my cute lil’ canner’s kit, I found the funnel and used it to ladle in the chutney (which was delicious, by the way!). Was I supposed to immediately seal the jars and place each one in the boiling water as they were ready, or put all the jars in the water at once?

Split second decisions all of which could lead to death by botulism!

Speed reading through the 400+ page tome Ball Complete Guide To Home Preserving, I gleaned that each jar should be immediately sealed and  placed in the water.  The rim of the jars should be wiped clean with a paper towels to ensure proper sealing.  The lids shouldn’t be screwed on too tight so that they may vent.  When all the jars are in the water, then turn it up to a boil and begin the timing.  In canning, as in comedy, timing is everything.

15 minutes and zero explosions later and voila!  Two jars or Persimmon Chutney!

I’m still kinda scared to eat it though!



Things I’ve Done To Persimmons

Posted Friday, November 13th, 2009 at 10:22 am

Persimmon ill

It was only a week ago that the sweet flesh of my first persimmon passed my lips, seducing my virgin taste buds with its luscious sweetness.  Like the first blush of a new romance, I was intoxicated.  It seemed as if we had known each other forever and I couldn’t even remember my life before.  The possibilities of this new relationship seem limitless and eternal.  Put simply, it is love.

Chicken With Persimmons, Apricots and Capers

This is an adaptation of a recipe in The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook, an essential item for anyone interested in adding flavor to their cooking library with delicious seasonal recipes using the freshest ingredients.  The original recipe was “Chicken Legs With Kumquats, Prunes, and Green Olives.”  I changed it to “Chicken With Persimmons, Apricots and Capers” and served it with a side of roasted Brussels Sprouts with a Balsamic Glaze – also from the SM Farmer’s Market Cookbook.


2-3 boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts
2-3 persimmons, skinned and cubed
1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots
1 cup boiling water
1 onion chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken of vegetable stock
2-3 tablespoons capers (to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil


- Pour enough boiling water over the apricots to cover them until they soften.  About 15 minutes.

- Meanwhile, peel and cube the persimmons.

- Use a scissors to quarter the apricots.

A Fall palate

A Fall palate

- Pour oil in a pan and heat over medium heat.  Add the chicken pieces, seasoning each side with salt and pepper.

- Sear each side for about 3-4 minutes, until the outside is opaque.

- Remove the chicken to a plate.

- In the same pan, saute the onions in the oil created by the chicken until it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.

- Add the wine and raise the heat to medium until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

- Return the chicken to the pot and add the apricots, persimmons and capers and a dash of salt and pepper.  I added a bit of the stock at this point, to keep everything from sticking.

- Stir, cover and reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, adding stock if necessary.   Add the rest of the stock and simmer for 10 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through.

Persimmon Apricot Caper Chicken


Persimmon Salsa on Moroccan Spiced Tilapia

Served With Salad

And Citrus Vinaigrette Dressing

These are recipes I got from the world wide web.  The mix of flavors, the orange with the spicy, sweet salsa and the curry flavored fish was transporting.  And it was all pretty simple to make.


I left out the mint and ginger, simply because I didn’t have any and it was still wonderful.  Also I put a little bit more lime juice in.


4 small or 3 medium-size firm but ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 2/3 cups)
2 tablespoons minced white onion, rinsed, drained
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoons minced seeded serrano chile
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger


Mix persimmons, onion, lime juice, basil, serrano chile, mint, and ginger in small bowl. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper. (Salsa can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)


I chose tilapia because I’ve heard that it’s one of the most sustainable of all the fishes.  However, I’ve never been able to prepare it so that it doesn’t taste completely bland.  This recipe is genius!  It could not be easier, takes 10 minutes, is relatively healthy and it’s delicious!


2 tilapia fillets
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon olive oil


Season both sides of tilapia fillets with salt and black pepper. Rub cumin and coriander all over both sides of fillets. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add tilapia fillets and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side, until fish is fork-tender.

Citrus Vinaigrette

This recipe is from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, The Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy. Michel Stroot is a culinary wonder when it comes to preparing simple yet gourmet yet low-calorie, healthy meals using the abundance of fresh produce that Southern California boasts. Honestly, you can’t go wrong.


2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons champagne or chardonnay vinegar (any white wine vinegar will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

optional ingredients:

1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped lemon or common thyme


Combine all ingredients and process until smooth.  I usually use and old jam jar and shake it up really good.

Persimmon Chutney

For this recipe, see my post on the Canning Class at Surfas.


Forneris Farms

Categories: Farms | No Comments
Posted Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 2:16 pm


Yesterday we drove out to see my Uncle-In-Law at a hospital in Mission Hills.  He’s recovering magnificently from heart surgery.  It turned out that the hospital was right across the street from Forneris Farms.  My husband excitedly pulled the car over and we were rewarded with an astonishing array of squashes, familiar and exotic.

I was mesmerized by the enormous Hubbards that resembled giant alien pods.  I kept waiting for one to split open as a little E.T. baby struggled out, fighting through a gelatinous mass of otherworldly embryonic goo.  No dice.

IMG_0421Next to those were banana squashes, so named because of their shape.  They had to have been at least 2.5 feet long.  The squashes were so big, in fact, that the farmer’s provided red pull-wagons to cart them back to the car.  “How do you cut those?” I asked the woman behind the counter.  “With a big knife and a strong husband!” she laughed.  Though I was curious, I don’t even think I have the amount of friends it would take to consume the mountains of food one of those would produce.  Not wanting to risk the waste, I moved on.

In another bin, Turban Squash were crowded together, looking like a Rajasthani rock concert.  A cute, bulbous top, striated orange and green, mushrooms into an orange gourd, making it seem like a pumpkin is wearing a turban.  Get it.  Turban Squash.  I had never seen one of these bizarre vegetables before. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Today I saw them on display at the Co-Opportunity, Santa Monica’s food co-op.  I’m willing to admit I’m a complete squash innocent.


We ended up buying:  2 sugar pumpkins (pies!), 2 eggplants (eggplant tomato bake!), 1 carton tomatoes, 1 bunch basil, 1 bag pears, 1 bag fujis, 1 carton persimmons (Persimmon Chutney! See “Surfas Canning Class” post, 1 bunch sunflowers for Uncle Gary.  Total bill: $30.  Not bad.  Though the food wasn’t organically grown, I felt good about supporting  local, independent farmers.  Thanks Joe and Barbera Forneris!

Down the street, there was a patch of land completely planted with tomatoes and basil patches that stretched right under two enormous power lines.   Turns out the land is the gardening project of the Catholic high school across the street.  A powerful image that evokes the essence of urban farming.