On a recent golden morning, we found ourselves weaving through the lush and bountiful edible garden that is Julia Sherman’s front yard, with its leaning pyramid of scarlet runner beans, its sprawling patches of strawberry, calendula and nasturtium, and the papaya tree that has doubled in size since she planted it just a few months back. From this very first moment of stepping into Julia’s world, it is clear that the joy of food - growing it, cooking it, sharing it - is at the center of her life, and her home. It is this joy that animates and enlivens her playfully illustrated and beautifully arranged new book, Arty Parties, which focuses on the art and science of hosting for occasions as big as a holiday dinner, or as small as a snack-time catch up with a friend.
From arranging lettuces and herbs into a perfectly crafted, collage-like salad, to serving some bright and brilliant cocktail (perhaps with her delightful, low ABV wine, Jus Jus Verjus!) – Julia’s light-hearted, creative, and endlessly vibrant approach to all that she does (and all that she serves!) is truly infectious. See below for a perfectly shareable recipe from the book, and for some photos from the morning that we spent with her, and her two little ones in their verdant creekside oasis!
Persimmons are a fruit that I came to only in my adult life, as they are really not something we ever saw on the East Coast growing up. My love for them was cemented on a trip to Puglia in the Fall, when all the wild persimmon trees were completely bare of leaves, but heavy with neon orange fruit like Christmas ornaments. There are two types of persimmon -- the kind you eat while firm, and the kind that are inedible until they are so ripe and gushy, they burst at the slightest touch. The latter are scooped out for their gelatinous pulp and most often used in baking. Persimmon season in California is in the late Fall and winter, but I like to over-index and buy extra, freezing the pulp for later in the year. I love to bring this bread as a hostess gift when invited to someone's home, so they have something all to themselves for breakfast the next morning. Or, it's the perfect in between meal time snack -- tea time, or second breakfast. The sweetness comes from the persimmon with very little added sugar. Serve this sliced and warm, toasted in the pan with some cultured butter or ghee.
Persimmon Fruit and Nut Bread
Time: 1 hour, plus cooling
Yield: 1 loaf
½ cup (110 g) melted and cooled coconut oil, plus more for greasing pan
1 tablespoon + ½ tsp whole raw sesame seeds
⅓ cup (80 ml) plain, full-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons microplaned fresh ginger
1 large, extra ripe hachiya persimmon (to yield about ¾ cup), pulp scooped out, skin and seeds discarded
2 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup (48 g) coconut sugar
1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (105 g) whole wheat flour
½ cup (43 g) unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
A few twists of fresh cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ cup (50 g) toasted walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
¼ cup (35 g) golden raisins
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Coat a loaf pan with coconut oil and scatter sesame seeds inside, tapping the walls and the bottom of the pan to distribute the seeds evenly. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whisk yogurt, grated ginger, and persimmon pulp together until well combined. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly smooth. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the coconut sugar until they are smooth and viscous. Add the liquid coconut oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking all the time until uniform and viscous. Set aside. In a third medium mixing bowl, combine flours, shredded coconut, black pepper, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and the persimmon/yogurt mixture in alternating thirds to the bowl with the eggs, and stir well between each pour. When everything is combined, add the walnuts and the golden raisins and fold to incorporate. Your batter should be thick, similar to a muffin mix.
Spoon into the loaf pan and level out. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes on the center rack, or until a knife comes out clean and the sides pull away from the baking tin. Remove from the oven and let the bread cool completely (about 20 minutes), before popping it out of the tin onto a rack. Allow the bread to cool completely before cutting and serving. The bread will keep for five days wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, or for a month in the freezer.