An Ornamental Addition
Persimmons lend touches of sugar and spice to winter tables.
Photo by Lori Eanes
Widely available from fall through February, in glossy jewel tones that rival holiday ornaments, sugary persimmons are as pretty on the plate as on the tree.
Globally, there are hundreds of varieties, grouped into astringent and the less puckery sort, the latter including the Mexican black sapote whose dark, velvety interior tastes surprisingly like chocolate pudding. Despite their dessert-like richness, persimmons are plump with vitamins, namely A and C.
In Northern California, two of the more common persimmons are the hachiya—a deep, red-orange, oblong, astringent fruit that should be ripened to the point of mush, yielding brown-sugar-flavored flesh that is scooped from the peel—and the fuyu, a squat, golden-orange, tomato-shaped specimen with a firm, pear-like texture and subtle sweetness. Once ripe, the nonastringent fuyu can be sliced and served, skin and all.
For chefs like John Streit, owner of Hog’s Apothecary in Oakland, the fuyu is an easy add to California-winter salads, sandwiches, and sides. The fruit is especially good paired with bold flavors such as cheeses, gamier meats, and charcuterie; it holds well when cooked down into paste or jam.
“Fuyus have a slight, lingering tartness that doesn’t suck the moisture out of your mouth,” said Streit. “And,” he smiled, “they’re a really cute pumpkin shape that fits in the palm of your hand.”
Holiday Panzanella With Persimmon, Fennel & Currant
Half a loaf of stale rustic bread (such as levain), crusts removed and torn into nuggets about the size of a quarter
3 fuyu persimmons, cut into wedges
2 medium fennel bulbs, stemmed and cut into wedges
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
3 ounces hen of the woods mushrooms (optional)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons currants
¼ cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1.5 tablespoons chopped savory, sage, and thyme
A generous handful of arugula leaves
½ cup warm pan drippings from your holiday fowl (or chicken stock)
Toss your bread with a healthy glug or two of olive oil (not too sopping, but not too dry). Spread the bread in a snug single layer on a baking sheet and cook at 325 degrees until toasty on the outside, but retaining a good chew beneath the crunch.
Lightly toss the persimmon, fennel, and onion (and mushroom, if you so choose) with a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil. Spread them on a baking sheet and broil several inches below the broiler until bronzed at the cut edges.
Meanwhile, plump your currants in a shallow pan with a little more vinegar than needed to cover the fruit (a low simmer for about 5 minutes).
Combine all the above over low heat and add the herbs, arugula, bird drippings, or chicken stock; serve immediately, still warm.