Simply Quince by Barbara Ghazarian
A highly recommended and unique addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections, October 12, 2009
By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
The quince is a seriously underestimated and all-to-often underappreciated fruit that, culinarily speaking, is as versatile as the apple, is a staple in the orchards and kitchens of many different countries and cultures around the world. It was first cultivated in American by the early European colonists. A fuzz-covered and aromatic cousin of pears and apples, most of us know the quince primarily as a jam. But as Barbara Ghazarian amply demonstrated in "Simply Quince", it can be so much more! Comprising seventy 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes that range from Quince-Orange Pickles; Quince-Cranberry Sauce; Veal Shanks with Prunes, Apricots, and Quince; and Brandied-Quince Buckle; to Buttery Almond-Quince Phyllo Tarts; Quick Quince Chutney; and White Pizza with Quince, Prosciutto, Asiago Cheese and Chives; Quince-Infused Spirits Grappa and Vodka, "Simply Quince" offers an impressively broad spectrum of quince oriented dishes that will satisfy even the most gourmet of tastes and is a highly recommended and unique addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections.
Recipe: Candied quince
Total time: About 1 1/2 hours
Servings: Makes 1 pint
Note: From Barbara Ghazarian's "Simply Quince." For those new to cooking with quince, this recipe is an excellent starting point. Candied quince is very easy to make and delicious any way you serve it.
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 pound fresh quince, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges (about 3 cups)
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Add the quince and stir to coat.
2. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar melts completely and begins to bubble, stirring often so the fruit does not burn. Reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is softened and turned to a rich rosé or red color and the sugar has reduced to a thickened, syrupy consistency, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove from heat.
3. Serve with a little heavy cream or yogurt spooned over top, or use as a topping for vanilla ice cream.
Each of 8 servings: 312 calories; 0 protein; 81 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 0 fat; 0 cholesterol; 76 grams sugar; 1 mg. sodium.
Recipe: Quince clafoutis
Total time: 1 hour and 10 minutes, plus poaching and chilling times for the quince
Note: Adapted from Barbara Ghazarian's "Simply Quince." Light, rich and creamy, this pudding-like dessert is a French classic. Sublime when served slightly warm or just at room temperature.
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 pounds fresh quince, peeled, cored, quartered and cut into 1/2 -inch-thick wedges (about 7 cups)
In a large, heavy-bottom pot, combine water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stick and quince. Quickly bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, until the quince is tender, about 1 1/4 hours, stirring occasionally. The fruit will turn golden, then a blush salmon-pink color. The fruit is done when a knife pierces it easily. Discard the cinnamon stick and cool to room temperature. This makes about 4 cups poached quince, slightly more than is required for the remainder of the recipe. Poached quince may be jarred in its poaching syrup, stored in an airtight container and chilled (in the refrigerator) for a week, or frozen.
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons apricot brandy
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups poached quince, drained, patted dry with paper towels, and chilled in an airtight container for at least 2 hours before using
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round deep-dish pie pan. Sprinkle the bottom and sides of the pan with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and remaining one-third cup sugar until the eggs are pale yellow, light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, cream, lemon zest, vanilla, brandy and salt and mix over low speed just until combined. Set aside the mixture for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, arrange the quince slices in a single-layer fan or wheel pattern on the base of the prepared pan.
4. Pour the custard evenly over the prepared fruit, leaving one-half inch gap between the top of the custard and the top of the pan. Bake the clafoutis in the middle of the oven until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, about 30 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through for even coloring. Remove to a rack; the clafoutis will settle and deflate slightly as it cools.
5. Dust the top of the clafoutis with powdered sugar, slice and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Best served the day of preparation; the custard tends to firm and crack when held over.
Each serving: 295 calories; 4 grams protein; 34 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 16 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 123 mg. cholesterol; 19 grams sugar; 99 mg. sodium.
Glendale Public Library Celebrates the Armenian Kitchen
MONTEREY—Keep up with the Los Angeles Times food editor who recently featured two recipes from award-winning cookbook author, Barbara Ghazarian, in her new cookbook, Simply Quince (August 2009). Join Ghazarian for a free talk and food tasting at the Glendale Public Library on Thursday, December 10, at 7 pm.
Did you know that the near-forgotten quince (sergevil in Armenian) claims its origin in Armenia? Ghazarian’s Armenian grandmother, like many Armenian grandmothers, made sweet, festive, ruby-red quince jam and jelly every fall that her family ate on Armenian Cracker Bread. Did yours?
Today, Ghazarian’s new cookbook, Simply Quince, is making history. It’s the first tribute to cooking with quince ever published. In 70 easy recipes, she masterfully demonstrates the fruit’s versatility in the kitchen and presents a trendsetting array of contemporary flavors. Professional chefs and home cooks will find basics such as Candied Quince, Quince Jam, Chicken and Quince Stew, Classic Quince-Apple Pie, and Caramelized Quince Upside-Down Cake a breeze. The more adventurous will want to try Quince-Orange Pickles and Lamb-Stuffed Quince Dolmas, as well as the medley of quince chutneys, compotes, cobblers, and sweets. Creamy Quince Mascarpone Pie, homemade Grand Marnier Ice Cream with Bits of Quince, or Quince-Infused Grappa will finish an autumn meal with mouthwatering perfection.
