I’ve regained the desire to cook, just as the California gloom of May and June has retreated and the sun has been shining like that’s its only job. It has started to feel like summer here, and it has made me want to cook and eat summer-like food.
Our last grocery run yielded a whole case of delicious nectarines, and despite frequent in-between meals snacking of the same, I made that enough would remain to concoct the salad that had been taking shape in my mind over several days.
It should be sweet and fragrant, hearty enough to make a meal on its own, but also bright enough to be eaten in the warm midday hours. The basil was selected quickly to be the fragrant element of the dish. The type of basil that we get from our grocery store has a subtle licorice flavor that I just knew would complement the nectarines. I picked halloumi cheese because you can grill it, and grilling equals summer.
But it wasn’t until I was trying to describe this imaginary salad to my mom on the phone that it fully came together. It was missing an element, and I told my mom I thought it might be onion. But raw onion and nectarines? Probably not. I then suggested pickled onion, but my mom was skeptical. Instead, she said, why don’t you grill the onions to bring out the sweetness, and then you can just add acid in the dressing. And that’s what I did.
You can find the recipe below. Although it’s detailed (and don’t worry, it’s very simple nonetheless), I have already thought of a dozen variations to play around with: You could use feta instead of halloumi and grill the nectarines instead of the cheese, you could add arugula to make it more salad-y, you could make a dressing with balsamic vinegar instead of lemon, or you could make the whole thing into a crostini. Endless possibilities for the endless summer days ahead!
Nectarine Salad with Halloumi, Basil and Charred Onion
- 2 nectarines
- 1 small block halloumi
- 1/2 small red onion
- 1 tbsp olive oil for frying
- 1 big handful basil
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 pinch sugar
- 3 drops vinegar
- fresh ground black pepper
To make the dressing
Press the garlic clove, and put it in a small bowl. Add olive oil, salt, sugar, pepper, and lemon juice to the bowl and mix.
Taste, and add drops of vinegar if it's not acidic enough. Leave at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients (the dressing can also be pre-made and left covered in the fridge for up to a few days)
To cook the halloumi and the onion
Cut the onion in rounds and slice the halloumi. Heat a thick-bottomed frying pan on medium-high heat.
Brush the pan with olive oil. Place the onion rounds in the pan, taking care not to separate the individual layers from each other.
Carefully add the halloumi slices to the pan. Don't move them for at least 30 seconds.
After 30 seconds, check if the halloumi slices can be flipped without tearing apart. Cook until golden brown on both sides, then remove them from the pan and leave to cool.
After about a minute, check if the onion is ready to flip. When it's slightly charred on both sides, take the pan off the heat.
To assemble the salad
Cut the nectaries in 1/2 cm thick slices. Toss them with a couple of teaspoons of the dressing.
Wash and dry the basil leaves. Tear big leaves into smaller bits.
Arrange nectarines, halloumi, and basil leaves on a plate or small serving platter. Separate the onion rings from each other and place on top of the salad. Drizzle with the dressing.
Serve the salad at room temperature. This portion serves two as a side or an appetizer. If you were to add a few slices of garlic bread to this, it would also make a good lunch for two.