Eli Kirshtein, Rabbi Ari Gross, and Top Chef winner Hung Huynh in the kitchen at Solo.(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Eli Kirshtein, Rabbi Ari Gross, and Top Chef winner Hung Huynh in the kitchen at Solo.
(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Growing up in Atlanta, Eli Kirshtein was more interested in pork than in pomegranate, figs, and other staples of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish celebration of nature and trees. In fact, Kirshtein, who appeared on the recent season of the Bravo reality show Top Chef—he finished fifth—had little idea that Tu B’Shevat existed until Tablet Magazine presented him with a take on the quickfire challenge and asked him to create a menu for the holiday.

Kirshtein, currently cooking at Solo, a kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan, took the challenge head-on, brushed up on his Mishnah, and made us a dish as scrumptious as it is symbolic. Such studious cooking, he says, is what life is like outside of the mercurial environment of reality television.

“I think the main thing you got to remember about Top Chef is that it’s more Top Cook,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about food cost, labor cost…. A New York City kitchen is a really difficult thing, because the clientele is so demanding and the food public really knows what’s quality versus what’s gimmick.”

Click below to watch Kirshtein ply his craft, and scroll down for the recipe.

Eli Kirshtein’s Tu B’Shevat Persimmon Salad

2 Fuyu persimmons
1 can ginger ale
2 tablespoons marcona almonds
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
5 leaves Belgian endive
10 leaves tarragon
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon yuzo juice
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
Sea salt, to taste

1. Peel persimmons and punch out with a ring-cutter. Place the remaining scraps in a blender and add ginger ale as needed, until the puree is smooth. Slice the punched-out persimmons into rounds.

2. In a separate bowl, mix the yuzu juice, truffle oil, and honey, stirring until the vinaigrette is unified.

3. Using a spoon, smear a stripe of the puree onto a large plate. Place fresh marcona almonds and cocoa nibs on top of the stripe, and add two or three leaves of endive, and four or five leaves of tarragon on top. Line the sliced persimmons on the plate, and dress with the vinaigrette. Season with salt.

Serves two.