For such a beautiful little fruit, the persimmon kind of reminds me of a little orange bomb. Cut into it too soon and you will be rewarded with a bite of something so tannic and tart that you will not be able to eat it. Wait for it’s little inner timer to reach the count down, and you get an explosion of sweetness, perfectly balanced with a little sourness. Unfortunately, no ticking timer lets us know what is up inside that little orange fruit. You have to get to know your persimmons to tell what is up in there.
I wrote about persimmons in a previous post, and there’s a recipe for persimmon chutney, too. This year, I used both Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons in my recipe. The two are different in one important respect. The Fuyu is the squat, more pumpkin -shaped one, and the Hachiya is more oblong, and slightly pointed. The Fuyu is the one that can be eaten while still firm enough to slice. It still need some time to ripen, but it doesn’t have to get quite as ripe as the Hachiya. The Hachiya is such a tannin-bomb that it really has to ripen until it’s soft and squishy. You would throw away any other fruit that looked like this, but the Hachiya is just reaching perfection.
Because of this distinction, the Fuyu is better for slicing and using raw or cooked, while the Hachiya is often used for baked goods, puddings, sauces and sweets. It’s almost a puree already, so just go with it.
This year, I thought it would be fun to use the soft Hachiya in a salad dressing, and slice some firmer Fuyus over the salad. Roasted kabocha spears would provide an earthy note, and soft, minerally spinach would be my green base. I thought about romaine, but I thought the softness of spinach was more harmonious. There’s alot of sweetness going on in this salad, so I tossed some dried cranberries and crunchy nuts on top. I am lucky enough to be able to get locally grown hickory nuts, and this was a perfect way to show them off. If you can’t get them, pecans or walnuts will be just as tasty.
Persimmon and Roasted Squash Salad
This is a great one to take to a party- just compose it on a platter, wrap tightly, and carry the dressing in a jar.
half a medium kabocha squash, about a pound, with olive oil and salt
1 ripe Hachiya persimmon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 firm but ripe Fuyu persimmons
8 ounces salad spinach
2 scallions, slivered
1/2 cup dried cranberries or tart cherries
1/2 cup hickory nuts or pecans, lightly toasted
1. First, preheat the oven to 450 F. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the squash in 1/2 inch thick spears, then place each on the cutting board and slice the peel off. Put all the slices of squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, then roast for about 10-15 minutes. The squash will be tender when pierced with a paring knife, and have some browned spots. Cool on a rack, then chill until use.
2. Make the dressing: Cut the stem out of the Hachiya persimmon and scoop the flesh into a food processor or blender. Add the lemon and salt and process. Drizzle in the oil with the machine running. Taste the dressing for tartness, if the persimmon is super sweet it may need a few drops more lemon. Transfer the dressing to a pitcher or small bowl.
Can be done up to three days ahead and assembled at the last minute.
3. To assemble the salad, spread the spinach over a large platter. Arrange squash spears and persimmons on the spinach. Sprinkle the scallions, dried cranberries and nuts over the salad, and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.