Green Salad with Persimmons, Candied Pecans, & a Lemon Vinaigrette
I have a tortured relationship with persimmons. Only a few short years after discovering their intoxicating sweetness, the joy of eating a warm hachiya plucked from a tree, and the sensual texture of ripe persimmon sliding down my throat- I up and moved to the Midwest. Pure torture I tell you! Persimmon trees, laden with orange orbs begging to be picked and eaten on the spot are nowhere to be found. Each fall I search the stores, in hope of finding a few persimmons to soothe my tortured taste buds. Often, if I time it just right, I can find a box of hard fuyu persimmons tucked away in the corner of our local Asian market. Unlike the hachiya persimmon, fuyu persimmons can be consumed while still firm and therefore can be shipped to places far away from the sunny land of persimmon groves. Fuyus can also be consumed while soft, so I always stock up if a stash is found, and eat them in varying stages of ripeness over the course of several weeks.
This simple green salad celebrates fall with the use of sliced fuyu persimmons. Sweet crunchy candied pecans add texture and weight to the dish, while thin rings of red onion, and a bold lemon vinaigrette round out the fall flavors.
The lemon vinaigrette recipe comes from one of my culinary heroes, Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. An intense lemon oil forms the base of the vinaigrette, made from steeping lemon peel, lemon thyme, and lemongrass in warm oil for an hour. A bit of the oil is then whisked together with lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to create a magnificent fresh salad dressing. Bright lemon flavors cleanse the palate and dress the salad without detracting from the sweetness of the persimmons.
The combination of sweet ripe fruit, crunchy pecans, and a lemony vinaigrette creates a perfect Thanksgiving salad. Light on the palate and on the stomach this salad is an elegant way to move from soup to stuffing and celebrate fall.
Lemon Oil (Will keep in fridge for 5 days)
2 cups canola oil
2 large (2- by 1/2-inch) strips lemon peel (from 1/2 medium lemon)
10 sprigs lemon thyme, left whole (or regular thyme if you can’t find lemon thyme)
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and bottom 4 inches roughly chopped
Vinaigrette (Can be made 3 hours ahead)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 1/2 medium lemons)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Lemon Oil (Recipe Above)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 cups of mixed salad greens, rinsed and dried
5 fuyu persimmons
1 cup candied pecans
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin slices
Salt and Pepper
Make Lemon Oil
Place a medium, heavy saucepan over very low heat. Add the oil, lemon peel, thyme, and lemongrass to the pan. Cook, uncovered, until the oil is aromatic, about 1 hour. Do not let the oil boil or even simmer. The goal is just a few occasional bubbles. Remove the pan from heat and let mixture cool to room temperature. Pour the oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium container and place in the fridge until cool, about 1 hour. Discard the solids. The oil can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in 1/4 cup of the lemon oil, whisking constantly. Then pour in the olive oil, whisking until the vinaigrette is well combined. If making ahead, place the vinaigrette in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature and whisk it again before serving.
Divide mixed lettuce between plates. Arrange slices of persimmon and onion on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle candied pecans on top of each plate, and drizzle the salad with several teaspoons of lemon vinaigrette. Add salt and freshly cracked pepper on top of each salad to taste.