Monday, May 26, 2008

Red Oak Leaf, Nectarine, and Goats Cheese Salad

I could devour a big plate of salad every single night. Salads filled with greens, vegetables, fruits, and nuts are the perfect vehicles for all foods seasonal and fresh. Every season offers fantastic choices for composing a great salad. Farmers markets overflow with all kinds of beautiful and interesting salad greens, from red leafed lettuces, butter cos, romaines, loose leaf, and arugula.

At my central coast farmers market, red and green oak leaf lettuce is in full swing. Oak leaf lettuces look exactly like their name, like large, long oak leaves. The red variety is actually almost purple in color, with the leaves becoming green the closer you get to the heart of the head. I believe salads should be simple so that the true flavors of each vegetable stand out. This also means using a simple olive oil based dressing as well. The salad below was truly inspired completely by what was available at the farmers market. The first nectarines showed up at our market about a week ago and I just had to use them. I always try to include something crunchy in my salads such as a lightly toasted nut or seed. I lightly toast nuts and seeds to preserve their precious oils and flavors. The Sherry Vinaigrette makes a great all purpose dressing.

Red Oak Leaf, Nectarine, and Goats Cheese Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette
Copyright by Correne Quigley, 2007
-1 head Red or Green Oak Leaf lettuce, roughly chopped or torn, washed, and spun dry
-2 nectarines pitted and sliced thin
-2-4 oz chevre style goats cheese, crumbled
-1/2 cup lightly toasted pistachios

Sherry Vinaigrette
-1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
-1 tablespoon raw honey
-5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
-9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-Salt and pepper

In a large bowl or on a decorative platter, place the chopped and cleaned greens in a mound. Decoratively arrange the nectarine slices, and crumbled goat's cheese on or around the greens. Top with a scattering of the lightly toasted pistachios. Alternatively, toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Be careful not to smash all the goat cheese crumbles. Make the dressing.

Combined the mustard, honey, and vinegar in a glass jar fitted with a lid. Shake well to combined. Pour in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Replace the lid and shake again to combined. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the dressing over the salad, and serve the rest on the side.

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