Yesterday my husband returned from wandering Seattle with his parents with a smile on his face. He said he had something for me, and he held my hand like a child’s and lead me out of the office, where I’d been typing away. We walked out into the early afternoon rain, and there on the grass landing strip across the sidewalk from our house was a Meader persimmon tree.
I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect tree for a few weeks. More accurately, I’ve been dreaming about the perfect tree, because I haven’t actually made it to a nursery yet. But I’d been thinking along the lines of a semi-dwarf apple tree that produced crisp, tart specimens that hold onto the tree well and store successfully. Wade Bennet, the cider master at Rockridge Cidery (who supplies me with warming cider when, like on Saturday, it’s pouring and freezing at the University District farmer’s market), suggested I find a Buckley Giant, an apple tree whose huge, green, basement-friendly fruits usually weigh in at over a pound each.
But this persimmon tree arrived literally on my doorstep, with a man who volunteered to plant it. So we put it in. I don’t know whether it requires special attention of any kind; I don’t even know how to tell when a persimmon’s ripe on a tree. (I know some ripen to a softish state, and I think the Meader is one of those, but I haven’t done my research yet.) In any case, someone at The Nursery told my husband that she’d been trying to get her hands on this particular variety of persimmon for months, so he hopped on the bandwagon and now it’s the five of us, my husband and the dog and the cat and me and the Persimmon tree.
I’d send a photo of Miss Persimmon, but there’s nothing to see. She just looks like a three-foot stick planted in the ground right now. She does seem beautifully planted, though, thanks to my in-home arborist.
The description I found on a random nursery website says to make persimmon popsicles. I’ll have to try that, in a few years, when the tree starts to bear fruit. The whole experience reminded me just how many ingredients I’m unfamiliar with – I’ve put persimmon in salads and a cake or two, and I’ve eaten them raw, but I’m a complete persimmon novice when it comes to baking, canning, and storing.
So, in anticipation of my need to try new cooking things with less familiar ingredients (like persimmons), I’m going on a New Things Kick. Not promising a whole week of new things, just acknowledging an effort to look deeper into my kitchen. I think I’ll find plenty in my pantry, which is filled with things like adzuki beans, nigella seeds, and vaccuum-packed shelf-stable baby clams from Japan (eek), none of which I’ve ever touched.
I bought dried fresh cranberry beans at the market on Saturday, a first for me. They were creamy white with purple flecks in their container, but cooked up to a gorgeous pinto hue that looked so . . . natural. Here’s the result, which I served with its liquid as a bed for yesterday’s halibut:
Recipe for Cranberry Beans with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts
Recipe 57 of 365
My husband’s tuna dish at The Stumbling Goat the other night inspired these beans – I’m not sure what was on his plate, but it struck me that I rarely serve fish in a bowl, over beans with a little light, snappy broth. And why not? These beans make the perfect bed for small piece of protein.
I used cranberry beans, but I’m sure fresh dried cannelini beans would also be delicious. As a warning, I doubt many kids would go for this, but I’m already planning to make it again.
TIME: 30 minutes, plus 45 minutes to cook the beans
MAKES: 6 servings
8 ounces dried fresh cranberry beans, rinsed and picked
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 thick (or 6 regular) slices good-quality bacon, diced
1/2 pound small Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Place the beans in a soup pot, and add the chicken broth, salt, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the beans are just barely al dente. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Begin cooking the bacon pieces over medium heat in a large ovenproof skillet. Halve any sprouts bigger than 1 inch in diameter. When the bacon is almost crispy, add the sprouts, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes more, or until the sprouts begin to lose their bright color. Increase heat to high, add the beans (with any remaining cooking liquid) and the vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and cook another minute or so, stirring. Add 2 cups water (the water should almost cover the beans), and carefully transfer the skillet to the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until about half the water has evaporated and the sprouts are entirely cooked through. Serve immediately: spoon the beans into bowls, and pour the extra liquid on top.