27 January 2014

Egyptian Beef and Rice

1 lb. organic, grass-fed ground beef
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups water
1 1/2 c. uncooked Basmati rice
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. golden raisins
1 c. chopped dehydrated apricots
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. pepper
salt to taste
5 tbsp. butter for frying, divided usage
2 chicken bouillon cubes

Add onion and water to large pot and begin to heat.

Meanwhile, fry rice in 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet, stirring constantly until golden brown. Add to pot along with bouillon cubes and bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and cook 20 minutes.

In separate pan, fry almonds in 2 tablespoons butter, stirring constantly over low heat until golden brown; remove. Fry raisins in 1-tablespoon butter over low heat, stirring constantly until plumped; remove.

Brown ground beef, drain and crumble. Add spices to beef and continue to brown for a couple of minutes.

Layer cooked rice, mead, raisins, and almonds on large platter. Serve hot!

Serves 8-10.

09 October 2011

Literacy Promotion in a Box

Walk or ride along a bike path sometime soon and you may spot one. Stop and open the door. A charming mini literary world awaits you thanks to the Little Free Library movement.

The idea is simple yet profound. Each Little Free Library is a small box, reminiscent of a bird house, just big enough to hold 20 books or so of varying topics, from nonfiction to novels, biographies or picture books. No library card needed. Simply pay it forward: take a book, donate a book, or exchange a book.

11 September 2011

A Revolution in Local Community

The Hungry Intellectuals uses Meetup.com to organize our bookclub dinners and events. It is a fantastic service and has worked really well for us as a group. The Meetup.com Co-Founder/CEO sent out the following email this morning. His words were so poignant, I had to share.

(original message written by Meetup.com CEO; stylized on this blog by me)


Fellow Meetuppers,

I don't write to our whole community often, but this week is
special because it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many
people don't know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.

Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles
from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought
local community doesn't matter much if we've got the internet
and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I
hoped they wouldn't bother me.

When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors
in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to
neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they'd normally
ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each
other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring
people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was
born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet -- and
grow local communities?

We didn't know if it would work. Most people thought it was a
crazy idea -- especially because terrorism is designed to make
people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months
after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it's
working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups,
Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups... a wild variety of
100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common -- except one

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to
neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me.
They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and
motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find
other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace
together. They make friends and form powerful community. It's
powerful stuff.

It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks
to everyone who shows up.

Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it
weren't for 9/11.

9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to
strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new
community together!!!!

The towers fell, but we rise up. And we're just getting started
with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)
Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup
New York City
September 2011

10 September 2011

Spiced Persimmon Swirl Cheesecake

Recipe adapted from multiple sources & some creative taste testing!

2 cups finely crushed Ginger Snap cookies
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons butter, melted

24 ounces softened cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs from the farmer's market
1 cup persimmon pulp*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice (special blend of anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, & ginger)

Preheat oven to 325F

  1. Mix cookie crumbs, walnuts and butter with hands until a wet sand consistency forms.
  2. Press mixture firmly along the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
  1. In a small bowl, stir the persimmon pulp with the Chinese Five Spice blend; set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla until well blended.
  3. On low speed, add eggs one at a time. Mixing each time just until blended.
  4. Pour the filling over the crust in the springform pan. Use a spatula to even the surface and release any air pockets.
  5. Drop the spiced persimmon pulp by the teaspoonful on top of the cake. With a fork or toothpick, gently swirl the persimmon into the filling without disturbing the crust to achieve a marbled/swirled effect. Reserve any leftover persimmon for garnishing later.
  6. Bake for 55 minutes or until the center is almost set. Do not overbake.
  7. Transfer pan to rack; allow cake to cool completely.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for 6 hours or overnight. Before unmolding, run a thin knife along the edge of cake to loosen.

Persimmon Season

Ask any middle class suburbanite how they know that the Fall season has arrived and you will undoubtedly get the response:
           "When Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Late is back!"

Joking aside, as a locovore, I sense the arrival of Fall when I start to see my neighborhood Persimmon trees bearing their fruit. Wild persimmons are one of the most common yet overlooked American fruit. The taste has been described as a cross between a plum and an apricot, and I would add that the pulp smells similar to pumpkin.

Photo courtesy of SlowFoodUSA.org
Wild persimmons are native to a wide swath of the southeastern U.S. Early American settlers valued persimmon because it was easily available and literally falls into your hands when you shake a ripe tree. The fruit was commonly used to make breads, thick soups and sweet pudding.

