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Tyler Florence's Peach, Fennel, Mozzarella and Crispy Prosciutto Salad

You see, there's this guy, Tyler Florence. Maybe you've heard of him? Well, you're about to hear a whole lot more, because in addition to his new store in Mill Valley and two new cookbooks, he's also about to open a restaurant in San Francisco, housed in the Hotel Vertigo (and named, of course, Bar Florence), scheduled to make its debut in December. Still, his two cookbooks are filled with simple recipes for make-at-home food and this salad is just the thing to make this weekend, while the weather is warm and before the last few peaches vanish for another season.

California Peach, Shaved Fennel, Mozzarella and Crispy Prosciutto Salad

I put this salad together for one of the first dinner parties I had at my new house, and it was a hit from the get-go. The creamy, fresh mozzarella really highlights the salty, crunchy bits of prosciutto and the sweet, juicy flesh of the peaches. This is one that nobody will see coming.

8 thin slices prosciutto (about 1/3 pound)
4 peaches, firm but ripe, halved and pitted
1/2 fennel bulb
2 balls (8 ounces each) fresh buffalo mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups fresh hydroponic watercress or other peppery green
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay prosciutto slices out flat in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until crispy and golden. Remove from tray and drain on paper towerls.

Cut peaches into thick wedges; set aside. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, shave fennel into paper-thin crescents. Drop fennel slices in a large bowl of ice water for one minute to crisp; drain and dry on paper towels. Toss peaches, fennel, mozzarella, and watercress together in a large salad bowl.

To prepare the dressing, put balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in oil until mixture emulsifies slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle individual servings of salad with dressing; top with crispy prosciutto.

From Stirring the Pot by Tyler Florence. Photographs by Squire Fox. Courtesy of Meredith Books, 2008.