Saturday I took a long train ride out to the Rockaways. A rocky beach made for surfers. A beach that was hit hard by hurricane Sandy. A boardwalk swept away by the powerful winds and rain with nothing left but the support beams. Red flagged areas marked off as no swim zones from beach erosion. Amidst all of that, the beach was decorated in a sea of bright rainbow umbrellas and bronzed beach bods glistening in the sun. It felt good to be in the sun feeling a breeze off the water.
After an afternoon of extreme heat and sun, we walked a few blocks to Bungalow Bar for a refreshing cocktail on the water. This bar was nearly destroyed from Sandy and was closed for renovations before reopening. As we walked to the outdoor deck, there was a water line marked on the side wooden wall, painted in blue, saying “water level 7ft high” as a daily reminder of the storm’s wrath, but proof business has bounced back.
Why am I telling you this? Not to depress you. I hope. It just brought back memories of our own struggles and obstacles Brock and I had to overcome living through category 4 and 5 storms in Florida. Seeing people lose their homes, condemned by the city in fluorescent orange tape. Your own apartment building destroyed. No water. No power for days. It’s a reminder that we can and do recover from tragedy. We rebuild and start fresh. Or at least we try to anyways. And the simplest things that we sometimes take for granted should be counted as blessings over and over again.
It’s no secret a heat wave has passed through. I thought this salad would be a nice change for lunch. Grilled nectarine, zucchini, and avocado tossed in a bed of arugula with tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. This recipe was inspired and adapted from quite a few recipes in my cookbooks. The one inspiration, this is going to sound odd, was from Mario Batali’s nectarine black pepper cheesecake. It wasn’t the cheesecake part. Just the nectarine and black pepper. So why not amp up the spice a notch from black pepper to jalapeno. Mario tends to cook with lots of chiles and peppers so I knew this could work. Especially when paired with avocado and tomato.
As you can see from the photos, the nectarine could have been a bit riper. So make sure the fruit is ripe but still firm before grilling. This recipe is easily adaptable. You could use peaches. I just have a fondness for the no fuzzy kind. You could swap out the fruit entirely and add red peppers. Lots of possibilities for a light summer lunch.
serves 2 to 4
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 nectarine, halved and pitted
1 zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 avocado, halved and pitted
3 cups baby arugula
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
In a small bowl, add the lemon juice, honey, jalapeno, and olive oil. Whisk together until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Lightly drizzle olive oil over the nectarines, zucchini, and avocado. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the nectarines, zucchini, and avocado on the pan face down. Grill for 3 to 5 minutes until grill marks appear. Transfer the nectarines, zucchini, and avocado to a cutting board. Cut the nectarines into slices. Cut the zucchini crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Dice the avocado and scoop out the flesh.
In a large salad bowl, add the arugula, basil, nectarine, zucchini, avocado, tomatoes, and pepitas. Pour the dressing over the salad. Gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.