Most quinces sold in the United States are grown in the San Joaquin Valley of California by Armenian growers. Quinces are in season from September through January and can be found at grocers such as Whole Foods as well as farmers’ markets.
For the past decade, Ghazarian has shared new and exciting ways to prepare traditional Armenian foods with professional and home cooks across the United States. The Armenian table defines what nutritionists now agree is the healthiest way for everyone to eat to promote health and longevity. KOIT 96.5 – San Francisco said, “Vegetarian dishes are a staple. They shine in Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Food Made Easy,” Ghazarian’s first award-winning cookbook (August 2004).
Both Simply Armenian and Simply Quince offer revolutionary reads and taste experiences that will satisfy foodies and gardeners alike.
Ghazarian’s talk and book signing is free to the public. For more information, contact Glendale Public Library, 222 E. Harvard St., Glendale, CA 91205, 818/548-2030; http://library.ci.glendale.ca.us/ or Mayreni Publishing, PO Box 5881, Monterey, CA 93944, 831/655-4377; www.mayreni.com.
By Barbara Ghazarian
Mayreni Publishing, August 2009. Hardcover, 8.9 x 7 x 0.6 inches, 216 pages. ISBN-10: 1931834318; ISBN-13: 978-1931834315. List price $21.95 US; available new and used at discounted prices from www.amazon.com.
Reviewed by Lon Rombough
This book’s title, Simply Quince, seems a bit misleading—
there really is nothing simple about quince. It has a complex, aromatic flavor, a rich, intense scent, and its origins and history are colorful and important in many ways. The golden apples of the Hesperides in the legend of Hercules were probably quinces.
Quinces were once the dessert of nobility in Europe. And at one time no housewife did without quinces if she could grow or buy them, because they were so essential for preserves, in desserts and more.
For all that, quince is hardly more than a poorly handled oddity in most grocery stores these days. Few consumers even know what to do with them. This book should change that.
I’ve grown quinces for many years, so I know and love the fruit and have a good idea of what can be done with it. Even so, I am seriously impressed with the sheer number of really creative recipes using quince that can be found in this book. Here are a few:
• Open-Faced Quince Sandwiches with Arugula and Parmesan
• Quince and Butternut Squash Soup with Curry
• Heirloom Tomato and Quince Salad
• Halibut and Quince-stuffed Phyllo with Lemon Buerre Blanc
And so on, through a range of condiments, meat dishes, desserts, beverages both alcoholic and nonalcoholic,
and more. Over 70 in all.
My only regret is that the book arrived before my own crop was ready. So I have to wait before I can start using the recipes.
Take heart if quince fruit isn’t sold at a market near you. Perhaps you will be able to grow your own using information from the section on culture, nurseries that carry quince trees, as well as other sources of information in the book.
Simply Quince. Simply delicious!
CRFG Fruit Gardener, November & December 2009
Demystifying The Quince
by Laura McCandlish
Until recently, I had never seen a fresh quince. I knew quince paste, or membrillo, from Spanish cheese plates. I knew that Korean friends boiled down quince juice into a tea.
However, since moving to Oregon I've found quinces at the local farmers market and even growing on trees in my neighborhood. In fact, it turns out that the most diverse quince grove in North America, if not the world, thrives at a U.S. Department of Agriculture gene bank just down the road.
Still, close proximity to quinces doesn't necessarily give you the nerve to try the rock-hard, acerbic fruit. But last spring, I had my quince revelation. Just one bite of the tangy, poached morsel on a charcuterie plate had me counting the days until this fall's season.
In late September, I huddled beside our market director, staking my claim on her orchard's first-to-ripen crop. She even spikes her apple cider with quince.
I began more humbly, slipping the peeled fruit into a pie. With their beguiling fragrance and subtle flavor, quinces naturally partner with their more universally beloved pome sisters, apple and pear.
A quince is a fruit of contradictions. It's generally too astringent to eat raw, yet it smells so guava-sweet. Its white, dry, hard flesh blushes and softens, without turning mushy, when cooked. It has tough, waxy skin that bruises more easily than you'd think.
Revered since antiquity, quinces are still treasured all over the globe. With their high pectin content, quinces lend themselves to jellies, pastes and preserves. The word marmalade, after all, derives from the Portuguese name for quince.
In the United States, quinces were common in the garden and in the kitchen from colonial days through the 19th century, until the advent of commercial gelatin and pectin. Americans instead turned to sweeter, eat-out-of-hand fruits.
Now, underground enthusiasts are reviving the nostalgic fruit, hoping quince can resurge just like once-forgotten rhubarb. A motley tribe recently gathered here in Corvallis for an "unappreciated fruits" event. Home orchardists and horticulturalists, members of Slow Food USA's endangered foods board, and Lebanese and Iranian natives longing for quince, their grandmother's stewing staple, rounded out the crowd.
