Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Persimmon and Fennel Salad

091204_persimmon salad_3

I'm already looking ahead to detox after the holidays. This refreshing salad has great crunch and just the right touch of sweetness -- a welcome break from the hearty meals and sweets we indulge in this time of year.

The original recipe calls for preserved lemons, but fresh lemons can be readily substituted. If you like this, though, I recommend starting a batch of preserved lemons for the future. They're fantastic in salads!

Be sure to use Fuyu persimmons, which are round and best enjoyed on the firm side. The heart-shaped hachiya persimmons need to be very ripe and soft, and won't work here. Fennel is also known as sweet anise. You'll need the bulb and fronds for the salad; save the leftover stalks to serve with dip, like celery.

Persimmon and Fennel Salad

You probably won't need to add salt if you use preserved lemons (recipe below).

1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed well and diced, or grated zest from 1/2 a lemon
juice of half a lemon (Meyer, if you have one)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 fennel bulb
3 Fuyu persimmons
salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces baby spinach

Combine preserved lemon or zest, lemon juice, and olive oil in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
Wash fennel bulb and remove any tough outer layers. Cut the stalks and fronds just above the bulb and set aside. Cut bulb into quarters and remove the tough core. Thinly slice fennel and put in a large bowl.
Peel persimmons and cut into eighths; add to bowl.
Stir gently, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve on top of baby spinach leaves and sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds.

Preserved Lemons

Use organic lemons -- you eat these peel and all, and it's worth the trouble to find ones that haven't been sprayed.

organic lemons (Meyer are especially good, but any kind will work)
kosher salt or coarse sea salt
large jar with tight-fitting lid
optional spices: cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, bay leaves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns

Be sure to have enough lemons to fill your jar, plus extras for juice.
Sterilize your jar and lid by boiling in water for 10 minutes.
Scrub lemons well. Cut away any stems. Slice the lemons almost completely in half, but not all the way through. Make another cut, perpendicular to the first, so you've cut the lemons nearly into quarters. Pack the cuts with salt and put lemons in the jar. Pack firmly! Add any spices, if you wish, and add enough lemon juice to completely cover the lemons.

Shake the jar every day or two to evenly distribute juice and salt. As lemons soften, add a few more.

After a month, your lemons are ready! They're very salty: Rinse before using, and taste before adding more salt to a dish.

I've been assured the jar never needs refrigeration, but I stick it in the fridge after opening it. The pickling juice can be reused over the course of the year.

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