Growing up in southern California my parents loved to spend their weekends up to their elbows in dirt, cultivating what I realize now was a beautiful labor of love. When I was a kid, I just didn’t get it, why would I want to spend time outside toiling away when I could sit on my ass and watch cartoons instead? Now that I’m all grown up with a garden of my own I regret that I didn’t jump in with them, benefiting from all their experience and knowledge.
I have lots of regrets in my life but one of my biggest ones is that my dad didn’t live long enough to see my garden. He loved to create with his hands, in most of my memories he’s involved in some big project, digging a pond in the backyard, teaching himself cross-stitch, making me a beautiful jewelry box for my 21st birthday. I realize now that I am a lot like him, I love to work with my hands and have spent the last few years learning how to garden, cook and knit. He would be surprised and delighted to see me follow in his footsteps.
This time of year I think of my childhood garden and am reminded of the pomegranates and persimmon trees that dominated the yard, heavy with fruit just begging to be picked. The persimmons with their vivid orange skins, like miniature pumpkins weighing down the branches. I would take them inside and freeze them until they were solid and then attack them with the spoon, eating the pulpy flesh, their sweet, honey flavor better than any ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Or even better, straight from the tree, still warm from the sun, still firm, with a texture more like an apple, sweet and crunchy, the perfect snack. I’ve yet to find persimmons in Oregon that live up to those memories. Their season is relatively short and I have only been able to find ones that are mottled and soft, having already turned to mush.
Luckily, I visited my mom recently and there was the tree, full of more fruit than I ever would have thought possible and she insisted I bring some of them home with me, smuggled inside my suitcase like buried treasure.
I knew that these were special, and I had to treat them as such. This salad was the perfect way to savor them, pairing their delicate floral flavor with salty prosciutto and tart pomegranate seeds, a match made in heaven. I just wish I had more of them so that I could make this salad and revisit those childhood memories, again and again.
Persimmon, prosciutto and pomegranate salad
- 1 medium persimmon
- 8 thin slices of prosciutto
- 4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted pistachios
- 4 cups baby arugula
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- salt and pepper
Combine arugula and persimmons in a medium bowl, add half the pomegranate seeds and pistachios to the bowl and toss to combine. Prepare the dressing by whisking the vinegar and honey in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the arugula mixture a tablespoon at a time until everything is lightly coated, you may not need all the dressing. Divide the mixture between four plates, add two slices of prosciutto to each serving and sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate and pistachios.