By Susan Jenkins
A few years ago, after three weeks of touring Rome, Florence and Venice, I decided to venture from the main sites and journey to the small town of Gorgonzola, northeast of Milan. I was expecting four days of quiet reflection, and the quaint city of slightly more than 20,000 inhabitants did not disappoint. From its humble beginnings as a small station for changing horses, Gorgonzola has achieved worldwide renown, mostly for bequeathing its name to its highly regarded variety of blue cheese.
As I had hoped, Gorgonzola (the town) was an idyllic place to meander along twisting, narrow streets flanked by green-shuttered windows. Serenity enveloped me. I walked for hours, hearing only my sneakers crunching on the ground, children playing in parks and women laughing from three-story, yellow-brown houses whose kitchens gave off enticing aromas all day. Small cafes welcomed me with strong coffee and fresh food, offered with warm smiles and a compelling story or two.
I ate Gorgonzola cheese almost everywhere I went. It was smooth and lush, with a crumbly, soft texture and a nutty aroma. I thought that just looking at it could make it melt, and every bite seemed more succulent than the one before. I encountered Gorgonzola served over green salads and pasta dishes, and even on a cheeseburger. And it always perfectly complemented wines such as Bordeaux, Zinfandel and Sauternes.
This salad, a variation of one I had there, boasts the summery richness of Gorgonzola combined with grilled nectarines, toasted hazelnuts and fresh mint. It can make a complete lunch or a delightful preamble to either a simple or formal dinner. For those who have always wanted to visit (or revisit) Italy, it may create the tipping point for a memorable trip to one of the world’s great destinations for food.
Grilled Nectarine Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese
4 ripe freestone nectarines or peaches
1/2 cup whole mint leaves
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
A trickle of extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts
A shake or two of Kosher salt
- Preheat grill to medium-high.
- Cut nectarines or peaches in half and remove the pits. Drizzle each section with a bit of oil, then grill until charred and warmed through, about 3 minutes per side.
- Transfer the fruit to a serving platter. Drip honey over the top and add mint leaves. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola, hazelnuts and Kosher salt.