OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for a sunken persimmon cake — or “Versunken Kakikuchen” in German — which is inspired by the German apple cake “Versunken Apfelkuchen.”
Now that Halloween is in the rearview, it’s time to gird ourselves for the coming onslaught of the big feasting holidays — Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas are all coming down the pike. But we mustn’t forget the most high-holy day of them all: National Sandwich Day. That’s right, Nov. 3 is when bread comes together with condiment, cheese, meat and maybe a nice pickle (or peanut butter and jelly, if that’s more your speed) to remind us the real reason for the season. Looking for a sandwich that’ll knock your socks off? We suggest cambozola cheese smeared onto a warm baguette with a drizzle of honey and sliced Fuyu persimmon. Raw Fuyus are deliciously sweet and crispy — no bletting needed. What even is bletting, you ask? Read on to find out!
Oregon Art Beat’s food edition, the Pied Piper for stink bugs, public school culinary curriculum and good things in markets
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
New episode of Oregon Art Beat is a gastronautical exploration
This week, Oregon Art Beat’s Eric Slade dropped a new episode that explores culinary creativity and artistically inclined dining spaces. One segment features Portland artist Gena Renaud’s mind-blowingly intricate, handmade “wagashi,” meaning Japanese tea sweets. Watch it here.
Out of the vineyards the bugs came tumbling
That’s the hope of Oregon State University entomologists, anyway. They’re working on using a vibration-emitting robot called Pied Piper to mimic the flirtations of marmorated stink bugs and lure them away from vineyards, OPB’s Jes Burns reports.
Portland Public Schools teachers strike
This week, while students are away from their classes, it’s a nice time to reflect on the myriad ways that public education creates the cooks, farmers, crop scientists and culinary innovators of tomorrow. Formal home economics curriculum was first introduced to Portland schools in 1905, when The Oregonian’s cooking columnist (and “Superabundant” newsletter inspiration) Lilian Tingle took on the brand-new role of Director of the Domestic Science program at the Girls’ Polytechnic High School (the building is now daVinci Arts Middle School).
Good things in markets
Persimmon, quince and medlar lovers rise up! This is the only time of year to find these unique gifts of autumn, and if you’re lucky, you might even know someone looking to offload a few from their crop. We’re shoving crunchy sliced Fuyu persimmons into everything from kale salads to pork roasts, and the quinces and medlars are slowly bletting into submission in a chilly garage.
The usual suspects — winter squash, wild mushrooms, hazelnuts, apples and pears — are still going as strong as ever. Fresh cranberries are in season now too, ready for chutneys and chess pies.
Recipe: Versunken Kakikuchen (sunken persimmon cake)
The squirrels have been really coming for the persimmons, forcing us to harvest them all just a skosh underripe. We shook our fist at the varmints for taking big chomps out of three or four of our prized specimens, but luckily, the Fuyu variety grown in the “Superabundant” garden can be eaten crispy. Sliced thinly, they taste like a slightly spiced apple. Hachiyas, on the other hand, are inedibly astringent until they’ve bletted — you have to let the cold half-rot them into jelly (or air-cure them into “hoshigaki,” a Japanese word meaning dried persimmons) before you can eat them. Since we now find ourselves with three dozen pounds of unripe persimmons, we thought it’d be a good time to update the classic German apple cake, Apfelkuchen. Persimmons may not be as loved by Germans as apples are, but we say that anything a Fuji can do, a Fuyu can do, better. Serves 6-8.
3 under-ripe medium-sized Fuyu (or other non-astringent variety) persimmons
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ tsp almond extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 tbsp rum or whiskey (optional)
1 tbsp sparkling sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting
Whipped cream or mascarpone for serving (optional)
- Put a rack in the middle position of your oven and preheat to 350 F. Spritz a 10½-inch skillet with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment.
- Remove the leaf and stem from the persimmons with a paring knife, then peel the persimmons and quarter them lengthwise. Set the persimmons core-side down, and slice the fruit into ⅛-inch slices, leaving about ¼ inch uncut (they should stay joined at the bottom like the spine of a little book). This is easier if you set the fruit between two chopsticks; the chopsticks will stop your knife before you slice all the way through the fruit.
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer and a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then beat in one of the eggs. Scrape down the sides again, repeating for the remaining eggs. Beat in the almond extract.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized bowl, then slowly beat the flour mixture into the butter-sugar-egg mixture until fully combined. Stir in the rum or whiskey (if using) and then scrape the batter into the prepared skillet.
Nestle the hasselbacked persimmons cut-side up in the cake batter, spacing them as evenly as you can. Sprinkle the sparkling sugar over the top of persimmons and batter and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake (not the persimmon) comes out clean, for 35-40 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes, dust with powdered sugar, and serve.