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Friday, March 28, 2014

Grilled Peach Salad 
With Fresh 'n' Sweet-Buttermilk Dressing

Grilled fruits are such a delicious surprise to serve, and eat. This one has a base of fresh spinach leaves. Then I carefully built up the flavors that would be enhancing or even contrasting with the addition of slightly warm sweet summer peaches by adding sharp tangy flavored green peppers, chunky-sliced endive for color and crunch, Mediterranean herbed and spiced Feta cheese crumbles, sliced raw almonds for crunch, and dried blueberries for a little extra sweetness. Everything was and always needs to be at the peak of freshness for my salads.


You could add in or exchange any types of veges and fruits to grill. Certainly some of the veges could be grilled, too. Mango or pineapple would be wonderful in place of the peaches. You could exchange the green peppers with the small muti-colored ones sliced into rings. Swap the raw sliced almonds with any other lightly toasted nuts. You could exchange the salad dressing for a light vinaigrette, possibly with a pureed fruit.


However you wish to adjust this salad, if you do, make sure that you have flavors and colors that contrast and compliment. Sweet fruits stand up to sharper veges. Salad dressings should bring out the flavors of anything your salad contains. This sweet-buttermilk dressing adds just enough herbs and spices along with cool creaminess from sour cream and buttermilk, that just brings the flavors of all these wonderful taste sensations to pop in your mouth. No there won't be any explosions, just heightened glorious flavors. 
Of course you could add grilled chicken, shrimp, or grilled/cooked white fish, or my personal favorite-grilled Mahi Mahi. Fabulous!

This glorious salad was partially prepared at home, and then taken to my brother Dave's home for...you guessed it, another birthday family party! If you haven't read about our familie's birthday parties, I invite you to peruse Chelsea's Favorite Dreaded-Green Bean Casserole. This story has a clue as to the birthdays for this family.  Sorry, I digressed there for a moment...As I was saying, I pre-prepared some of the salad ahead of taking it to Dave's.
I made and chilled the dressing, and took the platter with baggies of all of the prepared foods except that the peaches were cut and grilled at Dave's house. The peaches are perfect right off of the grill. They are doubly sweet as the grilling brings their sugar to the surface and then they lightly caramelize. You just want some light grill marks on them and really only about  one minute per side, or you will  over cook them. They will be very slippery and juicy from the grilling. 
I am proud to say that there wasn't so much as spinach stem left!
The peaches would be incredible with homemade ice cream! (or a really, really good store bought ice cream) you could even drizzle some peach schnapps over them and the ice cream, or Toriani's peach flavored syrup. Now I'm hungry. 


*Honey Hint - THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE, 
AND NEVER, EVER GIVE A CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF TWO ANY HONEY, 
BUT, when you buy local honey to your region, you not only help the local bee keepers, but you are giving your body keys to develop resistance to local allergens. In order to start this development, start by taking 1/2 teaspoon of local honey daily just by itself, and gradually increase the amount to 2 teaspoons. (Eating honey trucked in from anywhere else does not give you that). Now with that said - buy any honey you like, just use a mild flavored one.

So on to the recipe!

Grilled Peach Salad With Fresh 'n' Sweet Buttermilk Dressing         Serves about 8-10 side dish servings

Salad Ingredients:
6 large cling free or free stone peaches, ripe but firm and fragrant
2 large green peppers
3 heads endive
8-10 ounces Mediterranean Feta cheese crumbles (Trader Joe's)
6-8 ounces sliced almonds
10-12 ounces dried blueberries

Directions:
Fresh Veges Prep:
1. Carefully, to not to bruise the peaches, wash them under clear water rubbing your hand over the skin to remove any "fuzzies". Dry gently with a clean kitchen towel, or paper toweling and set aside.
2. Rinse all the spinach, dry them in a salad spinner or roll them up in a clean, dry kitchen towel. Once sufficiently dried, transfer to baggies and chill.
3. Rinse the endive, spin or roll dry. Slice across the heads in slightly differentiating chunky-slices. This gives them a more homey-type look, compared to perfectly manufactured and sliced, like a restaurant. Transfer to baggies and chill.
4. Make sure the Feta crumbles are well chilled.
5. Almonds can be lightly toasted ahead, and transferred to baggies. I stick them in the fridge along with the rest of things, to be sure they are taken!

Salad Dressing:  this is best made ahead and well chilled
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed and very, very finely minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, you will adjust the amount at the end by tasting
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, I always use Best Foods/Hellman's
1 1/4 cups REAL sour cream or Greek style plain yoghurt
2/3 cup organic clover honey, I love getting it at the Certified Organic Open-Farmer's Markets
or 
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Italian flat leaf parsley leaves, medium-small rough chop
4 teaspoons freshly snipped chives
1 Tablespoon dried dill weed
or
1/4 cup fresh dill weed, finely chopped
1 large shallot, very finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2-3/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, not bottled
or 
1-2 teaspoons white vinegar, I like using an Oriental rice vinegar - it's light flavored
1/2-3/4 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika, or any type

Options:
finely chopped jalapeños   
cayenne pepper
hot sauce of your choice

Directions:
6. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk till completely mixed together. Transfer to a pitcher, or large canning jars. Chill for at least two hours, overnight however is best to let the flavors meld together.

Peaches:
7. **Transport peaches to grilling site. I leave the skin on as it helps the peach slice hold together while briefly grilling. If taking naked peaches, slice them into quarters or sixths and place in a plastic container. Chill.

**If you want to remove the skin, you will need to blanch and shock them prior to transporting. 
You will need:
a large bowl with half ice and half water combined.
a large saucepan or stock pot. Bring at least 4 cups water to a roiling boil. 
Using a small paring knife and cutting just through the skin, cut an "X" on the stem top, and again on the bottom.
Using a slotted spoon, gently add 3 of the peaches to the boiling water for one minute only. Remove each peach and immediately place in the iced water. Repeat with remaining peaches. 
Once all are shocked, pick one up and using the small paring knife, insert the tip under any part of the "X", grab the skin tip between the knife and your thumb, and gently pull away from the peach to remove the skin and discard it.
Place naked peaches into a plastic container to minimize friction during the transport. Chill really well!

8. Once at the grilling site, over hot coals or medium-hot flame, scrape any food bits from the grate, then oil the grate well with vegetable oil. Place each peach piece on the grill, face down, grill about one minute, then remove to a clean plate or bowl.
9. When ready to serve, assemble the salad ingredients without the peaches. Pour just enough dressing to coat the salad and toss well. Add the peaches either in the grilled slices or wedges, cut into chunks and add to the salad. Sprinkle a bit of the dressing over the peaches. You can leave the peaches all on top, or slide some between salad layers.


Enjoy!