One key question divided the devotees: Can a quince be eaten raw? Yes, evidently — depending on the variety. That weekend, we walked among the hundred or so clones at the USDA orchard, sampling some quite palatable ones from their native Caucasus region. They tasted juicy and crisp, with notes of raspberry and star fruit. No chalkiness. On hand was famed fruit sleuth and food writer David Karp, who advocates biting right into the sometimes elusive, sweeter-fleshed quince. He hopes an apple-like variety brought here from Peru will soon be tested and rolled out for commercial cultivation.
Many fans agree with cookbook author Barbara Ghazarian that the quince is "the quintessential slow food," whose magic is only revealed through cooking. She just published a culinary tome devoted to the forbidden fruit (botanists believe the quince, not an apple, was Eve's true Garden of Eden temptation). Drawing on the recipes of her Armenian ancestors, Ghazarian includes savory preparations, such as lamb-stuffed quince dolmas and a sweet-tart quince and parsnip stew.
She, like many chefs, recommends poaching quinces over a low flame for several hours. Try simmering slices of them in a sweetened white wine syrup (think Riesling), with a touch of vanilla bean and citrus zest. Reusing the poaching liquid for subsequent batches only intensifies the sections' ruby color. Cooking the quince coaxes out the anticarcinogen anthocyanins, those purple pigments also found in berries. These jewels then caramelize when baked into a tart.
By now you're thinking, great, you live in the Mediterranean-like Willamette Valley, where quinces flourish. Where can I buy them? Try upscale grocers and ethnic markets, which ship them in from California. The San Joaquin Valley grows most of the country's quinces, primarily the most common Pineapple variety, on a scant couple of hundred acres. That's all we demand.
But first, search for ones from your local apple or pear vendor. They're readily available at farmers markets in the East. Unfortunately, quinces fall prey to fire blight in humid parts of the country. More ubiquitous are flowering quince shrubs, a different genus from the fruit-bearing Cydonia oblonga. They do, however, produce small pomes that can be substituted in some recipes.
With a season that runs through December, quinces make an aromatic holiday centerpiece. How can you tell they're ripe? Rubbing off their fuzz should reveal a bright, yellow peel. Better yet, just follow your nose. A quince's perfume should fill a room.
NPR, November 10, 2009
Learn to use an exotic fruit in 'Simply Quince'
Local connection: The self-proclaimed "Queen of Quince," Barbara Ghazarian lives in Monterey. Passionate about her cooking, she is also the author of "Simply Armenian: Natural Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy."
Content: Reputedly the only cookbook devoted entirely to the quince, this collection of 70 recipes shows how to make this heirloom fruit a staple of your culinary repertoire.
The author shows how to take this hard, fuzz-covered, aromatic cousin of pears and apples (grown in orchards south of Fresno) and turn it into mouthwatering jams, preserves and desserts.
There are also plenty of ideas for succulent salads, robust stews, main dishes and savory condiments. In the book's introduction, Ghazarian shares interesting facts about the quince and its history. There's also general information on how to select the fruit, where it can be purchased, how to set up a quince-friendly kitchen and how to cultivate your own quince tree.
Recipes include quince salsa, quince and butternut squash soup with curry, grilled chicken and quince Cobb salad with Roquefort, quince-cranberry sauce, turkey chili with quince, and quince-apple-peach compote.
Author quote: "I wrote this book so that your exploration of this mysterious, ancient fruit will be easier than mine, and your results more assured. My recipes are simple, easy to prepare, and reliably delicious. They showcase the fruit's mild flavor, delicate aroma and exotic look without making it fancy. Some dishes are sweet, others savory; all are scrumptious. All were tested, tweaked, retested, and served to tasters, and the process was repeated to perfection."
Audience: Adventurous foodies who enjoy venturing into untested culinary waters and like serving their family and friends unusual fare will find this cookbook a sheer delight. You may become so enraptured with what the author calls this "quintessential underdog of fruits" that you'll wish to join Team Quince and help reestablish the quince in the garden and on the table in the United States.
By Robert Walch
The Salinas Californian, December 11, 2009
Mix Cultural and Cooking Niches: Mayreni’s Recipe for Success
Being social in the traditional sense of “pressing the flesh” can spell business success, we’re reminded by Barbara Ghazarian’s experience at Mayreni Publishing (mayreni.com). Better yet, most of the thousands of books Ghazarian has sold have gone to buyers outside trade channels, at full retail price or at lower discounts than trade buyers demand.
Established in 1995 to provide Armenian-English translations and to assist Armenian-Americans with their writing and publishing, the Monterey, CA, publisher has three books in print. The latest, Simply Quince, came out in August of this year.
