I was embarrassed to call them by their name, it was like pronouncing a swear word. I would never utter profanity, nor raise my voice, I would not throw a tantrum in a crowded room, I was a well behaved child. How could I ask grandma to have a caco as an afternoon break? To understand my reticency, you’d need a quick insight into the Italian language. A caco is a persimmon, but it is also a verb, which means I shit… I bet now you understand! My whole family has always had a bashful respect for words – quite surprisingly for Tuscans as they are known for having a very colourful and inventive language – so we have always called the persimmons pomi, as they were Tuscan apples.
Growing up I discovered that in Florence persimmons are known as diosperi, and I embraced with gratitude and a sigh of relief this name that cleans the caco of its worldly nature to wrap it in a mythological aura: I fell in love with the dios-pero, the wheat of Zeus.
In these early days of winter, with the white skies veiled by a thin mist, the persimmons are small wonders of nature, clinging tenaciously to the bare branches of exposed trees. Driving through the Tuscan countryside they can be spotted from afar, a spontaneous festive decoration to welcome the return of winter. In the courtyards of the houses, in the gardens, kept with loving care or abandoned to their destiny, the trees are weighed down by orbs as sweet and sticky as jam: it is the peak of their season.
Today’s post was born as a challenge with Tommaso which has given life to many recipes, all with persimmons. You will wonder how we decide which recipes will be published here on the blog, whether we follow an editorial plan or if we rely on instinct, or better, on hunger. Often we sit down, I take out a notebook and I begin to list everything I want to cook for you, then Tommaso shuffles the cards, introducing a random variable.
A few weeks ago Tommaso asked: what about persimmons? Have you ever made recipes with persimmons? They are in season, can you use them as an ingredient? This made me reflect. I’ve always considered the jammy persimmons as a meal on its own, a perfect afternoon break to simply enjoy with a spoon, but they are much more than this, they are actually an ingredient, a versatile one, so we started discussing about which recipes to post here. We couldn’t narrow the field to a single one. I also asked you for some help on Instagram, and you generously contributed with lots of ideas.
In this time of the year persimmons are abundant, infinitely good and affordable. Here you can find a few ideas on how to use them in the kitchen. You will find recipes with two types of persimmon: the Fuyu, that can be sliced and cubed, as crisp to the bite as an apple, and the more common Hachiya, the classic sweet, heavy persimmon, a skin so thin that barely holds up the pulp, silky and sugary as a jam.
It seemed the best way to greet these early days of winter: cooking, using seasonal ingredients and enjoying the warmth of an oven or of a pot simmering on the stove.
1. Persimmon risotto with pancetta and goat cheese
If you can make a risotto with strawberries or with green apples, why wouldn’t you make one with the crisp Fuyu persimmons? The persimmon makes the risotto slightly sweet, but the other ingredients perfectly balance the final taste of the risotto. The browned pancetta adds a savoury richness while the melting goat cheese contributes with a slightly acid and creamy touch. This risotto is like a hug, a seasonal and festive dish.
- 1 shallot
- 200 g of rice for risotto such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
- ½ a glass of white wine
- 500 ml of lightly salted hot water or hot vegetable stock
- 1 Fuyu persimmon diced
- 100 g fresh goat's cheese
- 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 50 g of pancetta
- Freshly ground black pepper
Cover the bottom of a casserole with extra virgin olive oil, then add the finely minced shallot. Add a pinch of salt, too, so the shallots will stew without burning, as the salt will extract their moisture.
When the shallots are wilted and golden, add the rice and toast it over medium heat for a few minutes, then pour in the white wine.
When the wine has been absorbed, gradually add the hot stock or hot water, stirring often and cooking the rice over medium-low heat. The cooking time will vary depending on the type of rice you have chosen. usually 15 minutes should be enough.
Halfway through the cooking, add the chopped persimmon, then keep on cooking adding more stock.
While the risotto is cooking, slice the pancetta and brown it on medium fire in a pan, then turn off the heat and set aside.
When the rice is al dente, remove it from the heat and stir in the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh goat's cheese. Stir to cream the cheese, the add the browned pancetta with its rendered fat. As some freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.
2. Persimmon salad with radicchio and apples
Kerrin was the first one on Instagram to give me some ideas on how to use persimmons. I love the firm varieties, that slice like an apple. We snack on them all day here. And I chop them up and toss in my salads too. I once made an upside down persimmon cake, very cool presentation. The she added I’m making salad right now for lunch, with roasted beets, avocado, smoked turkey… and persimmon! This gave me the idea to make a salad.
In a bowl collect a handful of washed and dried radicchio leaves, some thin slices of a crisp apple, half a fennel bulb, thinly shaved with a mandolin, and some celery. Add the persimmon, sliced as an apple, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. This was my lunch a few days ago with some shaved Parmigiano added at the very last moment.
3. Cocoa crostata with a persimmon and hazelnut filling
The crostate, a shell of short pastry and a filling which can range from jam to marmalade, from fruit compote to fresh fruit, chocolate spread and custard, are humble desserts that suit all the seasons. This is especially festive, with a short pastry flavoured with bitter cocoa powder and a filling of persimmons and hazelnuts. It has the colours of autumn and the sweetness of a moment of relax with a cup of hot tea.
- 200 g of cane sugar
- 250 g of unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 500 g of plain wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 ripe persimmons
- 200 g of hazelnuts
- 200 ml of fresh cream
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Rub the butter and the sugar with your fingertips just until combined and there are no large lumps of butter remaining.
