Persimmon Salsa Verde

The best tacos in Norfolk, Virginia are not created, as might be supposed, by any of the official tacquerias in the city (of which there aren't many), but by the back of house staff at Four Eleven York.

In my current world, Sunday night is taco night. As we fill orders and cook and bake and clean and scrub and put things away, we are making tacos. Short-rib tacos. Fish scrap tacos. Pork butt tacos. Chicken tacos. Any trimmed meat scraps, or things that won't last the weekend we turn into family night tacos. Sunday nights are like a sort of holiday among our crew - it's our Friday night after all - and tacos seem appropriate for the approaching weekend. Not gonna lie - we are spoiled by the amount of taco talent in our kitchen.

I guess I didn't have a lot of relationship with anything but Tex-Mex tacos before beginning to work here. A taco, to me, was some kind of protein (beef, chicken, possibly pulled pork) and cheese and all those kinds of typical additions. Then I branched out to include fish and shrimp tacos. Then I went to Bartaco in Tampa and I got mad because I ordered, like, four tacos and they got mixed up on the tray with everyone else's tacos and I lost my mushroom tacos in the shuffle and that wasn't fun. I also went to a Mexico City kind a' taco place in SoHo when I visited New York City and they had agua fresca and tacos that were to-die-for and it was the middle of the summer and I was starving and dehydrated and they tasted wonderful and something in me began to realize I didn't know the half about the art of the taco.
I didn't realize that anything can become a taco and anything can become salsa.
That real tacos don't have cheese on them.
That flour tortillas are for the birds.
I didn't realize that the basic concept of salsa is a proper ratio of roasted veg to cilantro stems to salt and acid with a little heat.

Nobody uses recipes in a kitchen (except the bakers). Did you realize that? It's the weirdest thing. People just cook and as they cook, they improvise and experiment. And there's no better place to improv than on Sunday night, when the last table has left and we've a couple hours left to dawdle out before we can properly close. The smells start to build then, and everybody is snagging tastes and I'm typically blending up whatever salsa ingredients Risa brought in a Harris Teeter bag and roasted off in the oven till blistered and juicy. And then salt - all the salt, please. So anyway, I've grown a little reckless in my salsa abilities. It's fun that you can make it out of all the veggie scraps you have in the fridge. A wither-y old pepper? Roast it off and toss it in. Bits of onion? Likewise. Handful of cherry tomatoes? Throw them into the pan with the rest of it. You can add fruit too! Peaches, pineapples, or (like today's recipe) persimmons. You can, of course, make salsa out of all fresh ingredients, but I've become a fan of the way these vegetables and fruits gain new levels of flavor when you blister them under a hot oven. Plus, warm salsa is strangely comforting. Maybe it's just me and these rituals of sitting down at 11 PM with double-stacked corn tortillas filled with succulent pork belly and ghost-pepper salsa, but I like how warm salsa meshes with the other taco fillings. I like paper-thin radishes shaved on top and the good, good juice running down my wrists and everybody saying, like they do every Sunday night, "These are the best tacos yet, right?"

 All this to say: if you make this salsa and don't want to wait for it to cool down, that's totally a good jam too. I may or may not have stood at the picnic table in bare feet eating some with lime tortilla chips post-shoot while I froze to death.

A quick word on persimmons: there are two varieties commonly found at the grocery store; fuyu persimmons are shaped like a tomato and have a firm to soft flesh when ripe, a bit like that of a peach. This is the variety I use for this recipe! When roasted, they have a flavor similar to that of to an apple, which lends itself well to the other flavors in this salsa. Heart-shaped hachiya persimmons are terribly terribly bitter until they're so soft they can be eaten with a spoon so are therefore not as suited to this recipe/method. I chose to roast the persimmons with their skin on, but feel free to peel them pre-roast and save yourself the trouble of trying to skin piping-hot persimmons. 
Because persimmons are a fall/winter fruit in the US and because tacos seem so summer-centric, I loved the idea of anchoring this salsa verde firmly in the season by using persimmons. The flavor of persimmons isn't too adventurous itself but it provides the perfect tomato-esque body for boosting the salsa while providing an apple-like flavor to play background to the forefront flavors of tart tomatillos and perky cilantro. I loved it, and I hope you do too!

Persimmon Salsa Verde
makes 1 quart salsa

4 large fuyu persimmons
4 tomatillos, husks removed
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large yellow onion
2 jalapenos, seeds removed
1 small bunch of cilantro
3 limes, juiced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
olive oil (for roasting)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a large sheet tray, toss whole persimmons, tomatillos, garlic, onion and jalapenos with a drizzle of olive oil till lightly coated. Sprinkle with salt and roast 20-30 minutes, until vegetables have gained a bit of color and are tender when pierced.
  2. In a large blender or food processor pulse roasted veggies with the cilantro stems and about half the leaves, the lime juice, and salt. Taste and adjust for seasoning to your preference, adding more cilantro leaves, salt, and/or lime juice until perfect according to personal taste.

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