july 15, 2016
Sometimes the muse taps me on the shoulder several times at the markets. She whispers in my ear “pssst..this would make a great combination – put these together and magic will happen”.
Most of the time she is right, as when glossy summer eggplants beg to be crowned with that creamy Bulgarian feta seen at the Mediterranean deli, or when lemony floral local cucumbers cry out for a creamy herbed dressing as I admire the progress of potted marjoram and fluffy green columnar basil in my deck pots. My advice? Listen to the muse, because most of the time she is absolutely right.
The muse noticed me admiring downy apricots, creamy burrata, and the exuberant basil on my deck. When I passed by the baby arugula grown by The Carrot Top Farm at the Ashland Farmer’s Market, she nearly shouted “Eureka!” Okay, pipe down, muse. I’m with you on all counts. All those lovely summer items on a plate. Seasonal for certain, with a good balance of all flavors and textures.
Somehow the apricot train usually passes me by in summer. By the time I think to purchase, they are gone, gone, gone. And I must do with dried fruits. Not bad, mind you, but nothing like the fresh tart-sweet ovoids that make me dream of French tarts or the perfect pairing with Greek yogurt and local honey. This is one of the few times I have played with fresh apricots, at least for a savory dish and not dessert. These are grilled until they are caramelized on the cut surface and still firm enough to hold their shape; watch carefully as you grill, since they can get smushy quickly.
I see this salad as flexible. Don’t like the creaminess of burrata (a firm shell of fresh mozzarella enclosing mozzarella curds suspended in cream)? Use goat cheese. Apricot a little too tart for you? Peaches will do nicely. Any greens will do if you have an aversion to arugula, but I firmly believe the pepperiness of the leaves will be the perfect foil for sweet and creamy.
Grilled Apricot Burrata Salad
makes four servings
1 cup loose packed basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
finely ground white pepper
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 ripe apricots, cut halves with pit removed
four ounces baby arugula
one pound burrata (four large ovals) mozzarella, room temperature
- Make the dressing : bring a couple cups water to boil with a large pinch of kosher salt and add basil leaves, allowing to wilt for about 30 seconds, then drain and plunge into bowl of water and ice.
- Immediately remove basil from ice bath, pat dry and process in small mini chop (or small bowl of food processor, or in beaker attachment of hand held immersion blender) with ¼ cup olive oil, the red wine vinegar and pinches of kosher salt and white pepper.
- Mixture will be smooth but some leaf texture is okay; may be made ahead one week; let come to room temperature before serving.
- Heat grill to high, brush cut sides of apricots halves with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and grill cut side down about 1-3 minutes, testing for a soft, lightly caramelized inner cut surface surface with firm outer surface.
- Arrange arugula, burrata and grilled apricots on large plates or platters and drizzle with basil vinaigrette.
- Serve immediately.