Grilled Peach Salad with Applewood Bacon, Blue Cheese, Craisins and Toasted Macadamia
If you were a super-sleuth and happened to be looking through my index of recipes you might just be thinking that I’m a …………conundrum or an enigma or perhaps an incongruity, maybe even an anomaly…….. What do all these funny words have to do with me and my recipe index?? Well, if you look closely you will discover that, while I LOVE a good dessert (nineteen since starting this blog in March) and have posted some quite extravagant sweet delights, I am, at the same time, just as crazy about a good salad (the salads win the race at twenty-one since March!). My husband will testify that if you put a wonderful fresh salad in front of me, I’m happy as a clam!!
And this clam was very happy last night when we enjoyed this delicious Arugula Salad with Grilled Peaches, Applewood Bacon, Blue Cheese and Toasted Macadamia for dinner. The inspiration came from an older issue of Fine Cooking (Aug/Sept 2010) that I was flipping through recently. I saw the grilled peach salad and stopped right there………. hmmm…… the peaches I have been buying for the last week from South Carolina have been incredible; what a fun way to use them! The rest is history, as some of their ideas and some of my own intertwined into this new recipe.
The already fantastic fresh peaches become slightly caramelized as they do their little stint on the grill. They pair wonderfully with the smokey bacon*, sweet craisins and the sharp, but soft and velvety blue cheese**. The dressing that Fine Cooking suggested is perfect and so simple; just a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil*** a pinch of sea salt and a fabulous reduced balsamic/herb vinegar***. This salad is just beyond delicious and you have to try it this peach season!
A few tips:
*I am always looking for really good smokey bacon that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I felt like I struck gold not long ago when I found a new product at Trader Jo’s; their delicious Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon Ends and Pieces. It comes in a one pound package for $2.99! It is incredible bacon with no nitrates and the smaller pieces are perfect for salads, omelets, quiches, etc. –
** Another wonderful buy from Trader Jo’s – their Cave-Aged Blue Cheese is to die for! I love a good quality blue cheese, but often it comes at a big price. TJ’s version ranks right up there with the big dollar guys but is extremely reasonable.
***I used to wonder what “your best extra virgin olive oil” or “a good balsamic vinegar” meant, but no more! A wonderful, fun and very unique store opened recently in my area (Raleigh, North Carolina) called the Midtown Olive Press. I almost blew a socket the first time I visited the store! They have a vast assortment of incredible, unique olive oils and fabulous aged balsamic vinegars. This is the really cool part; all of their olive oil/vinegar products are displayed in huge stainless urns with spigots. Tiny paper sampling cups are everywhere along with cubed bread under glass domes. You can sample as much as you want until you find a favorite. Now, my problem is trying to decide on a favorite. I have a feeling I will be frequenting this amazing store quite often! Oh, and one other thing – These are not your everyday olive oils and vinegars. They are a bit of a splurge, price-wise – but, with the intense flavor they impart, you’ll only need a drizzle and your salads, pasta, fresh bread, etc. will be exploding with deliciousness! If you live in my area you will want to make a trip to Midtown Olive Press. If you don’t, there is still good news – they have a mail order e-catalog! While you won’t have the fun of browsing and sampling, I honestly don’t think you could go wrong with any of their products.
One last thing. – if you live near a Kroger store, they have their two and a half ounce (1/2 cup) packages of macadamia nuts for 60¢ until July!!! That’s just a crazy good price and I’m stocking up (they freeze well). You might want to get some at this great price, not only for this recipe, but for the Incredibly Delicious Banana Bread/Cake that I will be blogging about next week.
½ cup balsamic vinegar, good quality***
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary or thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 firm-ripe peaches , cut in half and pitted, each half cut in quarters
1 teaspoon sugar
4-½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, your best***, divided
8 cups lightly packed baby arugula (about 2-1/4 oz.)
½ cup craisins
2 teaspoons red or white wine, or apple juice
½ cup blue cheese**, crumbled, if you don’t care for blue cheese, either goat cheese or fresh mozzarella would also be fabulous
1 pound applewood bacon*, cut in bite size pieces and cooked until crisp
½ cup macadamia nuts, toasted in a skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt until golden, stirring frequently.
1. Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire.
2. Combine craisins and wine (or apple juice) in a small glass jar. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
3. Combine the vinegar and rosemary or thyme sprigs in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the herb sprigs, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
4. Rub the peaches all over with 2 teaspoons of the oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill cut side down until both sides are lightly charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Slice each half into thirds.
5. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the remaining 2-1/2 teaspoons oil (or more, to taste) and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange on a platter. Top with the peaches, craisins, bacon, and blue cheese. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic, to taste, and a bit more olive oil, if desired. ENJOY!
Reduced balsamic vinegar adds a tangy kick to peaches that are grilled to bring out their inherent sweetness. Be sure to choose nice, firm fruit; if the peaches are soft, they’ll collapse on the grill.
Adapted from Fine Cooking