Rye focaccia topped with persimmons, walnuts and Brie (plus a secret ingredient)
Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB


Superabundant dispatch: Persimmon focaccia and this week’s news nibbles

By Heather Arndt Anderson (OPB)
Dec. 15, 2023 2 p.m.

And a partridge in a pear tree

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 rye focaccia with persimmons, walnuts and Brie.

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Winter is whispering — the solstice is on the 21st and the birds seem to know it. From the Klamath Basin to Sauvie Island, Oregon’s wetlands are aflutter with overwintering bald eagles, sandhill cranes and snow geese, and the herring gulls and crows are settling into the warm urban centers. If you add up all the birds gifted in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” you’ll end up with a fun little collection of 184 birds. When it comes to winter practices, counting birds (and their pear trees) is all well and good, but we’re also here for the good cheer: baked treats, warm booze and spiced everything. What do the spices pink peppercorn, grains of paradise, rosemary and cardamom have in common? Read on to find out!

Something sticky greases the wheels of industry, Eater names best new spots to eat in Portland, local edible gifts and good things in markets

Sweeter, better, faster, stronger

Scientists at Washington State University Vancouver have crafted a new kind of honey sandwich, but instead of bread they’re using…metal electrodes. Honey improves the speed and reduces the toxicity of memory resistors needed to drive breakthroughs in AI development. OPB’s Jes Burns has the story.

Eater Portland announces its 2023 awards

Eater Portland recently announced its dining-out awards, naming Xiao Ye Best New Restaurant and Chelo’s Luna Contreras Best Chef. OPB’s Allison Frost shared the latest on “Think Out Loud” earlier this week.

Northwest food subscriptions: Gifts that keep on giving

When it comes to holiday gifting, food lovers are pretty easy to please — we simply want treats to magically arrive on our doorstep every month. Here are a few Oregon-made options that offer something for everyone:

  • Harry and David — The Medford-based OG fruit-of-the-month club offers an assortment of gourmet subscriptions (including baked and pantry goods) and memberships to their fruit club
  • Steven Smith Teamaker — Their full-leaf teas can be purchased on a month-to-month subscription or as a one-time gift of 3- or 6-month collections
  • Rogue Creamery — Giving a Cheese Club membership ensures a selection of Rogue’s award-winning cheeses will arrive every three months
  • Seahorse Chocolate — Bend’s premier chocolatier ships 3-pack and 5-pack samplers of their single-origin chocolates
  • Olympia Provisions — Portland’s own salumeria offers salami and pickle club memberships for the meat lovers in your life
  • Noble Coffee Roasting — Pick any of their four single-origin coffees roasted right in Ashland
  • The Meadow — Mark Bitterman’s celebration of merroir offers a Salt Club membership for tasting different seasoning blends
  • Durant — The orchard, vineyard and olive oil mill at Red Ridge Farms in Dayton offers olive oil and wine club memberships at various levels

[Note: none of these companies are current OPB sponsors.]

Good things in markets

This week’s dreary weather has us craving things like spicy stir-fried cabbage with chile oil noodles, steamed rockfish with broccolini and garlic-black bean sauce, and cozy bowls of katsu curry with pickled daikon and sweet-salty fukujinzuke. Luckily, these are all in season now — crunchy crucifers, earthy root vegetables and sturdy winter greens all seem to love ginger, garlic and chile and are as good hit with aggressive heat as they are simmered for ages. Chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms are going into gooey rarebits (our favorite way to eat cheese on toast). On the fresher side, we’re pesto-ing handfuls of cool-season herbs like cilantro, chervil, mint and parsley to slather on lamb burgers, roasted carrots and warm flatbreads and eating romaine wedge salads topped with tinned albacore and lemony parmesan breadcrumbs. To help cycle through your backlog of winter squash, we’re also hard at work developing a dead-simple recipe that has everything you love about butternut squash ravioli but without making pasta from scratch (stay tuned!).

Recipe: Rye focaccia with persimmons, walnuts and Brie

Rye focaccia topped with persimmons, walnuts and Brie (plus a secret ingredient).

Rye focaccia topped with persimmons, walnuts and Brie (plus a secret ingredient).

Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB

It’s almost winter, and most of the persimmons we harvested at the end of October have fully bletted into jelly, but luckily, a few stragglers stayed firm enough to slice for this focaccia. (We know this isn’t the first time we shared a fruit focaccia recipe, but c’mon! It’s the season for dipping bready things into cozy soups, and the persimmon tree really gave this year.) If you can’t find any crispy Fuyu persimmons (don’t use Hachiya for this!), feel free to use thinly sliced sweet potatoes instead.

Not to bury the lede, but the secret ingredient for this bread is something we like to call “Christmas sugar” — we make it by blitzing sugar with pink peppercorns, rosemary, cardamom and grains of paradise (a pepper substitute that’s in the ginger family, like cardamom). These spices all happen to contain aromatic compounds most abundant in various conifers common to the Northwest: sabinene (spruce), pinene (pine) and thujene (cedar) all exemplify the woodsy, evergreen fragrances of bracing mountain air, so using this sugar is like forest bathing right in your own kitchen. It also makes a stellar rolling sugar for snickerdoodles, for dusting a mug of mulled wine, or you can put it into cute little jars for holiday gifting. Makes 12-18 servings, depending on how big you cut your slices


2 cups lukewarm water


1 tbsp active dry yeast

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp kosher salt

½ cup olive oil, divided

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup dark rye flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 crisp Fuyu persimmons (or one large sweet potato), peeled and sliced thinly crosswise

⅓ cup chopped walnuts

½ lb Brie, cut into chunks (you can leave the rind on)

Christmas sugar

1 tsp pink peppercorns

1 tsp grains of paradise

1 tsp dried rosemary

½ tsp ground cardamom

½ cup granulated sugar


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast, and honey, and stir to combine. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes, until the mix gets a bit foamy, then add the kosher salt, ¼ cup of the olive oil, and flours. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer (or with a rubber spatula), mix for about five minutes, until a smooth (but still pretty gloopy) dough is formed. Scrape the loose dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and pop it into the fridge overnight. Pull the dough out two hours before you want to bake it so it can come up to room temp.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450oF and oil a 13″ x 18″ rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan) with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Transfer the dough to the oiled sheet pan and gently press it out to meet the edge. Lay the persimmon slices evenly across the top of the dough, strew on the walnuts, then drizzle on the rest of the olive oil. (It will seem like a lot of oil, but the bread will sponge it right up and create the crispy edges you want.)
  3. Make the Christmas sugar by whizzing the pink peppercorns, grains of paradise and rosemary together in a spice grinder, then stir the mixture into the cardamom and sugar. Sprinkle a pinch of Christmas sugar on top of each persimmon slice, then leave the dough to rise for another 20 minutes, until it’s nicely puffy.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, then scatter the blobs of Brie over the top and return it to the oven until golden brown and hollow-sounding when you rap on the bottom of the pan with a butter knife, or when the internal temperature reaches 190oF, another 5 minutes or so.
  5. Finish with a couple of pinches of flaky salt, then slide a thin knife along the edges of the pan to dislodge the focaccia from its pan(s) and cool on a rack for 15 minutes before cutting. Leftovers can be wrapped and frozen for about a month.

Correction: In the Dec. 8 edition of the “Superabundant” newsletter, we incorrectly stated that the construction of the Keller Auditorium displaced residents of South Portland during urban renewal. Though the South Auditorium Renewal Project did displace more than 1,500 residents of South Portland (and included an extensive remodel of the Keller Auditorium) in the 1960s, the auditorium building itself was constructed in the 1910s. OPB regrets the error.

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