Pineapple-Cherry Muffins

This recipe was inspired by Michele Cranston’s Kitchen: The Best of the Best Cookbook that my son gave me last year for my birthday. It’s a huge book, full of recipes that are organized by grade of difficulty. It’s an interesting way to present recipes and can make the search a little more efficient. Chapters also cover basic techniques such as preparing gravlax and roasting red peppers. For instance, in the Dinner chapter risotto basics are covered on a one-page spread. Following the steps and tips are four recipes that can be adapted to the previous technique. I appreciate the vivid color photographs that accompany each recipe and how the measurements are spelled out in ounces, ml, and cups.

Pineapple-Cherry Muffins

Make sure to fill the muffin tins all the way to the top to use up all the batter. These are moist and dense (and delicious any time of the day).

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinammon

1 cup desiccated coconut

6 Tbsp. butter, softened

1 1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup dried cherries

1 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple

1. In a bowl, mix together first five ingredients and set aside.

2. In a standing mixer or in a mixing bowl, beat butter until soft, add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, allowing each to incorporate into the butter-sugar mixture.

3. Add flour mixture, milk, cherries, and pineapple and mix until just incorporated.

4. Spoon mixture into a greased muffin pan and bake in a pre-heated 375° oven for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Makes one dozen.

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Apple-Persimmon Salad

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One of my favorite things about being a member of the San Francisco Professional Food Society is attending the periodical food product tastings. It’s an informal gathering of members, aimed at educating each other about food products that are typically found in the grocery store. I’ve attended several now including a honey, vanilla ice cream, and most recently a canned tomato tasting.

Though I cook with canned tomatoes quite a bit, I don’t think I have ever plucked one out of the can an eaten it. I’m not usually fond of cold items so this was a personal challenge for me to taste twenty or so brands of chopped and whole tomatoes. Once the blind tasting was completed we all sat down for a casual pot luck and polling of our favorite brands and why. The most popular brands were Hunts, Del Monte, Safeway O Organics, Trader Joe’s, and Muir Glen. Only a couple of San Marzano cans made it in to the group and none of those ranked very high. I suspect it was more a matter of price point than quality. A higher priced can of San Marzano (above $5) has never disappointed me and I only use them in a fairly straightforward sauce, unadulterated by too many other competing flavors.

But this isn’t so much about the tasting as it is the meal afterwards. It’s always fun to gather a group of food professionals and see what they whip up. I’ve never been disappointed at any of these tastings and one particular salad served by our hostess, Ellen, was especially delicious. So much so that I couldn’t wait to try my own version of it. With tart green apples and firm Fuyu persimmons readily available now, give this deliciously crunchy salad a try. Thanks Ellen for hosting us and for your inspiring salad.

Apple-Persimmon Salad

4 Pippin or Granny Smith apples

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

5 Fuyu persimmons

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 tsp. honey

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt and fresh-ground pepper

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1. Peel and quarter apples and immediately place in a bowl of water and lemon juice; toss to coat.

2. Quarter and peel persimmons; cut into 1/4-inch cubes and place in mixing bowl. Remove apples from water and cube so that both persimmons and apples are uniform in size. Add chopped parsley.

3. In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix together honey and vinegar and heat in microwave for 10-15 seconds; add salt, pepper, and oil and stir to blend.

4. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Chill for at least an hour before serving.