Quince: Where Have You Been All My Life?

I’m not sure why we have missed out on quince all these years. I had a vague notion that they they were like a pithier apple — something that needed to be preserved or cooked for long periods of time. Something about quince seemed old-fashioned and fussy and therefore not on my radar. Funny thing is, we almost always buy boughs of quince blossoms this time of year to decorate our home for the Lunar New Year, but so far we have totally ignored the actual fruit.

So the other day were doing a little produce shopping and Luca saw a great pile of sunny, yellow quince and asked “what’s that, mom?”. I mistook them for papaya at first, but then soon realized these were the elusive quince. I’m not sure I had a notion of what they looked like, and so was surprised at both their color and shape. We took a smell and I was completely taken by how beautiful the aroma is. You could/should make perfume from the stuff. It’s heavenly. We snapped some up and then scoured our cookbooks to find a recipe.

Deborah Madison to the rescue! Simran, Ria and I attended a fabulous potluck last year with Deborah, hosted by 18 Reasons and Onmivore Books (a book tour stop to support her new “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” cookbook). I was lucky enough to sit next to Deborah that night – and nervous that she would be tasting my rendition of her chard and saffron tart! Both Simran and I of course immediately added this dessert book to our respective collections. It’s a great one for anyone who wants to showcase fruit throughout the year and for anyone living with sweet-tooths like my son. The recipes range from simple to elaborate. She gives ideas for fruit and cheese pairings, fruit-based sauces, and condiments as well as cakes, tarts and other deliciousness. The book includes two wonderful quince recipes including “nearly candied quince” that you roast and enjoy on it’s own or in concert with your favorite apples and pear desserts.

I opted for her braised quince with honey, cinnamon and wine. The Atlantic published the recipe, and you can find it here (but do yourself a favor and check out the book, too).  The recipe is ridiculously simple and utterly delicious — so simple that you can make this on even the busiest of nights when you want a little something special to end your meal. Case in point: I was able to pull this one off on a hectic Monday night amidst the distractions of a 2-week old infant and preschooler (while cooking dinner)! You don’t even need to peel or core the quince, just wash and slice the fruit and chuck it in a baking dish with the other ingredients and throw at all in the oven. Even though the fruit is braised with wine, it will appeal to young dessert fans too — anyone who likes the middle of an apple pie.

I’m a believer now. Quince rules!

Meeting Deborah Madison & An Easy Tofu Curry

Stacie, Ria and I recently attended a potluck hosted by 18 Reasons* at Omnivore BooksDeborah Madison of Greens Restaurant fame was there and everyone was supposed to bring a dish from one of her many amazing cookbooks.  We ended up with a beautiful spread of food that would convince almost anyone to eat more vegetables (except Ria!) Deborah has a lovely personality, and was an engaging and gracious “celebrity.”  She is very passionate about eating locally, seasonally and mostly vegetarian (she isn’t vegetarian even though her cookbooks mostly are).  Inspiring stuff!

Stacie made an amazing Chard and Saffron Tart (I admire anyone who can make pie dough) which is shown as part of the mouth-watering buffet below.  I made a Tofu in Coconut Curry Sauce – so much for stepping outside my comfort zone.  The recipe is below – who says curry has to be intimidating and a time consuming dish to make?  Unfortunately, Ria ate only the tofu curry because that was the dish most familiar to her.  It was a wonderful gathering and we love any event that allows children and dogs.  Ria had more fun than I thought she would and as we were leaving she wanted me to arrange a playdate with the owner of Omnivore’s Book’s puppy!  OK, Boss, I’ll get on that!

*18 Reasons is a wonderful non-profit engaging the community through food and art and is part of the Bi-Rite family of businesses. They offer a year-round calendar of unique wine tastings, art shows, community dinners, food classes, interactive workshops, and more in their intimate community space.  We plan on attending several more of their events.  Do check them out and consider getting a membership as they are planning more kid friendly and family themed events like a baby food swap on August 13th.

Tofu in Coconut Curry Sauce by Deborah Madison (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

Ingredients

1 tbsp peanut oil (I used vegetable oil)

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 small green or red pepper, thinly sliced (I used red and yellow and cut into cubes)

2 serrano chillies, minced

1 to 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste or curry powder (used curry powder)

1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

1/2 cup water

1 lb package firm tofu, cut into cubes and fried till golden

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped (omitted here)

3 tbsps roasted chopped peanuts (omitted here)

Method

Heat a wok, add the oil, and when it’s hot, add the onion, pepper and chillies and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Stir in the curry paste/curry powder, then add the coconut milk, water, 1/2 tsp salt and the tofu.  Simmer for 2 minutes or more or until the tofu is heated through.  Serve over rice or noodles garnished with cilantro and peanuts.