I love creative salads. This one is just that. Inspired by the wonderful assortment of fresh farm produce, abundance of spring herbs, and exotic fruit sold at the farmers market, this salad is a mix of sweet persimmons, peppery watercress, bitter and spicy radicchio, plus a little fresh mint and chives, all tossed together in a tangy, sweet and sour rhubarb dressing and topped with buttery yet crunchy, and delicious toasted cashew nuts.
In season right now, as with rhubarb, watercress can be found fresh in good greengrocers or at the farmers’ markets, sold loose or by the bunch with the roots still attached.
I broke a little rule of mine here by buying something that’s available in Europe but not exactly in season at the moment — imported Fuyu persimmons. I really try and limit extending my carbon footprint to things like tropical fruit that can only be enjoyed as imports, but being a creature with a curious nature, am seemingly too impatient to wait another half a year, I was geared to give this exotic little orange fruit a try.
Sweet and tasty, persimmons have taken Europe by storm the last couple years and are popping up more and more. In Europe they are available from October until December, thanks to our friends in the South; Spain and Italy. After that we rely on the Israeli exporters to sell us their sharon fruit until end of February. And finally in March, all the way through until July, fresh Brazilian persimmons find their way here to farmers markets and grocery store shelves.
Look for Fuyu persimmons (sometimes called the sharon fruit) as they are sweeter and can be eaten while still firm, whereas Hachiya persimmons are mouth-puckeringly tart until soft and very ripe. Persimmons bruise easily, so take care storing them and avoiding buying ones with soft spots or bruises. The entire fruit is edible, so you can munch on them like an apple (I prefer to peel mine).
TIP: Mango, which I love in salads, would be a great substitute here if you can’t get your hands on persimmons.
Persimmon & Watercress Salad with Rhubarb-Ginger Dressing
For the dressing:
2 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup rhubarb, thinly sliced (pink and pinkish green parts only) (120 g)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
juice of 1 lime
1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the salad:
1 small to medium head radicchio, chopped
1 bunch watercress – stems trimmed, rinsed and spun dry (baby arugula is a good substitute)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh sliced mint leaves
2 ripe but firm Fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced thinly
handful roasted unsalted cashews (optional)
1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the rhubarb to the pan, give it a toss, and slowly sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and cooked through; about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add the grated ginger, lime juice, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk together until the mixture is smooth. Taste and check for seasoning, adjust if desired, then set aside.
2. Place the radicchio, watercress, chives and mint leaves in a large serving bowl. Add the dressing and toss until the leaves are well coated. Add the persimmons and gently toss to combine. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve garnished with the toasted cashews. Enjoy!