Tag Archives: winter

What I Learned about Persimmons

IMG_0951This is a persimmon.

There are persimmons trees on the slope above my grandparents’ graves, which are beautiful while you’re looking across the cemetery and down to the river. They are not as beautiful when mashed onto the bottom of your shoes, and making the car smell atrocious.

So when a coworker of Indian heritage gave me a bag with six plump, orange fruits and a few persimmon chocolate chip cookies, I was skeptical. These were Fuyu persimmons: in season until February, sweet but light, and not as crotchety (harsh when unripe) as the American persimmon.

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Christmas ’til King’s Day: Chesnuts and Brussels Sprouts

This year I found out that in Spain, Christmas isn’t as much a holiday as a two-week festivus. I like this plan, and pretended it was still Christmas until Jan. 6, the days the three kings supposedly came to offer their gifts to Jesus.

As last Friday was Epiphany, complete with King’s cake, I figured it was time to put the last of the roasted chesnuts to bed. If you’ve never had roasted chestnuts, they have a surprisingly sweet, meaty taste, and I didn’t want to just throw them into oatmeal or on salad.

I love when they look like hearts.

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Vin Chaud: Some Like it Hot

Strasbourg Christmas Markets, 2011

Christmas markets are my kryptonite. Going home to cook a healthy, cheap dinner takes superhuman power when downtown Epinal emits a fountain of delicious smells: crêpes, waffles, churros, and most noticeably, spiced wine. Vin chaud smells like the holidays: cinnamon, oranges, and liquor in a cozy package.  I’m not surprised that mulled wine is a regional specialty either, as I can’t imagine the Gauls lived in the bitter north for long before turning to hot alcohol. It’s raining cats and dogs in Lorraine, and I’m chilled to the bone some days.

Luckily, it’s easy and cheap to make vin chaud on your stove. Start with a bottle of cheap, relatively dry red wine such as Bordeaux or pinot noir. Mine was a whopping 2€. Add spices. Strain. Drink. Repeat!

Vin Chaud, à la Alsace (adapted from here)
Serves 4
1 bottle of red wine
1/4 to 1/2 c. of brown sugar. I used less, as I don’t enjoy sweet wine.
Zest of one orange
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
1/8 tsp of ginger
1/8 tsp of nutmeg
Optional: two stars of Anise. Once again, I don’t like anise much so I left it out.

You want to heat the wine and spice mixture in a sturdy pot on a very low heat, bringing it just to a light simmer. Five to 10 minutes should be enough, but as you want to serve the wine hot and fresh, leaving it longer won’t make a huge difference (except more might evaporate!) in the taste. Use a wire mesh strainer to clear the chunks before serving to friends.

Happiness and joy, it seems, are dishes best served hot.