Over the last few years, I’ve had one salad each summer that ends up on our table at least once a week, and this salad is a strong contender for my summer pick of 2014. I have a glut of basil in my backyard at the moment and adore how it tastes with nectarines, and nectarines are great flavor buddies with cured pork. Basically, I’m surprised this salad took so long to happen in my kitchen. Rounded out with a sparingly used and lightly creamy lime dressing and snappy baby arugula, this salad is exactly what I’m looking for on these hot spring days as we are rounding the corner into summer.
Be sure to use baby arugula, as the more mature version will be a bit too peppery and tough. If you aren’t sure if the dressing is right, grab a small piece of each salad component and try it with the dressing before you commit to serving it. This salad depends on each component for full flavor, so make sure your ingredients are all good quality.
Nectarine and Basil Salad
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil (Seriously, taste your olive oil by itself first. If it’s bitter and you want to spit it out, don’t use it here. Your whole salad will taste like that.)
1 tablespoon heavy cream (substitute olive oil, coconut cream, or fat of choice here if AIP)
A few drops of champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
A few handfuls of baby arugula
Several leaves of fresh basil, torn into pieces if the leaves are large
1 large or 2 small thinly sliced nectarines or peaches (use underripe nectarines/peaches that have some crunch to them)
Very thinly sliced prosciutto, speck, salami (pictured), or country ham
1. Pour the lime juice, olive oil, cream, and just two or three drops of vinegar into a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Use a fork to stir until the dressing is well-blended, then taste and add more salt, pepper, and vinegar as needed. You’re looking for balance here, keeping in mind that the peppery arugula, sweet nectarines, and salty prosciutto will lend their flavors, too.
2. Place a handful of arugula into your salad bowls, then scatter with basil leaves, nectarines, and prosciutto. Drizzle with a conservative amount of dressing, then serve immediately.