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This salad celebrates peach season

Recipe: Arugula, fennel complement summer's best stone fruit

Peaches are the star of this summer salad.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

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
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 Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


Find our spring recipes here!