Chilled Green Bean and Grilled Nectarine Salad with a Warm Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

If you have never grilled fruit before, you are in for a great treat!  listed are the top five tried and true tips for grilled fruit success — followed by a delicious recipe to make for your next smoke out!

1- Timing.The most important task to begin with is choosing the correct time in the fruits ripening stage. A fruit that’s too ripe, can result in a disaster— it will just fall apart on the grill. ( if this does happen save to make a smoked fruit sauce for ham, see my recipe here.) To avoid disaster management, be sure to choose your fruit just before it enters its, “peek-ripe” stage. Firm, yet fragrant. Melissa’s Produce seems to cycle the best I’ve seen.

2- Size matters. Bigger really is better in this case. For instance—instead of cutting stone fruit into bite sized quarters, cut them into halves. The temperature of the grill will heat the fruit and caramelize the natural sugars; making them juicy. Lovely, however this also compromises the fruits natural structure; making them more likely to fall apart. To keep the integrity of the fruit’s shape,— use this simple tip to plan ahead. Bananas, are a whole different story— they should be cut horizontally through the peel and left on until service time.

3- Fat. It’s all about the fat and the temperature of the grill! Protect your investment by gently brushing your foods with a healthy non flavored fat to grill with. I use high heat temperature grape-seed oil spray from LaTourangelle for all my fruits. Using a neutral tasting oil will not lead away from the flavors of the grilled fruit— and, placing fat on the fruit and your pre heated hot, clean grill grates. The fat provides a protective non-stick surface for the fruit to cook on and the heat will provide those great caramelized grill marks we are always looking for. keep in mind, there is nothing worse than not being able to remove your foods from the grill rack so don’t forget this important step. Occasionally, if I’m looking for more depth of flavor, I’ll gently rub my fruits grilling surface with melted butter. Using a spray is less clean up too— we all love that!

4- Don’t limit yourself. Try grilled plums and apricots alongside pork chops or grilled garlicky chicken. Think in pairs — grilled pears with German sausage or grilled watermelon on top of a tossed green salad paired with salty feta cheese, basil and mint sets the scene for a refreshing side dish.

5- Lastly, and quite possibly the most important. Set it, and forget it. Resist the urge to move the fruit once it’s down on the grill. Doing so is much harder than it sounds, trust me. Always place flesh side down first, and do not disturb for at least 3-4 minutes; depending on the size and firmness of your fruit. Once beautiful caramelized grill marks are achieved, gently turn the fruit over and grill for an additional 1- 2 minutes. Salt to bring out additional flavors.

Green Bean and Grilled Nectarine Salad with a Warm Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients for the Salad:

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed, cooked to al’ dente and chilled
6 firm, yet fragrant Nectarines, halved and stone removed
Grape-seed, or your favorite neutral flavored cooking oil
4-6 cups of baby arugula, washed and picked over, about 1 cup per guest
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds, gently toasted
Ice
Water
Warm Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette ( see recipe below )

Here’s How To:

Prepare a cold water bath by placing a medium-sized bowl inside your sink. Fill the bowl with about 4 cups of ice, and cover with cool water. Allow to rest in the sink while you prepare the green beans.

In a large 6-qt. stockpot; add enough water to cover 2 pounds of green beans. Bring the water to a roaring boil with a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Add trimmed beans and cook, 6-8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and immediately place into ice water. Drain and pat dry. Chill.

Heat a clean grill pan over medium-high heat, or fire up the outdoor grill. Clean and oil grill while pre-heating to medium-high heat. Lightly coat the nectarines with oil, salt and pepper. When the prepared grill is hot, place the fruit cut-side down. Grill untouched 4-5 minutes covered and then turn to the other cut side and grill 2-3 additional minutes covered. Grill for less time if the peaches are riper than expected. Remove from grill, set aside, uncovered. Prepare the vinaigrette and compose the salad

Toast the slivered-almonds in a small skillet over medium-low heat until just turning golden brown. Set aside. Prepare the warm vinaigrette ( see recipe below )

Once the vinaigrette is warm toss the arugula, chilled green beans with enough of the dressing to lightly coat, about 1-2 tablespoons. Add the warm toasted almonds. Arrange the salad on a beautiful serving platter, and top with grilled nectarines and finish with chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Serve immediate with warm crunchy french bread.

For a variation: Add bite sized pieces of your favorite goat cheese, or domestic feta after tossing.

Serves approximately 4-6

Warm Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette:

1 shallot, peeled and rough chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons local honey ( add more if you prefer sweeter)
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, mild flavor
1/3 cup good quality aged balsamic vinegar
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup flat leaf parsley, finely minced

Here’s How to:

In a small saucepan, on medium low heat add the shallots and garlic. Toss in dry heat to release flavor— do not brown. Lower heat and add the balsamic vinegar and the honey. Melt honey to liquid viscosity- about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the oil in a long steady stream until combine with a whisk emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Adjust sweetness if necessary by adding additional droplet of honey. taste. balance with salt and fresh ground pepper. Strain to remove shallots and garlic pieces.

Toss on fresh greens or drizzle everywhere!

Serve warm.

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