Autumn: open yourself up to reflection.
Autumn, here in Italy, lasts longer than in the American Mid-West, where I used to live. By this time of the year in Michigan and in Illinois it is very cold and in some cases the fields are already under a cozy layer of white snow. This time of the year is the time of reflection, of inwardness, closure, rest and resilience. The days are getting shorter and shorter, and the nights longer, nature invites us to take it easy and slow down, sit down in front of the fire-place with a warm cup of tea and enjoy the heat coming to us from the fire. The arrival of Winter teaches us resilience, and patience and trust that nature is going to be born anew, that Summer is coming again. Resilience, what a beautiful word, with an even more beautiful meaning. Resilience indicates, the capacity to face difficulties in a positive manner. Rebuild yourself from hardship staying open and sensitive to the positive opportunities that life has to offer, trying not to alienate your identity from your authentic self. Trust and believe that just like the days are going be longer and warmer again, in the same way the things in your life, that you are fighting for, will come true, will take form and will transform themselves from vision to actual existence.
Autumn cooking is about transformation.
Cooking is a lot like that, just like we mentioned in the previous post the art of cooking is about transformation: making a cake, making bread, making a soup, they all are the transformation of something into something else, the evolution, the sublimation of the elements that they contain. This is like saying that carrot soup, for instance is the sublimation of carrots. Bread is the sublimation of yeast and flour and the act of baking, of which we’ll talk more about later on, is the celebration of bread. In other words cooking is celebration. Not only, because in this very act, something else is hidden, the trust that every time we get to work in the kitchen we have in a great outcome. Just like in the kitchen, trust is a necessary ingredient in our lives, if we want to achieve an existence beyond our limitations, free ourselves from fear and doubt and find the life we are meant to live of fulfillment and love.
Autumn reflection: trust yourself in the process, cook more often!
Most of us often don’t even put on their apron, or get out the pots and pans, they are so sure that they are going to screw it up. They do not trust themselves nor the process, they do not believe to be trusted in the act of transforming something into something better. This is how the cake, the soup, the bread never get done and remains stuck in a form of vision and desire, which never becomes reality. What a waist. I exhort everyone to put on that apron and start mixing the batter and peeling those carrots and try. Who cares if you screw up, in the act of screwing up lies the opportunity to learn and get better, improve the very thing you just botched.
As a food lover, I suggest everyone to experience the pleasure of cooking even to those who think they will never be able to even cook an egg right. If you do not try you will never know, and perhaps there is a sublime chef living in you. You might never find out if you never try. This is true for all aspects of life, we are on this earth to learn to improve ourselves. We shall, first of all, improve our art of living in general and within it, everything that it contains. if we let love take over and we approach life with courage rather than fear we will move beyond limitation and doubt, this is when our life will start to transform and we will live from the inside out rather than, as too often happens, from the outside in. This is the time when our life, looking more like flour and yeast, will turn into a beautifully scented, right fresh out of the oven, loaf of bread.
Autumn treasure: the persimmon.
The lovely ingredient that I am going to celebrate today is the persimmon, this amazing round, extra sweet, jelly-like, orange fruit. It is not only delicious, it is also very good for you, packed with vitaming C, to boost your immune system, and minerals important for the body. Persimmons are available through October and November, all over Tuscany, in the Fall you can find fields full of persimmon trees, jam packed with plump orange balls, hanging from the naked branches, the fruits adding splotches of color against an often misty, bare landscape. In Italain they are called cachi, exactly the same as their name in Japanese, kaki. Origianally, they are an Asian fruit, even though Europeans have known them for a long time. The Ancient Greeks called them the “Fruit of the Gods”. I love eating them plain, cutting the fruit in half and scooping out with a spoon the yummy, silk-smooth pulp.
Persimmons are best used when overly mature and become sweet and fragrant, which they are also perfect for making into jams and cakes. Speaking of cakes, I am about to share a delicious recipe of a persimmon cake, in which there is no butter at all, but it’s amazingly moist and delicate and so simple to make.
- 200 grams of flour
- 100 grams of ground hazlenut
- 170 grams of brown sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 50 ml of olive oil
- 1 packet of dry yeast (in Italy, these are little packages of raising agent for cakes that can be bought in the supermarket. A teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt can be substituted).
- Zest of one lemon
- 600 grams of persimmon pulp (about 6 persimmons, take out the stem then scoop out the flesh from the skin and break it up with a fork)
- icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the oil in a thin, steady stream while mixing. Then add the lemon zest and the persimmon pulp and mix. Finally, add the flour, hazelnuts and raising agent and mix until just combined. Pour the mixture into a lined and greased cake tin (about 26cm in diameter) and bake for 40 minutes. When cooled, dust with icing sugar. It’s beautiful with a dollop of ricotta or freshly whipped cream. Enjoy!