Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

Here, Taste This! October 20, 2010

From Peppers... Persimmon!

Green Plum Cooking School – Sat, Oct 2nd

I’m always suspicious when someone says, “Here, taste this!” and shoves a pepper in my face.  That’s what Hans Hansen of Twin Persimmons Farm did when I arrived this morning at the market.  I was tasting an Aji Dulce chili – and it really is as good as advertised:  sweet but peppery without the spicy.  This gives me an idea to make chili in my class this morning.  In my head, I’m ticking off the things I would need to pull that off and I walk back to the kitchen to make sure I have everything.

But I walk into an empty, quiet kitchen.  I don’t know if anyone truly understands the scariness of this feeling.  Benjy and Maria aren’t here yet (no biscuits! no breakfast!), Claire is not here yet (I’m going to have to set up Plum Eats!), no Molly, either (I’m going to have to set up Plum Pantry, too!) and then there’s all the produce I foraged yesterday that has to be set up at the Community Table (!).   Where is everyone?  It takes a village to put on a farmer’s market and right now the village looks like Pompeii.  I’m thinking to myself that I can enlist Daisy and Lili to sell produce (they’re not even 8-years-old) – I can just imagine what the money box will look like when they’re done.  My mind races with fear.

Finally, my people show up and they get to work.  I can breathe again.  But I’ve had to change course on the chili for the class (turns out I don’t have the meat I need) and so I switch to persimmons.  Ah, from Pompeii to persimmons.

So I decide to make persimmon pudding.  The only bad thing about this is that I’m going to have to entertain the crowd while the pudding is baking in the “real” kitchen.

We get started on the pudding and I cream twelve tablespoons of butter by hand (or by spoon, as it were).  No mixer out here!  I’m trying to teach the kids who are helping me how hard life should be.

You have to work it, the old-fashioned way...

It helps to have help.

The persimmons have a very soft, beautiful flesh that has body and flavor. I peel them and strain them.

Beautiful, strained persimmon

I bring the pudding together alternating the flour mixture with milk.  The kids help me pour the batter into the baking pans and they carry them, precariously, through the crowd to the kitchen.

When the puddings come out from the kitchen, all hot and steamy, I can’t help but say, “Here, taste this!”

NOTE: The recipes used in my Green Plum Cooking School classes can be found in my online cookbook, “Eat Where Your Food Lives,” available for purchase at


Spicy. Sticky. Sweet. September 22, 2010

Green Plum Cooking School – Saturday, August 28th

Today, I’m doing a spicy red chili preserve, even though I don’t have all the ingredients…does that really surprise anyone at this point?  I decide to have Benjy roast the peppers in the kitchen so we don’t have to do them in small batches (and because food just happens back there!).

I’m not sure where they are but my usual hecklers are not in the audience today.   Maybe they know we’ve moved class outside to the patio and think it’s too hot.  Everyone is sooooo quiet.  My friend Nicole is helping her husband, Tommy, sell his photo t-shirts at his vendor table in the parking lot; I holler over the fence if she can heckle me from out there, but she can’t hear me.  A voice comes through the plants on the patio; it’s Miss Priss saying, “You mean me?”  I say “No, it’s just not the same,” but then realize she could heckle me just fine.  This could work!

A whole peck of peppers...



Long Enough For Me… August 7, 2010

Everything we need...

Green Plum Cooking School – July 17th

Right from the start, I’m not sure what is going on this morning.  Usually, we hand out tickets for seats to my free morning cooking class starting at 9:00 am.  People wander up and in, cradling breakfast and coffee in their laps.  We end up with a full house most Saturdays, sometimes overfull, that’s when I pull out the igloos to seat people on.  Tommy, who volunteers to man the door, tries to prevent overcapacity, but I just can’t turn anyone away.  Today is a little different, though.  The line begins at the top of the stairs just before 9:00 and snakes all the way down the stairs and just keeps going into the dining room below.  I’m shocked!  It’s the middle of a very hot summer and we’ve got people lining up for an early Saturday morning cooking class.  Maybe they are just now making good on their New Year’s resolutions.  I’m not sure, but it’s grate…I mean, great.

We also have a new vendor starting today at the Midtown Farmers Market (aka MFM): Hans Hansen of Twin Persimmons Farm.  Hans is a cool guy who specializes in native plants and sprouts.  I ask the class what brought so many of them here today and most say that a friend told them they had to come.  Hum…SHEEP PEOPLE, I love it!

Today, I am cooking Chinese long beans.  When the woman from The Secret Garden (another of our regular MFM vendors) says the name for Chinese long beans in Chinese, it sounds like six syllables.  I try to repeat the Chinese name myself, at least six times throughout the class; they laugh at me but I’m not sure it’s that funny, really.

I don’t know why, but I have a problem with long beans, kind of like I have a problem with shrimp.  And water.  Not shrimp with water, but shrimp…and (also) water, and maybe some other things.  I’m determined to leave the long beans long, but The Secret Garden folks tell me I should cut them.  Other people tell me that, too.  But I don’t get it — they’re long, why not keep them long?  The first thing I should do is start the beans to cook, but I’m waiting for them to be prepped — NOT cut, but topped and tailed.  So, instead, I start the blossom butter.  I usually just grab this secret ingredient from my kitchen downstairs and no one knows what the hell I’m talking about even though I say, “It’s a compound butter with herbs, edible flowers, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.”  They still don’t really get the beauty and use of blossom butter on or in everything.  So today, I am going to demonstrate it.



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