Those fabulous fruits of summer – Part 1
Here’s a primer on The Golden Girls of Summer — peaches, nectarines, apricots and mangoes. Next week will feature round two of nature’s seasonal gems, plus a quiz for your amusement.
This time of year, domestic mangoes are available from parts of Florida, Hawaii and California. This juicy, exotic super fruit (high in iron; beta-carotene; vitamins C, B6, E and A; along with potassium and copper) has been attributed to jump-starting the libido, unclogging pores and taming acne for a “peaches-and-cream complexion” when applied as a facial mask, warding off heart disease and cancer with its antioxidant properties, and calming arthritis and other anti-inflammatory conditions.
Concoct a mango-tango smoothie, a mango salsa or chutney as a topping for grilled wild-caught halibut or salmon, a freshwater shrimp and mango cocktail, a warm crisp or slice a whole ripe fruit and top it with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a splash of mango liqueur.
Peaches, apricots and their glabrous-skinned cousins, nectarines, are the essence of summer. While the peach is the state fruit of Georgia and South Carolina, it was first cultivated in China and became revered as a symbol of longevity as it was considered “food of the immortals.”
They are either white or yellow, the former enjoyed for their low acidity, and freestone (where their flesh easily separates from the pit) or clingstone (when it clings or adheres to the pit). A gourmet anomaly freestone variety is the donut peach — pancake flat with an indent in the middle resembling a doughnut with a delicate almond nuance. In fact, peaches are a second cousin to the almond belonging to the same subgenus.
- Their origin is unknown, although it was originally and mistakenly thought to have been a crossbreed of a peach and a plum. The nectarine actually belongs to the same species as the peach, and is now believed to be the product of a recessive gene, while the peach is the dominant version. Like peaches, nectarines come in white and yellow varieties, along with clingstone and freestone. The lack of soft, downy fuzz as sported by the peach makes the nectarine more fragile and an easier bruiser.
Both peaches and nectarines are good sources of carotenes, potassium, flavonoids, lycopene and lutein. This combo of phytochemicals is linked to putting the skids on prostate cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration. Stave these off with some exotic dishes such as a warm arugula and grilled nectarine salad, chilled peach gazpacho, curried salmon with nectarine chutney, peach crème brûlee, gingered nectarine cobbler, or eat them out of hand for an energy-boosting snack.
This fruit, which resembles a dwarfed peach in shape, skin color and fuzzy complexion, is also a relative of the plum. Another Chinese import, the apricot is grown in more than 21,000 acres of Northern California orchards, from mid-May to mid-July, comprising 95 percent of apricots grown in this country.
This mini-powerhouse loaded with lycopene for prostate protection, and vitamin A and beta-carotene for the health of the skin and eyes, is low in sodium, calories and fat, making apricots a guiltless treat.
The fresh or dried apricot is ideal for Mediterranean dishes such as a fruity tabouli with chopped apricots and dried cherries, glazed apricot and carrot chicken, or an apricot lamb stew.
For a divine summer indulgence, here’s a recipe for Italian stuffed peaches — Pesche Ripiene, which are the best thing since little sliced apples. Mangia bene!
- 4 ripe peaches
- 12 amaretti cookies, coarsely crushed
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons of sweet red wine
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup of toasted, crushed
- 3 tablespoons of unsalted
- 6 tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Gingerly halve the peaches, remove the stones, and scoop out some of the flesh to make a round cavity.
In a mixing bowl, combine the scooped-out flesh, almonds, cookies, sugar, yolk and amaretto. Place the peaches in the baking dish and stuff the hollows with the mixture. Dot the peach flesh with the butter and drizzle with the wine. Bake for 20 minutes, basting with the liquid. Serve with crème fraiche or vanilla bean gelato.
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