When it comes to salads, there’s nothing more refreshing than chunks of perfectly ripe, seasonal fruit on a bed of greens. This salad recipe combines the sweet-tart flavor of cherries with salty bites of prosciutto and topped with tangy balsamic vinegar.
When you live in a town affectionately nicknamed “the armpit of the South” for it’s miserably hot and humid weather, summer meals are planned around what involves the least amount of cooking. With this summer’s extreme heat wave, we’ve been living off salads and ice cold cans of pamplemousse la croix.
Normally, I’m not big on fruit in savory dishes, but when it comes to salads, there’s nothing more refreshing than chunks of perfectly ripe, seasonal fruit on a bed of greens. My peach and arugula salad has been on regular rotation, but now that I’ve made this cherry and crispy prosciutto salad, it’s my new fave.
Along with South Carolina peaches (which, contrary to what Regan says, are the best in the world), cherries are one of those fruits I gorge myself on each summer. I’ve been known to forget bananas or oranges in the fruit basket until they go bad, but when we have cherries around, I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner until they’re gone!
Clients often ask me my choice for most nutritious fruit and I always say berries. But cherries, technically a stone fruit, should be right up there. Packing just as much sweet-tart flavor as berries, cherries are packed with an equal amount of antioxidant power!
HEART DISEASE // Cherries are a rich source of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which give cherries their dark red color. Anthocyanin rich foods may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and reducing inflammation.
ARTHRITIS // Cherries are so powerfully anti-inflammatory, they can be used as a treatment for arthritis. When I worked as an outpatient dietitian at a medical center, many of my patients had severe arthritis. I frequently recommended tart cherry juice and some claimed it helped their pain more than medications! Their experience is confirmed by studies, which show it can reduce pain from arthritis by 20%. Even if you don’t have arthritis, studies have found cherries and cherry juice are also helpful for reducing post workout pain and soreness.
GOUT // Gout is an incredibly painful type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood. One study found just two days of eating cherries is enough to reduce the risk of a gout flare.
SLEEP // Getting quality sleep is so incredibly important for health. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve begun to fully grasp the impact of sleep on health and weight control. But of course, for those who struggle to get enough sleep, it’s harder than just going to bed on time. If that’s you, you’ll be happy to know cherries contain melatonin and studies shown cherries can increase length of sleep and restfulness of sleep!
Most of the studies done are with cherry juice, especially tart cherry juice, which is highest in antioxidants. I love to use tart cherry juice therapeutically, especially for post workout soreness. But fresh cherries are my top choice for taste and snackability! When cherries aren’t in season, you could make this salad with unsweetened dried cherries, or roast frozen cherries, which are cheap and available year round.
Crispy Proscuitto and Dark Cherry Salad with Balsamic
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces prosciutto
- 1 bag mixed greens
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 1/2 cups pitted dark sweet cherries
- 1-2 ounces pecorino romano, shaved
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When oil is hot, add prosciutto and cook about 2 minutes per side until crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined sheet.
- In a large salad bowl, toss together greens and herbs. Add cherries. Break prosciutto into smaller pieces and add to the salad. Garnish with pecorino romano. Whisk balsamic, honey and olive oil together in a small bowl and season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle dressing over the top, toss lightly and serve.