A dish to celebrate the late harvest.
Despite the abundance of fresh produce in the summer, it can be tricky to eat healthy. If the weekend is here and the sun is out, you can guarantee the grill is getting fired up for lunch. When you think of grilling, most of us think of hotdogs, hamburgers, steak tips, and chicken kabobs. Not to put down any of those options (if enjoyed mindfully and on occasion), but when it's hot, I want something light, crisp and refreshing; which often makes me feel like I'm missing out on that grilled flavor.
You haven't lived if you haven't had a fresh, local peach at the peak of summer. We were lucky this year and several of our weekly shares from our CSA were full of peaches. On their own, chopped up with Greek yogurt & granola, grilled and served with ice cream.... all fantastic. Grilled and thrown on a salad? Oh, it's a-ma-zing.
I'd been wanting to play around with a grilled peach salad, so when we lit up the grill last week, I went for it. While my husband got his hotdogs out, I started quartering up a sweet and juicy peach.
I looked around the kitchen to see what else I could do with the salad. I wanted something creamy to balance out the acidity of the peaches, but wanted to skip the cheese that day. A perfectly ripe avocado was ready, and I heard that they are great to grill too, so avocado it was. I cut a few segments, coated both with a little bit of grape seed oil and threw on the hot grill.
You don't need a lot of ingredients to make a salad, a great salad, but you do want to make sure you have some different textures. I found a purple bell pepper from the grocery store the day before, so I sliced a few strips up to add an extra fresh crunch to the dish.
I also had a bowl of these cute, tiny little tomatoes called Matt's Wild Cherry accumulating. It's always the best producers in our garden year after year, and they are so sweet and delicious. I wasn't sure if peaches and tomatoes particularly went together, but they were both going into this salad.
One more thing - pecans. Pecans and peaches are practically best friends, so I couldn't imagine doing a grilled peach salad without them. Many people use candied pecans in salads. You know, I do enjoy those on occasion, depending on what else is in the salad, but in a salad like this, with sweet tomatoes and peaches, raw unsalted pecans work best.
For a dressing, I wanted to pair the peaches with a balsamic vinaigrette. Earlier in the year I picked up an artisan variety Blackberry Ginger balsamic vinegar I knew could make a good dressing. It's on the sweet and fruity side, so its not one of those vinegars you can put on any salad, but its one that works so well when you are already incorporating fruit, as in this one.
My trick with homemade dressing is to mix it in a small jar, as needed. Equal parts extra virgin olive oil to vinegar, plus a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Screw a lid on the jar, shake to emulsify, and you are done! Making your own vinaigrette doesn't take any more than 30 seconds longer than pulling a store bought variety out of the refrigerator. Its definitely worth trying.
When you are looking for a summer lunch that can be light, crisp and refreshing, while satisfying your need from something grilled, try a salad like this.
- 2 fresh peaches
- 1 Avocado
- handful of Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes (any cherry tomato would do)
- Half of a sweet bell pepper (look for purple, yellow or orange varieties)
- 1/2 cup of raw pecans, chopped
- 3-4 cups of green or red leaf lettuce
- 1 tsp Grapeseed oil to coat peaches and avocado
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbs Blackberry balsamic vinegar
- Pinch of Salt and Pepper
- Slices peaches to get about 6 segments from each.
- Cut up avocado into quarters.
- Lightly coat peaches and avocado in grapeseed oil to help create grill marks
- Place peaches and avocado slices onto a hot grill. Do not flip or turn until the first side has nice grill marks. You will know its reach to turn when the peaches and avocados are not sticking to the grate.
- Meanwhile, slice up the bell pepper, and get the rest of the salad together.
- Divide rinsed lettuce between two plates, and top each with sliced peppers, the cherry tomatoes and pecans.
- When the peaches and avocados have grill marks on both sides, place those on top of the salad.
- To make the dressing, put the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a small jar. Put a lid on and shake vigorously to emulsify. Divide between two salads to taste.
