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Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (c)2012 La Domestique

I seem to be going through a purple period. I just can’t get enough of plummy colors. Last week there was the Grilled Mission Fig Salad, followed by that post on aubergines, and today I’m grilling plums and placing them on a bed of purple lettuces and purple basil dressed in winey balsamic vinaigrette. Do you ever find yourself attracted to a certain hue which inspires the food you prepare in your kitchen? Figs, eggplant, plums- and I’ve got to warn you that next week it will be Concord grapes and purple potatoes! Now I’m realizing I may be out of control here with the purple.

Cooking with seasonal ingredients found at the farmer’s market brings awareness to the colors of each season. In spring it’s all green- asparagus, broccoli, spinach. Summer is fiery red and orange with peaches, berries, tomatoes, and peppers. As summer fades into fall the purples come out- cabbage, eggplant, kale, and glorious plums. It’s been a stellar year for plums here in Colorado. I’ve never thought too much about this stone fruit – peaches always seem to steal the show – but this year I bit into a ripe and juicy Santa Rosa plum from the farmer’s market and it was like tasting the fruit for the first time. I was blown away by the tart flavor matched with just the right amount of sweetness. Never one to eat plums out of hand (before this I mostly baked with them) I was surprised and delighted by this discovery.

First, I made Rachel Saunder’s plum jam from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, which we’ve been enjoying spread over a homemade loaf of Darina Allen’s recipe for Mummy’s Brown Soda Bread. For breakfast we’ve used plums poached with a cinnamon stick and cardamom to sweeten our oatmeal. Today it’s a grilled plum salad, made with the tart Santa Rosa variety. For this study of purple I selected some beautiful purple-streaked heads of lettuce at the farmer’s market and leaves of purple basil. Ripe plums need only to kiss the grill for a few moments to caramelize. The warm plums are tossed with the cool lettuce leaves, toasted walnuts, and crumbled blue cheese. I used a smoked blue to play with the whole grilled theme. This time of year I love the depth and mellow flavor of an aged balsamic vinegar. Aging the balsamic in oak takes off the harsh acidity that can be so bracing in young vinegars. For this salad, it’s worth splurging on a good quality balsamic. Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette makes for a satisfying lunch, especially nice with a nip of red wine on a rainy fall day (as I write this, it’s pouring rain outside and I’m wearing a scarf, cuddled up with a glass of tea).

How have you been cooking with plums this year? Share your favorite recipes in the comments section. Click Here.

Ingredients for Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (c)2012 La Domestique

Grilled Plum Salad with Walnuts, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Warm and caramelized from the heat of the grill, the tart and juicy plums sit atop a bed of lettuce and crunchy walnuts. Try a smoked blue cheese sprinkled over the salad, or use your favorite crumbly blue.

  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 ½ pounds plums
  • 1 head lettuce
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, either the purple or green variety
  • 4 ounces blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat until nicely browned (but not burnt), about 5 minutes. Set the walnuts aside.

Prepare the plums. Heat a grill to medium-high. Pit and slice the plums into halves or fourths (depending on their size). Toss the plums with 1 teaspoon olive oil and place them on the hot grill skin side down. Cook for a couple of minutes, until caramelized with grill marks. Flip the plums over and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until warmed through and just beginning to soften. Remove the plums from the grill and set aside.

Make the vinaigrette. Pour the balsamic vinegar into a medium bowl and gradually whisk in ½ cup olive oil.

Wash and dry the lettuce, then tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and place on a serving platter or bowl along with the fresh basil leaves. Add the warm grilled plums to the salad, drizzle over the vinaigrette and toss the ingredients well to combine. Garnish with the toasted walnuts and crumbled blue cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve immediately.