You HAVE to make this salad.
It seems like a lot of work, but it really isn’t, and anyway it’s worth the trouble.
A weekend of experiences and images and just plain fun provided the inspiration to create this fabulous Tuscan bread salad. It began with a trip to our local farmer’s market, a suggestion by my husband to drive up to Qualicum for lunch, wine and cheese tastings at Mooberry Winery, and ended with this salad and memories of great meals we had in Tuscany and Umbria.
Our market was just bursting with fresh produce this week. Beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, garlic, zucchini, fennel, peas, plums, berries and almost anything you could wish for was ready to be gathered and brought home. Best of all? Peaches!
Why go to Qualicum for lunch? At my mother’s Celebration of Life gathering the day before, an old childhood friend reminisced about our two families’ shared vacations there. We rented small rustic cabins every summer. As kids, we played on the beach, picnicked, played scrub baseball, had watercolour painting lessons from Mom and just generally whiled away the hours of the lazy summer days. Our dads golfed in the afternoon and the grown-ups played bridge in the evening after we were tucked in. Simpler times. Good friends. Brothers and sisters.
Something made me hanker to find that spot again. I knew it had long ago been developed into a residential subdivision, but I wanted to find it, to just see a glimpse of where it had been–a landmark, a cliff, a path through the salal to the beach, something to bring back a memory of my young mother in happier times.
But we did luck out later when we found Morningstar Farm. This heritage dairy farm is the home of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Mooberry Winery. They produce artisan cheeses and local fruit wines.
Fruit wines? No way. My husband had decided before we even arrived that we are NOT fruit wine people. I agreed. We like full-bodied red wines. Period. No fruity ones, thanks anyway.
Until we tried them, that is. Wahoo! We shocked ourselves by leaving with four bottles: two peach and two cranberry, the latter to be tucked away for Thanksgiving weekend.
So . . . fresh peaches, peach wine, greens from the garden, and me drooling over 20something cupcakes version of Peach + Tomato Panzanella Salad resulted in this creation. Try it, and give it your own twist as I did. The bread soaks up the goodness from the roasted tomatoes and the olive oil; the prosciutto and the parmesan provide the crunch. The combination is truly Italian. Delizioso! So good!
- 4 cups mixed salad greens
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
- 2-3 cups cherry tomatoes or mini heirloom tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven
- 3 slices prosciutto, fried until crisp
- 4 peaches, peeled, pitted, quartered, tossed with balsamic glaze (see below) and grilled
- 1/2 loaf whole grain bread, cut in large cubes, tossed with olive oil and toasted in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
- 12 parmesan crisps (see below)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tsp. oil
- salt and pepper
Whisk together, toss the peaches gently and grill over low heat.
Finely grate Parmesan Reggiano. Place by tablespoonfuls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 4-5 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool on a wire rack.
Gently toss the greens together with the tomatoes and proscuitto, add the bread cubes, toss with the dressing and garnish with grilled peaches and parmesan crisps. Serve immediately.
This is a fabulous salad for any time of the year. Enjoy!