A taste of summer sunshine in every bite
Apricots are superb little fruits that lend themselves well to all kinds of dishes, including salads.
Here they’re tossed with a bit of honey to accentuate their sweetness, and then grilled – yes, grilled! Paired with crunchy fennel, spunky arugula, sweet Spanish Marcona almonds and a flavorful vinaigrette, the grilled apricots are a revelation – they contribute a wonderfully sweet-smoky essence to the refreshing salad, as well as a shot of color.
An ode to grilled fruit
The summer barbecue is a seasonal treat that I look forward to during the cold months of winter, and that Marc and I take advantage of liberally as soon as the weather allows. I’m sure many of you can relate to that! But have you ever grilled fruit? If not, you’re missing out.
While it may seem odd at first, grilling fruit is a marvelous experience. Not only do you get gorgeous grill marks – a dramatic touch to most any dish – but the hot surface also causes the sugars in the fruit to caramelize, adding a new dimension of smoky sweetness to the fruits you thought you knew. This can work very well in desserts, of course, but I also like to use grilled fruits in savory dishes – and this salad is perhaps my favorite example.
All in all, this is a gorgeous, massively flavorful first course that makes you wish summer would never end.
Food & wine pairing: Blanc de Blancs Champagne with fennel and grilled apricot salad
Serve a Blanc de Blancs Champagne or sparkling wine with this beautiful salad. The flavors and aromas of the wine are marvelous with the grilled apricots, while its crispness works well with the vinaigrette – a festive pairing for a stylish salad!
Arugula and shaved fennel salad with grilled apricots and Marcona almonds
active time: 40 min
For the vinaigrette
- 1″ piece fresh ginger root
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the grilled apricots
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or canola oil)
- 6 medium, ripe (but still firm) apricots – halved and pitted
For the salad
- 3 oz (85 g) baby arugula – rinsed and spin-dried
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 2 tablespoons roasted Marcona almonds (or regular almonds) – coarsely crushed (use a mortar and pestle)
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fennel greens
- Step 1: Peel the fresh ginger root and grate with a microplane grater. Squeeze the grated flesh between your fingers to extract the ginger juice, then discard the pulp. (You should end up with 1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice.) Place the ginger juice, honey, vinegar, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.
- Step 2: Preheat a grill or griddle on high. Place the honey and oil in a large bowl and whisk until well blended. Add the apricots and toss with your fingers until well coated with the mixture. Place the apricots cut-side-down on the grill. Grill until grill marks appear, without closing the lid of your grill. (This would overcook the apricots and turn them to mush.) Transfer to a plate.
- Cook’s note: Only grill the apricots when ready to serve the salad.
- Step 3: Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and remove the core. Using a mandoline, slice each half lengthwise in 1/16″ slices. (You should have about 3 cups of shaved fennel.) Place the arugula, fennel and almonds in a large bowl. Drizzle with two thirds of the vinaigrette and toss until well coated. Divide the salad onto four individual plates and mound into a rectangular shape. Sprinkle with the fennel greens and place 3 grilled apricots on top of each salad, in a row. Drizzle with the balance of the vinaigrette and serve immediately, while the apricots are still warm.
- When apricots are not in season, you can make this salad with peaches or nectarines instead. Just as when using apricots, make sure the fruits are ripe but still firm to the touch.