Fall. Pumpkin. Leaves. Fall! Pumpkin Spice! Leaves! FALL. PUMPKIN SPICE….I get it. I really do. Fall is my absolute, unequivocal favorite season and I have been more than happy to pull on sweaters while daydreaming about the not-so-far-off time that the crisp weather that accompanies me on morning walk will last all day long. Yes, I am excited for fall.
Here’s the deal. It isn’t fall quiteyet. We are still hitting 70’s here, with strong sunlight that keep our afternoons warm (downright hot, if you couldn’t resist a sweater while getting dressed this morning. Thank goodness for chilly offices). And, while decorative gourds and sweet potatoes are showing up at the farmer’s market, the tomatoes, peaches, and melons are still overflowing. Even if I am wearing a sweater, I am not ready to kiss “summer food” goodbye. Braising and stews and soups can wait. I’m going to go eat a peach.
As well as my resistance to fall, another odd change has occurred. I’ve never been a fruit-on-salad kind of person. While I’m sure I’ve had one or two very delicious salads with strawberries in my life, and I will jump at the chance to add dried cranberries into salads; the thought of fresh fruit mixed among greens and vegetables has been less than appetizing. Occasionally, I will get a hankering for mandarin oranges on an Asian-style salad, but only with a lot of sesame dressing, tender chicken, and crunchy seeds. I have realized, however, is if the greens and lettuces are decreased and the more weighty vegetables are increased, I tend to love the fruit+vegetable combo. Add a bit of cheese and I am totally sold. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to come to this realization. I’ve been pairing fruit in meat dishes for ages: apples and pork, pineapple in asian dishes, lemons and oranges with chicken. I love the sweet+savoury profile. With this new expanse of fruit and vegetable dishes to explore, I have been happily pairing and partnering any fresh produce I can get my hands on. I have been keeping the produce raw, cold, and fresh–still distinctly in the summer season for these dishes.
On Labor Day weekend, M and I had our mothers over to catch up after
ignoring being unable to see much of them during the camp season. It was only a day after we returned from North Carolina, and after a weekend of trying new restaurants, pizza, ice cream, and road trip snacks, all I wanted was vegetables. While M took care of the short ribs, I mixed up kale salad, potatoes with mojo verde sauce, a ton of grilled veggies, and the crowning glory: this Balsamic-Peach Caprese salad. Adding peach to caprese is certainly not a new idea, but one I had avoided for a long time, given my thoughts on fruit and vegetables intermingling. But I saw it (and did not order it) on the menu at the Saxapahaw General Store and it struck a chord with me. I am so happy that I made that salad. I only had the chance to take one photo before everyone in attendance devoured it, but I will continue to make this as long as I can get my hands on peaches and tomatoes.
Caprese is one of the simplest salads to put together, yet it looks beautiful and special. Yes, I am well aware that true Caprese means tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and just a touch of salt and olive oil. But I also love the little zing that a bit of balsamic vinegar and black pepper can add to that mix. These also compliment the peaches sweetness perfectly. Ripe peaches have the texture of the perfect tomato: where the flesh is firm and there isn’t too much of the seeds to squish and get slimy. Between the texture and the sweetness, peaches are the perfect addition to the already perfect Caprese.
A couple of slices, a sprinkle of salt, and a little drizzle of olive oil are all that separate you from this fresh, delicious salad. Be sure to use the highest quality ingredients that you can find–in such a simple salad, every ingredient shines.
Balsamic-Peach Caprese Salad
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: N/A
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella
- 3-4 small or 1-2 large, firm tomatoes (I used campari)
- 1 large, ripe peach
- 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 Tbsp. high-quality olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Black Pepper
Thinly slice the mozzarella. I usually get an 8 oz ball and cut it in half, then slice from there. The smaller pieces of cheese are more on scale with my small campari tomatoes. (Typically, I count the slice of cheese that I end up with, so I can cut the peaches and tomatoes accordingly). Slice the tomatoes, then the peach into slightly thicker slices. Add the peaches slices to a bowl, pour the balsamic vinegar over the peaches and mix gently to coat. (This spreads the balsamic flavor through the whole dish, and, unlike drizzling the vinegar over everything, keeps the cheese white, rather than staining it brown). Layer a piece of cheese, a basil leaf, a tomato slice, and a peach slice. Repeat until all slices are organized into the pattern on the plate(s). Drizzle olive oil over the dish, then sprinkle salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers promptly.