Peaches are possibly my favourite fruit. I am a Summer baby with a penchant for anything that screams warm weather and redolent of long days. A perfectly ripe peach needs no doctoring – forget pies, sugar and jam – its juiciness and sweetness are perfectly capable of standing on their own two legs.
The substantive “peach” derives from the French “peche”, in turn a byproduct of the Latin “pesca”. It all started with the Romans who called the tree prunus persica as they imported it from Persia where they thought it originated. Most botanists nowadays agree that the peach tree came from China, through the Silk Road, before Christian times. Funnily enough, I can’t think of a single Chinese dish that features peaches, despite being a symbol of longevity in most Oriental cultures.
My belief that the nectarine was a cousin of sort of the peach was put to shame after some digging and I uncovered that a nectarine is in fact a peach with a recessive gene which inhibits the growth of the fuzz. Peaches are related to the almond tree which explains why people allergic to almonds are often allergic to peaches too – the two share the same protein. It also makes sense that peaches and almonds are a marriage made in heaven. Try halving some peaches, removing the stones and placing some pastry cream in the hollow (maybe doctored with some brandy) and sprinkling them with chopped almonds. Roast them in the oven until juicy but still fairly firm. Delicious.
Because most of us have our grills out and because it’s finally way too hot to stay inside and bake, if you need a dessert in a pinch, just have some firm peaches on hand. Cut them in half, remove the pits and grill them, skin side up, possibly in a spot which is not dripping with hot dogs and burger fat. It will only take a few minutes. If you have some time, serve them with caramel sauce (for recipe see the post “This years’s gift of 12/12/2009) or else whip some cream, add powder sugar and chopped fresh mint. And if you don’t have a grill, a griddle on the stove will achieve nearly the same result.