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Nectarine Salad & Basil Dressing

It sounds pathetic, I know, but every year I count down the weeks till nectarines are in season. I'll explain why I'm so nectarine-obsessed and, once you've sampled the recipe ideas I've shared, you'll find yourself performing a Final (Nectarine) Countdown of your own. Nectarines add both color and fresh, fruity flavor to leaf and grain salads, can be grilled and served with meat, chicken or fish, and are simply spectacular when poached with berries or cherries, or used in a tart in place of apples. Surprising as it may sound, fresh basil best brings out the flavor of this luscious, summer fruit, as is evident in this memorable Jeweled Nectarine Jeweled Salad With Basil Dressing. See notes for alternative ways to use this sumptuous dressing in other spectacularly different ways, and enjoy 'Nectarine Nirvana' while it lasts. We'll be back to boring oranges 'n apples before you know it!

SALAD Shredded red and green cabbage OR baby leaves Chopped spring onion Cubed red pepper OR red and yellow pepper Sliced or cubed firm nectarines Toasted sunflower seeds OR toasted almonds Basil dressing * If you buy ready shredded cabbage and it includes carrot that's obviously fine. Purple cabbage adds a lot of color so don't leave this out. Cubed avocado can be added to this salad as can sliced cucumber. Use this as your base and feel free to play. 1: Assemble salad ingredients in a deep bowl or on a platter and toss with sufficient dressing to coat shortly before serving. BASIL DRESSING 1 to 2 cups fresh basil leaves 1/3 cup rice vinegar OR white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar* 3/4 cup canola oil 2 tablespoons sugar OR honey 1 teaspoon crushed garlic 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (smooth or grain) Salt and pepper to taste * If using white wine or cider vinegar it's best diluted slightly with water as rice vinegar is milder. 1: Process the basil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and mustard together till smooth then slowly add oil and continue blending till creamy. 2: Season to taste and store in the refrigerator till needed. COOK'S NOTES: Dressing is superb as a general salad dressing too. It can be drizzled over sliced tomato and mozzarella slices to make a gourmet Caprese salad, it is wonderful used as a marinade for chicken breasts/kebabs or lamb chops on a BBQ, it can be served with salmon cooked with a honey glaze, or served over grilled nectarines with BBQ meats. It can also be used to add flavor when making a couscous or burgul salad by adding 3 to 4 tablespoons to the boiling water when making up the couscous or burgul. Experiment and you'll surely find other delicious uses too. The dressing is the star of any salad.

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