Blasphemy alert: I may leave the traditional cranberries off my table this Thanksgiving. You see, I've been thinking about the foods that I'm particularly grateful for this time of year, the fruits and vegetables grown by the people I know and love ... and as much as I like cranberries, they don't say much about life in Southern California. What does speak to autumn in SoCal is the persimmon, found in abundance at farmers' markets, U-Pick farms and, if you're lucky, generous neighbors' yards.
So, in celebration, I've come up with a persimmon relish that's sweet and vinegary, with a trace of spice. Like cranberry sauce, it wakes up the palate and provides a counterpoint to all the stuffing, potatoes, and other rich foods on the holiday table. Whether you serve this instead of or in addition to cranberries, you'll find it absolutely easy to make.
Spiced Persimmon Relish
Makes 2 cups
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
1-inch slice of fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 whole star anise
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly cracked
4 Fuyu persimmons
1/4 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
Combine the sherry vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the water and bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove from heat and add the ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, and peppercorns. Cool to room temperature and strain out the spices.
Peel and cut the persimmons into 1/4-inch dice. Combine in a bowl with the currants and shallots. Add the vinegar mixture and toss to coat.
Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.