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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


Robert Wemischner
Los Angeles, Calif.

Books by
Robert Wemischner:

Cooking With Tea: Techniques and Recipes for Appetizers, Entrees,
Desserts, and More

The Vivid Flavors Cookbook : International Recipes from Hot & Spicy to Smoky & Sweet

A Guide to Opening and Operating a Specialty Food Store




Seasonal Chefs

Time for Persimmons, Pomegranates and Quince

November 2001 -- A trio of somewhat out-of-the-mainstream fruits -- pomegranates, persimmons and quince -- are in season in Southern California this time of year. Robert Wemischner has some simple but intriguing ideas about how to make use of all three.

Pomegranate Salad Dressing

You can buy a bottle of decent pomegranate syrup at the grocery story, but donít let that deter you from making your own. Squeezing the juice out of fresh pomegranates and reducing it on the stove is not that difficult and is certainly worth the effort, says Wemischner, a cookbook author and culinary arts teacher at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. "The freshly made juice really does have an incomparable freshness. It doesnít take much time but you have to be vigilante about the cooking because it will burn," he says.

Extracting the juice is easy enough. Just squeeze the pomegranates, or roll them on a table while pressing down with the palms, to release the juice from each seed, which are packed in tight clusters in the pithy membrane. Then cut a small hole in the tough skin and squeeze out the liquid. With that quick but rough juice extraction technique, "you pick up some of the tannin from the membrane, but not enough to bother me," he says. "I boil the juice down in a heavy saucepan until it becomes almost a reduced glaze." Thatís your pomegranate syrup, which should keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

For an easy, elegant salad dressing, mix equal parts pomegranate syrup and balsamic vinegar flavored with a crushed garlic clove submerged in the dressing for awhile, and freshly ground black pepper. "Taste it for balance. If itís a little too tart and puckery, a little processed sugar wonít hurt," says Wemischner, who serves the dressing over romaine lettuce with maybe a little feta cheese.

"Itís really nice and fruity but not overly so," he says. For an extra gourmet effect, Wemischner suggests sprinkling some uncrushed pomegranate seeds over the salad "for a flash of ruby red here and there."

Broiled Persimmons

Wemischner doesnít mind the "slimy" texture of hachiya persimmons, so he favors that variety for some purposes. But firm, crunchy fuyu persimmons have advantages of their own. In this treatment, he uses them like vegetables. "I like to broil fuyus, brushed with a little honey and vinegar," he says. He peels them first, then slices and puts them on a grill, broiling them until they get a little browned. He serves the roasted fuyu slices on a salad with goat cheese or blue cheese, walnuts or pecans, sprinkled over the top.

Simmered Quince

Never eat a raw quince. Itís one fruit that has to be cooked. Wemischner peels, cores and quarters them (or even cuts them in eighths if they are especially large), then cooks them in equal parts honey and water with lemon peel, whole cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, "and even a vanilla bean if youíve got one." He simmers them until theyíre tender and the syrup turns a pink or rosy color. He lets them cool in that syrup and serves them later with crŤme fraiche or drained yogurt (whole milk yogurt left in a fine sieve or cheesecloth suspended over a bowl in the refrigerator overnight). Add some toasted walnuts "and itís a great dessert," says Wemischner.

"It has a Greek slant because of the honey and lemon. Quinces are very Mediterranean, and yogurt and walnuts are staples of the Greek islands." The dish is simple, not very labor intensive and can be made in advance. "It only gets better sitting in syrup overnight," he says. "The powerful perfume is almost floral."

Copyright 2001 Seasonal Chef