Oh those Summer nights, filled with the sweet scent of Summer fruit...
Oh the fruits of Summer! There is no such abundance in any other season. I do love Fall for its root veggies, it's fresh produce, it's enormous amount of vegetables that are warming and cozy and comforting, like squash and potatoes, and turnips and carrots, all that you can throw into the oven and bake with a drizzle of good olive oil, all that you can chop into a pan and stew away in simmering heat for a couple of hours, all that you can mush up in a soup, food that will warm up the home, the body, the soul. I do love Fall's variety when it comes to vegetables, but not so much when it comes to fruit - despite the crisp apples and the sweet pears, the juicy pomegranates, and the last of the grapes.
But when it comes to fruit, Summer is my paradise. Summer and all its opulence and giving, the ripe peaches and nectarines, the red berries galore, the plums, dripping their juices down bare arms, the cherries staining the lips and the hands deep red, the medlars, soon turning from golden yellow to brown if you're not fast, their pits seemingly far too big for such small fruits, the apricots with their sunshine rosiness to the skin, the fuzz tingling your tongue as you bite into it, the figs in all their glory, their bruised purple skin almost bursting with their honey. Summer spells abundance in the fruit department as far as I am concerned, as there is so much to choose from, and of all that much, it seems that every piece is my favourite fruit.
I am very much an apple person, for its flavour, its texture, but mostly for its convenience. You pick one up, wash it, and munch away. There is nothing quite so convenient, quite so fast and ready to eat as an apple. It doesn't drip - not much, at least! - it needs no peeling, it's on the go. Hungry but pressed for time? Grab an apple. I do. All the time. I always have apples at home, except for June and July. But it's not my favourite fruit, nope. Peaches. More than peaches, nectarines. I'm a nectarine person, all the way. There is nothing quite like it, when its flesh is tender and dripping with juices, sweet as can be, every bite a possibilty of staining your clothes, as you eat one, standing tip toed over the sink, you chin covered in the juice, your arms drenched in it, laughing silently under your breath as you take another bite and still feel amazed at the flavours, at the scent, as if a drop of pure early morning sunshine dew has made its way into your lips.
I always have peaches and plums around the house come Summer. The variety of these is simply astounding, there is so much to choose from, at least here in Portugal. Deep purple plums, their flesh red as blood and juicy and sweet, dark red ones whose flesh is paler and tart and crisp, yellow big ones that taste of honey and sunlight, small green ones, "Rainha Claudia" as we call them, and the oblongated ones, called "abrunho" and wild flavoured. The same with peaches and nectarines, there's so many types of them. Pale yellow fleshed ones, nearly white, or orange and plump, those whose flesh come out from the pit clean as a whistle and those you really have to gnaw to prise them away, sweeter ones, sharper ones, fuzzy skinned, clear skinned, and those deliciously lush "paraguayos" of the flat form, smelling like a bouquet of freshly picked flowers. Oh, to taste the Summer peaches in all their glory!
Stands to think that, having so many around the house all the time, I would cook them up as well. Besides the proverbial peach pie, I don't remember ever having cooked a peach before in my whole life. Enter Skye McAlpine and her instagram account, and her oven baked peaches that immediately caught my eye to the point of having me pestering her for a recipe (sorry, Skye!!). As soon as my immediate curiosity concerning the roasting, the baking of peaches was satisfied, I was running from the kitchen to the living room looking through my cellaret and my pantry trying to see what I could use in order to make my own version of the oven baked peach. Because I so wanted to try it, as they really looked appetizing in Skye's post.
I had some Nucho in the freezer, some red berry liqueur and Port wine and Vermute Negre in the cellaret, some red wine and some white wine as well. My mind was racing, going over possibilities and pairings, trying to figure in my head and in my mental tastebuds what would go well and what would go great together. Should I add cinnamon, or fennel seeds, perhaps? Should I just slather some butter over the peaches and throw them in the oven? Might I not drizzle some vanilla sugar, or yellow sugar? Would the alcohol end up drowning the sweetness of the fruit or enhancing it? It took me longer than I had thought to come up with how I wanted to try those darn peaches, but in the end I settled with a combo that has not left me wanting.
So go ahead and give it a try. Start by turning on your oven at 180º and by cutting two peaches - or more! - in half and pitting them. Place the halves in an oven dish, drizzle some vermute negre over each half and a pinch of vanilla sugar. Then add a tiny nob of butter to each half and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at the 150º mark, or untill you see them golden and drizzling with juices. Let them rest outside the oven and allow them to cool for at least ten minutes. Serve them as they are, by their own sweet selves, or add a scoop of vanilla icecream to the bowl, it will go so well with the still quite warm peaches, all that creamy ice just melting around the fruit. I was hooked, and have made this dessert more than twice, using up peaches and nectarines that are on the verge of going way too ripe. Great way to not waste fruit! Thanks, Skye! If you don't follow her yet, make sure you do, especially if you really like italian food, there's loads of inspiration and wonderful recipes to get from Skye's blog and instagram account, plus, she's an amazing food photographer.