Mayreni’s first book, Descendants of Noah: Christian Stories from the Armenian Heart, was compiled by Ghazarian and published in 2002. Now in its second edition, it was followed in 2004 by Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy. Headed back to press next month for the third time, Simply Armenian has now sold more than 8,000 copies—through appearances at farmers’ markets, Armenian organizations and churches, and, lately, along with Simply Quince, at foodie groups and gardening stores.
Ghazarian also sells direct, thanks to her regular press releases to Armenian publications. Oh, yes, and her titles are sold in bookstores, usually when she presents programs there.
“Armed with three titles in niche markets, it’s hard not to sell books,” Ghazarian believes.
A Win-Win System for Speaking Dates
As a grandchild of an Armenian immigrant, this publisher obviously knows one of her niches very well, and she benefits from its loyalty, despite the fact that Armenians in North America are served by only about a dozen newspapers, some of which publish only in Armenian. Mayreni sends press releases to these papers to publicize new books, awards its books win, appearances in a paper’s circulation area, and suggestions of the books as holiday gifts. Unlike many other cookbook publishers, it does not send out recipes.
Then there’s all that pressing of the flesh. Ghazarian notes that she arranges her own speaking appearances and sets her fee schedule so that speech sponsors can use her appearances as fundraisers. She offers her books at a 40 percent discount and asks for no honoraria, just reimbursement of travel expenses. Every such event has paid for itself and made money for its sponsor, she reports.
As an example, she recalls a rainy Monday night at an Armenian-American church in Providence, RI, where “the church ladies made a few of my dishes, enough to feed the crowd of 45 attendees with leftovers. I spoke on behalf of the Habitat for Humanity–Armenia Project, and we sold enough Simply Armenian and Descendants of Noah for the group to net $1,000. You do the math. Needless to say, my expenses were paid, and we all felt great about the evening. It was win-win for everyone involved.”
Another plus of working through churches and associations: many such groups have small bookstores or other retail operations. “They generally don’t return leftover inventory, preferring to keep it on hand to sell to members who couldn’t attend an event,” the publisher adds.
Profitable TV Promotion
Ghazarian’s work with other fundraising campaigns has also spelled success for everyone involved. One high-profile example is a recent public television pledge drive in Boston, which the publisher describes as having a “vibrant” Armenian community. WGBH ran an hour-long documentary about the historical development of the Armenian spirit that was, says Ghazarian, “perfect for the story told in my Descendants of Noah and Simply Armenian.”
During two-minute pledge breaks that occurred every 20 minutes, WGBH staff members pleaded for donations and talked to the author, who had been invited to appear as a featured guest. Payoff for WGBH: more than triple what it expected in pledges. Payoff for Mayreni: more than 400 books sold to the station to use as premiums at better than the usual wholesale discount, plus valuable media exposure.
Did I mention triple the expected exposure? The program was repeated twice in the same season, and the television publicity drove trade sales, especially online, and often via Amazon.
“I’m not sure why some folks still diss Amazon,” Ghazarian says, “but my attitude is, a book sold is a book less in inventory. Amazon continues to be the go-to retailer when people hear you on radio or TV, or can’t remember anything but a fragment of the book title. They go to Amazon, and voilà! They find and buy your work.”
Mining Cookbook Niches
The Mayreni cookbooks appeal to niche markets besides Armenian-Americans. “Farmers’ markets love Simply Armenian because of the cuisine’s emphasis on whole grains, yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and limited meat,” Ghazarian says, explaining that half the 150 recipes are meat-free and a third of them are vegan. This means that the recipes appeal to people who want to follow the Mediterranean diet, as well as to the Armenian Christians who cannot eat meat or dairy on fasting days such as the 40 days of Lent.
Besides discussing a fruit that is native to Armenia, Simply Quince has the advantage of being the first extensive cookbook and history for a fruit used traditionally only for preserves. “With this title, I’m offering the professional and the home cook 70 easy recipes for preparing this cousin of the apple and pear in new ways,” Ghazarian declares.
At this point, the book serves what she calls “an oddball niche.” But she has discovered that niches are what many want to explore. A bookstore buyer who attended a recent presentation at a farmers’ market stayed after to ask questions. “She told me that I was not just another local author, that what I’ve done is unique and exciting.”
On the Agenda
What’s next for the Queen of Quince, as Ghazarian calls herself? She’s just wound up a West Coast tour for the new cookbook, and she’s signed on with a distributor, to pursue more trade sales as one of her New Year’s resolutions.
“Distributor fees and discounts cut into profitability, but as I said about Amazon—a book sold is one less in inventory,” she explains. That being said, though, Ghazarian knew it was critical for her to have a distributor that would let her sell her books herself at full retail when she speaks before groups.
Another market remains to be approached: libraries. Mayreni has put absolutely no effort into library sales, the publisher admits, and she thinks the potential is huge. According to WorldCat (worldcat.org), only 56 libraries across the United States have copies of Simply Armenian, and only a couple of public libraries have Descendants of Noah.
And then there’s cyberspace. “Our Web site, blog, Twitter, and Facebook efforts have been lagging, but they’re moving to the top of the agenda for 2010,” Ghazarian says.
