Chefs tell favorite ingredients from persimmons to squash and share recipes

| October 31, 2013 | 0 Comments
CHEFS LIKE Suzanne Goin are tweaking their menus to reflect the tastes cooler weather brings.

CHEFS LIKE Suzanne Goin are tweaking their menus to reflect the tastes cooler weather brings.

Autumn days are upon us, and we say goodbye to Heirloom tomatoes and turn to heartier fare. Chefs across the southland are tweaking their menus to reflect the tastes cooler weather brings. We wondered what ingredients they were embracing.

Suzanne Goin’s food obsessions for fall are brightly pigmented persimmons and pomegranates. “They are the ultimate symbol of fall to me, and are really truly seasonal.”  Chef of Lucques, a.o.c., and Tavern,  and restaurateur with her husband David Lentz at Hungry Cat, Goin uses the fruits in a variety of dishes.  Tossed with root vegetables they “add further texture, color and flavor.” Pomegranate juice is featured in Burton’s Way, a new cocktail at Tavern. Her cookbook, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” pairs a pomegranate-persimmon salsa with halibut.

Cook’s County chef Daniel Mattern also loves persimmons.  “They can be sweet or savory.” Available in two varieties, the hard fuyu and the soft hachiya, he uses both in his cooking.  “I do a persimmon pudding.  I’ll do a salad with fresh fuyu persimmons and dates.” He makes a savory glaze from hichaya persimmons for roasted pork or duck. At brunch Mattern serves oatmeal with persimmon puree, toasted almonds and almond milk.

Another persimmon fan is chef Karen Hatfield, who favors the fuyu variety. “They have great sweetness and they’re so crisp and way more versatile than people realize.” At Hatfield’s, she and her chef husband Quinn serve compressed persimmons with avocado, arugula, salsa verde and burrata. At the casual Sycamore Kitchen, a market salad joins chunks of persimmon with apples and blue cheese.

Food partners in crime, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the chefs behind Animal and Son of a Gun, and partners with Ludovic Lefebvre in Trois Mec, have very different food obsessions.  Shook surprises with a standard pantry item. “Plain distilled white vinegar is under-utilized.  It’s amazing for marinades and sauces.” At Animal he serves chimichurri, a vinegary Argentinian sauce, with bone marrow. He soaks pork shoulder in a vinegar-based marinade before roasting.  Red onions marinated in sugar and vinegar is one of his favorite accompaniments to meats.  As Shook points out, white vinegar is not only versatile in cooking, “at the end you can clean your oven with it!”

Our farmer’s markets are brimming with squash and Dotolo favors Delicata, “’cause you can eat the whole damn thing.”  The skin is so thin that it’s unnecessary to peel. He cuts the squash into rings and roasts it, then browns it in butter, then layers the rings with other flavors and textures: apples, pecans and arugula; lime, chiles, pomegranate and crème fraiche; sava (grape syrup), pine nus and Pepato (mild pecorino).

At Luna Park, chef Sammy Zepeda is obsessed with celery root. He nestles diver scallops on a bed of celery root puree, and throws some in his gnocchi sauce. For vegan risotto he adds pureed root, Brussels sprout leaves, and mushrooms to the rice.

Johnny cake flour from Kenyon’s Grist Mill in Rhode Island is the ingredient of choice for chef Jason Travi of littlefork.  He explains that flapjacks (or Johnny cakes) are thinner and less fluffy than pancakes. At brunch they are served simply with maple syrup or Concord grape curd and also substituted for English muffins in Eggs Benedict.

The corn flour “makes a great dredge.” Travi fries clams dredged in a mixture of seasoned Johnny cake and wheat flours for his clam rolls.

By Helene Seifer  (READERS:  Do you have an ingredient obsession?  Share it on our facebook page.)


Chef’s share some of their recipes

Grilled halibut with pomegranate-persimmon salsa over black rice

by Chef Suzanne Goin

Reprinted with permission from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”

Makes 6 servings


Black Rice:
1 cup diced onion
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups black rice
1/2 cup white wine
10 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pomegranate-Persimmon Salsa:
1/4 cup arils from 1 large POM Wonderful Pomegranate
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses*
3 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 teaspoon lemon juice                                                                                                                         p.2
1/4 cup diced, peeled Fuyu persimmon
1 tablespoon sliced flat-leaf parsley

6 5-oz. portions Alaskan halibut
6 oz. mizuna


Black Rice:
Sauté the onion and thyme in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until translucent. Add the rice, stir to coat and toast slightly. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add 10 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt; bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but still al dente. When the rice is almost done, stir continuously until all the liquid is evaporated. Stir in the butter and taste for seasoning.

