Although they grow well in our climate, persimmons seem like an exotic fruit, not often found in fruit bowls alongside apples, oranges and bananas. As for me, I’m simply mad about them. I’d rather have a luscious, ripe persimmon than a bowl of ice cream, and that’s really saying something, because ice cream is the pinnacle of human culinary creation. (I’ll brook no argument on this point.)
You may have had an unfortunate, if not downright scarring, experience with a persimmon in the past, due to some varieties’ extremely high levels of mouth-drying tannins. A few tannins are nice, such as in a glass of red wine. A whopping great bucketful of tannins, such as you’d encounter in an unripe hachiya persimmon, will cause you to feel as though someone had opened a direct portal between your mouth and the Sahara desert.
The heart-shaped, deep orange hachiyas are intensely flavorful, but only if eaten at the point of extreme ripeness, when their insides have practically liquefied in their shiny skins. You can speed the process along by storing them inside a paper bag. Your patience will be rewarded with a bite of heaven — a jammy treat that’s sort of a cross between pumpkin pie and a sun-warmed, juicy peach.
If you can’t wait that long for your heavenly reward, purchase the tannin-free fuyu variety: squat, sunset-orange packages of ready-to-consume goodness, delicious in every stage from crisp to squishy, but probably best somewhere in the middle. Eat them like an apple, skin and all, or peel them, puree them and use them in everything from cookies to risotto.
Boil 2 cups of very ripe, pulpy persimmons with 3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon zest. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow the jam to cool and set. Transfer to Mason jars or another airtight container and store in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks or freezer for a year or so. Serve with buttered toast, scones, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, blintzes or crepes, but not necessarily all those things at once, unless you’re having a particularly hard day, or it’s a Wednesday.
This moist persimmon bread was what got me hooked on persimmons. The baker, my aerobics instructor, may have fed it to me to ensure that I’d keep taking her class, a vicious caloric cycle of consume-and-burn.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and oil a loaf pan. In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice with 1 cup of any combination of chopped walnuts, pecans, raisins, dates, dried apricots, crystallized ginger or chocolate chips.
In another bowl, combine 2 eggs, 3/4 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. In third bowl, mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with 1 cup persimmon pulp, stirring until there are no lumps. I recommend extremely ripe hachiya persimmons, but you can use very soft fuyus. Either way, they should be squishy.
Full disclosure: I only had enough ripe persimmons for 3/4 cup. I tasted a half-ripe hachiya, and it was like eating cotton. I improvised and substituted pumpkin puree and 2 tablespoons peach jam. I suppose I made persumkineach bread.
Add pulp to the egg mixture, then fold in the flour mixture. Pour batter into pan and bake for 75 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. I baked mine for probably an hour and 40 minutes — preposterously long! So quick bread is a misnomer, but the result, although dark brown around the edges, is so good I now need another aerobics class.
Persimmon, Goat Cheese and Radicchio Salad
I’m always looking for ways to eat more leafy greens. Just kidding, I’m really looking for ways to eat more goat cheese. This beautiful, scrumptious salad, which I discovered at www.proportionalplate.com, is worth saving for a COVID-safe Thanksgiving with your immediate family and your neighbors waving through the window, or you could make this today, just for funsies. It veers into foodie territory — anything with radicchio and pomegranate seeds is dangerously trendy — but recipes are merely inspiration for ways to use things I already have.
Cut two ripe but not too soft fuyu persimmons into thin wedges. Mix with 1 cup crumbled goat cheese and 4 cups each shredded radicchio and escarole. (I didn’t have escarole and I couldn’t find it at the market, so I used baby arugula.)
Add the seeds from 1 pomegranate. Since seeding a pomegranate produces a similar enjoyment quotient to clipping an angry cat’s claws, you should feel quite justified in substituting dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries.
For the dressing, mix 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt to taste with 1 clove minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, which can be found in many Middle Eastern markets but not in my pantry. Instead, I used balsamic vinegar.