August is apricot month here in Switzerland. Luckily, we got back from Ireland just in time to enjoy the last few weeks of the bounty. For some reason, this year, the apricot catapulted to the top of the fruit charts in our household. Having turned their noses up at them last year, my kids couldn’t get enough of them this summer. I can see why – it’s such a beautiful, dainty fruit. Velvety skin, pretty hues of orange and red, delicate scent, handy size, easy to eat – it has a lot going for it!
My inspiration for this salad came to me a few weeks ago when good friends of ours from Germany were staying for the weekend. After collecting them from the airport on Saturday morning, we returned home and sat down to a nice, relaxed breakfast. While tucking into some delicious fresh bread and a chunk of goats’ cheese, I spied my mother-in-law’s apricot jam across from me and thought … that would work really well with the goats’ cheese. So on went a dollop. And oh my, did it work! It got me thinking – how could I turn this taste combo into a salad for this evening’s bbq?
I decided on a salad of fresh apricots with fresh goats’ cheese served on a bed of baby spinach leaves. I started by macerating the apricots in a dressing of olive oil, white balsamico vinegar, sugar, and some herbs and mixed seeds. This dressing would then double as the vinaigrette for the salad. I opted for baby spinach leaves, rather than rocket (rucola) or lambs’ lettuce (Nüsslisalat/mâche). For no particular reason, other than I’m rather partial to spinach. (And there’s less chance of stubborn bits of salad poking out the corners of your mouth, despite your best efforts to navigate the fork and its contents past your lips.) As for the goats’ cheese, I went for fresh cheese. Not only would it be easy to spoon little blobs of it onto the apricot halves, it is also delicately tart, which to my mind works well with the apricot. A few toasted hazelnuts for a bit of crunch, et voilà.
Hope you like it too.
Apricot, goats’ cheese & toasted hazelnuts on baby spinach leaves
Preparation time: 1-2 hours (maceration) + 20 minutes
- 150 g baby spinach leaves
- 4-5 ripe apricots
- approx. 80 g fresh goats’ cheese
- 30-40 g whole hazelnuts
- 2 tablespoons white balsamico vinegar
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 level teaspoons sugar
- 0.5 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme (save 2 sprigs to decorate)
– In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing (olive oil, vinegar, sugar, crushed garlic, etc.). For the thyme, pluck the leaves off two sprigs. The other two sprigs can be kept to decorate the salad afterwards. Stir everything well.
– Wash and halve the apricots and remove the stones. Lay them in a bowl in a single layer and pour over the dressing, making sure the apricots are well-coated. Cover and put aside for 1-2 hours, turning the apricots halfway through.
– Meanwhile, toast the hazelnuts on a baking tray for 5 minutes in an oven heated to 180°C, de-skin if necessary (see tip below) and allow to cool. Then chop roughly, or halve them. (I just bash them a bit with my pestle and mortar.)
– When you’re ready to assemble the salad, gently remove the apricots from the dressing and set to one side, making sure that as much of the liquid as possible remains in the bowl.
– Now toss the spinach leaves in the dressing and arrange on a large flat salad plate (or on individual plates).
– Put teaspoonfuls of goats’ cheese into the centres of the apricots, decorate with little sprigs of thyme and place on the spinach.
– Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the lot.
– If the skins were still on the hazelnuts when roasted, they can be removed before serving by placing the hot hazelnuts into a clean teatowel, folding over the edges of the cloth and rubbing vigourously. Most of the skins come off this way. The teatowel is a bit of a mess though!