Decades after the fateful bite that I took of the peach when I was in Padova at the age of twelve, I still think there is nothing more sensuous than biting into a perfectly ripe peach.
-- Lidia Matticchio Bastiannich on the Peach Tart with Cocoa-Almond Crust recipe in Lidia’s Italy.
Ever since my grandmother handed me a luscious peach when I was a child, I’ve felt the same way as Lidia about peaches. To me a peach is always very special, not only because of childhood memories (including countless readings of “Peach Boy,” the famous Japanese folk hero), but, most importantly, their beautiful color and shape, and irresistible soft/sweet taste and smell... like a beautiful woman!
Yes it is peach season, and lucky for me an organic peach farmer, Kashiwase, and Lucero (Real Strawberries) are next to each other at the Menlo Park farmers market. I couldn’t ask for anything more – the two sell my most favorite fruits of all.
I normally eat a ripe peach as is, after waiting until it reaches maximum ripeness on the table (nice to look at, also) then chilling it briefly before eating. What a joy! But I was curious about any desserts that use fresh peaches. When I was in culinary training many years ago, I learned to make the famous classic dish “Peach Melba,” which is so delicious. But nowadays I don’t see it in cooking magazines or on restaurant menus. So I pulled out a few old cookbooks from my bookshelf to look for peach recipes. I found out there aren’t many, but, interestingly, all the books I checked have almond in the recipes.
Peaches Stuffed with Almond—Simple French Cookery, Edna Beilenson
Peaches with Grenadine—A Provencal Kitchen, Suzanne McLucas
Baked Peaches with Almond Macaroons—Trattoria, Patricia Wells
Peach Tart with Cocoa-Almonds—Lidia’s Italy, Lidia Matticchio Bastiannich
However, a recipe that stands out is “Peaches and Strawberries in Pink Champagne” from Simply French: Patricia Wells Presents the Cuisine of Joël Robuchon. This recipe is a bit decadent, but it’s a relatively easy yet elegant way to indulge in peaches, strawberries and Champagne... and it’s perfect in warm weather!
Peaches and Strawberries in Pink Champagne
Salade de Pêches et Fraises au Champagne Rosé
The author says: "Superbly festive dessert, this dish sings of summer and sun. The combination of peaches, strawberries and pink Champagne is elegant, colorful and rich. Of course, you won’t want to use top vintage Champagne here, but don’t skimp either."
Recipe adapted from Simply French by Patricia Wells.
½ cup sugar
1 cup water
8 ounces strawberries, hulled
3-4 peaches or nectarines
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bottle pink Champagne, chilled
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
1. Prepare the syrup: In a saucepan, combine the sugar with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Whisk constantly until boiling, then boil without whisking for 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
2. Prepare the fruit: Quarter the strawberries lengthwise and place in a large bowl. Peel the peaches and cut in half. Remove and discard the pit, and cut each half into 4 equal slices. Place the peaches in the bowl with strawberries, add the lemon juice and syrup, and toss gently to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.
3. To finish, remove the peach and strawberry mixture from refrigerator. With a slotted spoon, divide the fruit among 6 wide, shallow Champagne coupes, allowing about 1 tablespoon of syrup in each glass.
4. Just before serving, uncork the Champagne and pour enough into each glass (about 1/2 cup = 4 fl oz) to just cover the fruit. Garnish with fresh mint and serve.
Nutrition per serving (assuming only half of syrup is used and 4 oz Champagne per serving): 170 calories, less than ½ g fat (0 saturated), 0 cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugars, 1 g protein, 6% DV for vitamin A, 40% DV for vitamin C. Nutrition analysis provided by Palate Works.
Note: Rosé Champagne from France is very fashionable today but expensive (e.g., Veuve Cliquot Rosé $60+). Here are some good, but less expensive, sparkling wine options:
Mumm Napa Valley Brut Rosé, $16.99 at Trader Joe’s
Blason de Bourgogne (Crémant) Brut Rose, $10.99 at Trader Joe’s
Louise d’Estrée Brut Rosé, $6.99 at Trader Joe’s
Mumm is a famous French Champagne company and has some production in Napa Valley. Blason is a good sparkling wine for the price, and Louise d’Estrée is not bad either.
In my neighborhood I normally shop for wine at BevMo, K&L Wines, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. It seems wine prices at Trader Joe’s are often the best, although selection is more limited.
About Sparkling wine: