It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Forget the hard, cold supermarket version of peaches—fragrant, ripe, bruisable fruit is the thing we have been waiting for.
Here in New York, higher prices for peaches have raised eyebrows. But upstate and in the Hudson Valley, premature warmth produced early blossoms that were subsequently killed by a cold snap; in some cases this caused total crop loss for farmers. New Jersey and more southerly regions were less affected. Interestingly, hardier donut peaches fared better. Seasonal produce always has a story to tell.
Peaches are a versatile fruit and adapt seamlessly to new and thoughtfully chosen ingredient partners. It’s time to experiment, and to try all those things we’ve never tried before, as well as to revisit old, comforting favorites, without which summer would not be summer (peach pie, peach ice cream).
Read on for 12 libatious, sweet, and savory ways to eat peaches (including a recipe for Peach Bruschetta):
Photography by Marie Viljoen.
Above: Let’s get one thing out of the way, first. We all know that the best way to eat a ripe peach is privately, and au naturel, standing over the sink, juices dripping. And then to eat another.
Above: The simple and perfect Bellini cocktail can be made classically with peach purée, or deconstructed, with chilled prosecco poured right over slices of the sweetest white peaches the greenmarket has to offer.
Chilled Peach Prosecco
Above: Not exactly a drink, not exactly dessert, chilled prosecco poured over a freshly peeled whole white peach is delectably and simply hedonistic.
To Cacha Peach
Above: Cachaça shaken up with Lillet Blanc, fresh white peach purée, and lime juice blends the funky whiff of sugar cane juice with the refined French infusion and the aromatic sweetness of peach. Ratio? In order of ingredients, 1.5 + 2 + 1 + 0.5. I call it To Cacha Peach.
Above: My summer-comfort standby is a peach and blueberry cake plumped up with almond flour and accompanied by a cup of morning coffee. It is very moist and not overly sweet. You’ll find the recipe on my food blog, 66 Square Feet (the Food).
Blueberry Peach Bread
Above: A close relative to the cake is this sweet loaf I bake on banana bread principles, with the same late summer coupling of blueberries and peaches standing in for bananas. See the recipe on 66 Square Feet.
Peach pie must of course be eaten at least once a season, and I like my fruit slices tossed with a small amount of flour and very little sugar before being put into the pie dish. Little is simpler than a peach crumble where freestone slices are covered with lightly crumbled or grated sweet pastry and popped into an oven until the juice bubbles through the crust. And warmed peach slices tucked into thin crêpes and set alight with peach liqueur are a dinner party’s perfect end.
Above: Poaching peaches gently in white vermouth, white or pink wine, or a simple sugar syrup yields delicately cool fruit which my friend Bevan Christie likes to serve with crushed raspberries (in season now, too) and a very good vanilla ice cream. A peach Melba relative. If you reduce the poaching liquid till it is sticky, this pretty syrup is very good drizzled over a topping of whipped cream, as an alternative. Also, if you are dexterous with a sharp knife, remove the pit from the poached peach (keeping the peach intact) and fill the space with an almond praline cream.
Above: It was Marcella Hazan who gave me the idea, many years ago, in Marcella’s Italian Kitchen ($19.90 on Amazon), to grill fruit on the cooling fire.
“On picnics, after we were done with barbecuing fish or meat and vegetables, it seemed a shame to let the coals’ last heat expire unused, so I would drop whatever fruit we had on the grill,” Hazan wrote. “Good as it was—and I don’t think it can get any better—I accepted it as the fire’s parting gift without thinking of it as a deliberate approach to preparing fruit.”
Above: I add halved peaches to the grill after cooking dinner and let them cook over the cooling coals. Stuffed with mascarpone and topped with crunchy Amaretto crumbs, they are luscious. You can use a hot griddle pan (for the all-important stripes) if you don’t have a BBQ. You’ll find the recipe in my book, 66 Square Feet–A Delicious Life ($21.55 on Amazon).
Above: The summer when I slivered a peach and topped it with torn-up basil from my terrace was a happy one, because this simple combination led to almost infinite variation, from quick-pickled peaches with herbs and burrata to fresh peach salsas (chile, mint, onion, and delicious with grilled dark-meat fish, like bluefish and mackerel, or with fire-blackened corn on the cob), to savory soups.
Peaches are sweet, yes, but the addition of salt reveals new possibilities in the peach personality. Add sharp lime juice, the heat of jalapeño, the coolness of cucumber, and fresh herbs like basil and perilla, and a cold peach soup is revitalizing and easy summer evening fare. If you have leftovers and a lazy brunch the next morning, add a dash of vodka and serve in a tall glass for a Mary’s Just Peachy, Thank You.
Above: Peach bruschetta can swing both ways. The sweet: Fresh peach slices on toasted baguette, topped with brown sugar before broiling. The savory: Fresh ricotta flavored with preserved lemon and honey, topped with peach slices and Urfa biber, a smoky-raisiny chile preparation.
Makes one large slice, to serve two
- 1 slice sourdough bread
- 3 tablespoons fresh ricotta
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoons preserved lemon zest, chopped very finely
- ¼ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
- 1 sweet yellow peach sliced fairly thickly
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon Urfa biber (or substitute chile flakes)
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
Toast the bread.
In a small bowl mix the ricotta, honey, preserved lemon, and ¼ teaspoon olive oil. Spread the ricotta mixture thickly on the toasted bread and lay the peach slices on top. Sprinkle with the sugar and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place under a preheated broiler. Remove after five minutes and scatter the rosemary needles across the peach slices, and return to the broiler for about three minutes till the peach edges begin to color. Just before serving dust with the Urfa biber, and eat warm.
And what about the whole the realm of peach preservation? Peach barbecue sauces, peach jams, peach chutneys, peach-infused vinegars and peach leathers.
Another time. We have run out of space.
For more of our favorite late-summer garden-to-table recipes, see:
- Fried Green Tomatoes from a Cook’s Garden.
- 10 Shrub Recipes for Summer Fruit.
- Chilled Zucchini Summer Soup, Vitamix Edition.