By Daniel Neman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
You bite into a ripe peach. A drop of delicious juice spills over your lips and traces a wet, sticky trail down your chin.
Now that’s summer.
Few experiences in this world are more mind-blowingly sensual than eating a ripe peach bursting with flavor.
But that’s a fresh peach, consumed au naturel. What about cooking with peaches? What about using them in savory dishes? Are they still as amazing then?
Of course they are. Peaches are still peaches, even when placed on top of a pizza.
So I put peaches on top of a pizza, where they more than held their own. The secret was my grill.
Using a recipe by Martha Stewart (and I’m not embarrassed to admit that), I grilled the sliced peaches before using them as a flatbread topping. I knew that would caramelize the fruit, making it sweeter, but what I did not anticipate was how just a couple of minutes on the grill would give the peach a smoky flavor.
That extra blast of smoke (more prominent, actually, than the added sweetness) was the perfect accompaniment to a thin layer of salty, smoky prosciutto. A sprinkling of fresh basil added a heady bite, which nicely cut a rich and creamy layer of mozzarella.
I wasn’t through with savory uses for peaches. And you won’t be either.
FRESH PEACH CAKE
1 stick (¼ pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
½ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. If you use a smaller pan the batter will overflow it while it cooks, so place it on top of a baking sheet with a rim or a larger pan.
Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until just combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup of sugar and cinnamon.
Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with 2/3 of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.
Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 12 servings
Per serving: 335 calories; 15 grams fat; 7 g saturated fat; 63 milligrams cholesterol; 5 g protein; 47 g carbohydrate; 30 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 253 mg sodium; 59 mg calcium.
— Recipe by Ina Garten, via Food Network
GRILLED PEACH PIZZAS WITH PROSCIUTTO
3 pizza dough crusts, or flatbreads, pita or naan
2 peaches, cut into ½-inch wedges
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
12 thin slices prosciutto, cut in half
1/3 cup fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Heat a grill or grill pan on high heat and grill pizza crusts, flatbreads, pita or naan until grill marks are dark. Set aside and grill peach wedges until caramelized, about 2 minutes per side.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, or lower grill temperature to medium. Spread cheese on grilled pizza crusts. Bake or grill (covered with a lid) directly on grates until cheese melts and is bubbling, about 8 minutes (time may vary slightly if grilling). Remove from oven or grill. Top with peaches, prosciutto and basil. Drizzle with oil.
Per serving: 841 calories; 49 grams fat; 24 g saturated fat; 167 milligrams cholesterol; 45 g protein; 58 g carbohydrate; 15 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 1,828 mg sodium; 15 mg calcium.
Yield: 3 (9-inch pizza) servings
— Recipe from Martha Stewart
FRESH GEORGIA PEACH BOURBON
3 to 4 fresh peaches
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 whole cloves
3 whole allspice berries
1 (750 ml) bottle good-quality bourbon
Wash the peaches and cut in half to remove the pit. Slice each half into two equal wedges and place in the bottom of a large glass jar. Add sugar, cloves and allspice before adding the bourbon. Seal tightly.
Place out of direct sunlight and let steep for 7 to 10 days. Once infused, strain the bourbon and discard the peaches and spices. Finished bourbon will keep indefinitely in an airtight decanter or jar.
Yield: 17 (1½-ounce) servings
Per serving: 103 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 2 grams carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; no fiber; no sodium; no calcium.
— From thepeachtruck.com
PEACH-AND-TOMATO GAZPACHO WITH CUCUMBER YOGURT
5 large peaches, peeled and divided
3 large tomatoes, cored and divided
½ cup coarsely chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Salt and white pepper, to taste
¾4 cup finely diced English cucumbers
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cut 4 of the peaches and 2 of the tomatoes into quarters and put in a food processor or blender. Add the sweet onion and vinegar and process until smooth.
Chop remaining peach and tomato. Stir into pureed mixture. Season with salt (if it tastes bitter, the salt will add sweetness) and white pepper to taste. Chill 1 hour.
Meanwhile, combine cucumber, yogurt and the 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours (chilling can dull the seasoning, so you may need to add more salt and pepper before serving).
Ladle gazpacho into bowls. Spoon cucumber mixture over gazpacho. Drizzle each serving with about 1 teaspoon olive oil and serve immediately.
Yield: About 8 (1-cup) servings
Per serving: 112 calories; 6 grams fat; 1 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 3 g protein; 15 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 7 milligrams sodium; 25 mg calcium.
— From Southern Living magazine