Peaches play a starring role in sensational summer recipes

July 12, 2011
Nothing says summer quite like a peach bellini. BY JACK CLEMONS

Walking through the Historic Lewes Farmers Market last Saturday was a delicious challenge. After checking off the list of weekly staples (eggs, bread, yogurt, milk) we shopped for the seasonal specialties, which included a summer highlight: still-warm-from-the-orchard peaches. At one point, I stopped to speak with a neighbor and discovered the group of people around me was actually a long, weaving queue to one of the peach vendors. Since I couldn’t choose between the fragrant quarts of white and yellow beauties, we brought home one of each.

Because these were perfectly ripe, we didn’t have to endure the “put them into a brown bag” waiting period. Also, because they were ready to eat, we were grateful to have a house full of guests to help us make our way through the abundant supply. I chose the softest ones (peaches, not guests) to simmer into a golden compote for our pancake breakfast. I’ve used the same recipe with blueberries and both are equally good as an ice cream topping.

Peaches adapt well to a starring role in fruit pies, cobblers and shortcakes. I like to peel, chop and freeze peaches in zip-top bags so they’re handy for a smoothie, muffin additions or a chilled fruit salad. For a decadent breakfast or light dessert, consider peach fritters. This recipe dips slender peach wedges in batter, rather than stirring chopped chunks into the batter before frying.

An overripe mango and two tired tomatoes inspired the peach curry recipe: a savory fruit stew that brings spicy interest to pork chops (or chicken breasts). This comes together in a single skillet, ideal for an easy entrée after a busy day at the beach. We didn’t have any coconut milk on hand, so I improvised by steeping flaked coconut in evaporated milk to deliver the right texture and slightly sweet coconut flavor. As a side benefit, I eliminated the higher number of calories canned coconut milk would have contributed.

By way of clarification, curry is a concept or technique, rather than a specific formula. Curry refers to a combination of meat or seafood cooked with vegetables and spices. The exact mixture and range of spices depends on the source of the recipe, many of them originating from India or Southeast Asia. This recipe doesn’t require assembling a curry paste and instead calls for curry powder to replace the lengthy list of spices (not necessarily authentic, but certainly convenient). Commercial curry powder was developed by the British during their rule over India and will typically impart a brownish-yellow color from the turmeric.

As we ate our way through the weekend, the fruit supply dwindled until only a few white peaches remained. Someone suggested Bellini cocktails - perfect for a steamy summer afternoon. For those of you who may not have heard its history, the Bellini was created in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice. He combined peach puree with prosecco (an Italian sparkling white wine) and found the striking color reminiscent of the shades of sunset in a Renaissance painting by Giovanni Bellini - hence the name.

I would recommend against versions of the Bellini that include unnecessary extras: cherry or raspberry juice, crème de cassis, peach schnapps. Resist the temptation to replace the bubbly prosecco with the rich flavor of French champagne, or you’ll lose the light, fruity essence of this cocktail. The original recipe has only two ingredients and needs no embellishment. Crimson streaks in the white peach flesh transform the puree into Bellini’s signature color (see photo). Enjoy the sunset!

Peach Compote
2 to 3 peaches
2 t butter
1 T maple syrup
1 t brown sugar
1/8 t cinnamon

Peel, pit and finely chop the peaches into a small bowl, collecting as much of the juices as possible; set aside. Melt the butter in a small skillet and add the peaches with their juice. Stir in the syrup, sugar and cinnamon; cook over a low heat, stirring regularly until the mixture has thickened. Serve over pancakes, waffles or ice cream. Yield: one cup.

Peachy Pork Chop Curry
1 T olive oil
2 pork loin chops
salt & pepper
1 chopped onion
1 T minced fresh ginger
2 T curry powder
1 peeled, diced mango
2 peeled, diced peaches
1/2 C coconut milk
2 chopped tomatoes

Heat the oil in a skillet large enough to hold the pork chops in a single layer. Season the chops with salt and pepper, to taste. Add to the skillet and cook until browned on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chops and loosely tent with foil. Add the onion and ginger to the same pan and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook for about 1 minute. Add the mango, peaches, milk and tomato; stir to combine. Return the meat to the skillet and cook on a low heat until fruit has softened and sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice.

Peach Fritters
3 peaches
2 eggs
1/2 C milk
1 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg
vegetable oil for frying
confectioners sugar

Wash and dry peaches; remove skin only if covered with thick fuzz. Cut peaches in half and remove pit; cut each half into 4 wedges and set aside. Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until thoroughly blended. Sift in dry ingredients and stir until batter is smooth; set aside. Heat vegetable oil (about 3 C) in a saucepan over medium to a temperature of 350 F. Spear a peach slice with a fork, plunge it into the batter and twirl to completely coat. Slide the battered peach off the fork into the hot oil and cook until crisp and golden. Dust with powdered sugar. Yield: 16 fritters

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