Guys, I think I have found it. The salad. The salad above all other salads, if you could even call it such. It doesn't contain any lettuce, spinach, or other leafy greens, but it is perfect. Gasp! Did I just say perfect? I mean, nothing in this world is really ever 100% perfect, but this salad is as close to perfection as you can get.
Unfortunately it's something you can only make in the few short months that is the stone fruit season (unless you somehow find pluots in February, but who knows where they came from and how long they traveled to get to you). Since we only have a few weeks left at best, I think I shall be making this darling salad every week until it's over.
I was originally planning on using white peaches in this recipe but when I saw pluots at Whole Foods, I just had to pick some up. Confession time! This salad was the first time I experimented with pluots in a recipe, so plebeian, I know. But I was not even aware pluots existed until a year ago. They are plum/apricot hybrids a few generations down the line so they are mainly plum and just a little apricot, but they taste better than either fruit alone.
If you can't find pluots, you can use a plum or even a white peach, they are equally delicious. Just make sure the fruit is firm and not over-ripe. Once it starts turning soft and mealy, it won't be good in the salad.
Serves 2 generously or 4 as a starter.
For the dressing:
1/4 cup mint, packed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley, packed, roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1/2 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping tsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil
For the salad:
1 cup crusty bread (I used a sesame semolina loaf), sliced or torn into medium pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 english cucumber, thinly sliced then quartered
8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small-ish wedges
1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts broken into small pieces, for a cheaper alternative)
1 firm pluot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp loosely packed mint
salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
Place mint, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon, and honey in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and keep pulsing until well blended but small flecks of green remain.
For the rest of the salad:
Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a medium stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add bread pieces and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing halfway through to get a nice brown. The bread should be crispy on the outside but still a little soft on the inside. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a medium to large serving platter, place a layer of cucumber on the bottom. Season with a little salt. Layer the bread, mozzarella, pine nuts, and pluots on top. Drizzle with dressing and finish with a sprinkle of mint leaves.