Monday, 24 May 2010

Salad of Smoked Chicken, Persimmons and Cashews, with a Cumin Vinaigrette

This salad features that rather rare and old-fashioned fruit, the persimmon, or sharon fruit. Have you ever tasted a persimmon? It's not the most perfumed of fruits, but it has a nice fresh astringency and, with its glowing orange tones, looks beautiful in salads.

Here, I've combined it with shreds of smoked chicken breast, cos lettuce, spring onions, baby corn, chives, cashew nuts and balls of spiced cream cheese to make a substantial winter salad. A vinaigrette warmed with cumin and smoked paprika gives this salad a poke in the eye.

I always buy persimmons when I see them, because they're so exotic, and because I so love their melodious name.  Please read my post about what a lovely word 'persimmon' is, and about poetic food names in general.

If you can't find smoked chicken in your local shop, how about making your own? It's really easy to smoke chicken breasts in a wok. Here's a great recipe for tea-smoked chicken from my pal Nina at My Easy Cooking, using, as a smoking agent, South African Rooibos tea.  If you can't find Rooibos tea, use ordinary tea, or wood chips sold for smoking purposes.  And if you can't find persimmons, try this with cubes of mango or peach.

Salad of Smoked Chicken, Persimmons and Cashews, with a Cumin Vinaigrette

cos lettuce, enough for six people
4 smoked chicken breasts
4 ripe persimmons
4 spring onions, finely sliced [scallions]
8 baby mielies, finely sliced into disks [baby corn]
150 g block of full-fat, firm cream cheese
a little paprika or chilli powder
a handful of  roasted, salted cashew nuts
a bunch of fresh chives, finely snipped

For the dressing:
a small clove of garlic, peeled
4 tsp (20 ml) fresh lemon juice
4 tsp (20 ml) white wine vinegar
½ tsp (2.5 ml) Dijon mustard
a pinch of sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) powdered cumin
½ tsp (2.5 ml) smoked paprika
90 ml olive oil
2 tsp (10 ml) water
a pinch of salt
freshly milled black pepper

First make the dressing. Crush the garlic and place in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, sugar, cumin and paprika, and stir to combine. Now whisk in the olive oil and water. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Arrange the cos lettuce leaves on a large salad platter. You can leave them whole, if they are small and neat, or if they are large you can tear them into bite-sized pieces. Pull the smoked chicken breasts into large shreds and scatter over the lettuce. Remove the stalks from the persimmons and cut into small cubes.  Sprinkle the cubes over the salad, along with the spring onions and finely sliced 'daisies' of baby corn.

Pinch marble-sized pieces off the block of cream cheese and roll them into balls between your palms. Now roll them in paprika or chilli powder. Arrange the cream cheese balls on the salad, and scatter over the cashew nuts and snipped chives.

Just before serving, stir the dressing and pour it over the salad.  Dust the salad with a little more smoked paprika and serve immediately.

Serves 6. 

Like this recipe? Try my Fresh Persimmon Salsa.
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Koek! said...

I don't think I've ever tasted a persimmon before... You've certainly convinced me to try one.

Marisa said...

I remember the first time I came across sharon fruit - was in high school and it was at our local vegetable shop. My parents knew the owners and they would often give us freebies and let us taste of the fresh and more unusual produce.

Apparently the fruit comes from Israel and I was instantly charmed by the sweet flavour and fragrance. Pity they're so rare to get a hold of...

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that your salad looks fabulous - I've never seen sharon fruit used in this way and am sure it tastes glorious!