Monday, July 2, 2007
Summer Salad is Just Peachy!
I don’t know what those hard fuzzy knots that popped up in grocery stores and supermarkets a couple of months ago were supposed to be. They called themselves peaches, and some of them even had the nerve to call themselves Georgia peaches, but those hairy mean little wannabes were anything but what the Great State of Georgia has long-called its pride and joy.
MMMMM peaches. Nothing says summer in the south like luscious, ripe, juicy peaches. Close your eyes and imagine the complete sensory experience of biting into the first peach of the summer… feel the fuzz on the tip of your tongue as your teeth penetrate the firm un-bruised skin and sink into the tangy-sweet oh-so-juicy meat of the fruit… hear your self slurping and crunching, smacking and gulping as each bite brings a torrent of peachy goodness flooding into your mouth and sweet ant-drawing juices dribble down your chin and arm… regress to your inner five-year-old as you actually lick the juices that are heading toward your elbow…
Ok now that I have you “jonesing” for some Georgia peaches let me show you something sophisticated and sexy that you can do with them once you get past the initial peach glutton fest that’s bound to happen.
Chef Sheri Davis at Dish restaurant is grilling up some Georgia peaches for a summer salad that is out of this world. I love when several varieties of locally grown produce can come together on one plate, and this is one such dish featuring Georgia-grown pecans and wild baby arugula.
So how does it taste? Fantastic. Peaches love the grill. They take on that smoky flavor famously. When paired with the peppery bite of wild arugula – which blows that bagged stuff out of the water – you get a crisp salad base with a punch. You may never go back to plain old lettuce again. The toasted spiced pecans used in this dish are sweetened by their time in the oven which enhances their nuttiness and is nicely complimented by the heat of the cayenne-based spice mixture Sheri uses on her nuts. The coup de grace is creamy rich mouth-friendly sprinkle of gorgonzola cheese that goes on top, which cuts perfectly through the sweetness of the raspberry and balsamic vinegars used for dressing the salad.
Tangy. Sweet. Crunchy. Crispy. Juicy. Smoky. Spicy. Fruity. Really, what’s NOT to love here?
It takes just minutes to pull this salad together so give it a whirl the next time you get those coals hot and have some time to kill between the hotdogs and the ribs. It definitely solves the question of what vegetables to eat during a cookout, and if you want to pack the ingredients in a cooler, you can grill the peaches at a beach or park picnic and throw the salad together in just seconds.
Chef Sheri sliced one of those fantastically gorgeous peaches and drizzled it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil which keeps the peaches from sticking and lends a layer of fruitiness all its own. Not too much oil because you don’t want it dripping down into the coals causing flame-ups which can discolor and ruin the flavor of the peaches. You want to cut the peaches into thick wedges that will be able to hang out on the grill for a few minutes with out becoming over cooked or slipping through the grill grates.
Next she seasoned them with salt and pepper, and popped them on a hot grill for about 2-3 minutes before flipping them over gently with tongs and grilling for another 2-3 minutes. It’s important that your grill or grill pan be hot enough to carmelize the juices in the peaches lending yet another layer of flavor. If the grill isn’t hot enough, not only will your peaches stick to the grill and fall apart when you try to take them off of the grill (thus ruining your chances of getting really cool looking grill marks), but the peaches will take longer to cook and lose their firmness leaving you with what is essentially just warm fruit. Not what we’re going for here. Here you want to capture the smoky flavor of the grill and still maintain the flavor and toothiness of the peaches.
Next Sheri seasoned some baby wild arugula with salt and black pepper, and tossed with spiced pecan pieces and a raspberry vinaigrette. She arranged the salad on a plate painted with a balsamic vinegar reduction, and garnished the dish with gorgonzola cheese. Finally she surrounded the salad with the grilled peach slices and viola! Perfection.