By Susan Jenkins
A few years ago, after touring Rome, Florence and Venice for three weeks, I decided to venture away from the main attractions and travel to the small town of Gorgonzola, northeast of Milan. I was expecting four days of quiet reflection, and the quaint town of just over 20,000 didn’t disappoint. From its humble beginnings as a small horse-changing station, Gorgonzola has gained worldwide renown, largely for bequeathing its name to its highly regarded blue cheese.
As I had hoped, Gorgonzola (the town) was an idyllic place to meander through winding, narrow streets flanked by green shutters. Serenity enveloped me. I’ve walked for hours and heard only my sneakers crunch on the ground, children playing in parks and women laughing from three-story tawny houses whose kitchens gave off alluring smells all day long. Small cafes greeted me with strong coffee and fresh food offered with a warm smile and a captivating story or two.
I’ve eaten gorgonzola cheese almost everywhere. It was smooth and rich, with a crumbly, soft texture and nutty aroma. I thought it might melt just looking at it, and each bite seemed juicier than the last. I encountered gorgonzola served over green salads and pasta dishes, and even on a cheeseburger. And it always paired perfectly with wines like Bordeaux, Zinfandel and Sauternes.
This salad, a variation on one I had there, features the summery richness of gorgonzola combined with grilled nectarines, toasted hazelnuts and fresh mint. It can be a full lunch or a delicious introduction to a simple or formal dinner. For those who have always wanted to visit (or revisit) Italy, this could be the tipping point for an unforgettable trip to one of the world’s greatest food destinations.
Grilled nectarine salad with gorgonzola cheese
4 ripe Freestone nectarines or peaches
1/2 cup whole mint leaves
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola
A drop of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of honey
1/2 cup toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts
A shake or two of kosher salt
- Preheat grill to medium heat.
- Halve and deseed the nectarines or peaches. Drizzle each section with a little oil, then grill until charred and warmed through, about 3 minutes per side.
- Transfer the fruit to a serving platter. Drizzle over honey and add mint leaves. Sprinkle with gorgonzola, hazelnuts and kosher salt.