There are few things that match the pleasure of eating a ripe, in-season tomato. But if you live somewhere where the window of peak tomato enjoyment feels like a few weeks (I’m in Boston), you’re dealing with flavorless, mealy supermarket tomatoes most of the year.
This is a problem if you’re a lover of caprese salads, like I am. So what to do when the tomato-basil-mozzarella craving hits and it’s 10 below zero outside?
In my role as a test cook, I get to taste many different ingredients. Imagine my delight when I found an ingredient that makes a great winter substitute for tomatoes in a caprese salad.
In developing recipes for the forthcoming sequel to our popular The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, we found these squat, orange-colored fruits were a perfect autumn and winter stand-in for tomatoes in this classic Italian dish. A persimmon’s texture is similar to tomatoes (though not as juicy or seedy), and the flavor might be described as honey-sweet.
Persimmons are native to Asia and in-season in the US from October through February. Look for the tomato-shaped Fuyu variety, which can be eaten while still firm or just soft to the touch. (We find the acorn-shaped Hachiya variety a bit too astringent in a winter caprese.)