Persimmon, Beet & Arugula Salad with Hazelnut (or Walnut) Vinaigrette

Persimmon salad.jpg

My holiday gift to you is this stunning salad, which just happens to taste as delicious as it looks. When I served it at a dinner party recently, not a leaf of arugula was left on a plate. It looks great  arranged on individual plates or on a large platter for a buffet.

I learned a lot about fuyu persimmons when making this salad. Here are a few tips I wish I had known ahead:

For best results, use firm, but ripe fuyu persimmons. How are you to know if they are ripe when they are hard, you might wisely ask? The key is in the color.  Look for the deepest, darkest orange.  Fuyu persimmons do not have to be soft to be ripe. They aren't as sweet as when they are soft, but for a salad, firm and deep orange yield the perfect taste and texture.

To peel or not to peel you might also wonder? It is not necessary to peel fuyus unless the peel is tough. (That goes for eating them out of hand and the only way to know is to taste them.) When thinly slicing for a salad, the peel helps hold the fruit together, so it is best to not peel them. 

If persimmons are a little soft, you can use them in this salad but do NOT slice them ahead. Because I always want to get as much prep done ahead, I made the mistake of slicing slightly soft persimmons a few hours before dinner and piling the slices on top of each other. I was in for a surprise when I went to assemble the salad.  They were impossible to separate. They were completely stuck together like they'd been glued. Fortunately, I had enough firm slices that separated easily to fall back on. 

Part of the beauty of this salad is alternating thin slices of beets and persimmons around the perimeter of the plate. If you have a mandolin, this is the time to use it on the thinnest setting. To slice a persimmon, first remove the stem and leaves by cutting down with a small knife into a V. To get the roundest slices that best match the shape of the beets, slice the persimmons horizontally.  Instead of slicing them through the stem end (which you will be tempted to do), slice them across the stem. Most persimmons do not have seeds, but if they do, be sure to remove them.

I vary the dressing between using hazelnut oil or walnut oil, whichever I happen to have on hand. Either way the vinaigrette will be light, refreshing and the perfect finish to a striking holiday salad. 

Persimmon, Beet & Arugula Salad with Hazelnut (or Walnut) Vinaigrette

4 medium beets (about 8 oz. each)
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup hazelnut or walnut oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 firm but ripe fuyu persimmons
6 oz. baby arugula, rinsed, dried, large stems removed

To roast beets: Preheat oven to 400°.  Trim off the beet tops leaving about 1/2-inch of the stems.  Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil.   Place on oven rack and bake until tender, when pierced with a skewer or small knife, 45 to 60 minutes.  Do not overcook or they will fall apart when sliced. When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the peel with a sharp knife and cut off stem.
MAKE AHEAD: Beets may be roasted up to 2 days ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator.

To make vinaigrette: Combine the shallots and vinegar in a glass jar or small bowl.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Add oils and shake or whisk well.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
MAKE AHEAD: Vinaigrette may be refrigerated up to 3 days.  Bring to room temperature and mix well before using.

Using a mandolin or other hand slicer, slice beets into paper-thin rounds.  If not assembling immediately, arrange slices in a pie plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours.

Remove the core from the persimmons with a sharp knife by cutting around it in a V.  Slice persimmons horizontally into paper-thin rounds.  They can be refrigerated on a plate covered with plastic wrap up to 8 hours. 

To serve: Arrange overlapping slices of beets and persimmons around edge of salad plates or a large platter.  Put arugula into a bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to coat the leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly drizzle vinaigrette over beets and persimmons.  Arrange a mound of arugula in the center and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings. 

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