Quince and Apple Pie

When I was a child in rural Pennsylvania, we had many ancient apple trees on our property.  They yielded countless small, hard, green, sour, buggy apples every fall.  We children picked and picked them so our mom could can delicious homemade applesauce and apple butter.

My tree in bloom

Next to an enormous tree close to the house, there was a small bush that bloomed in coral pink every spring and seldom put forth any fruit.  I claimed this beauty as my own from an early age.  The big apple tree is long gone, but my little tree is still there, blooming every spring and occasionally making a fruit or two.  My mother told me it was a quince and ever since then, I’ve wanted to try one.

Quince flower

Much to my delight, I saw some quince for sale at my local farmers’ market last saturday, and I had to have them. I bought four large fruits, the size of a big apple.  They were pale yellow-green and covered with soft white fuzz.  After doing a little research, I discovered that they were borderline inedible raw, but could be made into jellies and pies.  I’m happy to leave the jelly making to my dear mommy, but man I love pie.

Here’s what I came up with.  You could also make this with only apples, or with a combo of apples and pears.  This pie is healthy enough that you could eat it for breakfast!  No oils, flour, or processed sugar.

For the crust:

1.5 c nuts and seeds (any combination will do: walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflowers, etc)

1.5 c dates or other dried fruit (I used dates and apricots)

Pulse the nuts/seeds in the food processor until they are finely ground, but not so much that they turn into butter.  Add the dates or other fruit one at a time, pulsing until it forms a sticky mixture.  You’ll have to touch it to know it’s done; you should be able to roll a bit into a soft ball.  You might not use all of the fruit specified, it’s just a guideline.

Press a little more than half the mixture into a pie plate, including up the sides.  Set aside the rest for topping your pie.

For the filling: 

3 medium/large quince, peeled, cored, and sliced (sharpen your knife, these babies are like rocks!)

2-3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1/2 c liquid sweetener (I used 1/4 c honey and 1/4 c maple syrup)

1/2 c water

juice from about half a lemon

1 Tbls cornstarch

3/4 tsp Chinese 5-Spice powder (a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, anise, and black pepper)

1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Combine the quince, water, honey, and lemon juice in a large pot with a lid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 mins.  Add the apples and cook for 5 more minutes.  The fruit should be tender but not mushy.

2.  Transfer the mixture to a big bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Allow to cool.  (This is a great time to make your crust!).  Meanwhile, preheat the over to 400F.

3.  When the fruit is cool, dump it into the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture over the top and pat it together with your hands.  It might not cover the whole thing, but it will taste good just the same!

4.  Bake for 15mins at 400F.  Turn the oven down to 375F and bake 20-30 more minutes, until the fruit is tender and before the crust starts to burn.  Watch it closely if you don’t think it’s done after 20mins.  The crust will be really nasty if you burn it!

5.  Cool on a wire rack for 30mins.  Slice and serve warm to lots of friends.  It might fall apart when you take it out of the pan, but it will be tasty in a crumbly pile too.

Mmmm blurry pie (don’t worry, I shared)

Spicy Tomato Salad

It’s tomato season! The best part of the summer. I threw together this simple salad over the weekend after getting a great big sack of juicy tomatoes from the farmers’ market.

Ingredients:

4 large tomatoes, chopped
1/4 of an onion, minced
1 tbls minced jalapeno
1 tsp turmeric
Juice of one lemon, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk the turmeric into the lemon juice. Add all the other ingredients and gently mix. Let it set for about 30mins to allow the flavors to marry. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Delicious as a side for your veggie burgers!

Breakfast Scramble with Swiss Chard and Peas

One of my favorite easy meals is a tofu scramble.  It’s a great way to introduce tofu into your diet without too much trouble, and in fact, I made my first when I was in junior-high and just learning to cook plant-based food.  That first recipe came in the Vegetarian Started Kit I had ordered from PETA, and was the first time I made something edible from tofu.

The simplest scrambles are usually tofu, onion, potatoes, bell peppers, and whatever else you have lying around, plus a sauce.  My first had barbecue sauce on it, and I know I’ve eaten it with ketchup when I was really feeling lazy.  Today’s scramble is a little more gourmet.  I found some beautiful Swiss chard at the farmers’ market, as well as sugar-snap peas that I somehow resisted the urge to polish off raw on my walk home (cherry tomatoes didn’t fare so well).  I’ve found that chard is rather bitter on its own, so from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I got the idea to add an orange to it to balance that out.  Also more reason to use those sweet sweet peas!

For this recipe, you need a big deep skillet or a wok.

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1 pkg extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s because it’s only about $1.99!)

a big bunch of Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped, stems reserved

sugar-snap peas, stringed (oops, didn’t measure them!  use as many as you like)

1 orange, peeled and chopped, reserving all the juices

1 bunch of scallions

1-3 Tbls tamari or soy sauce (I did measure this! So proud of myself)

sesame seeds (optional)

black pepper to taste

1.  Drain the tofu and squeeze out as much water as you can. When I have the time, I like to cut mine into 4 slabs and brown it in a non-stick pan over medium-high flame before I scramble it.  You can skip that step and just crumble it into the pan if you want.

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2.  If you browned it, break up the tofu slabs with a wooden spoon.  Add the chard stems to the pan with a little water and put a lid on it to soften them up for a few minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, steam the peas.  I did this separately because I know that sugar-snaps are awful if overcooked.  They need only 2 or 3 minutes to get bright green.  You want them to still be sweet and a little crunchy.  Then drain them and set aside.

4.  Add the chard leaves to the big pan and put the lid back on after giving it a good stir.  If they don’t all fit, have no fear!   They’ll cook down enough in a few minutes to add the rest.

5.  Once all the greens have wilted, add the orange, scallions, tamari, and sesame seeds.  Stir and cook uncovered for a few minutes to blend the flavors, then add the peas.  Stir it some more, adjust the seasonings, and serve with fresh ground pepper.

Enjoy a healthy and hearty meal!  Depending on how big your appetite is, you should be able to get 4-6 servings out of this.  Don’t worry about eating too much!  The bulk of this is greens, so it has lots of nutritional punch and few calories.