Monday, August 6, 2012

Grape and Arugula Salad

Last weekend I had the pleasure of heading home to celebrate my Dad’s birthday.  On the way, Steve and I stopped at his brother, Brian’s, house to visit with him, his wife, and their kids.  Brian is a whiz in the kitchen -- we are constantly trading recipes and talking food.  He offered to cook us dinner after our long drive up north and of course he pulled out all the stops: prime steaks, whole lobsters and some of the best grilled corn I’ve ever had.  {{By the way -- the lobsters were live and I’m convinced I will never be able to cook a live lobster -- there’s just something about looking my food in the eye and stuffing him in a pot of boiling water that doesn’t sit well with me....}}  
Today I’m sharing the salad that he made for us -- it was absolutely gorgeous to look at and delicious as well.  It has a base of red and green grapes sitting in a pool of balsamic syrup, topped with arugula dressed in olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and sprinkled with crunchy pecans.  I wanted to lick my plate.   
I made a few additions to the salad: crumbled blue cheese and fried strips of capicola.  It really rounded out the flavors with the added creaminess of the cheese and the saltiness of the capicola.  Bacon, pancetta or even prosciutto would be a good substitute.  
Grape and Arugula Salad (makes 4 appetizer sized salads)
Balsamic Reduction
2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Combine balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small sauce pan and place over medium-high heat.  Stir to dissolve sugar and salt.  Simmer until vinegar is reduced by a little more than half {it will be thick and slightly syrupy}. Be careful though because the vinegar can boil over very quickly. Set aside to cool.
For Salad Base
1 bunch of green grapes
1 bunch of red grapes
Pluck grapes from stems and carefully slice off a little bit of the end of each side of the grapes, creating a flat surface on each side.  Arrange grapes on plates, alternating green and red grapes, then drizzle with balsamic reduction.  {{See photo below}}
For Salad Topping
1 bunch arugula
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. blue cheese, crumbled
4 slices capicola, sliced into strips and fried until crispy
Make your dressing:  In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, salt and pepper, drizzle in olive oil while whisking.  Add arugula and toss to combine.  
Assemble Salads:  Pile dressed arugula on top of grapes on each plate, then top with pecans, blue cheese and capicola.

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