Grilled Peach Salad

This is a recipe that came to me in a dream.  I just thought the flavors would be delicious together.  For any of you who have made the famous Gina Salad with the warm grapes and warm figs you know that having warm fruit on a cold salad is extraordinary.  It makes people flip because the flavors are intensified.  This is one of those recipes that make your guests eyes light up when they bite into the warm caramelized peach..  The most complicated part of this recipe is the fact that you need to use two pans in order to make the peaches taste incredible.  First a sauté pan and then a grill pan.  This is probably the only time in my life that I use a grill pan.  Usually for anything grilled I make it on an actual grill because I want the smoke and flavor that comes from the grill.  In the case of this recipe I want the caramelized grill mark so the grill pan works well.

The other side benefit of this recipe is that when you sauté the peaches to make the salad dressing you have wonderful sautéed peached to put over ice-cream or oatmeal or turn into a crumble or whatever you want.  And the salad dressing is so delicious that it doesn't need any oil except the tiny amount that is first used to sauté the peaches.  

You all know I'm a huge fan of Prima Peaches because the taste is like no peach I've ever had before.  They are grown in the ideal climate for stone fruit in Reedley, California.  I wish they were distributed to every grocery store in the country but sadly they are hard to find.  If you can't find the Prima Peaches then I recommend going to a farmer's market.

When I originally made this salad it was for a group that had a lot of dietary restrictions.  Later I made another version and added cheese as well as prosciutto to it since I love taste of peaches and prosciutto together.  You can use any cheese you like from a Burrata to an Aged Sharp White Cheddar to a Shaved Parmesan.  One day I used a fresh mozzarella.  Another time I used a Ricotta Salata (which is a firm version of Ricotta cheese that you can find at a specialty cheese store.)  I think an Aged Gouda would work with it as well.  

When we were making the salad for a larger dinner party we grilled the peaches an hour before and them placed them on a parchment lined sheet tray.  Then we just flashed the peaches in the oven to make them warm again right before serving them.  

I prefer Arugula with this salad but I've also made it with a spicy baby lettuce mix as well as spinach.  So feel free to make it with your favorite greens.

The dressing can be made up to five days in advance.  The dressing also freezes well.


You will need a significant number of peaches for the salad.  You need at least 3 peaches to make the dressing and then count on a half a peach per person for each salad.  And I recommend having a few extra in case a few get burned or don't have the grill mark you want.  That way you can select the most perfect ones for presentation on your salad.

It is easiest to make the dressing the day ahead and have it refrigerated and cooled.  But I've also made it the same day when I was in a pinch.  It is just works a little better if you make it in advance because you get more dressing that way.

The peaches for grilling should be fairly firm because you need them to be moved with tons and grilled.  Any peaches from firm to overly ripe peaches can be used for the salad dressing

For the dressing:

1/4 cup sliced fresh ginger root (peel ginger root and cut it into circles or semi-circles)
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 sliced peaches, approximately 3 cups (the prima peaches and most peaches I buy do not need to be peeled.  Buy peaches without the fuzz on them so you won't have to peel them.)
1/4 cup sugar, (add additional if peaches are not naturally sweet)
1/4 cup lemon juice
pinch of kosher salt or maladon sea salt

In a large sauté pan on medium heat, place the canola oil and add the ginger.  Add the 1/4 cup sugar.  Cook about 1 minute in until the sugar melts.  Add the peaches.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Stir with a wooden spoon.  Cook for about five minutes until peaches are well cooked.  Add lemon juice.  (The lemon juice will act as the acid in the salad dressing so you will not need to add vinegar.)

Place in a glass container to cool.  Refrigerate overnight.  Pour all the liquid off the peaches into a bowl.  The liquid will be your dressing.  Add more lemon juice if you would like the dressing to be more tart.  (The leftover cooked peaches can be warmed and put over ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal or made into a peach crisp.)

For the salad:

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Firm peaches (each guest will have a half-peach so buy as many as you need for your guest count.  Depending on the size of the peach you will either cut each half into two pieces or three pieces.  I usually use large peaches so I cut each half into three pieces.   In other words I get six slices from one peach)

Arugula (or greens of your choice:  spinach, baby lettuce, spicy lettuce mix)
Marcona Almonds (or your favorite almonds)
Cheese of your choice (Burratta, fresh Mozzarella, aged Gouda, Parmesan, Ricotta Salata)
Prosciutto, optional

Heat grill pan in advance so it will be nice and hot when you add the peaches.  Have your sauté pan and your grill pan next to each other.  Prepare a sheet tray with parchment paper so you can move the cooked peaches to the sheet tray before they overcook.  Work in small batches.  You may need to clean out your pan with a paper towel between batches.  Remember to be careful when working with hot sugar.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the canola oil and sugar.  (You may need additional sugar an oil for subsequent batches.)  After the sugar just melts put six or so slices of peaches in the sauté pan.  You basically just need to get the sugar coating on them.  You don't need to cook them at this point.  When both sides are coated with sugar, use tongs to transfer them to the hot sauté pan.  Cook on each side to get beautiful grill marks.  Remove to a sheet tray when finished.  If the peaches get cold before you serve the salad they can be put in a 400 degree oven to quickly warm back up.  Do not overcook them or place them in the oven too long.

On each plate, place the arugula.  Then sprinkle with the Marcona almonds.  Place cheese on or around around the salad however you like.  Place the prosciutto in a lovely elegant mound to one side of the salad or cut it into strips and and place it on the salad.  Place two warm peaches on the top of the salad interlocking and resting one on top of the other.  Drizzle with the dressing.


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