If she can use social media and electronic marketing to sell books as effectively as she has used old-fashioned “social” marketing, we’ll all want to bookmark her Web site and learn from her strategies.
By Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com)
independent, December 2009
Simply Quince by Babara Ghazarian
Barbara Ghazarian's latest cookbook, Simply Quince, features 70 easy recipes that show how to add this aromatic cousin of pears and apples to your family table. Available from September through January, the quince's versatility, floral fragrance, subtle flavor and dazzling color make it a fruit that will add a new dimension to your holiday cooking.
The recipes Ghazarian presents that utilize the quince range from salads, side dishes, and main courses to spreads, condiments, and a variety of desserts.
For a change of pace for an entrée, you might wish to try Chicken and Quince Stew, Spicy Bay Scallops and Shrimp with Quince and Raisins or, perhaps, Roast Pork Tenderloin with Quince and Root Vegetables.
If you'd like something a little more exotic, White Pizza with Quince, Prosciutto, Asiago Cheese and Chives, a German Quince Pancake or a Fiery Quince-Tomato Spread might be in order.
This tribute to the quince, which has been cultivated in North America since Colonial times, hopefully will introduce more people to the culinary possibilities the hard, fuzz-covered fruit offers.
Reviewed by Bob Walch
Simply Quince, a cookbook by Barbara Ghazarian
"Some Biblical scholars speculate that quince may have been the true forbidden fruit," writes cookbook author Barbara Ghazarian, who would love to have this traditional Old World fruit brought back to popularity in U.S. kitchens. "I am passionate about quince."
What's a quince? Simply Quince gives the fruit's history, its migration from the Old World to the New, and shows traditional and new ways to prepare the fruit. "Marmelo in Portuguese, coing in French, quitte in German, ayva in Turkish, and sergevil in Armenian - across the globe, the fruit-bearing quince tree (Cydonia oblonga)is cultivated and prized for its versatility in the kitchen." (from Simply Quince, introduction)
The raw fruit is astringent and mouth pucking and hardly ever eaten as a fresh fruit. Quince is delicous when poached, baked, put into preserves, or cooked in many other ways.
What I learned from this cookbook: Quince can be put into salads, stews, condiments, compotes and preserves, pies and tarts. Some of the recipes in this cookbook include quince jam and quince apple pie, roast pork tenderloin with quince and root vegetables, lamb-stuffed quince dolmas, and duck breasts with quince-sambal chutney. Let's not forget carmelized quince upside down cake and quince infused spirits, grappa and vodka!
My experiences with quince: I fell in love with the fruit, quince, as a sweet jelly with its unusual but delicious flavor. I fell in love with the tree when I saw the beautiful coral pink blossoms every spring as I walked my dog past a neighbor's prolific flowering quince tree. The tree bore lots of fruit in the summer but they were never harvested for cooking. I picked one up about five years ago and planted the seeds. Today I have two small bushes. One of the trees has borne blossoms and two small fruit two seasons now. I hope for increasing blooms and fruit with each new season.
My quince tree however may very be the flowering ornamental quince, prized for its showy coral blooms and not for the fruit. The fruit-bearing quince tree that has edible fruit has white or pink flowers; the tree is best gotten from a nursery. Simply Quince has recommendations for places to buy trees and quince products.
Barbara Ghazarian has created a community of quince lovers, Team Quince, and directs us to her website, http://www.queenofquince.com/ However, be forewarned. I could not access that website address! Ghazarian is also author of Simply Aremenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy.
Book Giveaway and Interview with Barbara Ghazarian
Welcome Barbara! Cookbook author Barbara Ghazarian tells us about her new cookbook, Simply Quince, which has recipes for interesting ways to use the fruit in main dishes, desserts, and jams.
1) Tell us why you decided to devote an entire book to quince and quince recipes
The short answer is, because no one had done it in 4000 years! I quickly discovered the truth in the old adage: “If it was easy, someone would have already done it.”
The fruit-bearing quince, cydonia oblonga, is a naturally dwarf pome-fruiting tree that hails from the Caucus Mountain regions of Armenia, Georgia, and Northern Iran. I enjoy romanticizing that my love and fascination with the quince runs through my veins along with my Armenian blood. More likely it’s because my (Armenian) grandmother made deliciously sweet, ruby red quince preserves and jelly every fall with fruit harvested from trees that grew in her yard. I’ve been eating and cooking with quince my whole life. The taste of quince is distinctive and memorable. There is no good substitute. Once you’ve fallen in love with the subtle rosy-guava aroma and flavor of quince, only the real thing satisfies.
Cooking at my grandmother’s elbow as a child, I was fascinated by the color change that happens when you slow cook fresh quince in water with a little sugar and lemon juice. The creamy white pulp transitions to golden, then salmon-pink, and finally with continued cooking, to a rich ruby red. It’s 100% natural cooking magic and unique to the quince. For years, I searched for an answer as to why quince does this. I answer the missive in Simply Quince. I’ll give you a hint. Quince is extremely high in good-for-you antioxidants!
