Persimmons and Orzo

persimmonsPersimmons had starred in the salad for Thanksgiving dinner. One had graced a grilled cheese and persimmon sandwich for lunch. Several made a delicious snack at work along with leftover roasted chestnuts.

Still, six persimmons remained in the fruit bin in the fridge, and were by now in different degrees of ripeness. As I often do when I don’t want to lose something, I cook it off in some way.

So I sliced each persimmon into wedges, placed them in a roasting pan and tossed with avocado oil to coat (had this on hand and preferred it for its more neutral flavor, wouldn’t conflict with the persimmons). Then I slid the pan into a 400° oven to cook til they browned.

I put a pot of water on to boil, and added a half cup of orzo pasta, one of my favorite comfort foods. When it came to a boil again, I lowered the heat so it could simmer til done. Then I pulled out raisins and pistachios (the ones I had were dry roasted with salt), a small handful of each.

I put the raisins in a small bowl, and added rum for them to plump in (a favorite rum, almost like a bourbon, from La Colombe called Different Drum Rum). A nice way to add another layer of flavor.

I shelled the pistachios and chopped them.

I rolled a few leaves of basil together and sliced into thin ribbons.

Persimmons roasted 12/11/16I checked the persimmons after about 30 minutes, and turned them all to brown on the other side for an additional five minutes. I took them out and swore there was a custardy, vanilla-y smell to them.

When the orzo was done, I drained in a colander, then slid it all back into the pot, where I coated with a little avocado oil, and salt and pepper. Then, to echo the creaminess of the persimmons, I stirred one or two tablespoons of mascarpone cheese into the pasta.

Assembly: orzo first, topped with persimmon wedges, and then sprinkled with raisins, pistachios and ribbons of basil.

Roasted persimmons and orzo 2 12.11.16Each element brought its own treat, but nothing overwhelmed. Sometimes there’d be a bite that included a raisin, and there it was, that hint of warm alcohol. Or a back note of mint and realize it was basil. The pistachios added beautiful color with their purple and green, and a little salty crunch. The persimmons, roasted, went from their light, creamy sweetness to an almost caramelized mellow.

A delicious bowl of comfort food for one, soothing and satisfying on a cold night.

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Figs in Salad

figs 1 9.23.13My mother visited this past week, and we had a wonderful time. Did some shopping. Toured a local mansion. Ate at home. Ate out. Ate a lot!

When my sister drove her home Saturday, I knew I was in need of much lighter eating.

I also wanted to get in one more fig post. But the fig availability window was closing.

They were no longer at my local Trader Joe’s, and the two remaining packages at a favorite natural foods store were starting to go bad. I was open to using dried, but thought I’d try a nearby Fresh Market first. If nothing else, my husband and I would have a nice drive on a sunny day.

Well, they’d had fresh figs, we were told, and would have more in a few days. However, they did have dried mission figs, and would we be interested in checking out the dried Sierra figs they’d just gotten in. “Ok.”

The guy was so nice about going to get the box of Sierra figs, and then opening them up just for us to try, we couldn’t not buy some! And some mission figs, too. The mission figs were a purple-black, and the Sierra figs the light brown of the inside of a chestnut, both kinds more moist than you might expect when you think dried.

We weren’t very far down the road on our way back home, when my husband saw a chalkboard sign on the side of the road announcing “Figs” in big letters. A little produce stand we’d never stopped at before. With fresh mission figs right at the cash register.

We arrived home with an abundance of figs.

At home, I also had an interesting and new (to me) squash that I’d picked up on one of my and Mom’s day trips. A red kuri squash. I had been unable to resist its gorgeous red-orange skin and perfectly accessible size.

When I read about it online later, I found references to it tasting like chestnuts, and being a good substitute for sweet potatoes. You could, of course, stuff, roast or purée, like other squashes, but I particularly liked one food blogger’s preference for slicing it, skin on, and sautéing.

So I pulled the squash out. The red-orange and purple-black and chestnut-brown colors seemed a beautiful combination together, and the nuttiness of the squash would complement the figs.

And because I’d eaten so generously the past week, I went with a salad.

A salad of waning summer’s end-of-season fresh figs and incoming fall’s dried figs and squash.

figs 4 9.23.13I cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, then sliced into 1/8″ to 1/4″ slices, sautéing them in batches in a pan over medium-high heat lightly coated with oil. A sprinkle of salt and pepper. A few minutes on each side, getting a nice golden brown. Set aside.

I sliced the fresh figs in half, put them cut-side down into the pan, also cooking til a golden brown, and set aside.

I tore green leaf lettuce into bite-sized pieces and laid across a platter. I draped squash slices on the green, then added the sautéed figs. I cut a few dried mission and Sierra figs in half, added those. A scattering of pistachios. And chopped fresh mint sprinkled over. I didn’t even season. It had enough seasoning and juiciness from the squash and figs.

The roasted flavor of the squash and cooked figs gave a nice depth and contrast to the fresh lettuce and mint. Pistachios added just enough richness. The dried figs, a chewy contrast.

And a couple days later, what a pleasure to wrap up what little was left of that delicious combination into a warm whole-wheat tortilla and enjoy it all over again!