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Thursday, June 28, 2012 01:03 am

Peachy combinations


It’s my earliest taste memory: Climbing our white peach tree to pick a dead-ripe sun-hot fruit. Biting into its flesh, I’d savor its succulence as the warm juices dribbled down my chin.

That tree is long gone. Fortunately prime peach-growing territory surrounds Springfield, unless there’s a late-season freeze. Tree-ripened peaches and their fuzz-free cousins, nectarines, appear at farmers markets and roadside vendors in season.

Oftentimes there’ll also be berries whose season parallels peaches’: blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Though they’re wonderful eaten alone, combining berries and peaches/nectarines is a heavenly match.

Serving seasonal peaches/nectarines and berries simply, alone or in combination, is hard to beat, whether “naked,” drizzled with cream, or over vanilla ice cream. But there are also delectable ways to “guild the lilies.” Here are three:

Peach ice cream with a blueberry swirl

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (see my 10/22/11 IT column, “Ice cream art and science”) provided the techniques for this recipe; the flavor combination is my own. The blueberry swirl/compote also sings a delectable solo over vanilla or lemon ice cream, pancakes or waffles, or drizzled over pound cake.

I use a 1 1/2 qt. Cuisinart ice cream maker, with an electric base and frozen canister. There are other makes and models, ranging from $40 to $60. You can also make ice cream without one: Put the mixture into a shallow pan in the freezer; stir every 15 minutes until it’s frozen. The texture won’t be the same, but it will still be delicious.

For the blueberry swirl/compote
• 2 c. blueberries
• 1 c. sugar
• Finely grated zest from 1 medium lemon (about a scant tablespoon, loosely packed)
• 2 T. lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer, cooking until the sauce thickens, 10-12 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate completely if using for the ice cream swirl. Serve warm or cold, by itself or over other things.

Preparing the peaches:
• 3 c. peaches cut into approximately 1-inch to 2-inch chunks, peeled or not (Peels give the ice cream a “peachier” color.)
• 3 T. lemon juice
• 1 c. sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the peaches with the lemon juice, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until they’re softened and starting to shrink; 10-12 minutes.

Cool until the peaches are just barely warm. Scrape them and their juices into a blender or food processor. Add the sugar; process until the peaches are puréed and the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until completely cold.

For the ice cream:
• 3 T. cornstarch
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 3/4 c. whole milk
• 6 T. cream cheese
• 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
• 3 T. light corn syrup

Combine the cornstarch and salt in a small bowl; whisk in 1/2 c. of the milk, making a smooth slurry.

Put the cream cheese in a large glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in an oven set on warm. Once the cream cheese has softened enough to be stirred easily (it should only take a few minutes), turn the oven off, leaving the cream cheese inside until needed.

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream and corn syrup; bring to a full boil over medium-high heat. Boil four minutes, then remove from the heat. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture, return the pan to the stove, and bring back to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture slightly thickens, about a minute.

Slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese, whisking until it’s completely smooth. Stir in the peach purée, combining thoroughly.

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely cold. Putting the mixture into a gallon resealable plastic bag and submerging it in an ice-and-water-bath will hasten the process: the mixture should be thoroughly chilled in 30 minutes.

Pour the peach mixture into the frozen canister. Spin until it’s very thick and creamy. Meanwhile, put the container it will be stored in into a freezer. It should be deep instead of wide.

To finish the ice cream:
Pack the ice cream into the storage container: Make a layer of ice cream, add a layer of blueberry swirl, then another layer of ice cream, then the swirl, etc. Finishing with a spoonful of swirl. Do NOT mix.

Press parchment or plastic wrap against the surface. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Peach Melba pie

The Belle Époque, known in America as the “Guilded Age,” lasted roughly between 1890 and the onset of WWI. Auguste Escoffier was its most renowned chef, and he paid homage to its most renowned soprano, Australian Nellie Melba, by naming two of his creations in her honor: Melba toast (very thin dried toast that he made for her when she was ill), and Peaches Melba. The original was vanilla ice cream topped with peaches and served in an elaborately carved ice swan. Later Escoffier ditched the swan and added a red raspberry sauce. Today anything in a dish combining red raspberries and peaches is usually called “Melba.”

This recipe is my adaptation of one that’s in the current issue of Saveur magazine in an article about Minnesota State Fair Food: It was a blue ribbon winner for Jean Peno. While I give kudos to Peno for her inspired idea, I wasn’t fond of the amount and kind of spices she used: cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, which usually flavor fall pumpkin pies. My version uses just a touch of cinnamon, which lets the fruit flavors shine.

Pastry for a 9-inch two-crust pie (For tips on making pie pastry as well as a recipe and thoughts on the best shortenings to use, see my 10/22/08 RealCuisine column on IT’s website)

• 6 T. all-purpose flour
• 1 c. sugar
• 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 4 c. sliced firm, but fully ripe, peaches, peeled or not, as you prefer
• 2 T. lemon juice
• 1 c. red raspberries
• 1 T. peach schnapps or peach brandy, optional
• 3 T. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
• 1 beaten egg, optional
• Sugar to sprinkle over the top, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out the pastry for the bottom crust, fit it into the pie tin; including the pastry overhanging the edges. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon and sugar. Slice the peaches about 1/2-inch thick directly into the bowl with the flour/sugar mixture to catch the peaches’ juices. Gently combine, then very gently mix in the raspberries.

Roll out the top crust at least a couple inches diametrically larger than the pie tin. Remove the bottom crust from the fridge. Pour the filling into it, then sprinkle the butter cubes over the top.

Cover with the top crust. Crimp the edges and trim off any excess pastry. Cut several slits in the top crust. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake about 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Cool on a rack. Served warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

A scoop of vanilla ice cream brings the pie closer Peach Melba’s origins.

Makes one 9-inch pie.

Nectarine and blueberry salsa

This riff on Mexican fruit-based salsas is eye-catching and delicious. Serve with tortilla chips, or as a condiment for grilled fish or pork.

• 2 c. unpeeled, ripe but firm nectarines, cut into small dice
• 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
• 1 c. fresh blueberries
• 1/2 c. minced sweet onion or scallion
• 1/2 c. thinly slivered red bell pepper about 2 inches long
• 2-4 T. thinly slivered hot peppers, optional
• 1/2 c. coarsely chopped cilantro

Toss the diced nectarines with the lime juice to coat, then combine them with the remaining ingredients. Let stand for at least a half hour before serving. Makes approximately 4 c.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

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