It’s peach season. Again. And what I mean by peach season is not that these symbols of summer are available in the produce stands and supermarket shelves. They are. But when peach season rolls around in my life, it comes in a mad rush, during a brief, three-day period as dozens of peaches quickly ripen on the small peach tree planted on an upper corner of the backyard.
It wasn’t always like this. When we planted the tree eight years ago, we were planning for a nectarine tree. But our gardener, a talented landscape designer from Vancouver who was trying to acclimate to Israel, mixed up her afarsekim with her nectarinot and landed us with fuzzy-skinned peaches rather than their smoother-skinned cousins.
Here’s the thing, though. When the peaches first began growing — and they were small back then, not much bigger than a fat kalamata olive — I discovered that it doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to these similar stone fruits: While I had envisioned sitting underneath the tree, idly picking off one fruit at a time and eating its juicy goodness, it doesn’t work like that.
When the peaches ripen on our tree (reliably during the first week of June) they have to be picked immediately and dealt with or they rot, whether on the tree or in a bowl on the counter. Then it’s a race to cut them up, skin as many as possible, and stick them in the freezer.
Once that’s done, however, there’s a bounty of sweet-white fleshed fruit that works well in a surprisingly wide variety of savory and sweet dishes, including some that we try just because we can.
This week, our top five peach recipes. And if you’ve got a nectarine tree, feel free to make the switch — it’s all about the juicy fruit under the skin.
1) Any list of peach recipes has to include a peach cobbler, a mixture of fruit cooked with a little sugar and flour (or cornstarch), and then topped with a combination of flour, sugar, sometimes some toasted almonds thrown in for crunch, and butter. There are those of us who need more topping, others who require less, but when served warm from the oven with a dollop of vanilla ice cream (or peach), there’s no better dessert. (Although this is one dessert that I often eat for breakfast, served with a spoonful or two of yogurt on top.)
2) Here’s another peach recipe I’m making today, peach fruit leather, along the same lines as the strawberry fruit leather that I make during the early spring when strawberries are at their peak in these parts. This recipe does not call for cooking the peaches first before spreading the mixture on a cookie sheet and letting it slowly dry in the oven for several hours. That can often make for a fruit leather with more texture, which won’t bother me, but may not be deemed acceptable by others in my household. I’m planning on trying it both ways, uncooked as well as cooked slowly on the stovetop before spreading onto a baking sheet. Let me know how yours comes out.
3) Using peaches in savory recipes is unquestionably wise. Sure, they’re sweet, but their sweetness can be toned down by other ingredients in the right combination. I tried peach gazpacho last week, combining peaches, cucumbers (the furry kind that I’m currently receiving in my weekly organic vegetable box) and cilantro into an easy, surprisingly tart cold soup. We could have eaten it for dessert as well, and the leftovers provided a great snack during the week. I’ll combine the peaches with tomatoes for this week’s version.
4) Ever grill a peach or a nectarine? It’s divine. There are many recipes out there for doing so with a brown sugar glaze, or balsamic vinegar, but honestly, skip the glaze. It’s unnecessary. Pick ripe but firm peaches, slice them into rounds and before (or after) the chicken, steaks or salmons are done, slip a bunch of these on the hot grate. Within minutes, the peaches darken, their natural sugars carmelizing into a warm, sweet combination. They’re wonderful served with grilled chicken breasts or tossed into a peach salsa. You can also just serve them as is, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a satisfying dessert.
5) Can a peach post be written without including peach ice cream? I think not. But here’s the thing: Any peach ice cream must include plenty of peaches, otherwise the taste is more vanilla than peach. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not peach ice cream. So consider whipping up a batch with all those frozen (or fresh) peaches, and if you really want to outdo yourself, bake a peach pie as well. But that’s for the truly industrious.