A Little Fruit Twist for Your Thanksgiving Table
Apple pie. Poached pears. Salad greens with persimmons. Now that we’re finally into fall with even some cooler weather, now that Halloween has come and gone, it’s time to consider the Thanksgiving menu. I know. I know. You—like me—are reluctant to toss grandma’s family recipes. If anything says tradition it’s Thanksgiving.
So, here’s my suggestion. Keep the recipes but instead of using the conventional fruit you always use for them, consider shaking that part of the recipe up with some unique varieties. Your family and friends will be intrigued and probably happily surprised by unexpected flavors and looks.
You no doubt can make some unusual finds at your local farmers market, but I headed over to Specialty Produce to see what they had. I have five very cool items to suggest:
Lilac persimmons: Okay, these are, well, different. They’re essentially tiny clusters of round fruit that grow on longish branches. A variety of astringent persimmon, they can be pretty unpleasant tasting at this phase you see in the photo—when they’re still attractive. But let them ripen—I mean really ripen—because that’s when their natural sugar content develops and they take on a juicy bright plumy flavor. Some say they take on the flavor and texture of dates. You can also let them dry out so they can take on those date-like qualities. In the meantime, how about placing some of these branches on your table as edible décor, then save them to enjoy after the turkey has come and gone.
Chocolate persimmons: Most of use who enjoy persimmons are into Fuyo persimmons, the squat orange fruit commonly found in markets. The Tsurunoko or “chocolate” persimmon actually looks more like the elongated Hachiya persimmon but beneath that thin orange skin is milk-chocolate colored flesh with thin flat seeds. When ripe, the chocolate persimmon is soft and a little juicy, sweet and have overtones of chocolate and honey. Locally, a number of restaurants are adding them as ingredients. You can eat them out of hand, of course, of add them to a salad of bitter greens instead of traditional persimmons. Or include them on a cheese plate, turn them into preserves or pie, or chop and sprinkle over ice cream.
Hawthorn apples: I first thought these little guys were crab apples. But no, I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s just the tiny size that got me. Their skin is kind of rough in texture and, wow, are they a tart bite! I find that pretty cool, but since many people prefer a sweet apple, how about dip them into chocolate to get a sweet/tart ping your palate! Or you could add them to a pie filling.
Monterrey pears: Is it an Asian pear or a European pear? The answer is yes. Grown in northern Mexico, they a cross of the two and named for the city in the northern state of Nuevo Leon. I’m hooked on these. They’re crispy in texture but not as crispy as an apple, but with the sweet mildness of a pear. Don’t wait for them to soften as they ripen—they won’t. Enjoy them as you would a pear—in salads or on a charcuterie or cheese plate, in pies or tarts, or poach them in wine and sugar and serve with ice cream.
Warren pears: OMG, I took a bite out this rosy green beautifully ripened pear and thought I’d found the essence of vanilla. They’re that good. And it’s a shame you probably haven’t enjoyed this because it may be the best eating pear around. It’s a cross between a couple of varieties you may have seen or at least heard of: Seckel and European Comice. Sure, you should snack on it, but slice it into a salad instead of your basic Bartlett. Turn it into a compote to accompany your turkey or pork roast. Make a sublime tart with almonds or, of course, slice it to serve on a cheese plate. When purchasing, look for the darker colored pears, which are sweeter.