Pomegranate-Persimmon Salsa:
Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate under water to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.) While the rice is cooking, place the shallots, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Wait 5 minutes, and then whisk in the pomegranate molasses* and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir in the fresh pomegranate arils, persimmon and parsley.

Grill the halibut over hot coals or medium-high heat on a gas grill. Plating: Spoon the rice onto 6 dinner plates and scatter the mizuna on top. Place the grilled halibut on the rice and spoon over the salsa.

Burton’s Way

A fancy Tom Collins-style cocktail created for Tavern by a.o.c. head Barman Christiaan Rollich

Serves 1

2 oz.    Tequila

½ oz.    Pomegranate juice reduction

¾ oz.    Lime juice

½          Fresh Guava

Soda water

Muddle guava, add the rest of the ingredients, shake and strain over fresh ice.


Marinated Red Onions                                                                                

By Chef Jon Shook


3              red onions, shaved or thinly sliced

2/3 cup   distilled white vinegar

1/3 cup   sugar

1 T            crushed chili

¼ cup       fresh oregano, roughly chopped

Mix together the vinegar, sugar, chili, and oregano until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over the onions.  Marinate for 10 minutes.

Serve with roast pork or duck or strongly flavored fish.

Roasted Delicata Squash

By Chef Vinny Dotolo

Serves 6


2        Delicata squash, sliced into ½” rings, seeded, skin left intact

(can substitute peeled, sliced Kabocha squash)

3 T     Grapeseed oil

2T      Brown sugar

1 T     salt

Preheat oven to 325 or 350, depending on oven

Spread the squash rings on a sheet pan, cover with aluminum foil and slow roast for 45 minutes, until soft when easily pierced with a fork.

Cool to room temperature.

Brown the squash rings in pan with butter (optional)

Layer with sliced Pink Lady apples, toasted pecans, and arugula.  Or toss with lime juice, chilis, pomegrate seeds and top with crème fraiche.

Fall Risotto – a vegan dish

By Chef Sammy Zepeda

Serves 8


6 cups vegetable stock

1cup creamy celery root puree

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cups Brussels sprouts leaves

1  cup  crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced

½ cup dry white wine

2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

2 cups Arborio rice

3 shallots diced

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and ground black pepper to taste


1-    In a saucepan, warm the vegetable stock over low heat

2-    Add olive oil to a hot pan and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.  When the rice has taken on a golden apple color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1 cup veg stock and diced butternut squash to the rice, and stir until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Add Brussels sprouts leaves, mushrooms, celery root puree, continue cooking until mushrooms and Brussels sprouts leaves are soft, about 15 minutes.

3-    Remove from the heat, keep stirring while adding parmesan and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  to prepare creamy celery root puree, cut off stalks and pare dirt, knobs and hairy fibers from one medium celery root, cut into 1 inch cubes and simmer in water until very soft.  Puree in food processor till smooth.  For non-vegan version, cream can be added for extra silkiness.


Fried Clam Roll

By Chef Jason Travi

Serves one


4 oz              Steamed and shucked Ipswitch or other clams

1 cup                 Buttermilk

2 oz              Flour

1 oz              Johnny Cake corn meal flour

Cayenne pepper


1 quart  Soybean oil

Hot dog bun

Soak clams in buttermilk to cover for 1 hour.

Heat a quart of oil on the stove to 350 degrees.

Mix in a shallow bowl the flour, Johnny Cake corn meal flour, a few shakes of cayenne pepper and a pinch or two of salt.

Dredge the clams, one at a time, in the mixture.  Shake off the excess.

Drop clams into hot oil for 2 ½ – 3 minutes.

Remove onto paper towels to drain off the fat.

Stuff clams into hot dog bun.

Serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.  Littlefork serves them with a side of pickled vegetable salad.


Avocado and Persimmon Salad with Burrata

By Chef Karen Hatfield

(Serves two)

1 avocado (preferably reed or Fuerte)

1-2 Fuyu persimmons

Juice of ½ a lemon and zest

2 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 rounds of burrata depending on the size

I cup Arugula or Mizuna

A few leaves of mint, torn

Carefully slice the avocado and persimmons into rounds. They should be cut into the same exact thickness, approximately 1/8th of an inch thick. Fan them across your plate alternating one fruit after the other. Then layer your burratta on top, spreading it or slicing it if necessary. Toss the greens in a small bowl with the lemon juice, olive oil, zest and mint. Loosely arrange the greens on top. Garnish with salt and fresh ground pepper with another drizzle of olive oil if needed.


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