Ham, goat cheese, and balsamic kick up the flavor
Fresh peaches are one of the glories of summer. But sometimes the peaches we find at the market are less than fully ripe. What to do?
Roast them, we say (grilling works too). It brings out their sweetness and concentrates their flavor.
You don’t need to save them for dessert, either. Their sweet intensity plays well with savory ingredients (we like to use salty ham or prosciutto, plus goat cheese). Mix in some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and you have a scrumptious salad.
A versatile one, too. This salad is fancy enough to start a summer dinner party. But it’s easy enough to serve as a quick weekday main.
Recipe: Roast Peach Salad
This salad is similar to our Roast Strawberry Salad. But we’ve made this dish heartier by adding ham to the mix. Indeed, a large serving of this would be satisfying enough to serve as a main course. But if you want a lighter salad, you can skip the ham and even the goat cheese – you’ll still have a tasty appetite teaser.
There are two steps in making this dish. First, you’ll need to roast the peaches. Then you’ll assemble the salad. Roasting (or grilling, if you prefer) takes about 20 to 25 minutes. Assembling the salad takes another 5 to 10 minutes. (Do note that you’ll want to wash the lettuce at least an hour ahead so it can crisp in the refrigerator.)
This recipe makes 4 starter-size servings, or two main-course servings.
For the roast peaches:
- 4 fresh peaches (or to taste)
- ~ 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (just enough to coat the peaches)
- salt to taste (see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (see Notes)
- cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
- 1 head of lettuce (romaine works well, but use any lettuce of your choice)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (just enough to coat the lettuce when tossing)
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons good-quality balsamic vinegar (to taste; see Notes)
- the roasted peaches, sliced
- 1 to 2 slices of deli ham or prosciutto per serving (or to taste)
- ~4 ounces goat cheese (to taste)
For roasting the peaches:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Wash and dry the peaches, then cut them in half. Remove the pits.
- Use a shallow baking pan that’s just large enough to hold the peach halves in one layer. Line the pan with aluminum foil (this will help with clean up). Add a bit of olive oil to the pan (just enough to film the surface). Add the peach halves, skin side down. Swirl them through the olive oil – just enough to lightly coat the side facing the pan. Now drizzle more olive oil over the top of the peaches, using your fingers to spread the oil over them until each half is lightly coated. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a light dusting of cayenne pepper, if you wish.
- Place the peaches in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, flip the peaches and set the timer for another 10 minutes. After 20 minutes total, test the peaches for doneness – a knife will slide in with minimal resistance. If the peaches are not done to your taste, roast them another 5 minutes.
- Remove the roasted peaches from the oven and let them cool for at least 5 minutes before using. (You can roast the peaches an hour or two ahead of time and let them sit at room temperature until ready to use.) Right before assembling the salad, cut the peach halves into slices.
- Wash and dry the lettuce. Wrap the lettuce in a dish towel to absorb any excess moisture, then place it in the refrigerator to crisp for at least an hour.
- When ready to make the salad, remove the lettuce from the refrigerator and tear it into bite-size pieces. Add the lettuce pieces to a large mixing bowl.
- Add the olive oil (start with a bit less than you think you’ll need). Toss the lettuce until the oil totally covers each leaf (you may need, or want, to add some additional oil).
- Add a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of black pepper (to taste), then toss the lettuce to incorporate them. Sample a leaf to make sure the amounts of oil, salt, and pepper are to your taste. Correct if necessary.
- Add the balsamic vinegar (again, start with less than you think you’ll need) and toss the lettuce. Taste, and add more vinegar if necessary.
- Distribute the lettuce among your serving plates. Distribute the peach slices on top of the lettuce. Add a slice or two of ham or prosciutto to the top of each salad. Cut the goat cheese into small chunks, then distribute it over the salads.
- For extra garnish, you can drizzle a bit more balsamic vinegar over the salads if you wish (this is very optional).
- Serve and enjoy.
- Prefer to grill the peaches? Here’s how: Prepare the peaches as you would for roasting. But instead of using the oven, grill them (using a grill pan) or cook them outdoors on the barbecue grill. Grilling takes less time than roasting – usually 10 to 15 minutes total. Turn the fruit often so it doesn’t char too much.
- You could also run the peaches under the broiler.
- How much olive oil and balsamic vinegar should you use when tossing the lettuce? It’s hard to specify exactly – every head of lettuce has a different volume. And everyone likes a different oil-to-vinegar ratio. So taste as you make.
- Same deal with the salt and pepper. Season to your own taste.
- You’ll definitely taste the olive oil in this dish, so use good quality.
- Ditto the balsamic vinegar. You don’t need to buy the super-expensive aged stuff, but do use something of good quality.
- Traditionally, the best balsamic comes from Italy, specifically Modena and Reggio Emilia. But we’ve also had some good California balsamic vinegar, which is more affordable.
- Roast peaches make a great garnish for dessert dishes (ice cream, in particular). If you’re using them for this purpose, you’ll probably want to roast them without the olive oil and seasoning.
- Both ham and prosciutto work nicely in this dish. Their saltiness combines well with the sweetness of peaches and balsamic.
- Salami (or a similar sausage) would probably work too.
- Goat cheese is perfect in this dish. But a salty provolone might work well, too. Or you could try a bleu cheese.
Pompitous of Flavor
“Peachy keen flavor combo!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.
“Do I dare to eat a peach . . . for the first course?” I said. “Yes, I do.”
“Really love your peaches,” said Mrs K R. “Want to shake your balsamic.”
Mrs K R – my own space cowgirl.
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