My first fall working at Mississippi Market, just over three years ago, I first discovered what has since become my favorite autumn fruit—the humble little persimmon. More so than apples, the arrival of the little orange fruit is the sign that winter is just around the corner. If you haven’t had one yet, let me try and describe this fruit. The texture of a ripe persimmon is akin to that of an over-ripe plum–but in a very good way—and the flavor I can only describe as a mix between plum and pumpkin…I even taste a just hint of cinnamon or nutmeg. The perfect fall flavor? I think so!
Tempted to try one yet? We have two varieties that come in, fuyu and hachiya. The Hachiya are bigger and more egg-shaped, and they ripen to be very tender and sweet—handle them gently as possible!—and the softer they are, the sweeter they will be as long as they are still red/orange (brownish means they’ve aged too much). Fuyu are flatter and you’ll find these at their ripest when they are just barely soft (again, think plums). A word of warning; under ripe Hachiya persimmons can be *incredibly* astringent, and can really dry your mouth out; there’s no harm in it, but this makes for a significantly less pleasant eating experience. Act fast, though; persimmon season only lasts two or three months!
Besides having a unique flavor eaten straight out of the bin (after purchase, of course!), they are also fun to cook with. While persimmon pudding, cakes, pies, and breads (the last two being very similar to pumpkin counterparts, and *excellent* twists on holiday feast favorites!) are some of the most common recipes you’ll find, this post takes a more savory direction. I recently came across a recipe for persimmon risotto, and knew that this needed to be had for dinner.
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
¼ c chopped shallots
2 cloves minced garlic
҆⅓ c white wine
1 ½ quarts chicken stock
½ c parmesan cheese
4 fuyu persimmons, peeled and chopped
½ lemon, juice only
3T olive oil
A pinch of dried sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
Peel and chop the fruit; set aside for later. Heat the oil in a large skillet or (pot if you double the recipe like we did), and lightly sauté the shallots and garlic until they are soft but not brown.
Add in the rice and stir to get everything coated with oil. Let it cook like this for a couple minutes (this ‘dry cooking’ is important in helping the dish get all starchy and risotto-y later on)—stir often so it doesn’t burn! Add in the white wine and give another stir. After the wine has been absorbed, add in the stock, a cup at a time. Wait until the stock has cooked in before adding the next, until all has been added. This staggered addition is also important in getting that risotto texture. Stir often! Well-done rice at this stage should still have a tiny bit of texture to it—al dente, if you will.
Now that the risotto is cooked, remove from heat, add in the cheese, persimmon, salt, pepper, and sage. Mix everything together into its creamy, cheesy goodness. Dish up hot and throw on a small handful of pomegranate kernels if you wish. In all, this is pretty much a standard ‘plain’ risotto with just enough of a semi-sweet fruit to add a pop of surprise flavor here and there; it’s not overpowering in flavor or texture.
If you need a little protein on the side, it’s easy to add! We baked a pair of tilapia fillets for 17 minutes at 375°, layering thin slices of persimmon and dried sage above and below the fish, and drizzled with just a touch of olive oil. We paired our meal with a homemade Riesling, but a Gewurztraminer or Chardonnay would work well, too (see below).
Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. You’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best frozen foods and locally baked breads we can find.