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Escarole with Nectarines and Ricotta Salata

Most recipes for escarole involve cooking it down for a long period of time over low heat to turn its bitterness into a mellow and sweet flavor, says Chef Barton Seaver. But a good-quality, young head of this lettuce can make for a sublime salad if balanced with a sweet component. In this recipe, it is grilled nectarines, which have a smoky, caramelized sweetness but also maintain some of their piercing acidity. The walnuts add a nice textural component, and the ricotta salata provides a salty punctuation.

Ricotta salata is a salted and pressed version of ricotta cheese. Both fresh goat cheese and feta cheese share its characteristics and can be substituted.

Ingredients:

  • 4 nectarines, pitted and cut into quarters
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 head escarole, trimmed of heavy stems and cut crosswise
      into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 Tbs. maple syrup (optional)
  • 3 oz. ricotta salata cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Prepare a small fire in a charcoal grill.

Toss the nectarines with a little of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Grill the fruit directly over the heat until they begin to soften and caramelize, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the escarole, walnuts, orange juice and the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and toss to combine. Taste the salad. If it is too bitter for you, add the maple syrup and toss to combine.

Arrange the grilled nectarines around the rim of a platter and place the salad in the middle. Crumble the ricotta over the salad, add a few grinds of pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Where There’s Smoke, by Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure, 2013).