Winter Fruit Couscous Salad
Fuyu persimmons are squat with a distinctive four-leaf top knot. They are meant to be eaten firm and raw, like an apple. They hold their shape when cut, which makes them a sweet and colorful addition to this simple salad. Don’t try this recipe with a fully ripe wild or Hachiya persimmon, because cutting one is like trying to slice a water balloon.
The pomegranate arils add more color and fruity flavor. Pomegranates were an early feature of southern plantation gardens, although they were grown more often for ornamentation than for eating. Some mothers used dried pomegranates as baby rattles. [See the book for tips on peeling pomegranates.]
This salad makes a light, fresh Thanksgiving dish, a welcome contrast to all the heavy, creamy, rich food. I often make it as something new to serve with the turkey sandwiches, to counter my family’s tendency to roll their eyes and sigh heavily when I trot out those foil-covered bowls of leftovers for the third time.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 1/2 cups plain couscous (about 10 ounces)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons fruity, mild, extra-virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil, divided
3 tablespoons chopped scallions (white and tender green parts)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken or light-colored vegetable stock
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tart apple, cored and cubed
2 Fuyu persimmons, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1. Place the couscous and dried cranberries in a large bowl.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the scallions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the stock, apple juice concentrate, and salt. Bring to a boil and pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous gently with a fork.
3. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the apple, persimmons, mint, pecans, and pomegranate arils. Check the seasoning and add more salt, if needed.
What else works? You can use 1 cup fresh orange sections or drained mandarin oranges in place of the persimmons. You can use a pear in place of the apple.
Sheri Castle is a food writer and cooking instructor based in Chapel Hill, N.C. Visit the author’s website here. Become a fan of her book on Facebook here, or follow the author on Twitter @shericastle.
Recipes from The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes by Sheri Castle. Copyright © 2011 by Sheri Castle.