Persimmon and Yogurt Marsala Dessert and Villa Farnese of Caprarola, Italy

As the seasons change, the produce also change.  And there are some vegetables and fruits that I cannot wait to have again, after a whole year of waiting.   One of them is cachi/kaki (persimmons)It's one of the things that my husband and I agree on without uttering a word.  We both enjoy scooping out the sweet, soft, orange pulp.  Really, it's one of the best that autumn can give. 

On the nutritional side, it contains Vitamins A & C, beta-carotene and potassium.  It has diuretic and laxative properties so it's good for regulating intestinal problems.  However, since it is rich in sugar, it is not advisable for people with diabetes and obesity problems.

In its period, I sometimes see persimmon trees in the backyards of some houses especially in a road we used to frequent in the area of Acquaviva in Tuscany.  With no leaves and just the orange fruit dangling from the branches, they give the impression of outdoor Christmas trees with orange balls. 

This tree instead, took my breath away when we stopped for coffee in a bar outside the town of Caprarola during one of our past trips there.  It was the biggest I have ever seen and it was proudly yielding hundreds of ripe persimmons.  It was the mother of all persimmon trees. 

Not far from Rome, just about 65 km. northwards is Caprarola, a nice, old town dominated by Villa Farnese that was built on top of the town. 

In 1504, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, seniore (the future Pope Paul III) commissioned an architect, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger to draw up plans for a fortified residence for the estate that he acquired in Caprarola. Only the foundation was partly constructed at that time because works were halted when Sangallo had too much projects to fulfill.  Alessandro Farnese, seniore became Pope Paul III in 1534 and died in 1549. 

Construction started again in 1559 when Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, junior (grandson of the the other Cardinal Alesandro Farnese, Pope Paul III) had renewed plans to make it a country house.  It was one of the finest examples of Rennaissance architecture. 

During the reign of Pope Paul IV, the papal court became a dangerous place for the cardinals because Pope Paul IV suspected everyone of being Lutherans.  That's when Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, junior decided to leave the Vatican and reside in the villa because it was far, yet close enough from Rome, serving as a refuge until he waits for the death of Pope Paul IV.

The election of Pope Pius IV in 1559 allayed Cardinal Farnese's fears and he decided to make Villa Farnese a monument to celebrate the name of his family.   He had frescoes painted all over the villa depicting the Classical World. 

If you want to learn more, please continue reading this link.  It is very informative.

Going back to persimmons, I usually enjoy the fruit as is.  I never really thought of treating them as dessert because aside from never lasting long in our house, I couldn't think of anything else that can be done with them.  I don't really see them as versatile as apples, pears, plums or any other fruit that go well with a lot of sweet & savory dishes.  Persimmons for me are just to be savored simply by scooping out the pulp.  But when I ended up with the last persimmon in the fridge and a jar of white yogurt, I decided to give it a try.  

Right, there are recipes at the internet using both ingredients.  I decided to experiment and give mine a Marsala twist by adding some to the yogurt.  I wanted to keep the freshness and sweetness of the persimmon intact and dominant in the dessert.  The added simple biscuits and pistachios complemented the persimmons.   Left a few minutes in the fridge before serving to get the perfect temperature, my husband and I both agreed that the dessert was simply gorgeous and yet so simple.  If you have five minutes and the ingredients, try it.  You will be glad you did!

Buon appetito!

Persimmon and Yogurt Marsala Dessert

Serves 2
  • 1 big or 2 medium persimmon
  • 150 ml. plain yogurt (preferably Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala
  • around 10 plain biscuits, depending on the size.  Use the size that fits inside the glass, preferably round (I used malt & cane sugar biscuits.)
  • ground pistachios
  • fresh mint leaves to garnish
  1. Crush 2 - 3 biscuits (depending on the size of biscuits you are using) coarsely using your hands.  In a bowl, mix the crushed biscuits with sugar, Marsala and yogurt.   Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
  2. With the use of a handheld blender, blend the pulp of the persimmon until creamy.  Set aside.
  3. Prepare the layers.  Spoon some yogurt in the glass.  Put 1 whole biscuit on top of it.  Spoon some persimmon pulp on top.  Follow with another whole biscuit.  Spoon some yogurt on top of the biscuit.  You don't need to fill up the whole top, just the center is fine.
  4. Garnish with a whole biscuit, mint leaves, crushed biscuits and pistachios.  
  5. Serve cold.

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