This is a pretty winter antipasto requiring almost no work. The subtle, candylike sweetness of the persimmons in combination with the rich, smoky-salty lean meat is beguiling. Choose Fuyus that are a deep, saturated orange and just beginning to give to the touch, like a slightly underripe peach. The best varieties have a squat profile and are clefted, presenting a quatrefoil-shaped slice. Don’t use torpedo-shaped Hachiya persimmons, which must be jelly-soft to be edible. If you see the unusual Chocolate Fuyu persimmons, snatch up a few. The gorgeous, marbleized flesh has faint cinnamon overtones and is worth the extra dimes. I don’t usually peel Fuyu persimmons, but you should taste a small sliver of the fruit and decide if you like the skin or not.
This antipasto is a proper place to lavish the best artisan-made, aged balsamic, but, lacking that, combine good-quality commercial balsamic with the oil to make a rich vinaigrette instead. We sometimes add a few sickle-shaped slices of raw fennel to this dish. A nice variation, simpler still, constists of prosciutto or smoked prosciutto with Fuyus and almonds. Ham doesn’t need the balsamic for sweetness, and is rich enough without the oil.
- 1 medium or 2 small Fuyu persimmons (about 6 to 8 ounces total)
- 5 to 6 ounces thinly sliced air-dried beef (bresaola)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons artisan-made balsamic vinegar
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed (about 6 ounces) (optional)
Use the tip of a paring knife to carve out the stem end of the persimmons. Carve out a sliver of meat and skin and taste. If you like the texture of the skin, leave as is; if not, peel the fruit. Cut the persimmon into very thin wedges, prying out seeds if there are any, or thinly slice with a mandoline.
Spread the meat and persimmons, somewhat overlapping, on plates or a platter. Drizzle with oil, then finish with balsamic. If using the fennel, sliver crosswise into thin sickles and scatter them over. Don’t feel you need to use the whole fennel bulb.