August is National Peach Month! Pay tribute to the summertime staple with this protein-packed Caramelized Peach & Goat Cheese Salad…


 
Do you have a favorite season? For me, it’s always been summer. There is just something about this season that fills my heart with allllll the warm fuzzies (although it’s possible that the 90+ degree heat may also have something to do with that…) 

Growing up in western NY, I always looked forward to the summer months for the obvious reasons (hello, who doesn’t love being able to walk outside without spending 10 minutes layering up?) But above all else, I think one of the things I consistently look forward to the most is the abundance of fresh, AFFORDABLE produce. Because if you ask me, nothing beats a sunny Saturday morning spent wandering the local Farmers’ Market in search of the best local fruits and veggies –  well, except maybe eating said local fruits and veggies.

In past years, I was often too busy stuffing my face with fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries to pay much attention to anything else. But this year, something changed. While you’ll still find me shoveling ALL the berries into my mouth, I’ve found myself adding fresh, juicy peaches to the rotation. From overnight oats to toast, and even smoothies, peaches have been making an appearance on my plate in all ways, shapes and forms – I just can’t seem to get enough!

But of all of the ways I’ve been enjoying these juicy bad boys, I’d have to say that this Caramelized Peach and Goat Cheese Salad just might be my favorite. It’s a little bit sweet (thanks to the caramelized peaches), a little bit savory (thanks to the goat cheese, quinoa and leafy greens), and a whole lot delicious.

Caramelized Peach Salad

If you’ve never caramelized fruit before, you’re going to want to do your tastebuds a favor and make this ASAP. Cooking the marinated fruit over medium heat helps to release the sugars in the fruit and brings out even more of the fruit’s natural sweetness. And let me tell you, it will take your salad – or dessert, breakfast, etc. – game to the next level.

When it comes to caramelizing fruit, peaches are the way to go – especially since their nutritional value actually increases with heat. That’s because peaches are full of beta-carotene, a nutrient that the body then converts to vitamin A. And it turns out, heat actually helps to release beta-carotene from food, making it more readily available to be absorbed into the body’s bloodstream. Pretty neat, huh?

So what are you waiting for? On your mark, get set, caramelize!

 

Caramelized Peach & Goat Cheese Salad
Serves 4
Fresh, juicy peach slices are briefly marinated in a simple honey-balsamic mixture and lightly caramelized before being tossed with goat cheese, quinoa, pecans, and spinach. A refreshing summer salad that will leave you feeling full - without weighing you down!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large ripe peaches, sliced
  2. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  3. 2 tsp honey
  4. 8 cups baby spinach*
  5. 2 cups cooked quinoa
  6. 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  7. 1/2 cup chopped pecans**
  8. 1 batch Maple Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
Instructions
  1. Add balsamic and honey to a large, shallow bowl and whisk well to combine. Place peaches in mixture, allowing to marinate for about 5 minutes per side (the longer they marinate, the greater the flavor). While peaches are marinating, preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Once peaches have finished marinating, carefully place in a single layer on the skillet, working in batches if necessary (don't worry if the peaches sizzle - this is a good sign!). Cook peaches until a nice golden brown crust develops on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip peaches and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until both sides are caramelized.
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine spinach, quinoa, goat cheese, pecans, and peaches. Gently toss with salad dressing, adding about 2 tbsp at a time until you've reached your desired amount (depending on how much dressing you prefer, you may not use the whole batch). Serve immediately.***
Notes
  1. * Feel free to substitute any other dark leafy green you prefer (something tells me arugula would be fabulous in this...)
  2. ** Optional: Toast pecans (or other nuts) in skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring or tossing frequently, until lightly golden and fragrant. This step is not necessary, but does make for a more intense pecan flavor.
  3. *** If making this ahead of time, combine all ingredients except for dressing and refrigerate. Toss with dressing immediately before serving.
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