Autumn is edging into winter. You can feel it in the air, and in some parts of the country like our old home in Santa Fe, they have had snow with snowflakes filling the air. Tragically in California there are no snowflakes, only smoke and ashes. San Francisco is darkened by smoke from the Camp Fire, and in Los Angeles the air is heavy with the smoke and smell of the Woolsey Fire. One night this week, Carol was in Redondo Beach and captured the image of the fires over Malibu, 26 miles away. Our thoughts are with the victims. Newspaper reports have been filled with horrible images and frightening stories. I hope the fires are soon brought under control. We need rain.
This week, family Sunday dinner was at Carol’s house. Carol outdid herself. She enjoys cooking and finds it therapeutic. She needed to find some relaxation. She also found a bounty at the farmers market. Just about everything on the menu – except the rabbit – came from the vendors there.
First course was a delicious mushroom soup that she loves to serve in small glass bowls made for sipping. The soup is beautifully seasoned with herbs and an excellent replacement for the usual appetizers. Second course was a simple salad of blood oranges, navel oranges, avocados, and sprouts topped with a tangy vinaigrette. Of course, the highlight of the meal was a dish that Carol called rabbit cacciatore: pieces of perfectly cooked rabbit (The young butcher who sold Carol the rabbit had to ask for help from an older man in cutting up the rabbit.) and noodles with a light sauce and topped with fresh tomatoes and parsley. Finally, though we didn’t need it, was a dessert of canelés from the bakery vendor at the farmers market topped with a sauce of figs that I had admired at the market that morning.
Besides the change in the weather, there is another way to tell that winter is coming. Persimmons make their appearance. And they are plentiful at the farmers market. Problem is they are not fully ripened and you need to take them home to ripen on the counter for days or even weeks. There are native varieties that are especially common in the South. They don’t make it to the farmers market but they are treasured by those who know about them. There are two varieties at our local market: the Hachiya and the Fuyu. The Hachiya is shaped like an acorn and is astringent (i.e. it will make you pucker) until it is fully ripe. Then it becomes very soft and sweet. The Fuyu is shaped like a tomato and is not astringent. It is firmer even when ripe. Yoo can “ripen” persimmons by putting them in the freezer overnight. This reflects Susan’s father’s adage that persimmons on our farm shouldn’t be eaten until after the first frost.
Because of the abundance of persimmons, our son-in-law decided to make persimmon Negronis for our traditional cocktail hour. He and Carol had earlier planned to make the recipes in Sarah and Evan’s new cookbook, Rich Table. In the book, the drinks look especially good and most easily accessible by the home cook. The recipe for Persimmon Negroni calls for Hachiya persimmons; we only had Fuyu. We also did not have available the various gins recommended so SIL just went with Hendricks. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference. But I could tell my drink was delicious.
- 1 very ripe Hachiya persimmon
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce gin*
- ¼ ounce (1½ teaspoon) lemon juice
- ¼ ounce (1½ teaspoon) simple syrup
- Press the persimmon through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl. Discard the solids.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 ounce of the persimmon puree with the Campari, gin, lemon juice,, simple syrup and ice.
- Shake until the ingredients are well chilled (about 30 seconds)
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a rocks glass containing one large ice cube.
- Serve immediately.
*The original recipe calls for ¾ ounce London dry gin and ¼ ounce of herbaceous gin. If you don’t have a large commercial bar stock at your disposal, use your favorite gin, Hendricks provides a nice herbaceous element.