Kylie ordered a salad at Il Fornaio during her visit – sliced red grapes, tiny, halved brussels sprouts and pale yellow wax beans dressed in hazelnut oil – one which turned out to be the ideal antidote to a week of gluttonous but joyful eating out. During recent years I’ve done a back flip on a long-held no-fruit-in-salad rule and though, ever skeptical, I thought the combination odd, it worked a treat.
A note stuck to the fridge door reads, 'Grow the greens you cannot (easily) find'. The following salad is why, if possible, you should. Buying up pre-Christmas at the North Sydney Farmer’s Market with mum, a plastic bag, an airy pillow in fact, of small, lemony sorrel leaves from the Darling Mills farm got me thinking – long and hard and distractedly - about gardening. Their buckwheat sprouts were nice, but it was the sorrel that, for me, completely stole the show. I’ve been growing it in small pots on a sunny sill ever since. This salad, seductive in shades of deep, bright orange and dark, wintry green, combines bitter salad leaves and sweet slices of persimmon with creamy avocado dice, the crunch of fresh, Tasmanian walnuts and a zing, right at the end, of lemon juice. It nearly upstaged the leftover slices of an onion, leek and spinach tart it accompanied last night. Almost.
It requires what Stephanie Alexander refers to as ‘strong’ greens; assertive ones like rocket are ideal, perfect for the job, but it was the other greens the rocket was tossed with – greens not quite so easy to find - that brought things to life. Tender parsley and curly kale thinnings from an early morning session last week and a palmful of home-grown baby sorrel leaves made things, already rather good, even better.
Persimmons come in two distinct varieties. An astringent persimmon must be ripened to the consistency of jelly and eaten, top lopped carefully off, straight from the fruit with a spoon. We won’t be using that kind today. Their non-astringent, tomato-shaped cousins with frilly, ruffled collars however can be eaten crisp, just like apples, or at the soft ‘n squelchy end of proceedings as well as each honeyed, vanilla-scented stage in between.
They are in season, and delicious, right now.
Green salad with persimmon – feeds 2, as a side
Adapted from The Cook’s Companion. Alexander suggests dressing the salad with either extra virgin olive oil or, if you have it, avocado oil. We liked this so much that I will be seeking out a good bottle of the latter. Well-plucked flat-leaf parsley, in lieu of above mentioned exotics, is worth adding should you have any. Mine is feral.
Toast some walnuts in a dry frying pan for a few minutes, long enough to make them smell irresistible. Cool on a plate. Wash 2 small crisp, non-astringent persimmons. Slice off the blossom end using a small, serrated knife. Quarter each fruit from top to bottom, cutting out and discarding any seeds. Slice thinly and set aside.
Peel and dice an avocado. Toss everything in a large bowl with a few handfuls of rocket. Rocket is good, but a mixture of things (see above) will be better. Squeeze over a few drops of lemon juice from on high, followed by a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss again and serve.