I have come to understand that there are individuals in this world who cannot tolerate the tomato in its purest form (texture often being cited as the main culprit behind this aversion). Evidently, the fleshy juiciness that some of us adore in the tomato are the very aspects that others find appalling. For those of you who harbor such repugnance there is hope for you yet to indulge in the glory that is caprese salad thanks to the equally summery, but less texturally demanding fruit, the peach.
Although the recipe below calls for grilling the peach slices, you are completely welcome to forgo this step and serve the peaches raw (especially if your rationale for doing so involves an unwillingness to turn on any heat source because dear god when will the stickiness and humidity end???). You could also play around with the type of cheese paired with the peaches (I’ve always thought bleu cheese and peaches were an under-utilized couple). Substituting nectarine for peach could also be an option if you wanted to pull a Maciel and make a recipe without actually making THAT recipe. Besides, it’s still caprese so long as there’s summery fruit and a soft cheese involved, right? RIGHT??
Peach Caprese Salad
Serves 2-4, depending if it’s a side dish or the bulk of your cold summer feast
4 extra-large ripe peaches, not too soft or bruised
1 large ball buffalo mozzarella or other fresh mozzarella in water, at room temperature
8 basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and sliced into thin ribbons
NICE extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
NICE aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling (optional – I did not include, but have no doubt it would be a delightful addition)
Plenty of lovely flaky sea salt (e.g. Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper, for serving
If you are grilling the peaches, heat a griddle pan (or actual grill) to medium-high heat. I used my Le Creuset griddle pan, which you should definitely put on your Christmas list now because it’s the shiiiiiiiiit. Make sure the grate/griddle is VERY clean as the peaches pick up bits of scum like THAT *snaps fingers*. Brush generously with vegetable oil to grease. While the grill heats, cut the peaches into ¼-inch thick slices. Inevitably you will be left with parts of the peach that don’t slice prettily; save these and chop them up for topping yogurt and granola with later. Working quickly, sear the peach slices on both sides until lovely grill marks appear. Do not overcook the peaches! The grill should be hot enough that marks appear fairly rapidly. Do a tester slice if needed to ensure that the peaches do not need to stay on for more than a minute or so. Transfer the grilled peaches to a cutting board or cooling rack. Allow the peaches to rest until cool (about 5 minutes).
While the peaches cool, slice the mozzarella into pieces that are roughly the same size and thickness as your peach slices. On a lovely platter or serving dish, arrange the peach slices and mozzarella slices in a pleasing way (overlapping, alternating pieces is always visually appealing). Scatter the julienned basil leaves (that’s right – you did a fancy thing to those leaves called “julienning”) over the peach and mozzarella slices. Drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, if using. Sprinkle the whole shebang with flaky sea salt and PLENTY of freshly ground black pepper. Rejoice in the fact that this gorgeously impressive dish took all of 10 minutes to make.