Filled Leaves, Fallen Leaves, or Both!
This past week was a whirlwind of weather. The beginning was a lovely continuation of the warmth of the weekend, then we had some rain, and now we are back to brisk and windy. Unfortunately, that means most of the leaves have fallen off the trees. and while the ground certainly looks pretty, it just isn't the same. However, that does not mean we still can't keep those colors at the forefront of our minds before the cold really comes in and takes them all away! And I had some perfectly fitting ingredients to do the trick.
This week's dish is part 'using up what was in my fridge' and part 'capturing the essence of fall.' I wanted to make something quick and simple but still include a variety of diverse flavors and textures so that a bite would still pack a huge punch of flavor. However, I did not have a clear vision in mind; I was not even thinking about the dish when I found basil in my fridge, so it was good luck that my idea for it became the start of my plate. Since the basil was turning brown, I knew I had to make a pesto. With some pistachios lying around and some Meyer lemon juice waiting to grace me with its wondrous sweet and floral acidity, I had all the components I needed. I put the basil, pistachios, and Meyer lemon juice in the robot coupe along with a splash of oil to help smooth it out and salt to balance the flavor. After blending until it was emulsified but still a little chunky, I had the main component ready to go.
I then went back to the fridge for more inspiration and saw our fresh Belgian endives - they were exactly what I needed! Over the years, I have seen so many variations of a filled endive leave, and wanting this snack to be playful too, I figured now was the opportunity to get creative with this popular hors d'oeuvres concept. Plus, with the pesto being on the sweeter side, it would be an appreciated complement to the bitterness of the endive and a fun change of pace.
Now that I knew I would be serving this snack in a tiny, edible vessel, I only had a few ways to include more ingredients before running out of space. A dressing was certainly the most obvious choice since I could meld many ingredients into one spoonful, but even so, it could get lost in the strong and layered taste of the pesto; I also wanted more texture. I then remembered that I still had persimmons from last week and realized they would be a fantastic addition here. As they were much riper and softer with a buttery texture, I desired to incorporate them in a salsa of sorts. Their sweetness combined with earthy, crunchy shallots and spicy, even crunchier watermelon radish, all tossed in red wine vinegar, filled in all the flavor gaps I was missing. Moreover, the orange flecked with bright, deep pink once again transported me to the imagery of the leaves in my backyard, helping me to savor them a little bit longer before they all disappear.
With the persimmon salsa on top, I had my complete dish...and it definitely delivered! The salsa almost melts into the pesto to make it extra creamy, but it certainly still comes through and perks you up. This bite is nutty, herbaceous, and tangy all in one, and you will be ready for another instantly thanks to the intense acidity to help refresh your palate for more. Since this snack is so light and reflective of autumn, it would be a fabulous way to start off a Thanksgiving meal next week! It can be prepared in under 10 minutes and has only 10 ingredients, and as it is not your typical endive canapé - it is much more intriguing and delightful - it is sure to impress your loved ones and be a memorable start to your meal!
Often a mouthwatering dish takes a lot of planning, but sometimes you can put a marvelous bite together just by compiling ingredients that are about to be sitting around for too long. And while it is exciting to watch a longstanding idea turn into reality, it can be even more thrilling to see a final result come from nothing in a such a short amount of time. Great-tasting food does not require a lot of components, techniques, and time - if the flavors already exist, which is always the case with fruits and vegetables that are in season, all you have to is give them a place to shine.
Fallen-dive Leaves Snack
For the Pistachio Pesto:
1 loose cup Basil | 1/2 cup Pistachios | 2 T Meyer Lemon Juice | 1/2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil | Salt
For the Persimmon Salsa:
1 Persimmon, ripe and soft | 1 shallot | 1 piece Watermelon Radish, peeled | | 1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar | Salt
1 head Belgian Endive
Blend the basil, pistachios, Meyer lemon juice, and oil together in a food processor until semi-smooth. Taste and add salt as necessary.
Peel and chop the persimmon fine. Mince the shallot and small dice the radish. Combine in a small bowl with the persimmon and season with the vinegar and salt.
Cut off the root end of the Belgian endive and separate the leaves; wash and dry.
Fill the leaves with equal parts pesto and salsa.
Serve on a platter and enjoy!
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