Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Salad You Need to Know

Mostly, I’m on pie duty this holiday—apple and pumpkin for Amy’s on Thursday, apple, cranberry and pecan for the T-day redux with my family on Saturday. But for Thursday’s dinner I’ll also be bringing the salad, if only because I have become a fierce champion of this recipe and feel strongly that no Thanksgiving table is complete without it.

I first had this salad at a dinner at Bay Wolf, a lovely French/Italian/California-cuisine fixture in Oakland, possibly at the same dinner where I was served what remains one of the best pasta dishes of my life-- buckwheat ravioli stuffed with goat cheese, tossed with beets and walnuts—along with their dreamy duck-liver mousse, which practically floats off the toast. When Bay Wolf finally came out with their cookbook, I bought it immediately, just in hopes of finding this salad and that pasta. (As for the duck, it turns out to be more mousseline than mousse, equal parts liver and whipped cream). The pasta was there, albeit in two separate recipes--one for goat-cheese ravioli, the other for buckwheat noodles in a beet-and-walnut pasta sauce. (I have not yet united the two, but I sleep better knowing that I could.) But the salad was right there, tasting just like it did in Oakland.

As an autumn charmer, this beautiful salad makes slightly more sense in California, where pomegranates and persimmons are grown locally and show up in the farmers’ markets in October and November. But I've made it all over the place and it's a hit every time--a little sweet, soft and slippery, then crunchy, toasty from the nuts and creamy with the goat cheese. And the colors are very much like a frolic in the woods—glowing drops of red, wedges of deep orange, shiny brown nuts and deep green lettuces.

Bay Wolf’s Autumn Salad

This salad calls for Fuyu persimmons, which are the round, firm, flattish ones, not the deep-orange, pyramid-shaped ones. If you can’t find persimmons, substitute sliced Bosc or Asian pears.

1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Drop in pecans and blanch for a couple minutes. Drain. Toss pecans with sugar and cayenne. Spread on a baking sheet and bake, stirring frequently, until crisp and toasty. Be careful; because of the sugar, they can burn easily. Let cool, then break up into smallish pieces.

1 shallot, minced
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Let shallot and thyme soak in vinegar for 30 minutes. Strip the thyme leaves off the sprig. Add salt and pepper and whisk in olive oil.

A couple handfuls of arugula
A small head of red-leaf or oak-leaf lettuce
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
3 Fuyu (flat) persimmons, peeled and sliced
4 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese (chevre), crumbled

Toss lettuce, persimmons, and pomegranate seeds with half the dressing. Add more dressing if needed. Top with pecans and goat cheese.

1 comment:

Kalyn said...

Oh my word, this does sound just fantastic. I have my (boring) assignment for this year, but I have bookmarked the recipe for another occasion.