December 2, 2011
The first time I tried a persimmon was a few years ago. I spotted the attractive fruit at the supermarket, and its smooth skin and deep orange color tempted me to buy one. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that the variety of persimmon I bought—hachiya—shouldn’t be eaten until it is extremely ripe. It tasted like industrial-strength cleaner. Since then, I’ve learned that fuyus, which are short and squat, are the variety to buy for eating fresh; pointy-bottomed hachiyas are better for baking.
Fuyus have a pleasantly firm, mango-like flesh. The most similar flavor I can think of is papaya—sweet, but not overly so, with a hint of floral or spicy tones. Both fuyus and hachiyas are usually available in late fall and early winter. Here are a few ways to use either variety:
1. In a salad. Despite originating thousands of miles apart, persimmons (from East Asia) and pomegranates (from the Middle East) harmonize nicely—both flavor-wise and visually—in a fall/winter fruit salad. For an even more colorful (and very nutritious) dish, toss them with sliced red cabbage, Romaine lettuce, Asian pear, hazelnuts and gorgonzola cheese, as in the Rainbow Chopped Salad from Epicurious.
2. As a condiment or accompaniment. Organic Authority suggests serving a fresh persimmon salsa with grilled fish or chicken. Or it can be cooked into a spicy chutney with apples and raisins, as Moscovore recommends. Firm fuyus can also be sliced and roasted to be served as a sweet/savory side dish, as in this recipe from About.com.
3. Dried. Hoshigaki, or dried persimmons, are a popular treat in Japan, where they are made through a labor-intensive process you’re unlikely to want to replicate at home. But even the shortcut method you can make in your oven—like this recipe from Martha Stewart—produces a yummy (albeit very different, I’m sure) snack.
4. In a drink. Just because I’m teetotaling for the next few months doesn’t mean you have to. Imbibe magazine’s recipe for a persimmon margarita rimmed with cinnamon salt is a novel twist on one of my favorite cocktails. On the nonalcoholic side, 101 Asian Recipes explains how to make a Korean persimmon tea.
5. In dessert. Nicole of Pinch My Salt shares her grandma’s recipe for sweet, moist persimmon cookies. And I would like to be in Denise’s Kitchen next time she makes this delicious-looking fuyu persimmon, pear and walnut rolled tart. Having spent only one very rainy day of my life in Indiana (on the interstate en route from Nashville to Chicago), I was unaware that persimmon pudding was a traditional regional food there. Joy the Baker explains how it’s made (including how to wheedle the fruits from your neighbor), describing the result as “sweet and super moist bread pudding meets spice cake.” Sounds good to me.
January 4, 2010
Post-holidays, most people take at least a passing interest in eating healthier. I know I do, anyway. That’s what motivated me to pick up a whole, fresh pomegranate at the grocery store a few days ago—I’d heard that this round, red fruit is a “superfood,” packed with antioxidants and vitamins. Never mind that I hadn’t a clue how to open the thing, let alone prepare it! That’s what the Internet is for…
In case you’re clueless, too, here are a few tips on what to do with fresh pomegranates.
1) This video on Food52, a wonderful recipe-sharing site developed in part by former New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser, shows a simple technique for extracting the pomegranate seeds. Related recipes on the same site include an arugula, pear and goat cheese salad with pomegranate vinaigrette, a cranberry pomegranate compote, and roasted brussels sprouts with hazelnut and pomegranate (mmm, I might make that one tonight).
2) Add an exotic twist to fresh salsa by incorporating pomegranate seeds. I like the look of this kiwi-pomegranate salsa from Simply Recipes, and I bet some chunks of fresh mango would taste great in there, too.
3) The Wednesday Chef has another intriguing idea: carrot soup topped with pomegranate seeds. This recipe also calls for a touch of pomegranate molasses, which you can find at Middle Eastern grocery stores (I even found a few bottles for sale at the falafel shop in my neighborhood) or in the international aisle of larger chain supermarkets. It’s delicious in muhammara, a spread/dip made with roasted red peppers and walnuts.
4) Liven up a grain dish with pomegranate seeds—that could mean simply tossing a handful of them into couscous, or going uber-healthy with this bulgur, celery and pomegranate salad from 101 Cookbooks. They also taste great in hot oatmeal with a drizzle of maple syrup, as I learned this morning!
5) Drink up. You can buy pomegranate juice, but you can also squeeze your own from fresh pomegranates. It tastes good on its own, or mixed into everything from cocktails to smoothies. Food & Wine has a recipe for sparkling pomegranate punch that combines both juice and seeds with Prosecco, and Martha Stewart has a non-alcoholic variation. The doctor/blogger at Basic Eating recommends a simple pomegranate banana smoothie (he also has a related post with general pomegranate information).
That’s five, but here’s a bonus link, to celebrate the new year: the lovely new blog The Cooks Next Door recently had a pomegranate-themed post that includes helpful preparation tips and three recipes, such as chicken with yogurt and pomegranate.