Nectarine salad with arugula, butter-braised nectarines, almonds, cheddar, and a lemon cinnamon vinaigrette. Add butter and aged cheddar chunks to your nectarine arugula salad, and enjoy this bright, fresh summery salad in less than 30 minutes.
All my life, I’ve been looking for a way to get butter into my salad, and I finally did it! I sauté thinly sliced nectarine segments in a bit of butter, and then I tilt the pan to scoop up the butter and baste them as they cook. The nectarines get nicely caramelized and super soft, and they float on top of this salad speckled with crunchy toasted almonds, creamy cheddar chunks, and a lemon cinnamon vinaigrette.
Actually, it gets better: after I take the nectarines out of the pan, I sauté the almonds in all their leftover glorious buttery juices. Just when you’ve decided you can’t thank me enough for this buttery nectarine salad, then I’ll tell you about those glorious aged cheddar chunks on top.
Wait, I haven’t even mentioned the LEMON CINNAMON VINAIGRETTE. Gosh, this salad is just too perfect! The lemon juice brightens the flavors of the nectarines, and the cinnamon tames the spicy arugula so nicely. This is simply the best summer salad to come out of my kitchen in years. Of course, we love a beetroot and feta salad in the fall, but this is what we eat when nectarines are super ripe and ready.
This nectarine salad is like a cheese plate with everything delicious: cheese chunks, fruit, nuts, and a little green on the side.
Nectarines. You’ll want to find freestone nectarines, which means they will twist apart easily into two halves when sliced open. Then, you can cut the nectarines halves into slices from there. If you have a clingstone nectarine, the nectarine won’t come apart easily and you’ll have to slice it around the pit. Use a ripe, but still somewhat firm nectarine so that the slices hold their shape while cooking.
Butter. I recommend salted butter, since this is a savory dish.
Arugula. Spicy, peppery arugula is best within a few days of picking. Grab some at the farmer’s market for the best flavors. If you can’t find it, baby spinach is great here, too.
Almonds. Either slivered or sliced almonds are both great here. If they’re slivered, they’ll take longer to toast in the pan than sliced almonds. Keep an eye on them as they toast, and use your nose to tell when they’re golden brown and ready. Remember to let them cool before tossing on the salad.
Aged White Cheddar Cheese. A bright, tangy but creamy white cheddar cheese is the best part of this salad. Buy one you like, and use the tip of a knife to break it into big chunks for sprinkling on top of the salad.
How to make the absolute best nectarine salad:
- First, gather the ingredients for the dressing: honey, cinnamon, lemon juice and olive oil. Also, grab the ingredients for the salad: nectarines, butter, arugula, almonds, and cheddar cheese.
2. Make the dressing first: whisk together the honey, cinnamon and lemon juice. Then, slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify a dressing. Give it a taste, and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Slice the nectarine into 14-15 thin slices. Add the nectarines to the pan, and saute in the butter for 2-3 minutes on the first side, flip, and then sauté the other side. Tilt the pan and use a spoon to scoop and baste the nectarine with the butter. After the nectarines are soft and have some golden brown places on the edge, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon.
4. To the same pan with the leftover butter, add the almonds and toast until they’re golden brown in a few spots, about 4-5 minutes. Once they’re golden, remove them from the pan to cool.
5. Use the tip of a knife to chop the cheddar into bite-size chunks.
6. Pile the arugula into a serving bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Add the nectarines, cheddar chunks, and toasted almonds.
I also love that this salad can be made ahead of time: make the butter-braised nectarines and toast the almonds ahead of time. When ready to serve, make the dressing, toss with the salad, and add the nectarines, cheddar chunks, and any leftover juices from the pan. If you like fruity salads, you would like my chopped salad recipe with pear vinaigrette.
Variations on this nectarine salad with arugula:
-use peaches instead of nectarines (but scrub them really well to get the fuzz off of their skin)
-use spinach instead of arugula for a more mild flavor
-if you can find smoked almonds, use those!
-aged cheddar cheese is great here, but swap in your favorite cheese
-no matter what you change about this recipe, make sure you use high-quality butter. I prefer a European-style butter.
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Juice of half a lemon
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large fresh nectarine
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 5 ounces fresh arugula
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 3 ounces aged white cheddar cheese
1. In a large serving bowl, whisk together the honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking. Set aside.
2. Slice the nectarine into 14-15 thin slices.
3. Heat a large 10” nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the butter.
4. When the butter melts, add the nectarine slices in one layer.
5. Let the nectarines cook on one side for 2 minutes, then flip.
6. After flipping the nectarines, gently tilt the pan, and using a spoon, spoon the butter over the nectarines to baste them. Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove the nectarines from the pan and let cool. Do not scrape out the pan.
7. Add the almonds to the pan and toast in the butter and nectarine juices.
8. Add the arugula to the bowl, followed by the peaches, almonds and cheddar chunks. Toss and serve.
Nectarines: You'll want to find freestone nectarines, which means they will twist apart easily into two halves when sliced open. Then, you can cut the nectarines halves into slices from there. If you have a clingstone nectarine, the nectarine won't come apart easily and you'll have to slice it around the pit. Use a ripe, but still somewhat firm nectarine so that the slices hold their shape while cooking.
Butter: I recommend salted butter, since this is a savory dish.
Arugula: Spicy, peppery arugula is best within a few days of picking. Grab some at the farmer's market for the best flavors. If you can't find it, baby spinach is great here, too.
Almonds: Either slivered or sliced almonds are both great here. If they're slivered, they'll take longer to toast in the pan than sliced almonds. Keep an eye on them as they toast, and use your nose to tell when they're golden brown and ready. Remember to let them cool before tossing on the salad.
Aged White Cheddar Cheese: A bright, tangy but creamy white cheddar cheese is the best part of this salad. Buy one you like, and use the tip of a knife to break it into big chunks for sprinkling on top of the salad.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 760Total Fat: 62gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 38gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 438mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 5gSugar: 32gProtein: 16g