A friend gave me a nice bottle of fresh, cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil recently, and I've been using it everywhere I can, topping soups and forming the base of salad dressings, like in this recipe. It's deep green color and nutty flavor is irresistible and using the oil is a very small but effective way to celebrate Autumn and make any dish feel special.
This salad is the epitome of a fall salad. Firstly, the platter style makes it's perfect for dinner party or holiday meal spreads, both of which we all seem to have more of this time of year. (Although I have to admit, I made this salad just for the two of us and we finished off 2/3 of it in one sitting.) But secondly, and more importantly in my book, with this salad I am officially welcoming in the beginning of persimmon season!
Persimmons are a special fruit. I love their uniquely sweet, citrusy taste, which changes to a headier sweetness when cooked. For this salad I thinly slice and serve them raw, allowing the tangy dressing and floral notes of cilantro to accentuate the persimmon's subtle citrus flavor.
This is an understated salad, which I like. It doesn't look like much but there's depth and layers of flavor from the fresh crunchy celery, cilantro, and toasted pumpkin seeds hidden amongst the curly endive. I chose a roasted mini tiger striped pumpkin to top the salad because it is sold everywhere here and couldn't be easier or quicker to prep and cook (when sliced thinly). These minis or a delicata squash are your gateway winter veg of choice if you're the kind who thinks working with pumpkin is intimidating.
|mini tiger striped pumpkin|
With their sweet, slightly citrusy flavor, some describe persimmons as a cross between an apricot and mango or an apricot dusted with cinnamon.
In the U.S. there are two main types of persimmons commercially sold; Hachiya and Fuyu. Hachiya must be fully soft to eat because it has high levels of tannins and tastes bitter and astringent in its firm, unripe state. The Fuyu variety can be eaten when firm or soft, and a firm Fuyu is what you want for this recipe.
Here in Switzerland, the Kaki persimmon (also known as the Japanese persimmon or in the US, the Asian persimmon) is most common. From my experience Kaki persimmons sold here can be eaten firm and are similar to Fuyu. The skin color ranges from light golden-orange to a rich coral (reddish-orange), and I look to buy the deeper coral color, especially when I plan to eat it firm. However, I have read that some Kaki varieties have higher tannin levels and must be fully soft to enjoy. If you are unsure, ask your grocer.
Roasted Pumpkin, Cilantro, and Persimmon Salad
1 mini Tiger Striped pumpkin
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 head curly endive (also known as frisee lettuce or endive frisee)
2 handfuls pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
Generous handful cilantro, chopped
1 ripe but firm Fuyu (or Kaki) persimmon
Tangy Pumpkin Seed Oil Dressing (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 425 F (218 C).
Halve pumpkin, discard seeds, and slice into thin wedges. Place on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss so both sides of pumpkin are coated. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until just tender.
In the meantime, chop curly endive and place on a platter (a large plate or a large, wide-mouth shallow bowl also works). Add sliced celery, half of pumpkin seeds, half of cilantro, and half of dressing to platter and toss gently to combine. Peel persimmon, halve, and thinly slice lengthwise.
Layer persimmon and pumpkin over salad and sprinkle with remaining pumpkin seeds, cilantro and dressing.
Tangy Pumpkin Seed Oil Dressing
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. whole grain mustard
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/8 tsp. salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Mix everything together in a small bowl, and set aside.
- Any small striped pumpkin variety works well here. Or use a winter squash such as Delicata (my favorite because you can eat the skin), Acorn, Butternut, or even sweet potato will work. But whatever you use, roast with the skin on; it's less work for you and it makes a pretty presentation. Diners can remove the skin themselves.
- Arugula, radicchio, watercress, romaine, or a combination can be used in place of curly endive
- Extra-virgin olive oil or another cold-pressed nutty oil such as sesame or walnut can replace the pumpkin oil.