Persimmons are the "hot" fruit. You can look for them this time of year at a few farmers markets, including the Old Town Farmers Market in Scottsdale. That's great because they're pretty to look at and in season, but, um, what do you do with them? Don't worry. We're here.
First, you should know there are really two types of persimmon and if you see them here in Arizona, they're likely from California. To ripen a Hachiya (astringent) persimmon, you can just let it sit out. No, really. Let it sit until it looks like it's going to burst, but don't let it rot. Then there are Fuyu persimmons, which typically should be eaten raw and are sort of tangy and crunchy. You can peel it to add color to a salad, and it works well with nuts and other fruits.
Charleen Badman, chef and co-owner of FnB, uses them often when in season, saving the common apples and pears for later in winter. She explained a little bit more about the fruit and how to use it. "The first time I ever saw them growing was on a tree in Napa," she said. She described them as "beautiful orange orbs." She used to shave them raw and use them at New York's Lobster Club in a salad with salmon and eggplant. This is an appropriate use for Fuyu persimmons -- don't get them confused with Hachiya.
Hachiya persimmons are great for baking, ripening till they are soft and mushy, Badman cuts them in half and scoops out pulp to use in a very famous spiced cake. She says it's similar to using applesauce or bananas in bread. Here's the famous recipe by David Lebovitz, which is adapted from "Beard on Bread," by James Beard. Badman recommends bake it in a bundt pan with ridges and topping with powdered sugar. Persimmon Bread
Yields two nine-inch loaves
Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.
3½ cups sifted flour 1½ teaspoons salt 2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 2 to 2½ cups sugar 1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten 2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey 2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons) 2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped 2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)
1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.
5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.