Food & Drink

Carolina Candy Roaster Squash and Persimmon Salad

This fresh and sweet Thanksgiving side dish is a turkey’s perfect counterpart

Photo: Jake Schmidt

It wasn’t until the chef Jake Schmidt moved to the South in 2011 to work in the kitchen at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville that he first tried candy roaster squash. “I immediately thought: Why have I been messing around with butternut squash my whole life?!” he says. “Candy roaster squash is softer and sweeter than butternut, and you can do all the same things with it.” Now the executive chef at the Swag, a luxury mountain retreat in Waynesville, North Carolina, Schmidt has devised a Thanksgiving side dish that lets the sweet squash shine. 

“I like using unique ingredients somebody wouldn’t necessarily pair together, or items that people may be unfamiliar with,” Schmidt says. “I’ve been playing around with persimmons for a few years now. So many people have never tasted persimmons, but we have them at our local Ingles.” Persimmons often give cooks pause since they ripen quickly, going from inedible and hard to overripe in as little as a day. “But this is a great recipe because you can use them when they’re really hard, since roasting them like this softens and sweetens them up,” Schmidt says. 

Schmidt serves the roasted squash and persimmons on a bed of local red Russian kale, topped with a creamy vinaigrette. “For the vinaigrette, be sure to add water at the end to change the texture. You’ll end up adding a lot more than you think you’ll need,” Schmidt advises. “There’s something about the reaction between the almonds and the persimmon vinegar that makes it so white and creamy. It looks like the whitest mayonnaise you’ve ever seen.” 


  • The Swag’s Candy Roaster Squash and Persimmon Salad (Serves 4)

    • 1 cup peeled, diced candy roaster squash (butternut can be used as a substitute)

    • 2 Hachiya persimmons, still firm, peeled and cut into wedges (Fuyu persimmons can be used as a substitute)

    • ¼ cup roasted, salted Marcona almonds, plus ½ cup, roughly chopped, for garnish

    • ½ cup persimmon vinegar (white balsamic or rice wine can be substituted)

    • ¼ cup water

    • 1½ cups canola oil, plus a few tablespoons to coat roasted vegetables

    • 2 cups washed, destemmed, and chiffonade kale (Schmidt uses red Russian kale)

    • ½ cup dried persimmons, julienned (can be found online and at some specialty grocery stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)


  1. Toss squash with canola oil, season with salt and pepper, roast at 350 degrees till nicely colored (about 12 to 15 minutes), and then cool. Toss the fresh persimmons in canola oil and salt, roast at 350 till slightly softened (about 8 to 10 minutes), remove, and cool.

  2. In a blender, add the whole Marcona almonds, vinegar, and water, and blend on medium. Once the liquids have been blended with the almonds, slowly start adding the canola oil to emulsify. Add additional water if the dressing gets too thick, season to taste, and reserve.

  3. Layer the kale, roasted squash, and roasted persimmons on a serving dish, then top with the vinaigrette, dried persimmons, and chopped almonds.