Though the trees are harder to find now because of general deforestation, modern persimmon recipes abound, and most of them start with the same base: persimmon pulp. A fair warning: Preparing persimmon pulp can be time consuming (but worth the effort).

Persimmon Pulp How-To
Make sure to gather only ripe fruit. Ripe persimmons are evenly orange and squish easily (this is probably why they aren't commonly sold in grocery stores). They should fall off the branch with just a light touch.
  1. Using your fingers, remove the blossom tops and pinch off any darkened spots. 
  2. Lightly rinse the fruit and place in a large, clean bowl. Add warm water until the fruit are all submerged and allow to soak for 20 minutes.
  3. After soaking, pour out the water and return the fruit to the bowl. Get a potato masher (or similar tool) and mash the persimmons into a pudding like consistency. 
  4. Get a fine mesh strainer and place inside another clean bowl; pour the mashed fruit in the strainer.
  5. Using the masher or a spoon, press the pulp through the strainer. You will be left with a ton of seeds, skins, and fibers.
Compost the remains and your seed-free persimmon pulp is ready for use!

01 September 2011

Local Author. Local Dinner.

The Hungry Intellectuals Book and Supper Club invite you to dinner and a book reading from local author, Cris Cohen from his new book titled Staying Crazy to Keep From Going Insane. Ticket sales for the dinner benefit Durham Central Park.

Cris Cohen of Cary, NC, is the humor columnist for the CaryCitizen.com and a prolific humor blogger.

“I am very flattered that the Hungry Intellectuals chose my book for this year’s event,” said Cohen. “It is possible that this decision was the result of a computer error or that most members voted while intoxicated. Although, to be fair, I think that is how most bills make it through Congress.”

Dinner Theme: NC Local and Seasonal Cuisine

12 July 2011

Crazy for Durham Central Park!

The Hungry Intellectuals Selects Cris Cohen’s Book for 2011
Meals from the Market Dinner Theme

The Hungry Intellectuals book and supper club will host it's second “Meals From The Market” dinner this year to help raise funds for Durham Central Park. And the members have voted Cris Cohen’s upcoming humor book, "Staying Crazy To Keep From Going Insane," as the theme for their 2011 event.

Meals From The Market dinners are annual fundraisers that individuals and groups host in their homes. Ticket sales to the dinners support Durham Central Park’s preservation and cultural activities. Last year’s Hungry Intellectuals fundraising dinner helped buy new benches for the park.

To make the annual event more engaging for dinner guests, The Hungry Intellectuals select a book around which they create a theme for the dinner.

"The Hungry Intellectuals Book and Supper Club is very excited to use Cris' book for our Meals From The Market 2011 dinner theme,” said club organizer Heather Curtis. “We are all too familiar with the idea of ‘staying crazy to keep from going insane!’"

Cris Cohen of Cary, NC, is the humor columnist for the CaryCitizen.com and a prolific humor blogger. He is publishing his new book this year as a means to raise funds for a local baseball league for kids with special needs, including his own son. The book will be a compilation of humor columns he wrote
for several newspapers when he lived in California before moving to Cary in 2008 and new ones he’s written since then. Proceeds from sales will be donated to the baseball league.

"Staying Crazy To Keep From Going Insane" has already been endorsed by Pulitzer Prize-winning humor author Dave Barry, New Yorker magazine cartoonist Drew Dernavich, and PEN/Faulker Prize-winning author T.C. Boyle.

“I am very flattered that they chose my book for this year's event,” said Cohen. “It is possible that this decision was the result of a computer error or that most members voted while intoxicated. Although, to be fair, I think that is how most bills make it through Congress.”

The Hungry Intellectuals’ 2011 Meals from the Market dinner is scheduled for Sunday, September 18. The group hasn’t determined the exact location yet.

Durham Central Park is a downtown destination that offers a venue for cultural activities. It is also part of a 24-hour, walkable neighborhood for arts, recreation, and locally owned businesses. The Park includes The Great Lawn, The Pavilion (home of the Durham Farmers Market) and The Skate Park. For more information, visit www.durhamcentralpark.org.

For more information on The Hungry Intellectuals, visit

For more information on Cris Cohen and Staying Crazy To Keep
From Going Insane, visit www.stayingcrazy.com.