Seasonal Eats: She's a Peach

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Tenerelli Orchard Peaches at the Hollywood Farmer's Market (Heather Parlato/LAist)

Another stone fruit for the height of summer, this week we're looking at peaches. Originating in China and migrating to Persia along the Silk Road, peaches were referenced in ancient Chinese writings as early as 1100 BC and were said to be a favored fruit of kings and emperors. Once they spread through Europe, they became a favorite fruit in many cultures, leading to the eventual cultivation of nectarines.

If you're normally over-cautious about refrigerating your fruit, take note that peaches, like tomatoes, will diminish in flavor if refrigerated, so set up a nice bowl or basket and savor the flavor. Peaches have a glycemic load of 5, and are a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Niacin and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin C.

If you're thinking something's not quite right and you haven't seen many peaches this year, you're not alone. On my weekly visit to the Hollywood Farmers' Market, I thought I'd stop in with my favorite peach sellers, Tenerelli Orchards, and though they were there, they explained that a bad spring frost killed 95% of the blossoms that would have made up their crops for the year. However, what they do have is up to their usual excellent standards. So, if you love peaches, make it a point to visit their stand, buy up what they have, and help these fantastic peach growers get through to next season.

If you're lucky enough to have a tree, or just like to buy extra fruit in season for storage, I like to cut stone fruits up with lemon juice and freeze them for the off season, similar to this prep for plums. Another preservation is pickled peaches which sound delicious! If you're more of a BBQ sauce person, experiment with fruit-based sauces using peaches, or try out this fragrant peach lime cardamom sauce as a simmer sauce. Finally, freezer jams use a much lower fruit-to-sugar ratio than stovetop jams, and stone fruits are the best choice for these. How about peach mango ginger freezer jam?

Start out your summer meals by adding peaches to your favorite dishes. If you're enjoying gazpacho this time of year, why not make peach gazpacho? Next time you cut up your favorite salsa cruda, consider peach and cucumber salsa. Looking for a refreshing hors d'oeuvre for your next party? Whip up some peach prosciutto ricotta crostini!

Peaches add a sweet and tangy bite to summer salads, like this fantastic avocado salad with peaches or peach, tomato and basil salad. Pair peaches with simple savory flavors like purslane, peach and onion salad or peach and arugula salad. If you're doing some grilling, heat them up for grilled peach salad with bresaola or pair them with leftover grilled chicken for grilled chicken and peach salad.

Go full-throttle on the grill with grilled chicken and peaches with chipotle-peach dressing or grilled chicken sausages with peach-sage skewers. Peaches add nice flavors to seafood, how about grilled shrimp satay with peaches and bok choy, or charred octopus with peach, arugala and aged balsamic, or even skewered honey-glazed scallops with peach salsa. Get downright hearty with grilled country pork chops with bourbon-basted grilled peaches or take it inside for ham and fresh peach chutney on corn bread. This peached pork sounds divine, as does smoked prime rib with peach-chipotle sauce.

On to desserts, for fun in the oven, here's my recommended twist on the classic peach pie, summer peach pie with vanilla and cardamom, and a roasted peaches with amaretti crumble as an Italian alternative to all the other crumbles you'll find. More great baked ideas include peach tarte tatin, this lovely peach clafouti or this colorful galette of white peaches and tomatoes. For a more rustic, crustless dessert, try roasted fruit. Spend time on the stovetop for peach sabayon with balsamic peaches, or for freezer delights, try out panna cotta with lemon-thyme peaches or these peaches and cream yogurt pops.

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Tomato Peach Salad with Arugula & Parmesan (Heather Parlato/LAist)

Tomato Peach Salad

1 ripe tomato

1 ripe peach

1 handful of arugula leaves

shaved Parmesan

1 tb olive oil

1 tb balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

Slice peach along the seam of the fruit, cutting into 2 halves and then 4 slices total (enjoy the smaller end slices while you work). Core out the stem of the tomato and slice crosswise into 4 slices total. Arrange on a plate in a fan, and place a handful of arugula leaves in the center. Shave Parmesan over the top, then drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the fruit and cheese. Season with salt & pepper to taste.