The third reason I wrote an entire book devoted to cooking with quince is that quince is one of the oldest cultivars in the world and no other fruit, including the apple, is as interwoven with the story of human civilization. I outline the migration of quince throughout history in the introductory section of Simply Quince. Often referred to in historical sources as an “apple” or “golden apple”, many Biblical Scholars speculate that the quince, which is rarely eaten raw, was the true forbidden fruit, tempting Eve with its golden tone and alluring aroma. It is most likely the “apple” of most Western myths, including the Golden Apples of Hesperides and the “golden apple of discord” credited with starting the Trojan War.
Rome’s first cookbook author, Apicius, preserved whole quinces in a bath of honey in the first century CE. Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have piggy-backed the quince around the world. Less than a decade after settling in New England, the Puritans brought the quince to Massachusetts. A century later, the pioneers loaded quince seedlings on their wagons and carried the quince west. Since you are having a contest to win a copy of Simply Quince, a great question to ask is Why? Why did mankind cultivate the quince everywhere he went?
2) Could you tell us about your research for the book. What did it involve?
A few years after the initial publication of my first cookbook, Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy, I was casting about for another project. It was fall. Over the years I’d been expanding my understanding of how to cook quince. It bugged me that after multiple millenniums, the fruit’s repertoire didn’t extend much past traditional jams and jellies. My decision to do a cookbook was a leap of faith. I majored in molecular biology in college so it seemed natural to couple scientific research methods with my culinary know-how to figure out how to prepare quince so that its gentle flavor would shine in a wide variety of dishes, both savory and sweet. I guess I believed that I could figure it out.
Once the decision was made, from late August through March, for three consecutive quince seasons, all I did was experiment, create, test, tweak, and retest over 400 recipes to obtain the 70 dishes presented in Simply Quince. It was a bit crazy. I fed neighbors and my daughter’s school friends lots and lots of quince. The good news is that traditional quince lovers will be delighted to find jam, jelly, and cobbler recipes; beginning cooks will find success preparing Candied Quince and Quince Salsa; and professional chefs will expand their repertoire with a wide array of savory-sweet stews, exotic mains, condiments, and spectacular pastries. Simply Quince won the Best Cookbook 2009 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and was a USA Book News 2009 Best Books finalist in the general cookbook category. High praise since Simply Quince is anything but a general cookbook.
3) What is Team Quince?
On my journey, I’ve met many people, gardeners and orchardist, cooks and foodies, who, without prompting, exclaim, “I love quince.” It’s amazing. “I love quince,” is exclaimed by folks across the globe in just about every language. All seem to agree that it’s time to reestablish the quince to its rightful place on our tables and in our gardens. Team Quince is designed to do that. Quince has been neglected for nearly a century, so there’s lots of work to be done. Simply Quince is only a starting point. Team Quince already boasts some well-known “quince quacks” among its membership; Joseph Postman, Curator of Quince at the USDA-ARS National Germplasm Repository in Covallis, Oregon for one. I’m hoping Team Quince will grow into a vibrant virtual community of quince lovers and provide a way to share personal cooking and growing experiences, report quince news, exchange recipes, search for unidentified varieties, and connect with others who share passion for the quince.
4) What are some of your favorite quince dishes? Did you create them yourself or are they traditional recipes?
To be honest, every one of the dishes in the Simply Quince collection had to make the grade. Quince is relatively unknown today. It’s been off the culinary radar for over a generation. I’d be rich if I got a dime every time a person asks me, “What does quince taste like?” Given this reality, to be included in the book, a dish had to be easy, really yummy, and most importantly, showcase the taste of quince. Misconceptions about the quince abound. One of the most hurtful is that the flavor of quince is strong and pungent. Nothing is further from the truth. When cooked properly, quince has a gentle, mild flavor. That’s one of the reasons why quince was used as the base for the first marmalades. Strong flavors, like vanilla, cardamom, cloves, and orange, overpower quince quickly. Only education will put an end to the multitude of recipes published every autumn that pair quince with flavor combos and quantities such that no one will taste the quince. All the recipes in my book, taste like quince!
It may seem like an oxymoron to write a cookbook on quince and to say that I am a lazy cook, but if my head spins when read a recipe’s directions, I lose interest immediately. Most of my dishes are creative variations on traditional recipes. Savory over sweet wins with me. Given that, my favorite quince dishes include Quince Salsa and Quince-Orange Pickles as starters; Quince-Infused Vinegar adds amazing flavor to any salad; Quince-Apple Sauce and my original Quince and Roasted Cashew Stuffing are delicious sides, my Lamb and Quince Tagine and Turkey Chili with Quince balance sweet with heat to perfection; my Fresh Ginger and Quince Pomegranate Chutney compliments main meat dishes flawlessly, Fiery Quince-Tomato Spread is my favorite preserve, Quince Butter is a close second; Creamy Quince Mascarpone Pie and Caramelized Quince Upside-Down Cake win on my table as dessert selections; and nothing beats the White Pizza with Quince, Prosciutto Pizza or finishes a meal like Quince-Infused Grappa. All wow guests, even first timer’s to quince.
