Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

Persimmons: Not to be Confused with Small Pumpkins

December 10, 2008

The Beautiful and Wonderful Persimmon!

The Beautiful and Wonderful Persimmon!


Meet Persimmon. Pronounced, per-SIM-un, not, per-sinn-amon, like cinnamon. Seriously, what a culinary faux-pas on my part, but I blame geography. I just could not buy fresh persimmons when living in New York City and therefore, I have never had to try to pronounce the fruit’s name. Outside of perhaps the Upper West Side’s food Mecca, Fairway (on a rare day), and some of NYC’s finest restaurants, I have never seen, and obviously have never eaten, a persimmon. And yes, I now regret the last 30 years…persimmons are a mouthful of magic!

A Hachiya Persimmon

A Hachiya Persimmon

My first close encounters with a persimmon occurred at the South Pasadena Farmers’ market this October. It was only after complimenting the farmer on his cute little pumpkins did I learn that persimmons are in no way related to squash, but they are their own fruit with many different varieties. Persimmons are in season in the Fall and we generally see the two most common persimmon varieties: the Hachiya, which is recognizable by its acorn shape; and, Fuyu, which looks like a squat tomato or small pumpkin. I have yet to eat the Hachiya variety of persimmon, but I had my first Fuyu persimmon and at first bite, I was in love.

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A Fuyu Persimmon - similar to a small pumpkin, right?...:)

The Fuyu persimmons can be a little tricky for naive fruitarians. With many types of fruit, like pears or peaches, we know when they are ripe because there is a softness to them. Fuyu persimmons, conversely, are ripe when they are firm and can be eaten as is – much like an apple. This really through me for a bit of a loop. Before I first tasted a Fuyu persimmon, my instinct told me that its firmness would make it as unedible as an unripe nectarine, for example. Surprisingly, while there is a definite initial bite to a ripe Fuyu persimmon, there is an immediate tenderness in the fruit’s flesh that does not necessarily have a solitary taste. Sounding sort of like a sommelier, a Fuyu persimmon has a nuttiness to it which is offset by soft hints of honey and apricot. Its just delicious!

Coming from the East coast where apples dominate our farmstands in the Fall, I had no idea that persimmons were so versatile and offered such a diverse culinary palette. A little recipe research shows that persimmons pair well with almonds and walnuts and would make a great salad when tossed with greens. The pulp of persimmons can also be used in baking, much like pumpkin puree is used when making pumpkin bread or cookies. I am anxious to try baking Christmas persimmon cookies – an interesting concept for a California cook as it gives your holiday cookie a very seasonal meaning…

So while I may have spent years thinking that a persimmon was pronounced differently and shared the same genus as a pumpkin, I look forward to exploring its flavors. Hopefully I’ll have a good persimmon recipe to share soon!

Until next time…

Lamb Kabobs: Skewering a Memory

November 14, 2008
Yummy Lamb Kabobs and Rice Pilaf

Yummy Lamb Kabobs and Rice Pilaf

Before moving to Pasadena, George and I were living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We were only Upper West Siders for a brief time – George lived in our UWS apartment for five months before moving to California; I was there for eight months. It was a short living stint, but a very memorable one.

Our apartment was just north of the tony Upper West Side, but provided ideal access to Central Park, relatively inexpensive parking (inexpensive for NYC), the express 2/3 train and, last but not least, good restaurants. There was a Mediterranean restaurant a few blocks away on Amsterdam, a small bistro-style restaurant that almost had no presence – meaning, you could walk by it and not notice it was there. But inside, the restaurant was warm and inviting – a sort of clean, well-lighted place, and almost had the ambiance of eating in someone’s home. The menu was limited – a few fresh salads and signature starters like humus and Babaghanoush, and for entrees, a few tangine dishes and traditional kabob combinations.

The restaurant’s lamb kabobs were really quite good and I found myself thinking about them recently. Before long, my thoughts turned into a craving for lamb kabobs, which then lead to NYC nostalgia, which then became how can I satisfy this craving, which finally lead to how can I duplicate those memorable lamb kabobs from the Upper West Side?

Not really knowing all that much about the seasonings the restaurant used on their kabobs, I decided to keep mine simple as I really wanted to enjoy the lamb’s flavor and tenderness. I bought some good quality lamb from my local butcher, cubed it myself and seasoned it simply with a little extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I skewered the lamb with fresh red bell pepper, red onions and cherry tomatoes and grilled them until the meat was about medium in temperature. The simplicity of the seasoning really accentuated the lamb and the grilled vegetables married perfectly with it. To round out our Mediterranean meal, I made a quick Greek yogurt dipping sauce that couldn’t have been easier to make and tastier to eat! By combining a cup of Greek yogurt, diced cucumber, a bit of dill and surprisingly, a few dashes of cumin, the dipping sauce was the perfect complement to the lamb kabobs and brought the memories and flavors of our old Upper West Side neighborhood to our Pasadena living room!

Until next time…