Saturday, 8 August 2015

Italian Summer Peach Salad






Stone fruit are in peak season right now and I can never get enough of them! Peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums and cherries... I'm lucky to live in an area that grows them all locally. They are fantastic and eating them always evokes the sensations of summer. This is a great little peach salad recipe. It's only four ingredients and this combination has been used in restaurants all over: peach, prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula. They make an incredible and balanced flavour combination and the colours are beautiful. You can adapt the combination of these four ingredients however you like, but I'll show you what I typically do and the perfect dressing to go with it. This is one of those recipes that uses just a few classically Italian ingredients and turns out a stunning course. 

Let's start with the prosciutto. If you didn't already know, prosciutto is usually a very thinly sliced rasher of cured pork leg. Because it's cured, it doesn't need to be cooked. In this recipe, I fried the prosciutto until it was just crispy for an added depth of flavour and texture. You may rather to keep the prosciutto uncooked and just tear it up or wrap them around into little rose shapes. Give your prosciutto a taste when you get it. Although it's cured, I find prosciutto sometimes has a tangy "sour meat" flavour that I don't care for. I usually end up frying it to fix that but every now and then I'll find some prosciutto that tastes just fine as it is. It's totally your call.






If you choose to fry them, all you need to do is slice or tear them into the desired shape and size. Warm a pan over medium heat and add a tbsp of olive oil. Fry the prosciutto for 2-3 minutes each side or until it crisps up like bacon. 






Remove with a pair of tongs and place on paper towel to absorb excess grease. Fold another sheet of paper towel in half with your hand and gently dab the top of the prosciutto to remove the fat on that side as well. 






Buffalo mozzarella is an artisanal Italian cheese made from buffalo milk. It produces a mozzarella that's fresh, unripened, soft and stretchy. It's fantastic melted in sandwiches or on pizza but is also quite nice served as is in a salad. Italian water buffalo milk is generally higher in protein, fat and minerals than that of cows (and richer in flavour). It's typically sold in round balls or braids submerged in a brine. This is the particular import that I could find.






To use in this recipe, all you need to do is remove the cheese from the brine and pat it dry.







Then using clean hands, tear off rustic pieces with your fingers. The size is totally up to your discretion. If you wish, you can use a knife to cut clean, even pieces. This is just an aesthetic I prefer for this dish.







Now for the peaches, I like to keep them fresh in this recipe but some people like to grill them first to give them a smoky and caramelized flavour. Some people prefer to remove the skin first too. Personally I like the skin. That's where most of the nutrition is and it adds beautiful colour to the salad. If you'd rather skin your peaches, all you need to do is score a small 'x' in the base of each peach, submerge them in boiling water for one minute and then transfer them to an ice bath to stop cooking. The blanching process will loosen the skin and they will easily peel right off using your fingers.







Easiest way to neatly remove the stone from a fresh peach is to cut a line all the way around it, following the natural crease and cutting down to the stone. Then use your hands to twist the two halves in the opposite direction. The stone will free itself from one of the halves easily. For the half that still holds the pit, make another lengthwise slice to make two quarters. Use your hands to twist the two quarters apart. One of them will free itself from the stone, and the other will still cling to it. At this stage you can easily pick the stone out of the remaining quarter of peach. 

You can slice them any way you like. For this recipe I like about a quarter of an inch thick. 






Arugula is pretty self explanatory. All you need to do is make sure it is thoroughly washed in cold water and then dried. Arugula is technically an herb but is used mostly as a salad green (makes a mean pesto too). It's a deep green colour and has an earthy, peppery flavour. 


Assembling these four ingredients are again at your discretion. You could simply toss them together for a rustic salad or arrange them together in some kind of pattern for something a little more refined.






The perfect sweet and tangy salad dressing for this is simple and uses just a few ingredients...


Dressing


2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper


In a bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard and honey until well emulsified. Slowly pour the olive oil into the emulsion while whisking constantly. If it seems like there's a little too much oil that isn't incorporating fast enough, just stop adding more and keep whisking, it will catch up. Then carry on as usual. Take your time with this step. Give the dressing a taste, you might want to add a little more balsamic, mustard, honey, olive oil or a combination. Tweak it to your liking and then season to taste with salt and pepper. That's it! 






Then it's just a simple matter of lightly dressing the salad and enjoy. This dish makes a great first course but if you wanted to treat yourself, you could make a meal size portion using these ingredients. The four ingredients already cover a fruit, a vegetable, cheese and meat so there's a decent nutritional balance there. It's fantastic because you get crispy, creamy, salty, peppery, juicy and sweet all in one colourful, summery dish. What's not to love?






I hope you liked this recipe and are inspired to give it a try. Feel free to add or substitute whatever you like. I always encourage cooks to be creative and have fun. 

Stay tuned because I have another stone fruit recipe coming very soon, only this one is a dessert!

Until then,

B

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