This year I had a bumper crop of persimmons – the variety in my yard is called ‘sweet pumpkin’ and they do look like adorable little pumpkins. That said, with SO MANY persimmons, I was eager to get baking in the kitchen. This variety takes quite a long time to ripen but I recently learned that if you take a few cut apple wedges and put them in a brown paper page along with your persimmons, this will expedite the process. In the event that too many ripen at the same time, once the fruit is ripe, the pulp can be removed and frozen for a later date. I find the pulp so sweet it tastes like jam. And jam goes beautifully with a big bowl of yogurt, fresh cut fruit and a splash of granola…but I digress.
Recently I had the chance to meet up with the folks that run 18 Reasons. 18 Reasons, founded in 2008 by Bi-Rite owner Sam Mogannam, has received much praise for its work around dirt-to-table education, including support from food activist and luminary Michael Pollan. It is a combined effort of two San Francisco-based nonprofits with the shared goal of making a bigger impact on food and nutritional education for working individuals, families and low-income communities. The second non-profit, Three Squares, founded by Sara Nelson in 2011, was formed to provide free food education to the less privileged. With the merger, Three Squares has come under the umbrella of 18 Reasons, the nonprofit arm of Bi-Rite Market. Their joint mission: Teaching healthy cooking, food-related issues and education. How can you not love it?!
The space itself, is just plain cool. The people that run it – incredibly smart and engaging. The food delicious and the expertise fantastic. The classes they have to offer all packed under great marketing and branding (Saucy Sides, Knife Skillz, 6 Ways to Prepare Persimmons). I had the chance to speak with Sarah Nelson, now the executive director of the joint organizations and Chef Michelle McKenzie. It was Chef Michelle that taught me my new trick to ripen persimmons which I shared with you above (and IMHO she makes one of the best granola recipes I’ve had because like me she is not one who overdoes ‘sweet’).
After rifting with her on persimmons, because I am that kinda food geek, I showed her a photo of this recipe and she shared with me her recipes. Another cool side-note, they are opening up a small retail section that is basically an instructor curated shop – if there is a favorite tool or ingredient that an instructor likes, they stock it and sell it. I look forward to my next encounter with this organization and while their website is about to undergo a revamp you can find some of their information here. And if you are a fan of Share Our Strength – No Kid Hungry, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, you’ll be as thrilled as I am to know that this organization helped to create the Cooking Matters curriculum.
Deep Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
1/2 cup ripe persimmon pulp, skin removed (if unable to find persimmon 1 cup pumpkin puree can be substituted)
3 large eggs
1/8 cup fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 Bosc pear (or sliced pears in light syrup, drained)
whipped cream (optional)
Place rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
In a small pot, add butter and water on medium-low heat until melted.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat brown sugar and molasses until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly beat in flour mixture at low speed until just combined then add butter mixture and ginger, beating until smooth. Pour into cake pan.
Peel pear and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Scatter over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, approximately 35-45 minutes. Cool slightly. Dust with powdered sugar or serve with whipped cream.