This summer, if I were the sort of person who named their summers, might be called “The Summer of Stone Fruit.” That’s because, for a good part of it, I’d bring home lots of stone fruit (mostly peaches, but also nectarines and plums) from the West Hollywood Farmer’s Market. I’d put these stone fruits into a bowl on our kitchen counter and, inevitably, the stone fruit would get eaten. It was only last week that I decided that I could do more with stone fruit besides just eat it. Which is when I had the idea to use stone fruit in a salad.
Actually, the idea came to me from a dinner I had with my family at Suzanne Goin’s Tavern. For my first course, I had a salad that came with arugula, frisse (yes, I ate it), figs, hazelnuts, big slices of peach and a slab of good, gooey goat cheese. It was definitely a memorable salad moment.
My first attempt at a stone fruit salad at home was really a riff on the famous Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken salad everyone raves about.
Here’s what I did. I roasted a chicken in a skillet, just drizzling it with a little olive oil, seasoning it with salt and pepper, and shoving a whole head of garlic in the cavity. 4 pound chicken, 425, one hour. Done.
While the chicken was resting, I toasted some croutons (cut from a loaf of good sourdough bread). I also soaked golden raisins in a little white wine (the one I was drinking).
I put the croutons in a bowl and then added sherry vinegar to the skillet with all the chicken bits attached to it, along with a splash of water. I turned up the heat, dislodged all the bits, made a really powerful, potent, chicken-y, vinegar concoction (letting it reduce a bit) which I then poured over those croutons which drank them up. Meanwhile, I’d tossed arugula and sliced peaches with some olive oil, salt, pepper and a splash more of that Sherry vinegar and the soaked raisins. To plate, I piled on the arugula and peaches and raisins, added the croutons and then pieces of chicken on top. It was a pretty terrific dinner, if I do say so myself.
Then, when Craig’s sister arrived, I made her–at her request–my famous Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. But first a salad that was really simple to make using that week’s stone fruit.
Into a small skillet, I poured about 1/4 cup of slivered almonds which I then toasted. Meanwhile, I sliced up a big peach, a plum and a nectarine. I added them to a bowl with washed and spun-dry arugula (even if it says “triple washed” I still wash it myself) and when the nuts were toasted and then cooled, I poured them into the salad bowl, adding a glug of good olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper, tossing it all by hand. At the end, I crumbled in chunks of Feta cheese.
If this were a boxing match, that salad would’ve been a T.K.O. I loved everything about it, especially because–as I leave in 3 days for New York–I won’t be able to make something quite like it again until next summer. Which, I suppose, is what stone fruit salads are all about: celebrating the season while you still have time.