Caramelized Persimmons with Vanilla Maple Cream
Broiled persimmons baked with a sweet citrus spice glaze. Served with a delightfully healthy vegan cashew cream that's spiked with vanilla beans and maple syrup. Makes for a light dessert or fabulous brunch accompaniment. Vegan & Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
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
SERVES 4 (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
3 Fuyu persimmons
1/4 cup orange juice (ideally fresh, ~1-2 oranges)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon orange zest (plus extra for garnish - optional)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only*
Vanilla maple cream:
2/3 cup raw cashews (soaked 4-12 hours), rinsed and strained
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons cold water
Preheat oven to broil. Slice the tops off the persimmons to remove the leaves, and peel to remove the skin. Slice into thick medallions (4 slices per persimmon). In an oven-proof dish, spread persimmons into a single layer.
In a small bowl combine orange juice, maple syrup, orange zest, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla beans. Whisk to combine. Pour mixture over the persimmons. Flip persimmons to ensure each side gets coated in sauce.
Bake persimmons in oven for 10-12 minutes, until the tops are brown.
Meanwhile, make the vanilla maple cream. In a blender, combine rinsed cashews, maple syrup, vanilla bean, vanilla extract (optional), salt and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth. If your blender requires more liquid, add an 1 extra tablespoon of water.
Serve persimmons warm with a generous dollop of cashew cream. Garnish with extra orange zest if desired.
-*To remove the seeds from a vanilla bean, slice the bean lengthwise. Hold the hooked end of the bean 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, and these are what you need for this recipe!
-The skin on a persimmon is edible, but tends to be a bit tough. For this recipe, we want the persimmons to be soft, which is why peeling the skin is recommended.
-Vanilla maple cream can be made in advance. If you want the cream to be very cold before serving, you may want to make it before the caramelized persimmons, storing in the coldest part of your refrigerator until ready to serve.