Cooking is a life long journey, not only in its flavors, experiences, and memories flourishing within, but in its countless possibilities, that there is also always something more to learn. Sometimes, you, just like me, might encounter as in my recent tasting and preparation of the Fuyu Persimmon, a whole new sensation quite pleasurable to taste, and ended up wondering how you ever missed it. And I might have missed out too on this delicious experience if it hadn’t been for Amy at Chefs Press who had recently contacted me on their newest cookbook for its review, “Jewels From My Grove, Persimmons, Kumquats & Blood Oranges, Reflections and Recipes” by Helene Beck.
I should admit that despite the current trend in cookbook publishing, I’m not really a fan of single subject cookbooks, but then, as in life, there are exceptions to every rule, and this cookbook, outside of the fact that I could have read more and more on the interesting life and experiences surrounding Beck Grove, the place that Helene Beck and her husband, Robert, completely transformed beginning shortly after their arrival in 1982, has me quite smitten. You can’t even imagine the trove of creative recipes that may be prepared using the fruits, Persimmons, Kumquats, & Blood Oranges. Like the title says, “Jewels From My Grove.”
Within the first section of recipes contained in the book shares persimmons, which is my focus today as they have recently made their seasonal appearance. One special feature of the Persimmon is the use of its puree easily wizzed up in your food processor after removing the little floral papery lid on top (no need to peel the fruit) that may then be frozen for future use as I’ve done, and in sharing with you today one of the recipes from the book, Fuyu Persimmon Gingerbread Bundt Cake. Oh my goodness. So delicious.
As you might be aware, I know my way around the Asian and International markets fairly well. Sometime around early fall each year, for years, at the corner entrance of the market I’ve noticed the stacked cases of Fuyu Persimmons halfway to the ceiling, set just beside the more common cases of gifting fruits; apples, oranges, Asian pears. I’ve never gifted a box of persimmons to friends nor prepared this treasured fruit though I did know that it was prized, admittedly because only the prized fruits for gifting appear in cases at the front entryway at the local Asian market. This year, as soon as they appeared, I reached up and snagged an early case. As I write, you might want to get yours now too for they only appear in this limited window of season, and what’s more exciting is that last week I observed something I’ve never seen at the local Asian market, Assi, that is, loose bins of persimmons which should make it perfect for you to give them a sample if you don’t want to make a big commitment on the outset before trying them first. You might also try H-Mart (Korean Market) if you’ve one nearby as I do in my own locale. I’ll bet you’ll be delightfully fascinated and pleased as me.
The soft cover cookbook of “Jewels From My Grove” is gorgeously printed with brightly colored photographs alongside the recipes that each look so luscious as do those visual cookbooks that take your breath away in their beauty, or leave you salivating and confused on what to prepare first, both applied in my case. I couldn’t even imagine the sheer diversity of preparation with these fruits, particularly the persimmon, how about a Chipotle Fuyu Persimmon and Pumpkin Soup? Grilled Lobster with Fuyu Persimmon Chipotle Sauce? A juicy Fuyu Persimmon Chipotle Prime Rib with Cardamom Spice Rub anyone? I want to make them all. Perhaps I shall.
Now I don’t mean to completely leave out the also less common Kumquat in today’s post, and perhaps I shouldn’t, but will admit, as an individual possessing a lot of food knowledge, that when the Kumquat’s appear around the Christmas season each year, I’ve always bought batches to tuck into my greens decorations. They do look beautiful and enhance arrangements, but I have never prepared anything using the kumquat. This holiday season I shall. Upon viewing the kumquat section of the cookbook, along with sharing a few main course options, there tends a greater appearance in its baked goods and sweets selections, again leaving the reader with so many delicious choices one doesn’t know where to begin first. For starters one might enjoy the Kumquat-Glazed Chicken with Bok Choy and move on along to Kumquat Coconut Sponge Cake or really call out the stops with a lovely Kumquat Ginger and Blood Orange Roulade with White Chocolate Cream. There is also a Kumquat Noodle Pudding (Kugel) that I now plan to take to my next door neighbors Hanukkah gathering this year.
