It’s that time of the year again. As we head into summer, peach season begins!
The almighty peach is back.
I declared my love for the peach last summer. Now that it has returned, so has my inspiration. Peaches can be used in so many ways, from a savory main course, a dessert, or just to add freshness and sweet flavor to a dish.
I hate to admit it, but I get pretty pumped up this time of year, which causes me to dive into the peach season a bit too early. I suggest waiting until sometime in July which is when the peach is really at its ripest and sweetest. You’ll also see more peaches from local orchards, which pick their fruit closer to ripeness than peaches coming from longer distances.
That being said, I was able to achieve some pretty delicious dishes using the first peaches of the season.
To celebrate Memorial Day, some friends came over for a potluck backyard BBQ. I really wanted to create a special dessert for the occasion and who doesn’t like Tiramisu? I knew my friends love it, so I decided to do it differently: a White Peach Tiramisu, served in tiny blue mason jars.
White Peach Tiramisu
I diced about 8 white peaches that were fairly ripe, put them in a large bowl, added a ¼ cup of sugar, 1 cup of white wine, ¼ cup of a really good peach liqueur and allowed the peaches to macerate for a couple of hours. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, I mixed together 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese, two cups of very well chilled heavy whipping cream, ¼ cup of sugar and the seeds from a fresh vanilla bean until smooth. Drain the peaches from the macerated mixture and reserve the juice.
Traditional Tiramisu is made with ladyfingers. How many individual desserts you’ll be making will determine the amount of ladyfingers needed. I broke each ladyfinger into 3 pieces and soaked them for a few seconds in the reserved peach juices. In each Mason jar, I added a tablespoon or so of the mascarpone mix, followed by a layer of the soaked ladyfingers, and then followed by a tablespoon of the diced peaches. I repeated this procedure a couple of more times, ending up with the mascarpone mix on top. I chilled them for a couple of hours and right before serving, sprinkled a little cinnamon on top. This turned out to be a really beautiful, fresh and flavorful summertime dessert.
I wanted to use up a few peaches for a quick and simple lunch, so I made a salad of Romaine lettuce, scallions, sliced white peaches, sliced honey crisp apples, cucumber and sliced Roma tomatoes.
I finished the salad with a drizzle of prickly pear vinaigrette which I made from prickly pear syrup that I made a couple of days before. Yes, I said prickly pear, the fruit of the nopal cactus from south of the border. The fruit is similar in texture to watermelon and has amazing color. The syrup is made like other fruit syrups, but make sure to strain the many hard seeds of the fruit.
Here’s how you make the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup prickly pear syrup
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and minced
Whisk everything together to emulsify and season with salt and pepper to taste.
If prickly pear is difficult to find or you’d prefer something a bit simpler, just eliminate the syrup from the recipe and add a teaspoon of honey. A couple of days later, I made the same salad, but also added some fresh blueberries. It gave the salad additional freshness and sweetness.
Peach & Blueberry Crumble-Top Pie
Speaking of blueberries! The next peach creation was a fresh peach and blueberry crumble-top pie.
I peeled and sliced about a half-dozen fresh peaches. To this, I added a cup of fresh blueberries, ½ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of flour, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt, the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon. After all ingredients were well mixed together in a large bowl, I poured the mixture into a 9-inch pie shell and topped it off with a crumble mixture.
This crumble mixture consisted of 1 stick of chilled and diced unsalted butter, 1 cup of all purpose flour, ½ cup of granulated sugar, ¼ cup of firmly packed light brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt placed in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. You can also rub the mixture with your fingertips until the crumble is the size of large peas. Place the crumble on top of the fruit-filled pie shell and baked it on a parchment lined sheet pan for 40-45 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. The crust and the crumble mixture should turn a nice golden brown.
But I didn’t stop there. Last night, I made two more dishes using peaches.
For the soup, I used white wine, champagne vinegar, a bit of cayenne pepper, olive oil, honey, diced cucumbers and of course, peeled and diced peaches. All of the ingredients are pulsed together in a food processor until smooth but with some texture left to the peaches. Chill for at least a couple of hours, but it’s even better chilled overnight.
Spoon the mixture into small bowls, garnish with small dices of red pepper, peeled and seeded cucumber, roughly chopped cilantro and buttery brioche croutons. Lastly, a drizzle of a quality extra-virgin olive oil. This is my favorite use of the almighty peach.
Seared Salmon with Peach Salsa
My last dish starring peach is fish with peach salsa on a bed of sautéed baby spinach. The peach salsa is made by mixing together diced peaches, halved grape tomatoes, thinly sliced jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced red onion, roughly chopped fresh mint, basil and cilantro, olive oil and honey.
I sautéed the spinach with a couple of thinly sliced cloves of garlic and finished it with a couple of tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
The peach continues to be an inspiration for me. It’s my favorite fruit of the summer. When I think of its flavors I think of its versatility as an ingredient in many dishes. And the summer is only beginning, leaving me with several more months to be inspired, create and experiment with the almighty peach.
What’s your favorite peach creation?