For the people that know me well, “looking back” is not part of my thought process. Moving and looking forward is how I live my life each and every day. However, taking stock of what you accomplished seems to be appropriate for all of us, at the end of the year. Over the past week I’ve been poring over the many photos I have in my laptop and frankly am pretty amazed. I didn’t realize how much I actually did this year. (Probably the same for most people!) 2012 was a very busy year for me . Along with my weekly personal chef work and cooking classes I started regularly writing for this blog in April, and discovered that I really love writing about food. Up to that point I had done some writing and blogging, but not at a steady, weekly pace. Writing Seasonal Chef has given me the chance to not only write fun stories for you, but also create easy recipes from farmers market products as well. The whole process has been really incredible.
Planting garlic at the end of the summer at Amawalk Farm, in Katonah.
Checking out the black pigs at Gaia’s Breath Farm, in Jordanville, NY.
Steady blogging has also given me the chance to cultivate (no pun intended!) relationships with some really amazing farmers doing spectacular things, like Mark Santoro at Gaia’s Breath Farm , Marian and Larry Cross at Amawalk Farm , Judy Sedor at Newgate Farms  and Barney Sponenberg at Cabbage Hill Farm . I also had the great fortune of demoing at some of my favorite indoor and outdoor Farmers Markets this year too: Chappaqua Farmers Market , Irvington Farmers Market , Phelps Farmers Market, Farmers Market @ PepsiCo , and Rye Brook Farmers Market  to name a few. In particular the John Jay Farm Market , giving me the opportunity to not only open and close their season, but to also be the location of my exciting Throwdown competition this summer with JL Fields .
Doing a cooking demo at Tarry Market, in Port Chester.
Doing a guacamole competition at the New York Junior League.
eHow Cooking Video set up.
Demos have become a big part of what I do too, and that is such great fun. Not only can you find me tooling about the above named Markets, but I hit a few other great spots as well. I also managed to get in a few eHow cooking videos  this year as well.
So as I glide into the New Year I am excited about the many new possibilities that await me, and look forward to sharing them all with you. That said, it seemed appropriate for me to kick off my first post of 2013 with something I have never cooked before: persimmons. Surprising to even me! They are in season now and at almost every grocery store. Persimmons come in two varieties: hachiya (pictured above) and the fuyu which looks more like a yellow round tomato. They are low in fat and sodium and high in Vitamin A, Potassium and Fiber.
More after the jump ….
I’ve mentioned before that I am not a baker, so the idea of using this interesting fruit never really crossed my mind. Shame on me! Not only did I make a sweet dish, but I used it in a savory application as well. After digging through most of my cookbooks I came up with very little inspiration, so I hit the internet and of course loads of links appeared. I found this recipe page  on the Food Network web site and decided to give the muffin a try. First things first, you need to scoop and puree the inside of the persimmon. They should also be very soft – so a day or two on the counter will achieve the right texture and flavor.
Once I had the persimmons pureed, the rest came together very quickly. I decided to give this recipe a try using the egg substitute of ground flax and water. I’ve done recipes before using this method, with great success. For 1 egg you use 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed and 3 tablespoons of water.
The only other notable change was using slightly less yogurt than the original recipe notes. I did that for no other reason than the fact that this one was in my ‘fridge and I didn’t want to open another cup to use a tiny bit. The end result was perfectly fine. One additional note on this type of yogurt: I have been on a pretty rigorous search for a low sodium, low sugar brand for Larry. His breakfast of choice is yogurt, a banana and 2 to 3 tablespoons of granola to put on top. The labeling on yogurts can be very deceiving – most say “low calories” or “no fat,” but when you turn them around you find they are loaded with salt and sugar. Even the plain ones. This brand seems to come in with the least amounts – so I’m happy to buy them since he eats them every day.
Back to the recipe … after mixing the wet ingredients into the dry I came up with the medium dense batter.
The original recipe says to fill the cup 3/4 full, but they really don’t rise all that much. So figure out how big you want the muffins to be and fill the cups. You will get 12-14 depending on your taste in size.
Out of the oven warm then are soft and moist. I’m eating one now as I type this after a couple of days in the tupperware container and they are still moist, a little denser and very flavorful. This recipe is definitely a keeper!
Last week my god-daughter and her family came over for dinner and I made an Asian Pork recipe  I came across in my recent Food and Wine magazine. The meat was absolutely divine, by the way! At the bottom of the page they suggested a way to reinvent the left over ribs using hoisin sauce. So I decided to give my leftover persimmon puree a run instead. The result was quite tasty. I subbed out the hoisin for persimmon puree: 1/4 cup puree with 1 teaspoon each of Sambel Oelek  and sesame oil.
Whisk, spread on the chop and broil for about 5 minutes or until the desired color is achieved.
A quick note on the haricot verts: these could not be simpler to make. Bring a pot of salted water to boil, drop them in for 2 minutes (only!), removed to an ice bath then drain. Toss with the zest of half a lemon, a good pinch of kosher salt and a couple of drizzles of extra virgin olive oil, and you have the perfect side dish in less than 10 minutes.
At that dinner I also served and Almond Rice Pudding , also from the January issue of Food and Wine. I had some leftover and topped it with the puree and a pinch of cinnamon. By the way, this rice pudding really held up over night. Sometimes rice pudding will solidify and be very unappealing, but this one remained fairly creamy right from the ‘fridge.
I wish you and your family the very best for the coming year.
Auguri di Buon Anno! Mangiate e bevate bene.
These moist muffins bursting with persimmon flavor are perfect for a light breakfast snack or on your brunch buffet.
- 1 1/4 cup persimmon puree, 2 to 3 very ripe persimmons
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons ground flax or 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or canola oil
- 1 5.3 oz cup vanilla yogurt or soy yogurt
- Turbinado sugar, for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
- If using the 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed combine with 6 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, whisk gently and set aside.
- Cut the persimmons in half and scoop out the pulp into a food processor; pulse until smooth.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredientsL all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and lemon zest. Whisk to combine.
- Whisk together the 1 1/4 cups of the persimmon puree, flax mixture (or 2 eggs and egg white), melted butter and yogurt in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Divide the batter among the muffin cups, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan, then transfer the muffins to a rack and cool completely.
Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina  comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She’s an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmers, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog , which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook , Twitter  and Pinterest .