Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grilled Peaches with Summer Greens

Here's yet another salad inspired by my CSA share.  Over the past year, I've gotten so much better about using each week's share more efficiently rather than attempting to make one dish with each ingredient and then buying a ton of stuff from the farmers' market or supermarket to supplement and support each ingredient.  A few weeks ago, I got all of these items (well, not the cheese or the dressing) in my share and I figured that since they're all growing at the same time, wouldn't they probably taste good together?  There was only one way to find out.

Turns out I was right.  The greenery in this salad is, for the most part, mild and crunchy, but each component lends its own subtle flavor and varying level of crunch.  The grilled peaches bring a smoky sweetness to the mix as well as a necessary juiciness.  I couldn't resist adding a bit of cheese, but it's optional if you want to keep this salad vegan.  And the dressing is just a standard balsamic vinaigrette.  Together, it's nothing revolutionary, but, when everything is in season and extremely fresh, it's just oh so good.

And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so: I ate something nearly identical to this on a recent visit to Blue Hill.


Grilled Peaches with Summer Greens
serves 4 as a first course
vegan if not using cheese; gluten-free

For the salad
2 large or 3 medium peaches (about 12 ounces - no need to be precise)
1/4 pound green beans (I used a mix of green and yellow)
1/4 pound young fennel bulbs and stalks
2 Kirby cucumbers
8 basil leaves
2 ounces ricotta salata (optional)

For the dressing
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil


Prepare the salad
Heat a grill or grill pan (or, if you're me, your tiny 10-year-old George Foreman grill).  Cut each peach in half and cut each half into 6 slices.  Place each slice onto the hot grill and cook until dark grill marks form, about 3 minutes on each side.  (If you're using the aforementioned George Foreman grill, don't close the lid - you will squash your lovely peaches, and that would be bad.)  Divide the peaches between 4 plates.

While the peaches are grilling, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Trim the ends of the green beans and cut them into 2-3" lengths.  Cook the beans for 1 minute, then transfer to an ice bath to cool.  Drain well, then divide between the plates.

Trim the root ends off the fennel bulbs and cut off the stems, reserving the fronds.  Use a mandoline to thinly slice the fennel bulbs and divide them between the plates.  Pluck off the fronds from the stems, coarsely chop them, and set aside.

Peel the cucumbers and cut them into pieces approximately 1/3" x 2" - you want them to be about the same shape/size as the green beans.  Divide the cucumber sticks among the plates.

Stack and roll the basil leaves and cut them into a chiffonade.  Sprinkle the basil and fennel fronds over each of the plates, then crumble the cheese over them.

Make the dressing
Peel and mince the garlic.  Pour the salt over the garlic on a cutting board and use the back of your knife to scrape the garlic into a paste - the salt acts as an abrasive so this should be easy to do.  Transfer the garlic-salt paste to a bowl.

Add the vinegar and mustard and whisk to combine.  Slowly stream in the oil while whisking to form an emulsion.

Or you can add the garlic-salt paste and all the other ingredients to a mason jar and shake it for a minute.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of dressing over each plate and serve immediately.

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