After all, it's summer

A casual, carefree approach is the essence of the season

June 23, 2011 17:50
3 minute read.
peach salad

peach salad. (photo credit: MCT)

Ah, July, the season of garden parties, summer fetes and cozy picnics.

Whether it’s a lavish spread or a simple meal, a party is just the ticket to rouse us from summer’s lazy heat. If only we had the energy to, you know, cook something.

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The trick, say some caterers, is to make do-ahead salads that showcase the season so spectacularly your main course can take a back seat. Fortunately, by committing to fresh, local produce you will be serving food so fabulous it needs no heavy dressings and sauces.

Serves 4

Homemade vinaigrette:
✔ 1 small shallot, sliced
✔ 1 garlic clove, sliced
✔ 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. Dijon mustard
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. honey
✔ Salt and pepper to taste
✔ 1⁄2 cup 50-50 olive oil/canola oil blend

✔ 8 cups greens
✔ 3 peaches, sliced
✔ 1⁄2 bunch whole basil sprigs
✔ 1⁄4 cup toasted pine nuts
✔ 1⁄2 cup white hard goat cheese, crumbled

Place all the vinaigrette ingredients except the oil in a blender and puree. Drizzle in the oil to blend.

Place the salad ingredients into a large salad bowl and drizzle lightly with the vinaigrette.

Serves 6
✔ 3 ripe peaches
✔ 1⁄2 cup basil puree (see below)
✔ 1 cup shaved Parmesan
✔ 2 handfuls wild arugula, washed
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Salt to taste

Basil puree:
✔ 1 bunch basil
✔ 2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
✔ 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
✔ 1⁄4 cup olive oil

To make the basil puree, first bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Remove stems from the basil, then plunge the leaves into the boiling salted water for 8 seconds, remove immediately and shock in ice water. (This helps set the color.) Squeeze excess water from basil and chop into smaller pieces.

Place the basil in a blender with the nuts and cheese. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in enough olive oil to get a smooth puree.

To assemble the salad, first quarter the peaches. Pool a spoonful or two of the puree on a plate. Arrange 3 wedges of peach upright on the puree. Rest a few cheese shavings over the peaches.

Gently toss the arugula with olive oil and a pinch of salt, and arrange it decoratively over the Parmesan.

Serves 6

NOTE: You can make your own croutons by tossing cubed bread with a generous amount of melted garlic butter. Bake them at 180ºC for about 10 minutes.

Caesar Vinaigrette:
✔ 1 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest
✔ 5 Tbsp. lemon juice
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
✔ 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil

✔ 4 heads romaine lettuce hearts
✔ 2⁄3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
✔ 1 cup homemade or store-bought croutons, or more if desired

Combine the lemon zest, juice, salt and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil.

Wash lettuce and either spin dry or wrap in lint free towels. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place in large salad bowl. Toss with vinaigrette, croutons and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate salad and top with a little more shaved cheese.

Contra Costa Times (MCT)

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