Sunday, 1 July 2012

Grilled Apricot and Feta Salad

Feta is one of my favorite cheeses. The crumbly, yet creamy, salty goodness of a good feta is just divine in salads, and the summery recipe below is absolutely gorgeous. But be warned! It is for adventurous palates only! I found this little recipe in Nadia G.'s "Cookin' for Trouble". It's a fresh, tasty salad with a very posh look to it, so if you have guests to impress at any time this summer, this is a great way to start a stunning meal!

Fresh apricots are one of my favorite fruits, and when they are in season, I always make sure to have some handy. As delicious as they are just by themselves, or worked into desserts, they are also great in savory dishes because they are not overly sweet. In fact, they are perfect for those who, like me, enjoy a sweet-and-salty combo of flavors. For this recipe, pick them ripe, but still firm: you want them to keep their shape through the grilling process.

The dressing is an amazing blend of sweet honey and tangy wine vinegar. For dressing like this, a small food processor is the best tool you can get your hands on. I have mentioned it before, but small blender attachment for my Cusinart Smart Stick is the ultimate tool for making home-made salad dressings.

The pickled red onions have a piquant bite that's quite surprising paired with our lovely apricots. Onions prepared like that would also be delicious in other salads or as a garnish in hamburgers. Don't let them get too soft: their little toothy crunch is quite satisfying.

6 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon creamed honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
8 apricots, halved and pitted
1/2 small red onion, finely sliced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

In a food processor, blend 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar, honey, vanilla extract and garlic clove. Fold in the poppy seeds, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a grilling pan to medium-high and pray with non-stick cooking spray. Baste the apricot halves with olive oil. Using tongs, sear the fleshy side of the apricots for 90 seconds to 3 minutes, and then turn over to sear the skin side for 1 minute or 2 more. Remove them from the heat and let them cool.

Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion slices, pour in the rest of the champagne vinegar, stir and simmer until the onion slices turn bight pink, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Divide the apricot halves equally among 4 plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1/4 cup of crumbled feta and a heaping tablespoon of pickled onions. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

How pretty is this?! This salad makes a perfect entrée for grilled fish or chicken dishes, or even a light lunch. A fruity rosé is always good on a warm summer day, and it goes especially well with this juicy, crunchy treat.

Only make as much as you need: cooked fruits like that tend to get very mushy and do not keep well as leftovers.

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