Nectarine, Mozzarella & BasilA summer salad by Julius Roberts.

Nectarine, Mozzarella & BasilA summer salad by Julius Roberts.

Issue 52

, Starters

  • Words Julius Roberts
  • Photo Elena Heatherwick

The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity and all boils down to the quality of one ingredient—the nectarines. The difference between a ripe nectarine and an unripe one is stark. Biting into a ripe nectarine is nothing short of sheer joy: It should burst with juice, balanced by a gentle acidity, and have the most glorious texture. It should not crunch. Buy a few more than you need for the recipe and try one—if they’re not quite ready, just wait a few days. 

When you’ve got an ingredient this good it’s all about keeping it simple and I can’t think of much better on a searingly hot day than this salad. Basil used like lettuce in vast quantities, the sweet nectarine singing with vinegar, the fatty luxuriousness of mozzarella and gentle spice of arugula and nasturtium. It’s a harmony of flavor and utter bliss. Ideal as a light lunch in the heat with some good bread and prosciutto. 

4 perfectly ripe nectarines 
4 balls of great mozzarella 
A large bunch of fresh basil (think of it as a lettuce) 
A small handful of spicy leaves—arugula, nasturtium flowers or Japanese mustard greens 
½ lemon 
A generous glug of olive oil, about 3 tablespoons 
1 to 2 tablespoons really light and fruity vinegar (I like moscatel, or the Belazu fig leaf vinegar, which is niche but incredible, or any quality vinegar you have on hand)
Salt and pepper

Cut the nectarines in half around the stone, following the groove of the fruit. Twist each half and they should easily come away, as should the stone. If this is difficult, it’s a sign they’re not quite ripe. Cut the nectarine halves into jaunty chunks and place in a bowl, then roughly tear in the mozzarella. Add the basil leaves, spicy leaves, a little squeeze of lemon juice, a generous glug of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Please, with flavors so delicate, don’t go drowning this lovely salad in a throat-stripping vinegar. With simple food, the quality of your ingredients is ever more important. Go gently and find the perfect balance. 


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