When restauranteur Mike McEnearney invited a Welsh naturopath to see his mother-in-law's garden (What, you don't have one visit yours?), she made some unexpected changes that completely transformed the way he thought about food.
"She divided the beds into the plant humors, or temperaments: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic," says McEnearney. "It was fascinating to me that she looked at these herbs as medicinal, while I saw them as culinary."
His new cookbook, Real Food by Mike: Seasonal Wholefood Recipes for Wellbeing, is inspired by this very concept. Plants are added to recipes for their specific medicinal benefits to the body: muscular (ginger and turmeric), gastroenterological (dill and oregano), and neurological (lemon and chamomile).
What about something to ward off seasonal colds? "Persimmons contain plenty of vitamin C to boost the immune system," says McEnearney. "They also have folic acid for new cell creation, potassium to balance the fluids in the body, and manganese to help in bone formation and metabolizing amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates." Bonus: It's in season from now until February.
The salad he shares below lets the starring fruit shine. "When an ingredient is singing, I try and take a less is more approach," he says. "I love this recipe because of its simplicity. The focus is entirely on the persimmon, and the other ingredients are only there to enhance its sensual flavor and texture."
Try McEnearney's simple shaved persimmon salad recipe below.
Shaved persimmon, preserved lemon, and capers
Yield: Serves 4
2 firm persimmons
1 preserved lemon
1⁄2 garlic clove, chopped
1 handful marjoram leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp salted capers, rinsed and drained well
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1⁄2 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, leaves picked
1. Slice the persimmons very thinly using a mandoline or sharp knife and arrange them on a platter.
2. Cut the preserved lemon into quarters. Remove the flesh from the center by scraping it out with a spoon. Roughly chop the skin and place it in a mortar.
3. Add the garlic, most of the marjoram (reserving some for a garnish), and half the capers.
4. Grind with the pestle to form a paste, adding the olive oil when needed to turn it into a dressing.
5. Add fresh lemon juice to give it some pep, then spoon the dressing over the persimmon.
6. Garnish with the remaining capers, marjoram leaves, and some parsley. Finish with a grinding of black pepper.
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