I’m always joking that food takes center stage in my life. My dreams always involve me eating or wanting to eat something. I best remember important places, times and memories when I link them to what I was eating. And I certainly can say, when life has had me down and blue, food has always been a welcomed respite until sunnier days come along.
Years ago, shortly after my family moved back to Texas, we briefly settled in Fort Worth. People spoke with a funny accent, even though their skin color was the same as mine, and it was hot, unbearably hot and humid. It was the first time I heard the clicks and pops of the Texas Grackle, tasted fresh-picked pecans from local trees in the neighborhood, and spent a brief weekend in the town of Weatherford, Texas, home of what most Texans proclaim is where the world’s best peaches come from. While I wasn’t one of the fortunate to attend the annual peach festival, I just remember signs along the road, everywhere, about how marvelous these peaches were. Signs with painted bushels of giant, rosy peaches spilling out of them dotted the flat and dry landscape like a mirage. It was like they were announcing the arrival of some celebrity. It was the first time in my life, that I had witnessed such pomp and circumstance around food. It seemed oddly strange and beautiful all at once. Like we do when we peep at the scandalous headlines at the checkout from those trashy People and Inquirer magazines, I was intrigued by the allure of this magical and mysterious fruit.
I guess you could say I’ve been longing for the perfect peach since then. I’ve had a few good ones here and there, but I think one day I may just have to put this one to bed and go to where peaches are the best. Some say Georgia or South Carolina. Others, Texas or New Jersey. I know many folks around here would say right to the East over in Yakima. But many would argue that California is the best producer of peaches. I’ve yet to confirm that claim so until then, I figured a recipe that just teases the palate with the nuances of what I want the perfect peach to taste like–sweet, tart, juicy- would suffice. I really hate when grocery stores try to push their peaches on me in early July when they’re as hard as a baseball and taste like a whole lot of nothing. Sure you could sit them on your counter and hope that they ripen into the peach of your dreams, or you could try this recipe and enjoy them unripe. Yeah, that’s right. A recipe that uses unripe stone fruit. It’s crazy delicious, darlings. Trust me on this one.
- For the salad:
- 1 firm yellow peach
- 1 firm white peach
- 1 firm yellow nectarine
- 1 firm white nectarine
- 2 red plums
- 1/2 of a medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 head red leaf lettuce
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- For the ginger plum vinaigrette:
- Pits and attached fruit from peaches and nectarines above
- 1 white plum
- 2 large sprigs fresh mint
- 3 slices of ginger
- 1 slice of lemon peel
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cups of water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon red curry paste
- 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 small pinches of kosher salt
- Similar to how you would cut around the seed of a mango, carefully cut peaches and nectarines away from each pit and slice into thin wedges and then into matchstick pieces. Place in a container with a lid and refrigerate. Reserve pits.
- Thinly slice red plum and place in a small bowl along with the red onion, red pepper flakes, salt and lemon juice. Cover and allow to marinate in the refrigerator.
- Place pits from peaches and nectarines into a small saucepan, along with 1 plum that has been quartered. Add mint, ginger, lemon peel, water and sugar and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes or until the flesh remaining on the pits is soft. Let cool about 15-30 minutes or until cool enough to handle, then remove cinnamon stick and pits (after scraping away any fruit) and pour remaining fruit, aromatics and liquid into a blender and puree. Strain puree and then whisk in rice wine vinegar and red curry paste. Slowly drizzle in grapeseed oil while whisking to emulsify. Season with salt.
- Toast sliced almonds in a shallow pan on medium-high heat for a few minutes until they smell of almonds and are just slightly browned. Remove from pan into a small bowl and set aside to prevent them from overbrowning in the still warm pan.
- When ready to serve, arrange a bed of curly red lettuce leaves on a plate. Sprinkle with a few mint leaves. Layer with a small bunch of peach and nectarine matchsticks, followed by a few slices of onion and plum. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and drizzle with ginger plum vinaigrette. Add a few more mint leaves on top.