Everyday Food (July 2011)
The simplicity and deliciousness of summer produce can be really stunning.
After dinner over the past few weeks, when we've wanted something sweet, we've mostly just been reaching for some raw fruit, like cherries or peaches. (Okay, we've also been reaching for a lot of chocolate, but usually we start with fruit.)
But when we had guests over for dinner one night last week, we decided to forgo the chocolate and serve something that showcases seasonal fruit with a touch of specialness.
And since we're not Alice Waters, we couldn't exactly serve a perfectly ripe peach on a platter and call it dessert.
So instead we opted for these Poached Nectarines from Everyday Food.
In the case of these nectarines, a quick poach in sugary water spiked by vanilla and elderflower liqueur (which is optional, but we used it) makes for a tender, fragrant fruit. Served on a plate with a dollop of whipped cream, they're absolute heaven.
All that is not to say that poaching nectarines was completely easy. We actually found it very difficult to remove the skin from each of our nectarines without it looking like big chunks had been torn off the sides of each one. Perhaps we under-poached ours?
There's also the matter of eating these, which can be a bit, well, inelegant. They do require a knife and fork, as you need to eat around the pit. It's not an inconvenience, but you do spend some amount of time chasing the nectarine around the plate. Thankfully there were no Pretty Woman-esque moments of nectarines flying across the room.
But our guests hardly seemed to care that each nectarine wasn't perfect or that they were a bit slippery. Everyone loved the sweetly fragrant fruit. At the height of summer heat, it seemed almost virtuous.
Well, virtuous if you ignore the fact that whipped cream is on the plate.
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
6 large or 12 small nectarines (about 2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup elderflower liqueur or white dessert wine (optional)
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
With a paring knife, lightly score an 'x' into bottom of nectarines (this will help with peeling later). Place in a medium pot, along with granulated sugar, vanilla, liquer, if using, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer until nectarines are easily pierced with a knife, 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the size. With a slotted spoon, transfer nectarines to a medium bowl. When cool enough to handle, peel and return to syrup.
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and confectioners' sugar on high until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Serve nectarines with some poaching liquid and a dollop of whipped cream.