Cake out in the rain.


Cucumber, nectarine and jalapeño salad with blackberry balsamic vinaigrette

Two years ago, I was doing live farm-market cooking demos in December to promote my then new cookbook, Seasons to Taste. December is a bit dicey at the market, so I showed up with a few skillets, some bowls and a pantry of vinegars, spices and olive oil to make up dishes right there on the spot, with whatever looked good at the market that day. I had so much fun that I have started coming up with one brand-new dish at every demo I do. This recipe is from a July visit to the West Frederick Farmers Market in Maryland. Just as I finished dressing the salad, the tent I was in blew over and the heavens opened, flooding the market with a downpour. I quickly stepped under the second tent they set up for my audience, and we all enjoyed some salad together as we watched the rain.

Cucumber Nectarine Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette

Serves 6 to 8

Sweet, floral, bright and fresh. Just the thing for a sweaty summer day and perfectly paired with whatever is sizzling on the grill.

For salad:

Cucumber, nectarine and jalapeño salad with blackberry balsamic vinaigrette
  • 3 to 4 small cucumbers (preferably Kirby), thinly sliced (Note: Only peel them if the skins are really thick and tough)
  • 2 nectarines, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, finely minced

For vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup blackberries
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 pinches coarse salt
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil—the good stuff!

Directions:

  • Make vinaigrette: Place blackberries in a medium bowl and crush with the back of a serving spoon. Place garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Mash into a paste using the flat side of a chef’s knife.
  • Add garlic paste, vinegar, honey, mustard and coriander to berries. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and whisk together. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  • When ready to dress the salad, drizzle olive oil into vinegar mixture while whisking to form a creamy emulsion. Taste with a cucumber and season to taste—a little more honey will bring out the blackberries. If the nectarines are particularly sugary, add an extra splash of vinegar.
  • In a large bowl, toss together cucumbers, nectarines and jalapeño. Dress lightly, tossing with two thirds of the vinaigrette. Taste, and add additional vinaigrette as needed.

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