The fruits available this time of year — melons, peaches, berries — are so tempting but the truth is, I’m not big on baking pies, sweet desserts or jams. I love fresh fruit on cereal or in a smoothie. A perfectly ripened peach or melon with nothing else is a summertime treat I’ll be dreaming about next winter. Freezing fruit, especially berries, to use later in the year is always a good option. Cooler weather makes me crave more savory flavors, even if summer has not officially ended.
Last week Sally and I were photographing at Sazerac for Dining Out magazine. The chef brought us dish after delectable dish. It’s not exactly acceptable for us to sample while we shoot, but it was very tempting. One salad caught my eye and I decided to try my own version at home so I could nibble freely while I took photos.
Sazerac’s salad inspired me to think about ways to use our local peaches in savory dishes. I have no problem devouring a salad like this, all in one sitting, while a pie or cobbler could take me a week or more. I’ve used apples and pears in salads, but hadn’t tried peaches. Sazerac’s chef used proscuitto, not a local ingredient, but an important element, nonetheless. He also included those wonderful Spanish nuts, Marcona almonds. I knew the almonds would be tasty, but I wanted to make my salad as local as possible. I used goat cheese from Port Madison Farm, peaches from Billy’s and rustic arugula from my own backyard. I sprinkled some green fennel seeds , also from my garden, splashed on a little champagne vinegar and drizzled olive oil over the top. This is the perfect plate to take outdoors and soak in some sunshine while you sample and appreciate all the different combinations of sweetness and zestiness.
I had also noticed half of a watermelon sitting in the fridge waiting to be eaten. Just a few days ago, we were sitting in the yard eating it and teaching Lily to spit the seeds.
Now with the change in weather, I was craving something different. Since I was on a roll with savory salads, I put one together with watermelon. I am the only person I know that sprinkles salt on melon. Obviously, I love mixing sweet and salty flavors. To recreate this flavor combo, I made a simple salad of watermelon and feta cheese. I added some thin slices of an orange bell pepper, mostly because pink & orange is one of my favorite color combinations, but it tasted as good as it looked. Squeeze half a lime over the top and you have another great salad, perfect for this transitional season.