6) Could you tell us about your first cookbook, Simply Armenian?
Simply Armenian won critical acclaim as well and is now in its 3rd printing. I’ve been accused of giving away all the secrets of the delicious Armenian table. A fact I’m proud of. Rather than rely on condiments, sauces, or lots of seasonings, Armenian dishes depend upon the food itself, or the combination of foods, to give fine flavor. The cuisine relies heavily on whole-grain bulgur (cracked wheat), olive oil, lemon juice, mint, parsley, and yogurt. Lots of vegetables extend the dishes, which are eaten with large qualities of bread, especially flatbread. Other than salt and pepper, cayenne and cumin are the spices most often used. Lamb is the preferred meat. While not a vegetarian cookbook, over half the recipes are meat-free and over 50 are vegan. When Armenian Christians fast on holy days, primarily during Great Lent, our diet is meat-free, including dairy. The naturally healthy Armenian table is a poster child for the Mediterranean Diet. I’m slightly overweight, not because I eat poorly, but because I have portion control issues. It’s all those little dishes!
7. Are there any plans for future books?
No future books are on the roster at the moment. A cookbook devoted to bulgur may be in my future.
8) Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for your interest in my work and sharing news about Simply Quince. Foodies are constantly searching for new ingredients. If we all pitch in and spread the word, it would be great to see the heirloom quince set a new trend in food. Got quince?
9) How can readers find you on the web?
Simultaneous to the posting of this interview on your blog, (my web site) will launch at Queen of Quince. The title, “Queen of Quince,” is meant to be a little campy. Remember, most people don’t know what a quince is. Please visit the web site. Join Team Quince. I’d love to meet and work with you. Welcome to the world of quince,
Thanks for the informative and interesting interview, Barbara! Check out her website at http://queen-of-quince.com/ (See my review of Simply Quince.)
GIVEAWAY OFFER of two copies, U.S. only: Publishing Works, Inc. is giving away two copies of the cookbook. To enter to win, leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post, so we can contact you. Winners will be notified by email and asked to supply their mailing address for Publishing Works, Inc. to send the books. No. P.O. boxes, please. For an extra chance to win, become a follower of Book Dilettante.
The contest will run through Feb. 28.
February 1, 2010
Gardening on the Edge
Book Review—Sue Tarjan, MG06
I made the acquaintance of Barbara Ghazarian and her new cookbook, Simply Quince, last month at a talk she gave at the Live Oak Grange sponsored by the California Rare Fruit Growers (www.crfg.org). It is no exaggeration to say that I was thrilled to attend because most people have no idea what a quince is while I’ve loved the fruit of the quince since I was a child and found everyone’s ignorance both mystifying and a bit, well, lonely. I was lucky to be introduced to quince by my mother, an adventurous cook who owned many old fashioned cookbooks, about the only way to reliably find quince recipes for the last several decades, at least until Barbara’s book came along. Why do you suppose that is? There are two major reasons: technological innovation and the rise of fast food.
Native to central and western Asia and cultivated there for millennia (the original “golden apples of the sun”) and for centuries in Europe, the quince used to be widely grown in the United States, too, despite being hard, tart, astringent, and somewhat difficult and time consuming to process. It was prized, in fact, not just because of its intoxicating aroma and the gorgeous deep red color it acquires with cooking but because it is so extremely high in pectin, a complex carbohydrate and soluble fiber found in the cell walls of all land plants that combines with acid and sugar to form a gel. To illustrate how intrinsic an ingredient was quince pectin to jams and jellies, the term "marmalade," originally meaning a quince jam, derives from "marmelo," the Portuguese word for this fruit. Up until a few generations ago, home canners used the pectin in quince to set their jelly. Now, most canners use commercial powdered or liquid pectin (extracted mostly from apples and citrus fruits).
Rise of fast food
To paraphrase Barbara Ghazarian, the quince is the quintessential slow food. As I admitted in the last paragraph, much as I love this fruit, converting quince into the luscious, lovely taste sensation of one’s dreams can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. These days, who has the time or inclination to wrestle food into submission when there are plenty of restaurants and food manufacturers who’ve already done it for you? Let me be quite frank: raw quinces are utterly inedible; they will make your mouth pucker like it’s never puckered before. Moreover, quince are coated with an unappealing fuzz, difficult to peel (Barbara recommends a potato peeler), and challenging to cut—don’t even try to cut through the core. But her book comes to the rescue by explaining how to prepare the fruit using the right tools (very sharp knife, peach pitter, etc.) and proper techniques. Most important, she provides plenty of motivation—her delectable recipes: appetizers, salads, side dishes, stews, main courses, condiments, spreads, preserves, and divine desserts. You can trust me on this one because, after her talk, Barbara shared some of her quince delicacies with us, her audience—yum! Yum?
