Sometimes I make decisions by what I think would make a better story. It gives me just enough of a push to do something that seems like slightly more work at the time, but that I’ll ultimately be glad I did. Like the time I went to a Renaissance Faire (note the proper spelling of fair…). Doesn’t that sound better than if I told you one time I drove past a Renaissance Faire on my way to run my first (and only…) half marathon and wondered what it was like and what kind of people actually go to those things? (In case you never make it to one, there's real-life jousting and people in costumes making mead, among other time-period appropriate things).
I’d say only about 4.5 times out of 10 do I actually DO the thing that I think would be entertaining to tell of later on. I’m not a huge risk taker so often I just go home and go to bed, drive past the proverbial “faire” as it were. This blog has added a new layer to this advanced decision making framework. I find myself asking what would make a better blog-post: this one time I stopped at a local farm stand and brought home fresh produce from which I derived this delicious salad, or tonight I had another batch of pesto noodles. Lucky for you, my wiser story-telling self won out this time.
After a long, foggy ferry ride off the island (a mere 24 hours, 4th place sailing finish, and gut-busting fried calamari dinner after I embarked on said island), I drove back to the Seattle "the back way," passing through some of the best farming country in the state. There's a sometimes-open farm stand along Best Road that boasts the same familiar feel as the one up the street from my Lopez house.
It's an un-staffed, on-your-honor pay system where you drop your cash into a little lock box. Finding a sole ten-dollar bill in my wallet, I proceeded to amass more produce than one should be able to legally acquire for only $10. From this haul I cobbled together the idea for this yummy summer salad.
Smoked Nectarine Salad
(with toasted hazelnuts, quick-pickled red onions, and goat cheese)
This would be a good salad to make when you are barbecuing, since what makes it extra tasty is grilling the nectarines. That said, you could also use fresh nectarines and it would still taste good.
Frisse or other bitter green (arugula would work here, too)
Crumbled goat cheese
2 medium ripe nectarines
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/2 red onion, finely sliced and quick-pickled (see below)
1. Start some coals for the barbecue. Once my coals were hot, I added a handful of soaked alder chips on top of them to give the nectarines (and the salmon I was cooking) that delicious smoky flavor.
2. Get the onion started early. Quick-pickling is a great way to add brightness and acid to a dish, and if you do it first thing it's usually ready by the time you are done with your dish. The vinegar kills the sharpness of the onion but leaves a flavorful, acidic bite.
Quick pickled onion:
Thinly slice half a red onion into half moons
Add to jar and cover with rice or white wine vinegar
Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon sugar
Let sit for 30 minutes (the leftovers will last in the fridge for weeks)
3. Toast hazelnuts on medium-low heat (or do it beforehand in the oven and keep in a sealed jar for a week or two). Roughly chop and set aside.
4. Halve the nectarines and brush with olive oil. Place them face down on a hot barbecue. Cover and cook until they are soft to the touch (5-10 minutes).
5. Wash greens and toss in sherry vinaigrette.
(estimating quantities here ‘cause I didn’t really keep track while I was making it. Adjust as you go. If it’s too strong, more olive oil should do the trick.)
2 Tbsp sherry wine
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Finely minced medium shallot (mine was the size of 1-2 large garlic cloves)
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/8 tsp salt
Several grinds black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
(A bit of fresh thyme wouldn't be terrible here either...)
Combine together in a jar (I let the chopped shallots sit in the vinegar ever so briefly before adding the other ingredients, just to take a bit of the sharpness out). Shake to combine (or whiz up with a blender - standard or immersion - for a thicker, more combined version.)
6. Top dressed greens with chopped hazelnuts, crumbled goat cheese, and pieces of pickled onion.
7. Slice up nectarines and place on top.
I served this salad outside on the deck, with fresh corn charred on the grill and sprinkled with chili and lime and alder chip barbecued salmon. You can eat yours anyway you like!