So finally, summer has arrived. And the first thing I want to eat when the temperature reaches over 25˚C is salad, of course. If it reaches over 35˚C, it almost has to be a well-chilled Greek horiatiki salad, or watermelon and feta. But since we’ve not been that fortunate here yet, there are hundreds of salad choices to be made. I sometimes wonder how it is possible that new salads can turn up all the time, with ingredients so scrumptious, so delicious that you cannot believe you’ve never eaten them, in a salad, before. Maybe I missed the boat on this one, but roasted grapes in a salad? I’d never had them, I had to try them, and now I think about them all the time.
This recipe gem was mined from my latest food-porn obsession, bon appétit: an American magazine that is available at Borders for an obscene amount, or on yearly subscription for pretty cheap. And yes, it is out of season and upside down for us here in the land of OZ (oh, I wish. I’d trade macadamia for lunch-pail trees and thongs/flip flops for ruby slippers any day…) but seeing as I keep my magazines forever (really) I don’t see this as too much of a problem.
But back to the salad, which technically, is an autumn salad, I suppose. But seeing as there were pears and grapes and Iranian dried sour cherries (!) at the market recently, I made it anyway. It is the most perfect combination of bitter greens, crunchy toasted pine nuts, tart and luxurious dried sour cherries, salty parmesan and proscuitto, fresh fragrant pear and – its pièce de résistance – red grapes that have been tossed with olive oil and roasted in the oven until wrinkly, juicy and sweet. You drizzle the whole lot with extra virgin oil and aged balsamic vinegar and all together, it is so, so good. Really, yours will look even better than the picture because that was our first version without pine nuts and cherries and we keep forgetting to photograph subsequent versions before we've already tucked in. We’ll be making it as part of our Christmas evening buffet to serve alongside barbecued quail, but it makes an elegant entrée or, with good bread, it is a wonderful lunch or light dinner. Does it sound like the bomb or what?
Roasted Grape Salad
Adapted from bon appétit 2008
¼ cup olive oil + a couple of tbsp extra
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 long, thin slices of prosciutto
1 cup seedless red grapes, washed and stem removed
1/3 cup dried sour cherries
6 or 7 cups salad greens (such as roquette, radicchio, frisée)
2 small/medium pears, cored
Aged balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
handful of shavings of Italian parmesan
The following preparatory steps can be done 2 hours in advance of serving.
Preheat oven to 200˚C. For dressing, whisk ¼ cup of olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Heat a little of the oil in a frying pan and when hot, add prosciutto and fry until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel and break into shards. Toss grapes with a little olive oil until shiny on a rimmed baking tray. Roast for around 15 minutes in preheated oven, or until they shrivel and look a bit sticky. Remove and cool. Soak cherries in a small amount of near boiling water for around 15 minutes until softened, then drain.
When ready to serve, cut 1 pear into matchstick-sized pieces and thinly slice the remaining pear. Toss matchstick pear pieces with salad greens, dressing, most of prosciutto, grapes and cherries in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates or arrange on platter. Garnish with pear slices, remaining prosciutto, pine nuts and drizzle with aged balsamic. Add shaved parmesan to taste.