Growing up, I never ran across a persimmon. I know I heard of persimmon pudding, but never tried it and really had no idea what a persimmon looked liked or tasted like. I had in my mind an image of a tart fruit that leaves your mouth puckered up and dry. I have no idea where I came up with that idea, but it put me off from trying one until last year. A friend received persimmons in her CSA veggie box, and told me about a great recipe for Black Bean and Persimmon Salad. Trusting her taste, I went to the store found some persimmons and tried the recipe – and discovered I like them.
Like many fruits, their flavor changes markedly depending upon how ripe it is. If not fully ripened, it is rather tart and without much flavor. It sweetens and softens as it ripens, and reminds me a little of a mango at this point (but is much easier to peel and chop than a mango). To peel the persimmons, I like to use a serrated vegetable peeler, which works great on soft-skinned fruits, including tomatoes. I resisted owning two different vegetable peelers, but everything goes more smoothly in the kitchen when you have the right tool for the task.
My local farmer has been putting persimmons in our veggie boxes for the past couple of weeks, but with my travel schedule I haven’t been in town to get a box until this week – I was quite happy to find three persimmons there, just waiting to be made into a salad. As usual, I tweaked the original recipe to suit my tastes and the ingredients that I had on hand (no point going to the grocery store just to make a simple salad when substitutions typically work out fine). The recipe called for avocado, but mine was past its prime and I wanted another main ingredient in addition to the beans and persimmons.
While no cook would ever substitute sweet potato for avocado in any typical recipe, I thought roasted sweet potato would be a nice complement to the other flavors in this salad. I’ve recently discovered purple sweet potatoes. Not only is the skin purple but the flesh, once cooked, is a gorgeous deep dark purple color. Their flavor is maybe a bit more mild than orange sweet potatoes, but they’re very similar. I had one on hand and used it in my recipe.
For the dressing, I used the same basic ingredients as in the original – olive oil, citrus juice, and cumin – but changed the proportions (more citrus and cumin, less olive oil) and used both lemon and lime juice (instead of just lime juice in the original). I also added a bit of salt to the dressing.
Finally, I wanted a little crunch in the salad. I had toasted pepitas (raw pumping seeds) last week, so I tossed some in. I love the mixture of flavors, textures, and color. Even without meat, this salad provides good protein and makes a satisfying lunch. For dinner, I might add steamed shrimp, or just enjoy it on its own.
To make the salad, start by roasting the sweet potato while you prepare the other ingredients. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Then place on a rimmed, foil-lined cookie sheet:
- 1 large sweet potato (any color), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
Toss the sweet potatoes in the oil until just coated, then bake until tender, about 20-30 minutes. (You can roast sweet potatoes and other root vegetables in big batches and then freeze them until ready to use on another date; just thaw and add to whatever you’re making.)
In the meantime, prepare the dressing. Whisk together in a small bowl:
- 1/2 cup juice from lemons and/or limes (I used 1 lemon and three limes – my limes were a little hard and not too juicy)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
Combine in a medium bowl:
- 1 can black beans, rinsed well and drained on paper towels (preferably low-sodium organic beans)
- 3 persimmons, cored, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice.
- roasted sweet potatoes (it’s fine if they’re still warm)
- 1/4 -1/2 cup toasted pepitas (to toast them, take raw pepitas, and working in batches toast in a dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat stirring or tossing very frequently until they are fragrant and toasted; watch them carefully so that they do not burn.)
Add prepared dressing to bean mixture (you may not need all of the dressing, depending on the size of the sweet potato and persimmons) and toss gently. This keeps in the fridge for a day or two.