What's in season: Persimmons can be neatly divided into two types, although there are a number of varieties: Hachiyas are acorn-shaped and need to be softened before you use them; squat Fuyus, shaped more like tomatoes, can be eaten crisp. Hachiya or Japanese persimmons are the most widely available. The fruit is powerfully astringent before it has had a chance to ripen, but give it time to soften and it has a sweet-tangy flavor and creamy texture. Fuyus can be eaten firm and lack the astringency of unripe hachiyas. The red-orange fruit are generally in season from October through January or February. Other varieties spotted recently include slightly spicy Maru and dark, sweet "chocolate" persimmons.
What to cook: You can eat persimmons out of hand or toss them with a quick salad of fall or winter greens. Persimmons also work well in baked goods, such as breads or cakes, or puddings, flavored with a touch of cinnamon or clove. Add persimmons to cocktails, combining the fruit with simple syrup, spice and tequila for seasonal margarita.
What's on the horizon: Brussels sprouts, generally in season from November through February, are beginning to show up.
FUYU PERSIMMON SALAD WITH CUMIN-LIME VINAIGRETTE
Total time: 40 minutes | Serves 8
Note: Fuyus are the small, crisp persimmons. They're only slightly sweet, so when paired with an assertive vinaigrette, they make a refreshing salad.
2 pounds Fuyu persimmons
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (about 1/4 pomegranate)
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1. Cut off the tough green calyxes and slice each persimmon in 10 to 12 wedges.
2. In a small lidded jar, combine the lime juice, cumin, about half of the chile, a dash of salt and the walnut oil. Tightly cover and shake hard to mix well. Taste the dressing on a small piece of persimmon. There should be just enough chile to add a suggestion of heat. If you'd like it hotter, add more and shake again.
3. Combine the persimmons and the dressing in a work bowl and toss to coat well. Turn the salad out into a decorative bowl and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, walnuts and cilantro. Taste and add more salt or lime juice if necessary.
Each of 8 servings: 185 calories; 39 mg. sodium; 0 cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 0 saturated fat; 40 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.30 gram fiber.
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