For my husband’s birthday in July, we had dinner with his mom at Restaurant Roux in Fremont. Owned by the creator of R’s favorite food truck, Where Ya At, Matt?, Roux was somewhere we had been meaning to go for months; when my husband decided fried oysters were a must for his birthday dinner, it was time to finally check it out. We weren’t disappointed. In addition to the oysters, we had deviled eggs, hush puppies, grilled octopus, boudin blanc, cheesy grits and gnocchi with rabbit and fresh vegetables. Each dish was unique, expertly thought out, well-executed and delicious. My hands-down favorite plate was a salad of peaches with bacon lardons, goat cheese and pea tendrils. I haven’t stopped thinking of that salad for two months, and now that local peaches are ripe and good, it was time for me to make my own version.
It’s hard to give a recipe for a salad like this, since I measure with my eyes and not a cup. It’s forgiving of an extra handful of arugula, more or less bacon, more or less peaches… What I’m trying to say is, don’t fret if you have a little more or a little less than what I list. Don’t worry if your infused vinegar has garlic, or tarragon, or red pepper flakes instead of thyme– I bet it will still be marvelous. Just as my salad is an homage to the wondrous dish we had at Roux, let your version be just a little different than mine. Life is too short to worry about measuring salad! That said, I’ve done my best to give you realistic, soundly-estimated ingredient amounts. If you can’t get to Roux, I want you to be able to make and experience this combination of flavors and textures for yourself. (If you can get there, I think it’s still on the menu and I highly recommend ordering one– but then you can make my version when you start craving it like I did.) Sweet peaches, crisp and bitter arugula, tangy herbed vinaigrette, salty bacon, creamy chevre: it’s the perfect late summer meal.
Arugula Salad with Peaches, Bacon & Goat Cheese
- 3 oz. (about 4 loosely-packed c.) arugula
- 6 oz. bacon ends*, cooked and diced or 4-6 strips thick-cut bacon, cooked and diced
- 1 ripe, fragrant peach, pitted and sliced (I like donut peaches in this salad)
- 1 oz. soft goat cheese (chevre), crumbled
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 tsp. grainy mustard
- salt & pepper
- 2 T. thyme-infused white wine vinegar or 2 T. white wine vinegar + 1 tsp. fresh minced thyme leaves
- 6 T. good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Add the arugula to a large bowl with enough room to add other ingredients. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until the fat has rendered and it’s brown and fragrant. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack or towel-lined plate; as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the arugula. Ideally, it will still be warm and will slightly wilt the greens. Slice the peach and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and honey with a pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Add the vinegar (and thyme if it’s fresh) and whisk until you have an even consistency without clumped honey or mustard. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until your dressing is thickened and emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Just before serving, dress the greens and bacon with your vinaigrette and toss to combine. Add the peaches and toss again, very gently, or serve the greens and top with sliced peaches. Garnish with crumbled chevre and serve immediately.
*I often buy bacon ends at the market, which are meatier, less salty and less greasy than strip bacon, though not as uniformly tender. They taste a little like Canadian bacon. If you can find them, I recommend using them here. If not, use strip bacon, cubed ham or Canadian bacon. Prosciutto wouldn’t be bad, either.