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This salad celebrates peach season

Peaches are the star of this summer salad. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Arugula, fennel complement summer's best stone fruit

Peach season always is too short for me. The best peaches I'll eat standing over the sink. And I'll bake a peach pie or galette if/when it's not too hot. But I welcome any new way to eat peaches.

This first-course salad is a riff on one being served this summer at
The Waterboy in midtown Sacramento. Last month it featured donut peaches among arugula and frisée greens, with some shavings of fennel and blobs of burrata cheese for flavor contrast. It instantly became my favorite non-tomato salad.

Donut peaches are subtle and sweet, perfectly matched by the creamy burrata (which is a pouch of fresh mozzarella wrapped around even softer mozzarella curds and cream). But yellow peaches and regular fresh mozzarella are easier to find, so this version features those ingredients. And I find that those fresh little mozzarella pearls play well with the more acidic yellow peaches, which are my favorites.

The arugula is surprisingly crucial here, because it gives the salad a sturdy base of subtle bitterness. Baby spinach also would work, but really, try the arugula. Use any type of fluffy greens for contrast; frisée is fun but not always available. I've tossed in mixed microgreens when I could find fresh ones. The interior leaves of romaine lettuce or green leaf lettuce also would work. You can even add some of the fronds from the fennel bulb if you really like fennel. But those popular baby mixed greens are too soft for this combination.

The easy vinaigrette is made with golden (also known as white) balsamic vinegar, a lovely ingredient to have on hand. It has enough of the flavor of regular balsamic without the brown hue, which would ruin the look of this light summer salad.

These ingredients make a beautiful salad. I just have to keep
myself from sampling too much of the peaches.
Peach and Arugula Salad
Serves 4


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup golden (white) balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 cups arugula, washed and ready to eat
2 cups other fluffy and sturdy greens, such as frisée, green leaf lettuce, microgreens or interior romaine lettuce leaves, washed, torn and ready to eat
2 large ripe peaches, peeled if very fuzzy
1/2 cup slivers from a fennel bulb
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (or part of a fresh mozzarella chub, diced)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (see below for how to toast)


Place dressing ingredients in a lidded Mason jar or other closed container. Shake until well blended. Taste, correct seasonings and set aside while you make the salad. (If you make the dressing ahead, refrigerate it but let it come to room temperature before dressing the salad.)

Toss the greens together in a large bowl. Distribute evenly among 4 salad plates. Slice the peaches and place on the greens. Pat the mozzarella pearls dry just a bit so they're not drippy. Evenly distribute the fennel slivers and mozzarella pearls on the salads. Shake the dressing again and drizzle it lightly over the salads. Garnish with toasted almonds and serve.

These almonds are just right. Trust me, they smell great, too.
How to toast almond slices : Place the almond slices in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat. Do NOT walk away from the stove; nuts burn very easily. Stir or swirl the nuts just until they start to smell toasty; if you wait until they're brown they'll be overdone. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a heatproof bowl to cool.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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