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Ben Ford’s Persimmon Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

Local food lovers may remember Ben Ford as the first winner of the annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery. He’s also a celebrity chef, whose Ford’s Filling Station has become a hit in Culver City.



Of course, moviegoers might focus on the fact that his father is the actor Harrison Ford. What they might not know is that his wife, Emily, is a San Antonio native.

All of these come together in the handsome new cookbook, “Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking” (Atria Books, $34.99), which Ford has written with  Carolynn Carreño.

The book covers a host of party possibilities from the whole pig roast to the Hill Country barbecue, but it also impresses with its simple, effective side dishes, such as this Persimmon Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans.

“When persimmons flood the Filling Station kitchen in the fall, I make this salad,” he writes. “Make this salad with pears or apples when persimmons aren’t in season.”

Persimmon Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 heaping teaspoon finely chopped shallot
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 Fuyu persimmons or 1 pound pears or apples
8 ounces mâche or baby spinach
1 head frisée, torn
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup candied pecans (recipe follows)

tamingTo make the dressing, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, salt and sugar together. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to make an emulsified dressing. You can make the dressing up to 2 days  in advance; refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

To prepare the salad, cut both ends off each persimmon and peel with a vegetable peeler, removing as little flesh as possible. Remove the pits and thinly slice the flesh. If you are making this salad with pears or apples, cut then in half to remove the cores; lay them cut side down and thinly slice.

Put the mâche and frisée in a salad bowl. Drizzle with 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette and toss lightly to coat. Add more dressing if desired and salt to taste. Lay the persimmon slices over the salad, crumble on the goat cheese and scatter the pecans over the top. Grind black pepper over the salad and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Candied Pecans

1 cup raw pecan halves
1/3 cup sugar

Adjust an oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread the pecans on a separate baking sheet in a single layer and toast them for 5 minutes. Transfer them to a plate to cool to room temperature.

Cook the sugar undisturbed in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt, about 2 minutes. Begin to stir the sugar with a wooden spoon and continue to cook until it is light brown, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the pecans and stir to coat each nut with the sugar. Transfer the pecans to the prepared baking sheet. Spread them out in a single layer and use two forks to separate them from one another, working quickly so they don’t stick together. Set the nuts aside to cool completely. You can prepare these nuts up to 3 days in advance; store them in an air together container for up to 2 days.

Makes 1 cup.

From “Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking” by Ben Ford with Carolynn Carreño

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