If you need to have the perfect salad to offset a spicy Indian dinner, a grilled nectarine (or peach) salad with peachy vinaigrette and toasted almonds is perfect. Perfect because the juicy, sweetness of the fruit and the boost of flavor from the blue cheese works well with any rich, fatty food or spicy food. You can use nectarines or peaches, because they are practically the same fruit.
The difference between nectarines and peaches is basically the peach fuzz. Nectarines carry a recessive (no fuzz) gene and this is how nectarines have come to be. Did you know that sometimes a peach tree will produce a nectarine fruit and sometimes a nectarine tree will produce a few fuzzy peaches. I make this statement because this recipe is part of the Creative Cooking Group challenge. We were asked to choose one ingredient and make it three ways. I didn’t do anything particularly clever, but my selections are particularly good this month. So good, I’ve made this salad five times in the last two weeks.
I intended this to be just a peach trio, but I planted a nectarine tree, and to my great surprise I got fruit the first year, against all odds and bad conditions. Armed with peaches and nectarines for my challenge, I made everything and took it to a dinner party where my neighbors, who are from India, were making Tandori chicken, Rice byriani and a very spicy green chile yogurt sauce. It was all delicious, and at the end of the night, hardly a bite of food remained. In honesty, and not to brag, this salad was the star of the entire evening, even beating my peach tart and amazing skillet blueberry cobbler, not to mention the seconds and thirds of chicken and rice that people were eating. This salad was so good, that we all found ourselves fighting over the last few bites using our fingers to grab pieces out of the main bowl.
The Secret to the Grilled Nectarine Salad is the Peach Vinaigrette
A few years back, a friend gave me several vinegars for my birthday. One of them was peach and that’s all gone now, so this week, I cut up a peach and soaked it in some champagne vinegar. It sweetened up that vinegar just enough to give it that summery peachy boost. I used some local honey, a bit of dijon mustard and mix of olive oil and canola oil to make what I think is my best salad dressing of the year.
How to Grill Nectarines and Peaches
The first thing I had to decide was how to cut the fruit. I made knife cuts across the fruit all the way around and pulled each ring off. This results in beautiful pieces that have that gorgeous red ring in the center. I brushed them with a a mixture of olive oil and chile paste for a little zing and grilled at high heat about four minutes a side (you may have to do less, depending on the fruit). The recipe for grilling fruit is here.
Assembling the Salad
The most important thing in a salad is getting the dressing right and premixing. Nothing irks me more than to go to a nice restaurant and be served a salad with a dressing on the side. A salad must be tossed thoroughly with dressing, but not to much dressing, so it takes practice to get it right. I am absolutely adamant that a salad will never be as good with dressing on the side as a tossed salad, and I always toss my salad about twenty minutes ahead of the dinner.
Enjoy this peach salad with blue cheese and a peach vinaigrette at your next barbecue or along side a spicy chili.
- 2 peaches (or nectarines)
- chili paste
- 1 head Romaine lettuce
- ¼ cup toasted, sliced almonds
- 1 – 2 ounces of crumbled blue cheese (I used ile de France Roquefort)
- grilled peaches found here
- ½ ripe peach, skinned, sliced
- ¼ champagne vinegar (can use white vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon peach jam or jelly
- 1 teaspoon Dijon
- ½ cup olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground back pepper
- Grill nectarines or peaches. If you don’t have a grill, place under broiler on high for five minutes.
- Mix together vinegar, mustard and jelly. If you don’t have peach jelly, you can use honey, honey powder.
- Slowly add the olive oil, while whisking, or put all in jar and shake.
- Wash and dry romaine lettuce. Tear into pieces about 2 inches or bite size.
- Mix lettuce with crumbled blue cheese and most of toasted almonds, saving both a little bit of blue cheese and almonds for garnish on top.
- Add dressing, just enough to wet the lettuce, using hands.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange grilled fruit on top with a little crumbled blue cheese and toasted almonds.