Up until a couple days ago, I had never eaten a persimmon. Persimmon cookies, yes. A real live raw persimmon, no. I used to live next door to an enormous persimmon tree that produced so much fruit the neighbors gave boxes and boxes away every year. For some reason, I always declined their offers. I had it in my head that I wouldn't like them. I wish I could get one of those boxes now.
At the farmer's market last week, I bought one lone persimmon on a whim. I'm trying to use ingredients that I'm unfamiliar with and persimmons fit the bill. The persimmon guy picked one out for me, gave me a little spiel about how to know when they were ripe, and then into my fruit bowl it went. And it sat there for over a week. I kept looking at it guiltily, wondering what it tasted like, and how I was going to use it. It was getting riper by the day and eventually was relegated to the fridge. The good news is that according to everything I read about persimmons, ripe is the only way to go. And by the time I made this salad, it was very ripe.
I wanted to make a dish that really showcased the persimmon, and didn’t hide its flavor. After slicing it up and tasting it, a simple salad became the obvious choice. Not knowing where to start with complementary flavors to a persimmon, I consulted The Flavor Bible, one of my favorite resources. (It’s an amazing book with an index of ingredients that lists complementary flavors for each.) Based on what I saw in the book, I decided that candied nuts and a creamy cheese were in order.
Not only is this Fall salad really yummy, it’s also beautiful.
Persimmon Salad with Candied Walnuts and Creamy Sherry Vinaigrette
1 persimmon, sliced
romaine lettuce, chopped
goat cheese, crumbled
candied walnuts (recipe follows)
sherry vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Toss lettuce mixture with vinaigrette. Top with persimmons, goat cheese and walnuts.
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Mix all spices together. Toss walnuts in a little vegetable oil, then toss with spices. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
Whisk all ingredients together. Set aside until ready to use. (If you refrigerate this, it will firm up because of the cream. Take it out ahead of time to allow it to loosen up if making ahead.)
There’s a lot going on here: sweet persimmons, tangy vinaigrette, spicy walnuts, peppery arugula, and creamy goat cheese. (I also added diced chicken breast to this to make it more of a meal, but I wouldn’t even bother next time.) When I got a bite of everything at once, it was a party in my mouth. This combination produces an amazing flavor. The persimmon was definitely the star of the show, and we both wished we’d had more slices.
As I was eating and getting full, I started offloading some of my salad into Andy’s bowl. He noted that I was not giving up any of the persimmon. Next trip to the farmer’s market, at least two persimmons are on the list…one for each of us.