Summer fruit is at its peak right now. Strawberries were never sweeter, soft stone fruits are at their juiciest and so full of flavour. I’m enjoying them by the handfuls these weeks, munching on them for breakfast and all through the day or turning them into summer bakes. So why not include them in dinner as well? This summer salad combines some of the loveliest flavours the season has to offer: fresh leaves and herbs, crunchy veg, juicy grilled peaches and crisp homemade basil croutons, all dressed in a wonderfully sweet and tart strawberry balsamic vinaigrette.
The salad consists of a few different components, all of which take minutes to prepare, but add a wonderful variety of flavours and textures.
As a base I use a mixture of different salad varieties: crisp lollo biondo, peppery water cress and oak leaf lettuce with its beautiful deep colour and wonderful nutty flavour. Soft leafy herbs add a touch of interest; here I used mint leaves, but basil leaves and flat-leaf parsley would work well too. Some thinly sliced cucumber and radishes for crispness and your green base is set.
The addition of sweet, seasonal peaches brings summer to your plate. I used my favourite, pale flat peaches with their beautiful pastel skin and soft flavour. Griddling them gives them a deep, charred, caramel flavour. If you don’t have a griddle pan, though, or you prefer them fresh, they are already delicious when simply sliced and tossed in.
As peaches and basil are a match made in heaven, I added a batch of homemade basil croutons for crunch. Making your own croutons is actually quite easy and the fun part is you can get creative and flavour them any way you fancy. Here I simply brushed some stale sourdough with a quick blend of fresh basil and olive oil and then baked it in the oven for 15 minutes. The croutons come out beautifully airy and full-flavoured and as I sprinkled them with some course sea salt before baking, they add a pop of saltiness to the sweet flavours of the salad.
The dressing that brings everything together is this cheerful pink strawberry and balsamic vinaigrette. A quick and easy summer dressing that is so delicious it will make you want to clean the plate with your tongue! The past weeks I have made different versions of it on repeat and as I love it so much, I dedicated its own post to it here. This tart and sweet dressing will brighten up any simple green salad and it elevates this basil and peach salad to a sunny plate of deliciousness.
I hope you’ll love this salad as much as we do. Serve it as a starter or side dish on carefully made up individual plates, or on a big platter for everyone to help themselves.
Happy summer days!
Summer salad with grilled peaches and homemade basil croutons – serves 4
for the salad
- 1 cucumber, shaved into ribbons
- 200 g mixed salad leaves (I used a mixture of lollo biondo, red oak leaf lettuce and watercress)
- bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
- fresh herbs (optional – basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley work deliciously)
- batch of strawberry balsamic vinaigrette
for the basil croutons
- 3 thick slices of slightly stale sourdough, torn into chunks
- large bunch of basil
- 75 ml / ¹⁄3 cup olive oil
- course sea salt, to sprinkle
for the grilled peaches
- 4 firm peaches, the flat, doughnut variety if available
- sunflower oil, to brush
To make the basil croutons, heat the oven to 190°C/375°F and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Combine the oil and basil leaves. Using a stick blender or a food processor, whizz the mixture to a green, speckled herb oil. Brush the bread chunks with the basil oil until covered on all sides. Divide the bread over the baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for appr. 15 minutes until golden. Transfer the croutons to a plate lined with a sheet of kitchen paper and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, using the recipe here.
To make the grilled peaches, heat a griddle pan until piping hot. Stone the peaches and divide them into 8 wedges each.
Brush the sides of the peach wedges with a little oil. Carefully place the wedges into the pan in a single layer; you may have to do this in batches as not to overcrowd the pan. Griddle the peach wedges until nicely charred on both sides. Transfer to a plate and leave to cool.
Toss the salad leaves with the fresh herbs, if using, and divide them over 4 plates. Add the cucumber ribbons and shaved radishes, then top each plate with griddled peach wedges and basil croutons. Alternatively, arrange everything on a large platter.
Serve with the strawberry balsamic vinaigrette on the side, for everyone to add to their taste.