I am an impulse shopper. Not all the time (fortunately for M and our financial future), but man, when I set my mind to it, I can SHOP, for as long as it takes to cover all the racks, display shelves, boxes and what-have-yous to sniff out the best bargains. It must be my Chinese genes or Singapore upbringing (probably both), but I can never resist a good deal. And there are always deals to be found at the Farmers’ Market. Spend $5 and you get a huge bag of deliciously ripe fruit at the height of their season, bursting with flavor, vitamins, fiber and all that good stuff. Now, that’s a deal!
Fuyu persimmons were my latest impulse purchase. I mean, these globes were calling my name with their squat, orange tuxedoes, each one promising bite after delicious bite of juicy sweetness. The only problem was the lack of persimmon recipes out there; I wasn’t interested in making a bread, cookies or pickles out of them, but I knew I wanted to do right by my orange friends by making something….”nice”. I just had to figure out what “nice” actually meant.
The first experiment was a Persimmon Tarte Tatin with some dulce de leche. Apart from giving me the chance to announce the dessert with relish (try saying the name to the trumpets in this movie theme), I ended up with a 9-inch upside down tart that was way too brown to look delectable and hardly any flavor to tease the palate. By bathing the fruit in a thick and rich caramel, I inadvertently drowned out its subtle and delicately earthy notes with burnt sugar, resulting in bland bites of cooked persimmon atop a thick crust. Not very appetizing.
The light bulb went off after reading this recipe for Pumpkin Panna Cotta. There are very few things in this world that a few cups of cream don’t get along with, and persimmons aren’t among them, fortunately.
Poached and pureed into a smooth mass reminiscent of baby food, I added a dash of cinnamon before stirring the mixture into the cream and gelatin and four hours later, we had dessert! A handful of very addictive glazed pecans garnished each serving and I gilded the lily by drizzling maple syrup for the final touch. It was Fall in a bite – spice, earthiness and sweetness from the poached fruit married with crunchy pecans, all working together in this “nice” enough dessert to keep for next Fall when persimmons are back in season. Or my next impulse purchase at the market.
2 cups/ 400 grams water
1 cup/ 200 grams granulated sugar
4 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick
Bring the water and sugar to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add the diced persimmons and cinnamon stick. Ensure that there’s enough water to cover the fruit.
Simmer, uncovered for up to 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to cool until needed.
Poached persimmons can be refrigerated, in their syrup, for up to a week.
14 ounces/ 400 grams poached persimmons, pureed until smooth
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2¼ teaspoon gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
2 cups cream or half and half
¼ cup granulated sugar
Sieve the cinnamon into the pureed persimmons, mix and set aside. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a medium bowl and let it stand while you prepare the rest of the panna cotta.
Oil four ramekins or glasses with a neutral-tasting oil. (Skip this step if you’re planning on serving your panna cotta in their molds).
Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the persimmon/cinnamon mixture, then pour the warm contents of the saucepan over the gelatin and mix until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Divide the panna cotta into the prepared molds and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
Maple-glazed Pecans (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes about 2 cups
These pecans can be made up to 3 days ahead of when you plan to use them. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
8 ounces/ 220 grams pecan halves
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 325F/ 170C. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Mix the syrup and sugar in a bowl, then stir in the pecans, tossing to coat and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
While the pecans are in the oven, place a large piece of foil on your work surface. When the pecans are done, transfer them to the foil and separate any nuts that stick together with a fork. Leave to cool.
2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional)
If you’re serving the panna cotta on plates, run a knife around the edge of each mold and turn the panna cotta out onto the plate. Garnish with 4 or 5 pecan pieces and a drizzle of maple syrup.