Mix in the beaten eggs and then rub in the flour, previously sifted with salt and cocoa powder. Try to work quickly so that it does not become greasy, press the dough together, wrap it in cling film and let sit in the fridge for several hours or even overnight.
When it’s time to finally bake your crostata, preheat oven to 200°C.
Remove the short pastry from the fridge, divide it in a half and knead it until softened, then roll it out on a floured surface with a rolling pin in a 5 mm thick sheet. Keep the second half in the fridge until needed.
Line a 26 cm round loose bottom baking pan with the short pastry and remove the excess dough.
Scoop the persimmon flesh into a blender, then add the hazelnuts, the cinnamon powder and the cream, then pulse until thick and smooth.
Spread the persimmon and hazelnut filling on the bottom of the crostata.
Roll out the remaining dough and cut long strips to decorate the surface. If you have leftovers, make cocoa cookies.
Bake the crostata for about 35-40 minutes, or until the filling is set. .
Let it cool down for a few hours before slicing it.
It keeps well it in the fridge for a few days.
4. Persimmon and hazelnut mousse
This recipe was born as a way to reuse some leftovers from the previous costata, though it is a winning combination of flavours, with a smooth and silky texture. It is one of those recipes that you’d imagine would take hours to make, yet all you need is five minutes and a good blender. You’ll find yourself making it often during the persimmon season. You can serve it with cocoa short pastry cookies, chopped caramelised nuts or even an oat granola.
- 3 ripe persimmons
- 200 g of hazelnuts
- 500 ml of fresh cream
- 100 g of cocoa cookies
- Cinnamon powder
Scoop the persimmon flesh into a blender, then add the hazelnuts and pulse until thick and smooth.
With a spatula, transfer the persimmon and hazelnut paste into a bowl.
Whip the cream into soft peaks, then gently fold it into the persimmon and hazelnut paste.
Fill the glasses or cups with the persimmon mousse and decorate it with crushed chocolate cookies and a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.
Keep in the fridge for a few hours before serving it.
Link Love, or many more recipes with persimmons
Obviously the ideas did not end here. With the festive season upon us, here you can find many more ideas on how to use persimmons in your kitchen, some were already on the blog, others were contributed by you, who generously responded to my request with tips, links and so much generosity.
If you happen to have other ideas, please share them below in the comments, so as to create a juicy archive that will lead us through the persimmon season.
- With the persimmon pulp you can make some amazing crostini. Spread the bread with some creamy gorgonzola, place a dollop of persimmon pulp on top of it and then drizzle with aceto balsamico. The colours are inviting, but the taste far exceeds the beauty of these crostini. I have made them often during the last cooking classes and I can guarantee that even those who usually find persimmons too sweet appreciate them. Here you will find the ones we made during the October photography workshop.
- An old recipe here on the blog, an Autumn persimmon cake. It looks like an apple cake, but it is the quintessence of the season: it has the colour of the rustling leaves with vibrant accents of sliced persimmons. Domenica made it recently on her blog adding chestnut flour and warm spices such as cinnamon and cloves, which enhance the autumnal vibe of the cake.
- Sandra linked to her recipes, a persimmon, walnut and raisins cake, which is the next recipe to try on my to-do list, as I see this as the perfect cake to enjoy with a mug of black coffee in the morning.
- Deborah sent me the link for her persimmon and pecan bread.
- Reka from Foodie in Tuscany made a smoothie, a kick of energy in the morning.
- Bella told me that they are one of her favourite fall fruits! I made a roasted persimmon + pomegranate seed salad with clementine vinaigrette. Serve with chicken al mattone and you have a lovely lunch or light dinner. I do agree!
- Phoebe told us some more about persimmons. When I lived in Italy I’d see the trees full of them and I asked what they were called in Italian. One neighbor said, “mele Toscane”. I love to bake with the Hachiya variety you have pictured here. When they are soft you can scoop out the flesh and substitute it in a banana bread recipe or as you would for pumpkin bread. (I know it italy zucca is usually for savory dishes but here in America we love our pumpkin muffins with plenty of cinnamon and maple sugar!) The firmer Fuyu persimmons are wonderful raw, sliced thin along with fennel, dried figs, celery, parsley, lemon and oil!
- Binhaigh sent me a link to make a persimmon pudding which looks deliciously sticky and sweet.
- Patty suggested to use persimmons to make a sauce for an arista, a Tuscan pork roast. As the pork meat is delicious when cooked with something sweetish, from apples to apricots, from prunes to chestnuts, why not to use persimmons, too? This could be a fabulous idea for a Sunday roast.
Christmas Cookie Swap 2017
I know, we’re a little bit late, but we had a last-minute idea. What about a Christmas cookie swap? We have begun December donating old books to the local library and giving clothes and food to those in need. Now we would love to exchange some sweetness, too. You just give us your address, we match you with someone else and before Christmas you should receive two parcels of Christmas cookies.
Some practical information:
- Subscribe to our cookie swap within the 8th of December. Just fill out this form.
- On Monday, December the 11th we will send you your matches: you will receive the addresses of two people who will receive your cookies. Bake cookies that can travel easily, and if possible choose typical local cookies, and let us know something about them.
- You have time until December the 14th to ship the cookies to grant that your match will receive your parcels before Christmas.
Once you receive the cookies, enjoy them with your favorite tea or hot chocolate. If you want to share the cookies you received, use the hashtags #cookieswap2017 #julskitchen. It is open to every country with at least three participants (we already have Italy, France, USA, Canada, Hungary, UK, Germany). Are you ready to share some Christmas sweetness?