This peach caprese salad makes use of one of summer’s best fruits in a new way. (Rose McAvoy / For The Herald)

This peach caprese salad makes use of one of summer’s best fruits in a new way. (Rose McAvoy / For The Herald)

Peach caprese salad puts summer on the table, quickly and easily

I am a big fan of recipes that come together quickly, and the healthier the better. I especially love recipes so simple that they hardly feel like a recipe at all. This summery peach caprese salad started as a desperate move to get some fresh fruits and vegetables on our plates. The combination was so wonderfully refreshing that I have adjusted the ingredients to become an easy recipe we can return to again and again.

A few weeks ago, I took my boys on a quick getaway to visit their cousins in Eastern Washington. Not far from my sister’s house is a U-pick orchard with acres of peach and apple trees. Invigorated by the mix of irrigation water and West Richland sunshine, the trees sag from the weight of the bountiful fruits. The one time we U-picked, it took less than 5 minutes to pick more softball sized peaches than we could carry.

Throughout our stay I looked for an opportunity to pop down the road and pick peaches. Unfortunately, we were a few weeks early for those trees so we returned home without a box of peaches.

Driving home on Sunday took two hours longer than expected. When we finally pulled into the driveway we were hot, tired and beyond hungry. Fortunately, Mike had taken charge of dinner. He planned ahead and had a batch of Korean inspired braised short ribs all ready to serve his road-weary family.

My nose led me straight to the kitchen where, he proudly presented a plate of aromatic beef tantalizingly close to falling from the bone. Grateful for the immediate service, I asked about vegetables. His response was a glance at the newly opened container of kimchi (Korean-style pickled cabbage and vegetables) followed by a puzzled, “do we have anything else?”

As tempting as the ribs were, a weekend of a few too many indulgences meant my body’s need for fresh fruits and vegetables far surpassed my desire to devour the fragrant beef.

Yes, we had vegetables and to my delight a pair of perfectly ripe peaches. With a bit of finesse and less than five minutes (I was highly motivated to begin dinner) I transformed a container of baby arugula, the peaches, and a handful of pistachios into the restorative salad I was craving.

The lively combination of sweet peaches and peppery arugula temporarily fulfilled my craving for the summery fruit. I returned to the ingredients a number of times the following week. Finally, during a mid-week lunch date with my husband, I was inspired to use peaches in a simple layered caprese salad.

Traditionalists be warned, we are straying far from course with this recipe: Inspired by the old world favorite whose bright colors mimic those of the Italian flag, I replaced caprese’s classic tomato slices with golden peaches alternating one slice of soft fresh mozzarella for every few slices of peach. Crushed pistachios offer a crunchy contrast to the salad’s otherwise soft texture. The result is a celebratory blend of time-honored Italian appetizer and emblematic American ingredients you will eagerly revisit all summer long.

Peach caprese salad

2 medium peaches, sliced into 32 crescents each

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, 16 slices

1⁄4 cup fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, shells removed and nuts crushed

Optional: 4 cups of baby arugula

On a plate or a tray: Arrange the slices of peach and mozzarella so they are slightly overlapping. Scatter over the basil, then drizzle with vinegar and olive oil. Finish with salt, pepper, and crushed pistachios. Serve as is or over a bed of baby arugula.

Prep: 15 minutes; yield 8 servings

Approximate nutrition: 118 calories, 9g fat, 154mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 5.5g protein

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