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Pontormo

Italian Cooking Challenge: Persimmons

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EVOLUZIONE DEI CACHI

According to Hathor, persimmons are now officially ripe in Umbria and perfect for breakfast, mixed into yogurt.

This got me thinking, especially after finding an excellent essay on the subject of Italy's persimmons and the different words Italians use for the fruit, depending upon their location; Kyle Phillips mentions "pomi" and "diospri" in addition to "cachi".

Here's the thing. We've been engaged in a rather long-winded and now, rather discursive and repetitive discussion of traditional Italian food and what happens when you deviate from the familiar repertoire. Some of us also miss the collaborative cooking threads that were inspired by Kevin72's year-long project. It might be fun to start another.

So, why not contribute a new dish to the formidable ranks of Italian regional specialties, using an ingredient that is very common in Italy, but rarely cooked in that country? At least, this is what Kyle Phillips says. I'll let someone else correct me if need be.

The point is to make a dish that is clearly informed by Italian tradition, yet deviates in a fresh, new way.

As much as certain high-minded discussions of the relative merits of "national" cuisines tick me off, I have to admit that I'd give the gold star to the French when it comes to pastry. Gelato and the blissful combination of hazelnuts and chocolate redeems Italy, but I am entirely sympathetic with the tradition of ending a meal w a beautiful piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. Dense, jammy crostate are not usually my cup of tea.

So, making a dessert presents the most interesting challenge, as far as I'm concerned. However, why not keep possibilities open-ended just in case someone finds a perfect way to encase the fruit inside a rice ball, or dare I say, unite it with prosciutto e Parmigiana? :wink:

Mostarda's way too obvious, don't you think?

Keep in mind the fact that Italians only have astringent varieties of persimmons, i.e., the kind that need to ripen until very soft before consumption.

So, anyone interested?

A deadline can be established once interest is determined and we can make certain that ripe persimmons are available to participants.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Solid idea. Although I may struggle with persimmons since I don't like 'em.

ETA: But I'll look around and see. I also like the idea of keeping the challenges seasonal and off the beaten track for Italian cuisine: a tomato challenge, for instance, might be kinda boring.


Edited by Kevin72 (log)

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I'm not devoted to persimmons, so feel free to give this thought and perhaps we can change the featured ingredient.

While fennel is commonplace by now, it's something many Americans (for example) did not grow up eating. It's associated with fall and something that might have broader appeal.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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The trick to everything, of course, is that a ripe persimmon very quickly turns into a puree on its own. (At least the ones I always seem to buy.)

How about a Friuliano dish, maybe gnocchi stuffed with persimmon instead susine (plums), tossed with some cinnamon, a little sugar, and some fresh curds? Or, moving to the west, tortelli stuffed with a little crescenza and some persimmon--perhaps even gorgonzola--in a brown-butter sauce with parmigiano?

You could also try a fruit-based risotto--I have a few recipes in my Valdostano cookbooks for things like risotto with fontina, apples and juniper berries, as well as a risotto with wild strawberries--but I've never had much luck with these dishes. The fruit flavors always seem overwhelmed by the saltiness.

I also wonder what persimmons would do to a dish that uses fresh or barely cooked tomatoes. I mention it because I find a little pineapple juice has a surprising effect on tomatoes.


Edited by StevenC (log)

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Ah, a chance for me to write an ode to the persimmon! :laugh::laugh:

If only I had an ounce of poet in me.... :wink:

Sorry for the delay in checking in, but once again my internet service needed to rest itself. Apparently when Saturdays and full moons occur at the same time, it is unreasonable to expect internet service.

Ripe persimmons are supposed to turn into a puree when ripe, that is the desired consistency, it's the original pudding in a single serving container.

Yes, with yogurt in the morning, it is on par with a fresh peach.

A simple bowl of persimmon puree/slush served in a lovely dessert dish with a sprinkle of spice on top is divine.

But, how about as a glaze for roasted fowl?? Hmmmm....could be interesting.

I also think the flavor may balance well with balsamic....Weinoo, you around? What about a persimmon balsamic gelato?

I'm not sure about the gnocci thing because of the high water content of the persimmon, but it's worth experimenting with because the flavor combo that StevenC suggests sounds very good.

Grazie, Pontormo! A buon'idea if ever there was one! And why can't we start a fennel thread at the same time? And you know cardoons are coming soon....and porcini.....and...ok, so this might be my favorite time of year! :wub:

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I've started vaguely researching this one.  Lots of sweets and pastries but not much in the way of savory.  And I went to three separate sources looking for them, including a well-stocked Asian market, with no luck.

Let me ask around, myself, since I recall seeing pomegranates in supermarkets, but it may be too early for persimmons. (See below.) Perhaps we could postpone this proposed topic until the fruit appears in places other than Hathor's market and give some time to gfron1 to order a case for his store.

The only savory ideas I had were glazes for roasting and I can't say that's particularly Italian. You'd think, though, when chocolate is combined w eggplant or chopped meats, persimmons would find a place in early courses.

StevenC reminds us of stuffed pastas that combine sweet and savory ingredients. Come to think of it, I really liked the lasagna that Lynne Rosetto Kasper names after the Dukes of Ferrara (cf. Cooking & Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna) w its cinnamon and raisins. Perhaps instead of, or alternating with besciamella, a thin layer of persimmon purée...

I didn't really like the fruit on its own years ago when I first tried it since it's kind of unctuous and slimy. Yogurt, I'm sure, tempers both qualities.

However, I tried making a couple of non-Italian desserts last year and found that I enjoyed them, even passing along a recipe. That was in December and January, though I believe the fruit appears in the U.S. a bit earlier.

Cooking Tip & Word of Caution: As documented here in Post 10, persimmons are persnickety. The scientific mystery was solved, in fact, by David Lebovitz who explains that persimmons have the same enzyme that renders fresh pineapples pointless when it comes to setting desserts. He advises cooking the puréed fruit on the stovetop and cooling it first before incorporating it into a custard.

* * *

StevenC: Great suggestions, the first, especially!


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I'm not sure about the gnocchi thing because of the high water content of the persimmon, but it's worth experimenting with because the flavor combo that StevenC suggests sounds very good.

My grandmother taught me a trick for drying pasta filling--when it seems too watery, form it into a ball, wrap it in several layers of paper towel, and place it into a strainer. I tried the technique when I made pear ravioli a couple of years ago, and it worked beautifully. (The pears were very ripe and mushy.)

A couple of other ideas:

A persimmon "cotognata" to serve with cheese (I would try simmering fresh puree with a cinnamon stick or maybe even some fresh ginger until much of the water evaporated. I might also add a few crushed lemon wedges for the pectin and a touch of bitterness and acidity to accentuate the sweetness of the persimmon.)

Also, a strudel di cachi--Alto Adige--stuffed with persimmons and maybe Quark. The same concept might work in a burek (Istrian influence here), with slightly sour curds.

I'll look through my Sicilian cookbooks tonight for more ideas--I'm continually fascinated by the North African influence on Sicilian cuisine, and it seems particularly apt here, given the fruit-meat combinations of Maghrebi cooking.

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disopyros virginiana are the variety native the the u.s. and they, imo, are far superior to the more astringent variety. here in nc their season is in full swing (i just pulled three pies out of my oven 5 minutes ago!). if any of you are in the southeast, check out your farmer's markets or put a message on your neighborhood listserve: more people than you think have a tree!


"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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