Simple Sides: Fuyu Persimmons
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Here’s a nutrient-packed and extremely tasty winter salad recipe that will teach your aspiring young chefs a new way to enjoy one of the oldest and most cultivated hand fruits in the world, which is still relatively unknown in the American marketplace – the Fuyu persimmon.
There are several hundred varieties of persimmons that been cultivated for thousands of years in Asia, where the fruit is as prolific and as popular as apples are to Western cultures. The word we call this bright orange fruit is derived from the American Indian word pasiminan. The word meant "dried fruit", which is how the early American Indians usually prepared it and, in fact, introduced this fruit to Europe via the first Pilgrim settlers.
While the soft, gelatin-like ripe fruit of the round Hachiya persimmon is most often used in desserts, the firmer Fuyu variety lends itself to be eaten out of hand, like an apple, and a great ingredient for savory dishes. When roasted, the Fuyu is transformed into a really unique ingredient that has a deep honey flavor with hints of sweet apricot and the texture of a meaty mushroom. In fact, pairing them in this recipe with roasted mushrooms, ribbons of kale, and a drizzle of lemon juice, will demonstrate to your kitchen helpers the perfect taste balance between sweet and savory in one bowl of goodness, as well as several basic culinary lessons!
Firstly, instruct your sous chefs to lightly clean the mushroom with a damp towel, explaining that washing them under water will cause them to roast unevenly. I used Crimini mushrooms because they are meaty, earthy in flavor and relatively inexpensive, but one could use any favorite fresh mushroom variety. However, do not attempt to roast reconstituted dried mushrooms for this recipe for the same reason as not washing fresh ones!
A great task in this recipe for a very young child is separating out the main center rib of each kale leaf, which can be done by hand tearing down the center. Then supervise an older child with some knife experience in slicing the rib-less leaves into long, thin ribbons, which should also be cut in half cross-wise into more bite-sized pieces of 4-5 inches each.
Another good job to keep your youngest involved would be to peel the skins off each persimmon with a potato peeler. Have some extra fruit on hand for the learning curve, though the thin skin does come off quite easily. Besides, once learned, you have created a trained peeler for the next time the family has mashed potatoes! Math in the kitchen? Sure, just tell your sous chefs to come up with ten equal size wedges from each piece of fruit! It’s a trick question that cannot be done (equally) once they have halved and quartered each fruit to eight pieces, but let your helpers drawn their own conclusions.
While the kids will judge this recipe totally on how it tastes, I don’t think I have presented a more nutritious recipe in the feature than this one. In fact, I had to edit this nutrient breakdown of the three main ingredients in the interest of brevity:
Persimmons contains significant amounts of vitamins A, B1-2-3-6, C and K, choline, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, manganese and zinc.
Kale contains significant amounts of vitamins A, B2-3-6, C, E and K, Beta Carotene, Lutein manganese, copper, fiber, calcium, potassium, protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Crimini Mushrooms contain significant amounts of copper, selenium, vitamins B1-2-3-6, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, folate, protein and choline.
The very simple lemon juice and oil dressing, which a kid of any age can learn to whip up, completes this flavorful, healthy side dish. Pure and simple -- what more can a recipe offer? Enjoy!!
Roasted Persimmon & Mushroom Kale Salad
8 ounces White or Crimini Mushroom, halved length-wise
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
12 firm Fuyu Persimmons, remove stems & peel, each sliced into 8-12 pieces
1 bunch Lacinato Kale, center rib removed and sliced into thin ribbons (about 2 cups)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
What the kids can do:
Toss mushroom halves with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small bowl, then spread out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. In the same bowl, toss persimmon wedges with a Tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt, then spread out on another sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Hand off to supervising adult for roasting.
Remove the center rib of the kale leaves, then cut kale leaves into thin ribbons. Place in a large bowl.
Whisk together lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pour over kale ribbons and mix well. Set aside to marinate while persimmons and mushrooms are roasting.
Add roasted mushrooms and persimmons as well as any cooking juices to the kale. Gently toss to combine, season with more salt and pepper to taste.
What the supervising adult should do:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Roast mushrooms for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Roast persimmons for about 30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through so that both sides get browned. Serve in individual serving bowls.