Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pomegranates and Persimmons

Pomegranates and Persimmons

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the food world is in the midst of a renewed love affair with pomegranates and persimmons, and they are a formidable culinary combination.

Pomegranates are easier to tackle than it appears.  Simply cut in half through the middle, hold the cut end down in your palm over a bowl and whack the uncut side with a wooden spoon.  Seeds come flying out (best to have a nice generous bowl for this process) along with some of the white membrane that holds them in place.  Hopefully I don’t have to tell you the membrane is yucky and should be composted.  Seeds are ready for eating or juicing at this point.

Persimmons are the tomato of winter in our house.  They are in season now in Virginia, and when choosing an eating persimmon, choose a Fuyu variety, the ones that look like an orange tomato and are pretty firm.  The peel can be a little tough, but it is edible, so make the call to peel on whether you’re feeling up to it (a veg peeler works well) or your guests warrant the effort, i.e., will your mother-in-law complain?  The Hachiyas are tasty as well, but not to be eaten fresh until they’re good and ripe (read: soft and schmooshy).  You’ll know Hachiyas by their large acorn like appearance.  For all you mnemonic people out there, Hachiyas ‘hatch a seed’, Fuyus ‘eff yeah I want a bite.’  Hey, you’ll remember it now, won’t you?  Just don’t pass this trick on to the kids.

So why do these two autumn superstars work well together?  I think it’s a combination of the disparity in texture, as well as the contrast in acidity.  Persimmons are creamy and dense, with a subtle sweetness that plays backup to the vegetal fruitiness.  Pomegranate seeds aren’t dense at all, until you hit the tiny crunchy nugget in the center of the seed, which is a nice surprise and adds meatiness to an otherwise ethereal experience.  The bright acidity with a touch of twang brings out the best in a persimmon, and the persimmon adds character and depth to the pomegranate.  Substitute the combination of p&p for tomato and onion in a salsa, and watch the magic unfold when paired with a piece of grilled fish or over a salty queso fundido.  Magic I tell you, magic!

Our fastest and most favorite way to enjoy p&p is in a fresh salad, where the flavors are separate but combine to make a bright and palate readying appetizer.  This salad would also be fantastic at the end of a meal, when you want a little something to cleanse, with some cheese, but you don’t want dessert.  Have I mentioned the beauty of the composition??  The bright orange of the persimmon and the gemlike quality of the pomegranates are a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.  

Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad - The Basics
serves 4 as a side

Greens - three nice fat handfuls of a green with a little bitterness to it, like arugula, frisee, baby kale or a combination thereof.  Mesclun makes a nice base, especially if bolstered with a little endive or radicchio.

1/2 pomegranate, just the seeds

2 Fuyu persimmons, stem removed, peeled if you like, sliced

at least 2 ounces of a good, salty cheese, like Manchego, ricotta salata, feta or gorgonzola

1/3 cup nuts, your choice, but I like the Pomegranate, Persimmon, Pecan alliteration

That’s it.  The basics.  Add a nice vinaigrette, nothing too flashy, maybe add a little smoked paprika or other interesting herb, and voila!  You look like a food stylist.  Our favorite dressing for this salad is a simple white balsamic vinaigrette, with a dash of garlic dust in it.  Lemon, honey and thyme comes a close second.  

If you wanted to really gussy up the salad, add a few pears that you’ve baked off with a dusting of cardamom. Prosciutto shavings are divine with persimmons - think melon and prosciutto and you have the flavor profile.  My mouth is watering just considering the possibilities.  Hope you get on the persimmon train this week - let us know how you use them!

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