AndyTalk: The Persimmon Conundrum

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Every year I ask myself why persimmons aren't more popular. They're usually in the smallest bin in the produce aisle (although they've been at Costco and Sam's this year). The Fuyu varitey, which is what I've seen so far this year, is fiery orange, squat like a tomato, and hard as an apple. Fuyus can be eaten out of hand like apples. The texture is apple-like, but the taste is better. It's not without a lot of thought that I elevate the persimmon's taste above the apple's. A crisp-ripe Fuyu persimmon tastes like an apple dipped in honey. What's not to love?

Aside from eating them like an apple, or adding a Fuyu or two to your morning smoothie, persimmons bring a bit of autumn to your salad bowl. Add some nuts, cranberries, and a bit of something in the onion family and you have a Persimmon Salad that's a great lunch (mine yesterday) or side dish at dinner.

Baked persimmons are as easy to make as baked apples. I use a melon baller to scoop out a hollow space that I can stuff. I tested a raisin filling and a dried cranberry and white chocolate filling. These are two and three ingredient recipes that will get you raves. When cooked the persimmons had a custard-like consistency that was still slightly firm, like an al dente baked apple.

Since December is nearly here I tried some pre-holiday persimmon cookies. I started with grated persimmons, and then went in two different directions to make toppings for the cookies. To one half of my grated Fuyus I added melted butter, sugar, a little flour, and allspice. I spread this persimmon crumble on my cut-out shortbread cookies and topped it with a slice of fresh cranberry.

The second topping was grated persimmon combined with sugar, nutmeg, and Parmesan cheese. This went on top of the same shortbread, cut in a different shape. I liked the hard-to-explain rich umame aspect of these cookies. Because the Parmesan added some salt these cookies are in a gray area between cookie and hors d'oeuvre. In fact they'd be great as part of a cheese platter.

You can substitute Fuyus for apples in recipes you already know. This means that the list of edible possibilities is long, even though the persimmon season is short. A bowl of persimmons brings autumn to your kitchen. Adding them to your recipes will bring smiles to your table.

Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.

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