In summer I envision the ground exploding with bounty like colorful cartoon fireworks of peppers and eggplant and corn and tomatoes that splash into the air under each footstep, with sound effects like “POP” or “WHOOPEE!” Though it might seem ironic that my cooking feels more modest in peak harvest, it actually makes perfect sense. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a true gift, and must be celebrated naked. The food that is, in its simplest form, though I invite you to try eating naked too. There is nothing quite as primal and sensual.
I tend to roll out of bed with a growling belly, which grows louder in the summer. I waltz through my morning routine in the buck, the damp humidity mocking my robe. I start the kettle for tea to wake my senses. Intending to brush my teeth next, I almost always discover the bowl of peaches and apricots stubbornly blocking my way to the bathroom. My fuzzy brain kicks into cartoon mode; the tempting fruit is sunlit with an angelic glow, singing “HALLELUJAH! EAT ME!”
My hand reaches for the juiciest peach, with those gentle depressions in the skin showing ripeness, so often mistaken for rot. (My farmer friend told me that it’s folly to think of a bruised peach as “spoiled” – tis’ merely ripe for the eating.) My feet carry me to the back porch, and in seconds I’m leaning over the railing slobbering away at the fruit, letting it drip down my hand and onto the flower bed below. I’m gnawing the clinging remnants from the pit by the time I realize I’m not the first one up in the neighborhood, and dash back inside to start my day.
To follow my Grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon with Orange & Basil at a recent, dreamy picnic, I made grilled peaches that had spent all afternoon marinating in a ginger-honey simple syrup. It was ravenously delicious. I even caught my friend on camera describing his morsel of peach in three words – “wet, hot, heaven!” – before he went so far as to eat his dessert off the knee of another friend.
The crowd concurred in their delight: nearly twenty hands courageously plucked peach and apricot halves off the grill – too good to wait for a plate. We howled with joy, and kissed each other’s sticky faces goodnight.
This recipe is ripe for creativity. Scrape a vanilla bean into your simple syrup, or add thyme for an unexpected twist. Interchange peaches with apricots with plums, of all shapes and sizes. Blemishes add character - bruises too! Or slice them off and use the rest of the fruit.
- Stone fruit - 1 quart stone fruit from your local farmers market or pick-your-own farm
- Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon, freshly squeezed
- Honey - 1/4 cup honey (substitute for maple syrup or agave nectar)
- Ginger - 1 teaspoon, freshly grated
- Slice the fruit around the belly, from stem to tail. Twist each half with both hands, as if you are opening an avocado. This won't always work if the fruit is super ripe. No worries, just slice of wedges or let the pieces be messy.
- Remove the pit and add the fruit to a bowl. Toss the fruit with the lemon juice to keep it from browning.
- In a small pot, add the honey and ginger, and warm until if becomes thin in consistency. Toss the syrup with the fruit and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, and up to 2 days before grilling.
- Fire up the grill - in lieu of a grill, you can use your oven broiler on high for 2 minutes (see Peachiest Rustic Gazpacho). Place the fruit on the grill face down for about 5 - 10 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is. The underside should be scored with grill marks and charred. Flip and grill for about 3-5 minutes longer on the curved side. Ultimately, you will have to decide if you like your fruit grilled for less time (crisper) or more time (softer). There's no wrong turn here - unless you burn them, so watch closely.