I'm crushing on fall, hard. There's so much seasonal produce and I want to cook with all the things! Anguel jokes that I'm the cheapest date because my ideal night is a trip to get groceries and then an evening of playing in the kitchen. Funny enough, our first date was literally in the grocery store. I didn’t tell him how much this pleased me at the time – because I'd figured that clearly the way to ensure there's no second date is to admit you have an undying love for produce and that grocery shopping is one of your favorite activities.
For that first date, it was Anguel who suggested we cook dinner together. He wanted to impress me with his "epic cooking skills". He also had no idea how much I loved to cook. Or that I was decent at it. At that point, his specialties included egg sandwiches, bruschetta and… frozen pizzas. But, for this evening, he was going to wing it and make pad thai – for the first time. Recipe? Nawh.
He still insists the grocery shopping part was planned, but I suspect it had more to do with the fact that he hadn't been grocery shopping in weeks. I still remember spending 15 minutes in the ethnic aisle as we stared at shelves of bottled sauces. At that point I realized "epic cooking skills" was a generous assessment. This Bulgarian dude was no stir fry master. While I have to honestly say this was one of the worst pad thai dishes I've ever had, it was also the one version I wouldn't trade in for the world. And since Anguel will eventually read this: Thanks for making it, I'll always remember it, but please don't make me eat it again.
Over the years, I'm happy to report that some things have changed. Anguel is no longer a clueless cook – in fact, he's actually a pretty impressive one. And he's never since tried to feed me another pre-made Asian sauce. One thing definitely hasn't changed: our love for grocery shopping and cooking together.
This dish came about during one of our many trips to the store. We'd heard persimmons were on sale, so we piled into our old car and headed out on a mission. Normal people would buy a few and be on their merry way. Not us. We bought twenty. Did I tell you, we love persimmons?
Persimmons are a stunning bright-colored fruit that's enjoyed best during late autumn and winter. There are many different varieties, but the most common one here is the Fuyu. They're round, with fairly flat bottoms, and tend to be more orange-y in color. When buying Fuyu persimmons, look for ripe ones that are still firm (not rock hard). I've been told that in Asia persimmons are commonly associated with celebration. With the holidays right around the corner, it's the perfect time for some persimmon goodness!
The great persimmon haul happened on a weeknight. The drive back was dark and full anticipation. Once we were back, we obviously wanted to eat them straight away. Besides snacking on them straight up, we also ended up making a light dessert that came together lightening fast. We don't usually do dessert on weeknights – so take that as a testament for how easy this is. It takes only a couple minutes to mix up a sweet glaze loaded with fragrant spices and fresh orange. The sauce gets poured into a dish of sliced persimmons, and then popped in the oven to broil. After 10-12 minutes in the oven, these babies will emerge with sweet, caramelized tops and soft, warm interiors. It's fall on a plate.
I happened to be playing around with some different cashew creams the day before, and this vanilla maple cream is the perfect addition. I've included it in the recipe below, because I highly suggest serving it on the side. When making cashew cream, it does require you to pre-soak cashews for ideally 4-12 hours. If you need a quicker alternative, you could also serve it with some yogurt, ice-cream or whipped cream instead.
For us, this recipe makes for a light and healthy dessert. But it could also work well as a stunning side dish for brunch. The recipe can be easily scaled up to accommodate a larger group, or for more generous servings if you love them like we do.
Caramelized Persimmons with Vanilla Maple Cream
- 3 Fuyu persimmons
- ¼ cup orange juice (ideally fresh, from about 1 orange)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon orange zest (extra for garnish)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped (seeds only, see note 1)
Vanilla Maple Cream
- ⅔ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained (see note 2)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ vanilla bean (seeds only, see note 1)
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 2 to 4 tablespoons cold water
- Oven: Put a rack in the upper-third of the oven and set to broil.
- Prep Persimmons: Slice the tops off the persimmons and peel the skin. Cut ½-inch slices (about 4 slices per persimmon). Arrange the slices in a broiler-safe casserole dish.
- Mix sauce: In a small measuring cup (see note 3), whisk together orange juice, maple syrup, orange zest, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla seeds. Pour over persimmons and flip persimmons so both sides get coated.
- Broil: Broil until the edges of the persimmons are caramelized, 5 to 10 minutes (watch carefully because broil times vary significantly!).
- Make Vanilla Maple Cream: Meanwhile, add soaked cashews, maple syrup, vanilla seeds, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the water to the blender. Blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Add small increments of additional water, if needed, until it's the consistency of yogurt.
- Serve: Serve persimmons warm with a generous dollop of the cream. Garnish with orange zest (optional).
- How to seed a vanilla bean: To remove the seeds from a vanilla bean, slice the bean lengthwise. Hold the hooked end down on the cutting board to secure it, then run the back of your knife against the cut side of the bean. Small black seeds will accumulate on your knife. For this recipe, you just need the seeds. You can put what's left of the bean in sugar to make vanilla-infused sugar!
- How to soak cashews: The cashews should be soaked long enough that they're soft when squeezed between your fingers. The fastest soaking method is to pour boiling water over the cashews and let sit for about 30 minutes; otherwise, cover cashews with room temperature water overnight.
- Technique tip: I like to measure and mix the sauce directly in a liquid measuring cup (to save dishes), but you can do this step in a small bowl if you prefer.