In San Diego, the start of winter coincides with the flood of persimmons at the local markets. Persimmon season spans early November through mid-January, and I truly look forward to a hiatus from berries and melons and welcome the fall and winter bounty of apples, pears, pomegranates, citrus and persimmons. The most widely available persimmons available in the United States are the Hachiya, which are tannic and astringent until ripened (and in my opinion are better utilized as eye candy in a fruit centerpiece) and the Fuyu; a small pumpkin-shaped, non-astringent fruit which tastes like a cross between butternut squash and a firm pear when eaten raw. The Fuyu persimmon is absolutely delicious.
I first discovered persimmons when I was fresh out of culinary school and moved to Napa Valley from New York. As the pastry chef of Mustards Grill, I turned out steamed persimmon puddings made from the very ripe and jelly-like Hachiya persimmon for most of that November. I discovered that the mouth-puckering Hachiya persimmon was pretty limited in use. Really, how many English-style puddings was I going to make, let alone, consume? Shortly thereafter, I started experimenting with the Fuyu persimmon, which I preferred immensely to the Hachiya as you can eat them right off the tree and they proved to be extremely versatile.
Twenty years later, I find myself once again in the throes of persimmon season. Because I just love almost everything about the Fuyu persimmon-the color (who doesn’t look good in persimmon), the package (you can eat it like an apple but there isn’t a core), the texture (it slices, dices, grills AND purees to perfection) and the nutritional content (can you say “whopping doses of Vitamins A and C; the very antioxidants which protect your cells from oxidization and may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer”?). I have been using Fuyu persimmons in everything from salsas and chutneys to topping breakfast cereal and salads. The Fuyu persimmon is portable, seasonal and delicious. Now will you stop eating your oatmeal with blueberries from Chile?
As of late, I have been on a mission to create a raw, vegan “sushi” roll. Although I am not a raw foodist or 100% vegan, I have been trying to cram as many raw fruits, vegetables and juices into my body on any given day. I have also noticed that a “less grain, more fruit and vegetable diet” does wonders for decreasing inflammation—the nasty stuff that can creep in when a diet is less than sound and cause old injuries to flair up and wrinkles to flourish (at least in my case). The crafty substitution for cooked white rice in these sushi rolls is raw cauliflower, which I chopped in a food processor with a little fresh ginger, ume plum vinegar and agave until rice-like in size. From there, I julienned red pepper, cucumber, red cabbage, avocado and a Fuyu persimmon; chopped cilantro and green onion for flavor and added sunflower sprouts for a crunch. I rolled up everything in an organic sheet of nori and served it with nama shoyu (you could use tamari or soy sauce), organic pickled ginger and wasabi. The unconventional addition of the Fuyu persimmon added a depth of flavor and soft sweetness to the rolls. The rainbow colors of the rolls were simple beautiful.
Raw Vegetable Nori Rolls with Fuyu Persimmon
Makes 6 Rolls
- 6 Sheets Nori (Raw and organic if possible)
- ½ head medium cauliflower, chopped into florets
- 1 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- 1 Tbsp ume plum vinegar
- 1 tsp Agave Nectar
- 1 avocado, julienned
- 1 medium red pepper, julienned
- 1/8th head of red cabbage, julienned
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and julienned
- 1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled and julienned
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 2 medium green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 large handful of sunflower sprouts
- pickled ginger, wasabi and nama shoyu for garnish
- In a food processor, pulse in two batches the cauliflower and ginger until mixture resembles rice. Transfer to bowl and add plum vinegar and agave nectar. Note: If you have a food dehydrator, you can dry the cauliflower rice at 105 degrees for 1 hour to get a drier mix
- For each roll, lay a sheet of nori onto bamboo sushi roller. Spread a light mixture of cauliflower rice over the bottom third of the nori sheet
- In the middle of the cauliflower rice, parallel to bottom of the nori sheet, add a ½ inch line of the julienned vegetables, persimmon, cilantro, scallions and sunflower sprouts
- Moisten the top ¼ of the nori sheet with water. Tightly roll nori and contents within the bamboo roller
- Cut each roll into 6 pieces. Serve immediately with pickled ginger, wasabi and nama shoyu