Una Nuova Avventura

Bra ItalyMoving to a foreign country always sounds like an alluring idea until you’re actually doing it. When you’re pulling a year’s supply of belongings along narrow, cobblestone European sidewalks, panting as you rush to catch the two trains and a bus to the tiny Italian town that will be your new home, it suddenly hits you that the next year just may be a bit more difficult (and a lot less glamorous) then you imagined.

Despite the unforseen difficulties that may lie ahead, I am far from complaining. This next year is sure to be one I’ll fantasize about years from now. I’ve chosen to come to the heart of Piedmont to pursue a master’s degree in Food Culture and Communications at the Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche. The university, founded by Slow Food, is a research and education center devoted to gastronomy. Yes, I am studying food in Italy.

While I eagerly wait for classes to start, I’ve been spending my time trying to settle into the tiny town of Bra and the Italian way of life. It may or may not have taken me an hour to navigate my way around the local grocery store and I am still making abrupt stops on the sidewalk to look at my map. But I’ll get there.

One of the first foods I came to discover upon my arrival is persimmons, as they are everywhere this time of year in Italy. As they are not as common at home, I fell head over heels when I tried my first slice of the juicy, deep orange-colored fruit. Tempted to not eat my entire supply fresh, I saved two to bake into this quick bread. With a few minor mishaps thanks to my wonky Italian oven, I managed to turn out a delicious, fall-inspired bread. Just the thing to kick off my Italian adventure.

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Persimmon Bread (adapted from David Lebovitz via James Beard)

Makes 1 loaf

1½ cups + ¼ cup flour
¾ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
½ cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup persimmon puree (from 2 very ripe (almost over-ripe) persimmons)
1 cups chopped walnuts
½ cups raisins
½ cup dried cranberries

1. Butter loaf pan. Dust with flour and tap out any excess.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Combine the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, orange juice, persimmon puree then the nuts and dried fruit.

5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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