One of the things I love most about summer is grilling. While I do love to grill the usual suspects like chicken, steak, veggies, etc., fruit is actually my favorite food to grill. I enjoy grilling fruit, because it seems so counter-intuitive and unexpected. The sugar in fruit caramelizes nicely on the grill, and the smoky flavor gives the fruit some complexity and contrast. I love the sweetness of grilled pineapple on chicken skewers and can’t get enough of grilled bacon-wrapped watermelon pickles. So when had a Saturday morning to myself last week, I ventured to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park in search of fruit and some inspiration.
Going to the farmer’s market is my absolute favorite way to spend a Saturday summer morning in the city. Even when I travel, I try to scout out a farmer’s market or indoor market of some sort. Markets really give you a fun perspective on different cultures. If you live in Chicago and haven’t been, or are planning to visit the city, you definitely need to check out the Green City Market! Shopping at this, or any other, farmer’s market makes eating local easy and approachable, and you can feel good supporting local farmers and vendors in the community. A lot of the vendors encourage you to try what’s fresh, and you can even stay for breakfast or lunch as some vendors are whipping up everything from crepes to grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, smoothies and more!
I always go to the farmer’s market with an open mind, rather than a list. I get whatever looks, smells, and tastes the best and use that as inspiration for some delicious meals over the week. Even when it comes to bread, I try to get a different kind each week. My first purchases of the summer are usually rhubarb and ramps, and while those were delicious, I always look forward to Michigan peaches, and I hit the jackpot last week!
After picking out the best looking peaches at the market, I came home and decided to make a grilled peach and tomato panzanella salad with fresh mozzarella. I loved the grilled halloumi and watermelon I had in Greece, so I already knew that grilled salads featuring fruit and cheese were up my alley. I also knew that I loved panzanella from my time studying abroad in Italy, so I was pretty sure this was going to be delicious.
Panzanella is an Italian bread salad from the region of Tuscany. Italians use dry or stale bread that would otherwise likely go to waste, along with tomatoes, onions, basil, olive oil, and vinegar. This is a great opportunity to use soft tomatoes that are too juicy for slicing, as the juice naturally becomes a part of the dressing. Panzanella is very versatile, so you can certainly mix it up as you like. It also travels well (especially if you keep the bread separate) and is perfect for your next beach day, picnic, BBQ or movie in the park! It’s complex enough to impress your friends, and simple enough to be enjoyed by almost anyone! Hurry up and run to your local farmers market and get your hands on some peaches and try my version of panzanella. This salad is an incredible way to savor some delicious summer flavors that don’t last long.
Grilled Peach and Tomato Panzanella with Mozzarella
2 peaches, pitted and sliced in thick wedges (8 pieces each)
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped (large pieces are good!)
5 slices (1.5 in thick) stale bread (I used a sun-dried tomato bread this time around!)
½ red onion, grilled and sliced
Fresh basil, to taste
Grapeseed oil, as needed (about 4 Tablespoons)
Frantoia olive oil, to taste (about 3 Tablespoons)
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 oz mozzarella balls (bocconcini or ciliegine)
TCB Large Flake Salt, for finishing
Cream of Balsamic, to taste
1. Get the grill going at a medium high temperature (gas or charcoal is fine).
2. Brush peach wedges, half of an onion, and slices of bread, with grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Over direct heat, grill the peaches, onion, and bread to ensure all sides are well marked. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Roughly chop two tomatoes (I love using different colors).
5. When cool enough to handle cut your grilled peach wedges in half, slice the onion, and cube the grilled bread (about the same size as the peaches to make for manageable bites).
6. In a salad bowl, mix together the chopped peaches, sliced onions, chopped tomatoes, cubed bread, and mozzarella balls.
7. Season with large flake salt, pepper, and drizzle with olive oil to taste.
8. Top with basil (chiffonade if you want to practice those knife skills!) and cream of balsamic (or vinegar of your choice).
After you enjoy your panzanella and find yourself looking for more grilled fruit applications, check out our grilling classes at the Lincoln Square location of The Chopping Block. We grill all sorts of fruit, especially for dessert on our grilling menus! We’ve got:
- Grilled Oranges with Whipped Mascarpone and Honey Mint Syrup in our Italian Surf and Turf al Fresco (Thursday, August 8 6:30pm)
- Grilled Seasonal Fruit Sundaes in Rendezvous Under the Stars (Friday, August 9 6:30pm)
- Grilled Seasonal Fruit A La Mode with Bourbon Butter Sauce in New Orleans Brunch on the Grill (Sunday, August 11 10am)
- Grilled Pineapple with Ice Cream and Citrus Caramel Sauce in Grilling Fiesta (Thursday, August 15 6:30pm)
- Dulce de Leche Banana Splits in The Argentine Grill (Saturday, August 17 6pm)
- Grilled Pound Cake Panini with Bananas and Nutella in our Date Night on the Patio Class (Saturday, August 31 6pm) just to name a few!
Or if you’re honing (see what I did there!) in on your knife skills, we’re offering Knife Skills classes on:
- Friday, August 2 10am Lincoln Square
- Monday, August 12 7pm Lincoln Square
- Monday, August 26 7pm Lincoln Square
- Saturday, August 31 10am Lincoln Square
- Sunday, August 11 10:30am Merchandise Mart
- Sunday, August 25 11am Merchandise Mart
Lastly, if you’re just not quite sure how to approach going to a farmer’s market, go with one of our chefs and let them show you how it’s done. In our Farmer’s Market Tour and Cooking Class on Thursday, August 22nd, one of our chefs will take you on a field trip to the farmer’s market in Lincoln Square and them prepare a delicious meal for you while you sit back and relax! Plus, we're donating 10% of the proceeds of this class to The Chicago Help Initiative to help feed the hungry in our area.
Come see us in our retail stores at the Merchandise Mart and at Lincoln Square for all your grilling needs – we’ve got thermometers, rubs, grill brushes, and more. Our Big Green Egg accessories are 30% off while supplies last.