One unique feature that arrived in my box delivery with “Jewels From My Grove, Persimmons, Kumquats & Blood Oranges Reflections & Recipes” cookbook included some of the authors gourmet condiments from Beck Grove Organics under the name La Vigne Organics begun twenty years back by the author and her husband, these can be ordered online, along with fresh fruit deliveries straight from the source if these fruits are not readily available in your locale. Above, includes a Persimmon Chipotle Sauce, though a recipe for preparing the same is also included in the early pages of the cookbook. You can purchase Kumquat Conserve as I used in today’s recipe, but an easy recipe for its preparation is also included in the book. Its all up to you.
Flipping through the recipes of “Jewels From My Grove” one can easily observe the flavor influences of California and southwestern influences of preparation as Helene and Robert began their journey leaving their home in Los Angeles to rekindle their desire for tranquility. Landing on their newly loved property now many years back in the agricultural northern part of San Diego County, the couple then faced a range of challenges with the grounds problematic soil and root rot, including many diseased avocado trees on the grounds. Through lots of hard work, enthusiasm, and determination the Beck’s then learned all they could in their perceived best direction, organic and sustainable farming, learning all they could alongside then replacing the avocado trees with citrus, the tree crop recommended to Helene and Robert as the best choice given their soil conditions. With the first three years dedicated to implementing all organic principles the path was a clear one over their many years of continuous efforts and progress now evolved, according to Helene Beck as “a wholly sustainable grove producing fifteen crops of the highest quality, along with having two cows to provide fertilizer for our grove.”
One of the very fun and surprising tidbits on the back of the book for me includes “Praise for Jewels From My Grove” from one of my all time favorite television food hosts, Rick Bayless. I absolutely love his PBS programs on “Mexico- One Plate at a Time.” I thought it might be fun to conclude with his notation as sort of an inspiration, lest you like me, knew little about Persimmons and Kumquats, or maybe even Blood Oranges, for even Rick Bayless found his “horizons broadened” through his visit to Beck Grove, and cooking with author, Helene Beck. Perhaps you too will be inspired through the “Reflections & Recipes” shared in this book, gathering in knowledge, preparations, and pleasures of these distinctive fruits and their many diverse possibilities.
- ! !/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons Fuyu Persimmon Puree (recipe below)
- 2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or allspice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped kumquat halves from kumquat conserve (recipe below)
- 3/4 cup candied or crystallized ginger
- 1 (4 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- 2 tablespoons half and half
- Select any number of Fuyu Persimmons as desired for pureeing
- 1 pound fresh kumquats
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center f the oven. Grease and flour a ten inch Bundt pan.
- Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until very light in color, about 4-5 minutes. Beat in maple syrup. Add eggs, one at a time, allowing each to blend in fully before adding in the next. Scrape down the bowl between additions. Add vanilla and Fuyu Persimmon Puree and blend well. The mixture will look broken, but it will smooth out after the flour is added. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, spices baking soda and salt. Add this to the batter and beat on low, just until no streaks of flour remain. Fold kumquat pieces and candied ginger into batter. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester or toohpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top of the cake feels firm to the touch. Plan pan on rack to cool completely. To prepare cream cheese glaze, place all glaze ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well combined. To glaze the cake, unmold it onto a cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Spoon the glaze over the top and let it drip down the sides. To serve carefully transfer cake to a plate or cake pedestal.
- Select any number of ripe FUYU Persimmons. Remove the flower like top. Do not remove skin. Cut persimmons into pieces. Puree in food processor, scraping sides until fruit turns into a thick liquid. Use within 3 days or freeze for up to 1 year.
- Cut kumquats in half and remove seeds. Set aside. Bring sugar and water to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drop kumquats into simmering syrup and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Use within 3 months.
- cookbook note: Batter may also be used to prepare 12 cupcakes with reduced cooking time of 30 minutes