Saturday, May 18, 2013

Arugula Nectarine Salad

I've been feeling summery. Walking up and down Sacramento St. in sandals and skirt during today's sidewalk sale, enjoying live jazz music, a roving magician, and friendly purveyors of goods - all I could think about was a salad, but a special salad. I'd procured a beautiful, local finishing olive oil from March Pantry during today's festivities, and then picked up a bottle of chilled Grgich Fumé Blanc from Wine Impressions. I let these purchases inform my choices at the market. Some baby arugula - I knew just the dressing to make! - and a nectarine; even if they're not quite perfect, yet, my mood insisted. And I built from there.

Now I know plenty of anti-arugula naysayers, who claim the leaf is too bitter for a salad. To them I say two things: 1. BABY arugula, and 2. Dress it right. I used what I remembered from a Cook's Illustrated recipe for an arugula salad with oranges and radishes. It's a simple dressing with a lime juice base. The light tartness compliments the arugula to mask any bitterness. Pair that with the sweetness of nectarine and chevre, toasty pine nuts, and grassy olive oil - well, that's summer right there.

Arugula Nectarine Salad

Serves 2 as an entrée, 4 as a side salad. Multiplies well for a larger group.

4 cups baby arugula
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbs pine nuts
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 small dollop dijon mustard
3T high quality extra virgin olive oil, separated
1 nectarine, sliced thin
2oz. chevre or other mild goat cheese
Cilantro (optional)

Toast coriander in a small, dry pan over medium high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add to lime juice. Wipe out pan and return to heat. Toast pine nuts in pan for a couple minutes until golden brown, stirring often. Set aside. Into the lime juice and coriander, whisk dijon, salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Slowly add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, whisking constantly.* Toss arugula with the dressing and divide evenly between individual plates. Top each mound of greens with a portion of nectarine slices, toasted pine nuts, and dots of chevre. Sprinkle with coarsely ground sea salt and pepper. Finish with a drizzle of the remaining olive oil and a few ripped up cilantro leaves.

*For me, the beauty of this combination is the tartness of the lime juice. If someone is overly sensitive to sour flavors (like the husband man), try whisking in a bit of honey to taste before adding the olive oil.