Yes, yum. The aroma and flavor of quince has to be experienced to be believed. No, it does not taste like apple or pear—it tastes like tropical heaven. And here’s the other thing about quince that’s just so amazing. Unlike any other fruit I can think of, apples and pears, for example, both of which dissolve into mush as they cook, quince maintains its shape (all that pectin, remember), becoming more and more succulent as it cooks but still there—not only there but the most entrancing eye candy you can imagine. As you cook it, it is magically transformed; in fact, the longer you cook it, the more beautiful it becomes. You start out with a yellowish, lumpy, furry, rock-hard object with sour, whitish flesh that rapidly browns when exposed to air, yet you wind up with a visually stunning culinary masterpiece that shimmers like the finest ruby. I’d say that warrants tackling a learning curve, but don’t worry.
Simply Quince guarantees that your education will be worthwhile AND fun. Simply Quince also provides some basic information on quince cultivation. The quince tree, Cydonia oblonga, produces a pome fruit like the apple and pear and our native toyon, all members of the rose family. The tree is small (8–12 feet) and self pollinating, perfect for a backyard garden, needs only 200 to 300 chill hours, and blooms a bit later than apple or pear. The fruit are ripe when they turn yellow and fragrant, usually in October in our area. Some common varieties are ‘Champion’, ‘Orange’, ‘Pineapple’, and ‘Smyrna’. Sometimes used as a rootstock for grafted pears, the quince has the property of dwarfing the growth of the pear tree, forcing it to produce earlier with relatively more fruit-bearing branches and hastening the maturity of the fruit. By the way, don’t confuse the fruiting quince with the popular Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles species).
There is a down side, unfortunately. Quince trees are susceptible to the same pests and diseases that plague apples and pears and are particularly prone to fire blight, a bacterial disease that only affects plants in the rose family. To help prevent infection, plant in soil with good drainage, prune as little as possible, and avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer. Sadly, I can attest to their vulnerability from personal experience: the pineapple quince baby I planted years back succumbed to fire blight within a year, but I’m tempted to try again after Barbara’s inspirational talk. Just in case you’re tempted, too, buy the book and check out this UC Integrated Pest Management website for information on fire blight and how to cope with it: www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7414.html
Sue Tarjan, MG06
Gardening on the Edge, Winter 2010
Simply Quince by P.G.’s Barbara Ghazarian is a
pioneering book for a pioneering fruit.
Quince may well be the most under-appreciated fruit in this country, which is surprising since the Pilgrims considered it essential enough to cultivate less than a decade after settling in Massachusetts. By 1720, quince was thriving throughout the colonies.
In fact, quince was popular until the late 19th century, when modern tastes evolved and deemed it too hard and astringent for eating out of hand and its preparation too time consuming.
Pacific Grove author Barbara Ghazarian hopes to revive the reign of quince with her new cookbook Simply Quince. The cookbook relates the fruit’s rich history, provides tips and tricks, and proffers traditional and new ways to prepare the fruit – all within reach of a beginning cook.
Steeped in history and lore, the fruiting quince (Cydonia oblonga) is native to the Caucus region of Armenia, Georgia, and northern Iran, where the quince still grows wild today. Some biblical scholars believe that the apple that tempted Eve actually refers to quince. The Greeks regarded quince as a symbol of love and fertility, and in Tudor England, quince marmalade wrapped in gold foil was considered an aphrodisiac.
For Ghazarian, who also authored Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy, the quince holds special meaning. As a teenager, she would help her Armenian grandma pick quinces from the three trees in her yard, and she fondly remembers the heady aroma of ripe quince permeating her grandma’s tiny house as they sat in the hallway waiting to be cooked. After her grandma died, Ghazarian started the family tradition of “quincing” in her memory.
This fuzz-covered cousin of pears and apples is astringent and mouth puckering when raw and rarely eaten as a fresh fruit. However its mild flavor, and rich, intense scent lends itself to many cooked dishes.
Until Simply Quince, quince was usually made into jams, jellies and the popular Spanish paste membrillo. Ghazarian has shown us that quince is so versatile, delicious when poached, tossed into salads and stews, and made into fillings for pies and tarts. The collection of 70 recipes stretches the imagination, offering both familiar and innovative recipes: quince salsa; quince and butternut soup with curry; quince-cranberry sauce; quince-apple pie; white pizza with quince, prosciutto, asiago cheese and chives; and quince-infused spirits grappa and vodka.
If you, like me, are a quince newbie, the four “Quince Basics” in the book are a perfect way to start – poached, pureed (then cooked into paste), candied and baked. For those who prefer savory over sweet, the five stew selections require only one to two fresh quinces, and all are easy, one-pot meals. Ghazarian’s personal favorites are the lamb and quince tagine, turkey chili with quince, and the vegetarian quince and parsnip medley.
Quince is in season from August to December. Look for it at farmers markets and ethnic and specialty markets. Even if you can’t find it, you’re in luck: Ghazarian gives you tips on how to cultivate your own quince tree.
By Pat Tanumihardja
Monterey County Weekly, September 30, 2010