Cook in the Moment: Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

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.


  1. Gorgeous!! I love the sound of the smoky flavors with the touch of acidity. I find myself attracted to colors, too. I bought a purple bell pepper last weekend and I couldn’t stop looking at it.

    • Totally agree, Nicole – I love those purple bell peppers!

  2. Jess! I love this salad and your purple period so so much! :)) This looks absolutely amazing and delicious.

    • Thanks, Sarah! You’re the master at plating beautiful salads- so that means a lot!

  3. Such a pretty salad! I love the idea of grilled plums, too–must remember this next June when all my plums ripen at once. :)

    • Eileen,
      How lucky you are to have a plum tree! Thanks for reading.

  4. I totally feel your purpleness right now; I bought some purple carrots at the market on Tuesday just because they were purple. It is just such an amazing color for produce. You might even say it’s flattering, especially on the Italian prune plums that are sitting on my counter right now. Looking forward to making this salad, it sounds yummy!

    • Talley,
      Thanks! I totally forgot about purple carrots- love them. We should be getting the Italian prune plums in any day now and I’m looking forward to making a spiced jam or compote with them.

  5. I love the idea of cooking with colours- the Alain Passard vegetable book does this a lot. Tomorrow night I’m thinking of throwing plums in with an heirloom tomato and purple basil and burrata salad as one of our antipasto. Thanks for the inspiration…x

    • Tori,
      I’ve got to check out that book. Your antipasto idea sounds delicious- I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. This salad is a beaut!! Bet the blue cheese really lifted this baby to another level!!

    • Thanks, Edith. That was my first time trying a smoky blue, and it was delicious!

  7. Those grilled plums are gorgeous! Another knockout recipe Jess.

    • Thanks Renee!

  8. Just discovered your gorgeous site. Wonderful photography, great recipes and pairings. Love the still life plums. Have been grilling fruit with salad all summer and this is a fabulous addition.

    • Louise,
      Thank you for your kind comment. It’s nice to meet you here at La Domestique. :)

  9. I love eating plums “out of hand”! In fact, I’ve never had them grilled. But the combination of flavors and that buttery blue cheese sound so perfect for fall.

    • Sarah,
      A perfectly ripe, sweet and tart plum may be my new favorite fruit! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  10. This salad is epic. I, too, am having a love affair with purple foods – what is it about their color? I don’t like purple in any other context, but in produce it’s just stunning.

    • Kimberley,
      I’ve had you on my mind during this purple period. I always love how you work with colors, especially those color studies you’ve done in the past. I agree, I usually don’t like purple in clothing or other things. It’s funny though, all this cooking with purple must be messing with me, because a purple Mini Cooper caught my eye on the road the other day and I thought, “Maybe.” Ha!


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