With the spate of warm weather ending, the fall roster of fruit and vegetables is gaining appeal.
Black kale, brussels sprouts, an autumn mix of radicchio and arugula for salad — these ended up in our kitchen last weekend. We already had a bag of crisp, sweet, Fuji apples from Ikeda’s, which has its own orchard near Auburn. And I picked up a quart of unpasteurized apple juice from Ratzlaff Ranch.
But the featured item in the house are the Fuyu persimmons getting ripe on a table outside, just behind our kitchen. Our son and his wife have a large tree with a big harvest this year.
Ours were picked when they were yellow and unripe, because ripened persimmons were sustaining some damage. Their heavily laden tree has been attracting squirrels and birds. Placing segments of bird-netting on the major branches seemed like too much trouble, especially since they have more fruit than they know what to do with.
Once persimmons turn a golden orange, they’re ideal for eating in hand like an apple or for slicing into salads. We’ve had some ripe ones already. My previous exposure to persimmons had been limited to the occasional persimmon cookie. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the somewhat apple-y, crisp flavor of raw persimmons. Diane and I have simply been slicing them with a paring knife and eating them raw.
Our new daughter-in-law, Raushda, who is Thai-American, tells me that growing up in Los Angeles, “We ate persimmons crunchy. We let them ripen until they had just a little give. Then my mom would peel them, cut them in quarters, and bag them in the fridge for a snack.”
I’ve noticed persimmons in local supermarkets this past week, including the new Whole Foods that just opened. If you can’t picture a Fuyu persimmon, it’s in the yellow to gold color range, has a tuft of leaves at the stem end, and resembles a deflated standard-size tomato. Actually, Raushda says, Fuyu persimmons will take on a reddish hue if you leave them on the counter for a very long time, and they get “gooey, mushy and sweet.”
Persimmon Crostini is a recipe from “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook,” by Georgeanne Brennan and Ann Evans. In this recipe — short version — one brushes slices of a baguette with olive oil, toasts and then spreads a generous dollop of farmer cheese or chevre on it. Next, layer lightly grilled thin slices of persimmon on top, and garnish with fresh thyme leaves if available. The cookbook has a more nuanced recipe for this and many other fall foods.
A new flavor should be welcome each year at the Thanksgiving table. Persimmon Crostini will definitely appear at ours.
Persimmon Cranberry Sauce
It seems that most serious cooks have a preferred cranberry sauce that accompanies the Thanksgiving turkey. Often there’s a tradition surrounding it. I’m perfectly happy, I must say, with the Ocean Spray jellied version that comes in a can, which was the tradition during my childhood. But we’re grown up now, or try to be. Many now use fresh or frozen cranberries with an old family recipe — or a new one espoused by a magazine. And I savor these as well.
If you’re going to be someone’s guest, needing to bring a side dish, or you’re open to new interpretations for traditional Thanksgiving offerings, work up a cranberry sauce with persimmons to add interest to the table. An old Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet magazine has just the thing, with a preparation time of 15 minutes. It can be made up to four days ahead, another plus.
12 ounces of fresh or frozen whole cranberries
½ cup of sugar
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup dry red wine
½ a piece of star anise
Pinch of salt
3 firm but ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled, in quarter-inch dice
Putting it together:
Once the first six ingredients reach a boil in a saucepan, lower to simmer for five more minutes, then stop cooking. Remove star anise. Add additional sugar, perhaps a tablespoon or two, to taste. Fold in persimmon dice. Serve at room temperature or chilled. If made several days ahead, withhold the persimmon initially, folding it in on Thanksgiving morning.