Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which notoriously happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some small towns in France also have little antique shops that are always worth poking around in. And when your other half has a station wagon, well, the possibilities are endless. (And sometimes voluminous!)
Results tagged nectarines from David Lebovitz
I had big plans for this cake. I bought these gorgeous apricots, packed them up to take out to the country last weekend to make a cake. I planned to pick some rose geranium leaves to flavor the batter, and I was going to bake it and serve it proudly forth.
Except someone decided to use my perfectly-ripe apricots to make some jam, and the Hooters-worthy neighbor who promised me rose geranium leaves, actually brought me regular geranium leaves, which I was certain would kill us all if we ate them. So I had to make some last-minute adjustments.
If you’re anything like me, you’re thrilled that the season for summer fruits is finally in full swing. I like nothing better than returning from my market with a basket full of fresh peaches, nectarines, cherries, and whatever other fruits happen to look best that morning. And since I’ve started plying the Parisian vendors with Brownies, I’m getting much-desired VIP treatment at the market, and more often than not, there’s a few extra treats thrown in too. It’s nice to know that Parisians can be bought for the price of a simple square of chocolate.
While others may prefer to cloak summer fruits in fancy desserts, when the temperature starts soaring, the idea of standing in the kitchen for a few hours crafting some overwrought concoction has little appeal. And to be honest, it’s kind of a no-brainer when it’s this hot and I can be trying on jeans surrounded by Parisian jeunes hommes instead.
My appearance on a radio program recently prompted me to share two of my favorite summertime recipes: luscious White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream with Baked Nectarines and Cherries. During the summer I bake fruit all the time which doesn’t require standing over the stove. Invariably when I return from the market, I wasn’t able to resist anything, and I’m a hopeless wreck when confronted with everything so perfect this time of the year. But baking brings out the sweetness, softening fruits beautifully into this delectable compote, which is so seductively simple to spoon up with freshly-made ice cream.
For the baked fruit, I like to use light cassonade sugar, which is widely available in France. In the US, natural food stores and Trader Joe’s sell unrefined sugar, which is lighter than brown sugar but granulated and as easy to use as white sugar.
And since everyone gets their panties in a knot about making substitutions, yes, you can substitute 6 to 8 plums or fresh apricots for the nectarines, but be sure to use the larger amount of sugar since apricots get much more tart once they’re baked. They’ll also take less time to bake as well.
I know you’re going to ask about peaches (see, now you’re getting carried away…), but I find peaches soften too quickly and I prefer the tartness of nectarines. Plus nectarines don’t need to be peeled and really hold their shape much better than peaches. If cherries are out of season where you live, you can add a basket of fresh raspberries or blackberries when you take the fruit out of the oven, allowing the residual heat help them meld into the compote.
Lastly, some readers have asked me about ice cream makers so I’ve posted some tips in the previous entry if you’re thinking of purchasing one. They’re come way down in price in the past year and since I personally can’t imagine getting through the summer without homemade ice cream; you might think about making one your next purchase too.
White Chocolate And Fresh Ginger Ice Cream with Nectarine and Cherry Compote
Is there anything better than warm fruit, slightly-sweetened, topped with a scoop of ice cream melting on top or alongside? The creamy-sweet taste of white chocolate pairs marvelously with the piquant bite of fresh ginger. Just enough to serve as a pleasant contrast.
White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream
About 1 quart (1 liter)
- 3-inch piece (2 to 2 1/2 ounces) fresh ginger, unpeeled
- 2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
- 1 cup plus 1 cup heavy cream (500 ml, total)
- 8 ounces (230 g) white chocolate, finely chopped
- 5 large egg yolks
1. Slice the ginger thinly, cover it with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain away the water but return the blanched ginger to the pan. Add the sugar, the milk and 1 cup of heavy cream to the saucepan and re-warm the mixture.
Cover and steep for at least an hour, or until you are satisfied with the ginger flavor.
2. Put the chopped white chocolate in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the ginger-infused cream mixture, whisking constantly as you pour in the warm cream. Pour the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Strain the custard into the white chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Discard the ginger. Add the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and chill thoroughly. You can set the bowl over an ice bath to speed it up.
5. Chill mixture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Nectarine and Cherry Compote
Four to Six Servings
I prefer my fruit less-sweetened, but you can add the larger amount of sugar if you like. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, just add a few drops of vanilla extract.
1 pound (450 g) fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 to 6 tablespoons sugar
optional: 2 tablespoons rum or kirsch
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 C).
1. Split the nectarines in half and pluck out the pits. Put them in a 2-quart baking dish with the cherries. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the fruit.
