Friday, November 28, 2008

Persimmons: Pleased to Know You!

I know I know... we're all lamenting the seasonal end to luscious, juicy summer fruits and berries. But really, there's no need to be sad when there's just as many Autumn goodies to be had: apples, pears, pomegranates, and my favorite: persimmons!

Growing up as I did in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah, I had no idea what a persimmon even was until I moved to Northern California. But now, I wait eagerly for them in the fall, and gorge on them while I can. When I met my husband, my persimmon fanaticism was in full swing, and it very well could have been the prolific persimmon trees on the grounds of his cottage that sealed the deal (actually, our relationship wasn't all thanks to the persimmons, there were also fig, pomegranate, apple and pear trees at the self-titled "Weed Farm and Spider Ranch" - how could a girl say no?).

To the uninitiated, persimmons are an Asian fruit - gorgeous orange in color - and there are many, many varieties. But there are perhaps two that you are likely to encounter: Fuyu persimmons, which resemble a tomato in shape and can be plucked right from the tree and enjoyed just like a crisp apple, and Hachiya persimmons, which give the fruit a bad rap! The Hachiya are the more globe-shaped persimmons that are astringent and very, very bitter if you bite into them before they are ready. And by ready, I mean squishy - almost rotten if compared to the standards of other fruit ripeness. But when the flesh becomes soft, the fruit is delicious as a puree that has countless uses in baking.

My favorite (of course, since I don't really bake), are the Fuyu. As mentioned, I eat them just like an apple, but learned a simple trick from my friend Aerial last persimmon season: squeeze some fresh lime over sliced Fuyus, and the flavor explodes on a whole other level.

And since now is the persimmon/pomegranate season, it's only fitting that I include a recipe that incorporates both, courtesy of the lovely and talented Betsy Mueller. Enjoy!

Persimmon and Pomegranate Tart
  • 1 sheet ready-made pie crust (or make your own, if you're so inclined)
  • 6-10 ripe Fuyu persimmons, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
In a bowl, combine sliced persimmons with brown sugar and coat well. Let fruit macerate and become juicy. Lay out pie crust in a 12-inch round on a cookie sheet. Arrange persimmons in the center of the crust; sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the top. Fold in the edges of the pie crust, and brush with some of the persimmon/brown sugar juice. Dust crust edges with cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg. Bake in a 375-degree oven until crust is fully cooked and fruit filling is bubbly (approximately 30-40 minutes). Let cool before topping with a syrup of pomegranate reduction (recipe below), serve and enjoy!

Pomegranate Reduction

  • The seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 1/2 cups water
Place ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Mash the pomegranate seeds and continue to boil for about 5 minutes, mashing the seeds every minute or so as they continue to soften. When you feel like you've mashed the seeds as well as can be mashed, strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a second saucepan. Return to the heat, add the red wine, and continue to boil until the juice has reduced to a syrup, perhaps another five minutes. Add sugar in tablespoon-sized increments until desired sweetness.

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