Cambrian: Opinion

Thankful for pomegranates, beans and so much more

Anasazi beans compared to pintos, preserved figs compared to fresh, and an incomparable pomegranate.
Anasazi beans compared to pintos, preserved figs compared to fresh, and an incomparable pomegranate. Special to The Cambrian

We have ever so much to be thankful for — family, friends and the bounty of products available to us here on the Central Coast. I have my gorgeous pomegranates, some as big as melons, ready for me to pull apart in segments for use in my Waldorf salad instead of walnuts. Others I will freeze in zipper bags to save for other occasions, along with all that butternut squash I have roasted.

It is a good thing I wax euphuistic about such things, because people remember and direct some favorite goodies my way. Case in point: Several years ago I was so excited when Toni Martinez mentioned I could get the hugely nutritious and delicious Anasazi beans at Nature’s Touch in Templeton. I was able to stock up that year, but when I contacted Melanie the following season, weather had failed the crops in New Mexico and Colorado, and they haven’t recovered since.

When I bemoaned this fact in a column, Nancy Allen of Cambria remembered, and promised she would get some for me. Lo and behold, she has generously gifted me with a couple of pounds. Because they sustained the ancient ones, and are so tasty, I simply simmer them with a little salt and pepper, and stir in caramelized onions and roasted sweet peppers at the end of the cooking time. Readily available and less expensive pinto beans will go into my chili or refries.

For a luncheon meeting at Santa Rosa Church, Carmelle Dowdle brought spiced figs, which her friend had canned in jelly jars. (Express enthusiasm, Consuelo, and maybe you’ll get the recipe!) No, but instead parishioner Bev Steventon has been delivering fresh purple Mission Figs to me from her tree as they ripen by the dozen. Here’s the process I developed, based on tasting and adapting ingredients:

Spiced Mission Figs

(purple, not golden)

  • 1 cup water
  •  1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  •  1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cloves
  • 12 fresh Mission figs, washed and patted dry

If you wish, destem the fruit and slice in half, depending on how you will serve it (presentation is prettier if they are left whole with stems). Simmer the syrup ingredients in a small deep saucepot, and add in the fruit. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the fruit has absorbed the syrup, which has reduced by half. Stir, and take care that this does not boil away and burn. Cool in the pan and refrigerate in a glass container before serving, either as a dessert item, or sliced on baguettes spread with cream cheese. The remaining syrup was delicious swirled into my oatmeal. (I love the figs fresh, but these will be preserved or may be frozen.)

Last spring I reserved this recipe, which was devised by the Brown Hotel as a specialty for the Kentucky Derby, set it aside to use instead with Thanksgiving “planned overs.” Thank you to JoAnn Suppes for the recipe:

Hot Brown Sandwiches

  • 4 slices toast
  • 4 slices cooked turkey breast
  • 8 slices fried bacon
  • Mornay sauce
  • 4 slices of tomatoes
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Place a piece of toast in four individual gratin dishes, and cover with a slice of turkey and two of bacon. Cover each with about half a cup of Mornay sauce; add the slice of tomato, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven about 10 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Mornay sauce: In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter and stir in 3 tablespoons flour; whisk, and add 2 cups milk. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, season to taste and stir until thickened about 2 minutes. Cool a little before beating in  1/4 cup grated Gruyere (or cheddar cheese) and  1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard; adjust seasoning. (Two cups.)

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian. Submit recipes and ideas to her at The Cambrian, 2068 Main Street, Cambria, CA 93428; or email to