2. Mix in the sugar and rum or kirsch, if using.
3. Turn the nectarines so they’re cut side down, arranging them in an even layer with the cherries and tuck the vanilla bean underneath.
4. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, opening the oven door twice during baking so you can jostle the baking dish to encourage the juices to flow. The fruit is done when a sharp paring knife easily pierces the nectarines.
5. Remove from oven and serve warm, or at room temperature with a nice scoop of the White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream.
Storage: The compote can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
I’m in heaven with all the sensational fruits that explode at the markets every summer. Each shopping trip, I invariably lug back with way too much fruit. But everything looks so good I can’t resist; rosy nectarines, blushing apricots, and crisp, dark cherries.
So to help you choose the best summer fruits, here’s some shopping tips. Best bets are often at Farmer’s Markets, where the growers take primo care of what they’re selling and often they encourage sampling before you buy.
The most popular sweet cherry varieties are deep-dark red and plump, with moist, perky stems. Bing cherries are reliably excellent. Although some varieties, like Queen Anne and Rainier, are light red and yellow-colored, they have a more delicate taste, which some people prefer. Cherries should be washed, then stored in the refrigerator. Unlike most other fruits, cherries are more appealing when served very cold and crisp.
Avoid cherries that are wrinkled, which means they were picked a while ago. Split apart cherries means they got wet while growing and will mold quickly.
When buying berries that are packed in plastic or cardboard containers, peek underneath: moisture on the bottom indicates the berries below are soggy or moldy.
Strawberries should be uniformly red with no green at the tips or at the stem. (Did you know the cluster of seeds concentrated at the tip is referred to as a ‘cats nose’?)
Strawberries should have a sweet smell. Some berries have been hybridized to be red on the outside, but disappointingly underripe within, so color’s not always an accurate indication. Avoid buying commercial strawberries after rainy weather: since they grow near the earth, they’re often sprayed with a rather nasty chemical to prevent mold. Look for organic strawberries instead.
If you’re not going to eat strawberries the same day, store them on a plate in the refrigerator, in a single-layer, so they don’t mush each other down.
Raspberries, blueberries, and other bushberries should be plump and dry. Blackberries should be inky-black and a bit soft, never rock-hard. There’s nothing worse than a sour blackberry.
Blueberries should be firm. Most have no fragrance. Did you know that each blueberry can contain up to 100 seeds? If you don’t believe me, slice one open and count. I never wash any berries since they’re too fragile-except blueberries and strawberries.
Can you freeze fresh berries or pitted cherries? Yes. Lay the fruits out in an even layer on a non-reactive baking sheet (or line one with parchment paper.) Freeze. Once frozen, store in zip-top freezer bags. Frozen berries and cherries can be used for sauces, or added frozen mixed with other fruits for pies, crisps, and cobblers.
It’s been said that finding a good melon is like falling in love. Sometimes you have to try a lot of them to find the right one.
Judy Rodgers in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook insists that the best melons are the ones with lots of netting and claims not to have picked a bad one since learning that. I always take a good sniff. The most amazing melons I’ve tasted were melons that I could smell before I could see them.
Choose a melon that’s heavy and relatively firm, but not-rock hard (except for honeydew melons.) Any mold by the stem end or mushy spots are indications of it being over-the-hill.
A simple melon dessert can be made by pouring sweet wine, such as Muscat or Sauternes, over slices of melon and berries and chilling them well. Store melons in the refrigerator.
The best peaches have a sweet, perfumed aroma if you sniff the stem end. Peaches need to be picked a day before ripening, then ripened off the tree. Or better yet, the same day. If they’re too green, they were picked too soon and will never taste good. Ditto for nectarines. Find fruits that are mostly red and blushing.
If faced with a bin of underripe fruits, find one that’s rather soft and smell it. If it smells good, chances are the rest will be too, once ripe.
Neither of these fruits boast much aroma, but they make up for it with lots of flavor. Apricots should have an appealing blush and no green. Red-tinged apricots means they’ve received lots of sunlight and will likely be good. Apricots are best when they’re gushy-ripe. They should be very soft, like a water balloon. My favorite variety are the Royal and Blenheim apricots.
Most of the flavor in plums are in the skin, and they make the best jam, especially when mixed with raspberries. Santa Rosa and Elephant Heart plums are reliably good.
Baked apricots are a superb, easy dessert: simply halve ripe, but firm apricots, place face-down in a baking dish, pour in a wine glass of white wine (dry or sweet), and drizzle with a copious amount of honey (use more than you think, as apricots get quite tart when cooked.) You can add a split vanilla bean too. Bake until the apricots are tender and juicy.
Delicious with vanilla ice cream!