Recipe: Chef Alex Ageneau’s Grilled Persimmon Salad at aestus

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Penryn Orchard - Alex Ageneau & Laura (Tsurunoko Persimmons)
Laurence Hauben of Penryn Orchard Specialties shows off this season’s tsurunoko (chocolate) persimmons to Chef Alex Ageneau of aestus and Santa Monica Farmers Market Manager Laura Avery.

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.

Penryn Orchard Specialties - Tsurunoko Persimmon
Chef Alex holds a cross section of a tsurunoko persimmon.

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.