If you can't find or don't have a Blackberry balsamic vinegar, just use regular balsamic. You can add a drop of honey to the dressing to sweeten it up a bit.
Admittedly, I am still looking for a great beer dough for pizza. I had a fantastic pizza planned for the week to use homemade ricotta cheese, sauteed swiss chard, leftover roasted chicken, the ripe tomato from the farm, and some homemade swiss chard pesto. The topping pairings were great, but the pizza crust left a lot to be desired. My failure of a dough aside, pizza, with fresh vegetables is a great way to use produce you arent sure what to do with. Pizza be so much much more than just marinara and processed mozzerella cheese. When you top it with healthy ingredients, it can turn into one of those indulgences that isn't all that bad.
I suspected, right from the beginning, before I even gave the dough a chance to rise, it would be doomed. It just felt tough. Maybe it was the mixture of whole wheat flour (which worked out amazing for the pasta) that through the recipe off. I was still hopeful, because, even though it wasnt as springy and fluffy as I expected, it did roll out nice and had some potential of being a decent base. I had even used my husbands homemade beer and mixed in fresh rosemary. It smelled amazing.
I got the grill fired up to test out our pizza stone for a second time. The first time we used it, we burned our store bought dough, so I was careful to spread out the coals a bit better. Ready and rolled I threw our pizza dough on the heated stone to precook.
I always let the dough cook for a few minutes before adding toppings. It cooks much better as it prevents the dough from getting too soggy from all the liquid from the toppings leaching out.
Ready to pull the dough off to start adding toppings, I realized we were in trouble - some of the dough was sticking to the stone and wouldnt come off without tearing away from the bottom of the pizza. I was so upset, but kept going. Afterall, no one would see the bottom anyway.
First I spread on a layer of homemade ricotta cheese. Next, I layered on some sauted swiss chard and chopped roasted chicken. Finally, I placed on slices of our fresh tomato and placed back on the pizza stone in the grill to finish cooking. The second time around on the grill, I was still having trouble. The bottom was cooking much faster than the rest of the pizza. In fear it would be over cooked on the bottom and raw on top, I pulled the pizza and tranfered it into the oven inside to finish cooking.
I had one last finishing touch. I dolloped on some delicious swiss chard pesto. You can make pesto with anytype of green - dont think its just for basil. Really, its all about that intense garlic flavor with the salty pecorino romano.
The finish product? The crust, well, just never got the fluffy feeling I wanted it to have. No, it was more so like a cracker. If you like well-done crispy pizza, you would have like it, but it didnt make the cut for me. However, I couldnt help going back for a second "half" slice.... and then a third "half" slice. The toppings were perfect. The ricotta was creamy, the sauteed chard and tomato added the freshness I craved, and the pesto added a salty garlicy bite to the end.
- homemade or store bought pizza dough
- corn meal
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2-3 cups ricotta cheese (depending on how thick you wish to spread it)
- 1 tomato
- 2 cups swiss chard, sauteed
- 1 cup+ leftover roasted chicken
- swiss chard pesto
- Roll out pizza dough to desired thickness (considering it will rise when cooked). Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza to help prevent sticking to the pizza stone or pan.
- Drizzle top of pizza with olive oil and place on a pizza stone or pan in a 400 oven or charcoal grill. Partially cook for several minutes (to help prevent pizza from getting soggy after adding toppings). Time will vary significantly depending on type of dough (thin crust vs rising dough).
- Remove from oven/grill. Spread on ricotta cheese and evenly arrange sauteed chard, chicken and tomato slices.
- Place back in oven/grill and continue to cook until crust is done (again times will vary). I recommend periodically checking on the pizza. Use spatula to lift pizza and inspect bottom, to ensure its not burning. You can carefully poke the crust, around the edges to check for doneness. If you are unsure, tear off a piece of the crust to make sure dough was cooked through.
- Remove pizza from heat and let cool and rest for 5 minutes. Dollop on pesto, cut and serve.