Tuesday, May 29, 2012

persian green plums: experimentation


a few weeks ago, i spotted these tiny green globes at blossom bluff from a few feet away when i was at the saturday farmers market at the ferry building. i knew that i wanted to take a closer look and handle them a bit to get a sense of the weight and firmness. while i was doing this, i heard one of the blossom bluff folks indicate that they were tart and with a texture similar to a water chestnut. i picked up a few pounds. some for me and some for sus.

oftentimes when i am at a market, i buy from the usual vendors right away. then i do another round to see if there is anything that intrigues me. for years now, one of my goals is to try something new once every week. either cook something new. experiment with a new-to-me ingredient. make a new beverage. try a new food, a new dish, a new beverage, a new-to-me restaurant. something....anything....as long as it is something that was unfamiliar to me previously.

after i purchased the persian green plums, i could feel a brain tingle. there were a lot of possibilities running round in my head. for the first experiment, i wanted to make something that would preserve the crisp texture of the plum. i decided to make a variation of my "go-to" spicy chickpea and quinoa pilaf salad. i'm not a fan of wet grain salads. before i visited ottolenghi in knightsbridge, i thought grain salads were all big sopping cold wet things. yet, when i went to ottolenghi, they totally blew my mind on what constitutes a grain salad. i had a bastmati rice salad. light. fluffy. different textures. not soaking sopping wetness. the majority of grain salads i make now are inspired by that experience.

pretty much the three components of my go to chickpea quinoa salad are spiced chickpeas (onion, black pepper, cumin, coriander, citrus juice, salt, cayenne, tumeric), cooked quinoa, and fresh herbs. yet, i think i was on muni on the way home from the market when i thought that i could not use the citrus juice with the chickpeas and add slices of the persian green. when i made the salad later on, i decided to pass on the tumeric as well. don't know why, just a spur of the moment decision as i was prepping the chickpeas.

i also decided to add a melody of herbs (red shiso, mint, and another "asian mint" that i don't know the name of but am familiar with the flavor and what it looks like) that i picked up from sunday's farmers market at civic center.

this combo turned out lovely. i would definitely make this again and again. the spice, the textures, the burst of tart crispness....all complemented each other.

the next experimentation involved me doing some online research. i found references to a persian green soup with saffron, egg, and mint. i was intrigued by this. a sort of persian sour egg drop soup. i thought it was fascinating that the whites are stirred into the hot soup and the poached yolks were removed, chopped, and then added. i didn't print out the recipe. i had the flavors of the persian green, saffron, mint, and egg in my head and just went from there.

to prep the persian green, i boiled them and then removed the skin and the pits.

i put the pulp and the water i i used to boil the persian green aside. then i sweated some yellow onion, salt, and flour in a pot. then i added the water (a light green color) i used to boil the persian green and the pulp. then i added the saffron and reduced it until the pulp and chopped onion was completely disintegrated. the soup had a slight viscosity to it. it is very tart. then i added egg white. then i added the yolks. then after about a minute or two, i removed the yolks and put aside. i plated the soup with chopped mint and pieces of the soft cooked egg.

it was pretty good. it was particularly good when paired with the quinoa salad. this is a very tart soup....so it isn't for everyone. i liked it...especially with the notes of saffron and mint.

the third and final experimentation was a cocktail. i knew that i wanted something very simple. i've been wanting to try the st. george rye gin that i bought a while ago and thought that this would be a good time to try it out. when i opened the bottle, i tried the gin by itself and was extremely surprised that i liked it. i am normally not a fan of gin. yet, cdouble a while back showed me one of the st. george gins and mentioned how much he liked it....and that stuck with me and figured i'd give one of the st. george gins a shot. i'm glad that i did. after trying it straight, i muddled it with the persian green and mint. then i added tonic. then i strained it into a tumbler with a king size ice cube using a "mint julep" strainer. i also garnished with persian green plum and mint.

this was wonderful. this was also my favorite of the three experimentations.

i was so excited about this that i made this for a friend. while i was making it, they said "are you making me a $15 drink?" this made me laugh. yet, it is true. it is the type of drink that i could very well see for $15 on a menu and it would be worth it. after i made it and gave it to the friend to try.....the friend's reaction after the first sip and the various comments still makes me smile. yeah, it is a good cocktail combo. this past saturday, i wasn't able to find any more persian green plums that i was happy with. if i had, then i would have bought some more to make this drink for other friends.

if you are looking for even simpler preparations, i've also come across references of people snacking on them as is with salt or a mix of salt and chili....similar to eating green mangoes.

if you come across persian green at your market, i'd highly recommend that you try them.

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