Over here, you know winter is com… no…. edging closer! when fresh, plump and pretty-in-orange things are popping up in the fruit section of stores and markets left, right and center. One of my favorites in that area, running a close second to tangerines, are Persimmon fruit, also known as Kaki. While they’re just as orange as any of their display-neighbors, they’re the odd one out, not a member of the citrus or pumpkin gang. Kaki or Persimmon are the fruit of the “Dyospyros Kaki”-tree, so, going by their scientific name, they’re actually the Fruit of the Gods. How’s that for a humble salad topping~!
During the winter months I go though mountains of these shinies, since they work in any dish all the way from sweet to savory, starter to dessert, snacks… you get the picture. They show up here in their large, oval variant, simply called Kaki, from somewhere in the neighborhood of Halloween and stay until the end of february. The smaller, tomato-shaped variant, Sharon, is available most of the year but not even close to their bigger sisters in taste and texture – so, in my book, Kakis are a winter-only treat. They’re very sweet and succulent, the perfect counterweight to intense flavors and aromas in savory dishes… like a punchy dressing and strong cheese. Now, I’m aware that Harzer cheese is special… in many ways. It’s a german speciality, a sourmilk cheese made from low fat curd and seasoned with caraway seeds. It’s fat content lies below 1% while it holds a smashing amount of protein crossing the 30% mark, which makes it absolutely perfect for anyone watching their intake while going for healthy and satisfying stuff. There’s just one little problem, aside from it’s availability… it has a rather ah… intense? aroma of the something-died-in-your-fridge variety. Like most things in that department, it tastes way better than it smells, but the aroma tends to scare people that aren’t too deep into all things cheese anyway – hence the Gruyère alternative below. While not as convenienly low-fat as the Harzer, Gruyère still has enough mooo! to compliment the kaki and the zingy dressing while being less offensive to any nose in it’s general vicinity.
For 2 Servings, you’ll need
The Sweet & Punchy Salad
1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
½ Lemon, Juice and Zest
1 Tsp Honey – to balance out the zingy dressing, taste-test it after marinading the cheese to see if more honey is needed.
Fleur de Sel, freshly ground Pepper
1 heaped Tsp Honey Mustard or Grainy Mustard
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
200g Gruyère or Harzer – if you’re going with the Harzer, here’s a storage tip for the cold months: Three words. Tupperware. Windowsill. Outside.
200g Lamb’s Lettuce, thoroughly cleaned
2 Kaki or 4 Sharon
1) Add the vinegar, honey, lemon juice and zest as well as the mustard and a generous crack of black pepper to a small bowl and add the oil in a steady stream while whisking it all together. Keep whisking until the dressing turns smooth and silky.
2) Cut whichever cheese you’ve picked into very thin slices and spread them out in a deep dish.
3) Brush the slices with your mustard’y dressing, flip them over and dab the other side with it as well.
4) Cover the plate with clingfilm and leave the slices to marinate for 1 hr. This takes quite an edge off of the cheesy punch, by the way – I’m not sure, why, actually. You’d expect a sharp cheese including its aggressive odour to be intensified by vinegar, but for some reason Harzer turns a bit more mellow in that kind of environment.
5) Re-check your lamb’s lettuce for stray dirt and odd bits, then arrange the leaves on 2 plates or 1 serving platter.
6) Remove the top, leafy part of the kaki with a sharp knife. Use a veggie peeler to shave the oddly plastic-like skin off of the fruit.
7) Cut the kakis into quarters and remove the cores – they are, in fact, edible, but they can be on the slightly bitter side of things depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Give them a try, if you’d like, before deciding whether to keep them in or cut them out.
8) Cut the kaki quarters into thin segments or bite-sized bits and arrange them on the lettuce leaves.
9) Top the portions off with the marinated cheese slices.
10) Drizzle the lot with the remaining dressing and leave it to rest for around 10 mins.
11) Give each serving a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel flakes right before serving.
Oh and… I just wanted to put in another good word for the underrated, underestimated, humble Harzer… Give it a chance~! It can be so much better than it’s reputation – if paired right!