The Cowgirl Chef: Fruit salad redux

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Cherry-pecorino salad

Serves 2

• 15 ripe cherries, pitted and torn in half

• About 1 ounce pecorino, cut in 1/4-inch cubes

• 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

• 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

• 3 to 4 tablespoons grapeseed or other flavorless oil

• Leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish

• Sea salt and pepper

• 2 large handfuls of arugula

1. Toss cherries in a bowl with pecorino and pepper.

2. In another bowl, whisk together vinegar and grapeseed oil, along with thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste as you go — you want a light and balanced vinaigrette, where the vinegar doesn’t overwhelm. Add arugula to bowl and toss.

3. Divide salads between two plates. Top with a spoonful or two of the cherry mixture and add a bit more thyme for garnish.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 282 calories, 25 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 178 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 76 percent of calories from fat.

Apricots, blackberries and burrata

Serves 4

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 4 apricots, halved and seed removed (no need to peel)

• 1/2 pint blackberries

• About half of an 8-ounce ball of burrata

• 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

• 4 fresh basil leaves

1. Put olive oil in a medium skillet (I used my cast-iron skillet because I wanted to serve from it) and turn the heat to medium-high. Add apricot halves and cook on both sides until seared and browned, about 5 minutes per side. (You want to cook the fruit, too, but not to the point of mushiness, so watch carefully as the apricots heat through — they’ll lose a bit of firmness, but they should still hold their shape.)

2. Scatter blackberries in the skillet to warm them.

3. Tear off pieces of burrata (taste as you go, if necessary) and add to apricots. Let it melt for a minute, add balsamic vinegar and basil, and serve right away.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 194 calories, 14 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 98 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 62 percent of calories from fat.

Watermelon and chevre with jalapeño oil

Serves 4 to 6

• 1 large jalapeño, diced (with seeds, if you want it hot)

• 1/2 cup olive oil

• Sea salt

• 1 small watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes

• 3 tablespoons chevre crumbles

1. Make jalapeño oil: Put chopped jalapeño in a jam jar with oil and a pinch of salt, and give it a good shake. Let rest for an hour before using. You can also do this the day before and refrigerate.

2. Put watermelon cubes in a serving bowl, add chevre and drizzle oil on top. Serve right away.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 313 calories, 30 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 6 milligrams cholesterol, 51 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 83 percent of calories from fat.

Blueberry-heirloom tomato bread salad

Serves 4

• 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

• 1/2 pint Texas blueberries

• 2 shallots, thinly sliced in rings

• 3 cups torn stale bread

• 2 tablespoons capers

• 10 leaves fresh mint, torn

• 4 to 6 leaves fresh basil, torn

• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

• 6 tablespoons olive oil

• Pinch of sea salt and pepper

Put everything in a bowl and toss. Taste, refrigerate for a couple of hours, and taste again before serving.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 309 calories, 22 grams fat, 26 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, no cholesterol, 272 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 62 percent of calories from fat.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Living in France changes you. I now own far too many scarves and mariniéres (the classic long-sleeved blue and white sailor tees). I use fleur de sel on practically everything, and when it comes to salads, I often eat them at the end of the meal instead of the beginning.

Also like the French, I don’t always think of a salad as something that’s lettuce-centric — although in France, all lettuce is called “salade.” Go figure.

This is my favorite season for salads of all sorts, leafy and non. Summer fruits are here and ready to be tossed on top of lightly dressed greens, served on the side of whatever you’ve just pulled off the grill or eaten afterward in lieu of a dessert, if you’re feeling Frenchy.

What I’m trying to say is these salads can be anything you want them to be.

Plus, and this is really burying the lede, they are incredibly, ridiculously simple to make. So much so that I actually wondered if I should try to make some of these salads more complicated. But I didn’t. There’s no reason to.

When the ingredients themselves taste this good, you want the fruits to shine. The trick is not doing too much and not complicating a recipe with components that are already so delicious.

So much about cooking well is about restraint — knowing when to leave things alone — and I find this to be especially true in the summer, when flavors are bright and clean and full of life.

Some of my best food memories are the simplest — biting into the summer’s first peach, eating an entire box of raspberries while walking home from the market, harvesting my own basil for pesto — which is how I approach summer eating overall, from salads to desserts.

Even when a salad is the dessert and all sorts of fruit mixed up in a bowl is a salad, not “une salade.”

Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25)., @cowgirlchef.

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