Here in Southern California, where the climate is deceptively temperate, sometimes the best indicators of seasonal change throughout the year are the appearance of certain fruits or vegetables at our local farmers’ markets. This week, we were particularly taken by the persimmons we saw, with their vibrant reddish-orange hue.
Located in the Sierra foothills of Placer County, Penryn Orchard Specialties has become popular among California chefs for its prized, rare persimmon varieties, namely the tsurunoko “chocolate” variety. Why the “chocolate”? Laurence Hauben explained that the tsurunoko (which literally translates as “child of the crane” in Japanese) persimmons are cross-variant, meaning that they develop their characteristic chocolate brown flesh when seeded. These fruits can be eaten both hard and soft, and their rich, sweet flavor and complex spice notes make them a great addition to your fall dishes and desserts.
Aside from their fresh persimmons, orders can now be placed for Penryn Orchard Specialties’ hoshigaki persimmons. This traditional Japanese practice of hand massaging persimmons while they hang-dry is an exercise in patience, requiring about three to four weeks from start to finish. For those of you curious enough to try making your own hoshigaki, Farmer Jeff Rieger has posted online instructions here.
Chef Alex Ageneau of the restaurant, aestus, in Santa Monica prefers to keep things simple when it comes to cooking with tsurunoko persimmons, so as not to overshadow their natural flavor. He serves his fruit grilled on a bed of fresh arugula and thinly shaved cauliflower with just a touch of citrus dressing. By grilling his persimmons over slowly over almond wood, Chef Alex intensifies their sweetness, while accentuating their distinctive rounded flavor.
Grilled Persimmon Salad
Made in Holland exclusively for Cypress Grove Chèvre, Midnight Moon is nutty and brown buttery up front with a long caramel finish.
4 tsurunoko (chocolate) persimmons (You can also substitute with fuyu)
1 lb baby arugula
1 wedge Cypress Grove Midnight Moon chèvre, for shaving
⅓ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
¼ of a cauliflower head, thinly shaved (use a mandolin)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Halve the persimmons from top to bottom and carefully remove the seeds and stem. Place on a grill on low heat skin side down, and allow to cook slowly for 10–15 minutes. The fruit should soften but maintain its shape and texture. After 15 minutes, flip the fruit onto its flesh side and grill for another 2 minutes. Set aside.
Combine the lemon juice, orange juice, mustard and maple syrup in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the olive oil for a lite dressing.
In a bowl, season the arugula and shaved cauliflower with a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper, the dressing and a pinch of salt (go light on the salt, as the chèvre will also act as salt for this dish).
Divide the salad onto 4 plates. Place 2 halves of the grilled persimmons on top of each salad. Sprinkle each salad with toasted pecans. Using a microplane or a fine cheese grater, grate the chèvre over the salads. Serve immediately