Peaches of Indian Summer

September 26, 2012

I harvested the last of my Golden Glory peaches last week, easily plucking the baseball-sized orbs from their low and leafy branches. The peaches were amazing this year! The two (and a half) Elbertas yielded some tasty fruit at the beginning of the season but, as was the case last year, it was our two shrub-sized Golden Glories that stole the show.

With more than 50 lbs. of peaches from the two 6-foot trees, I made pies, salads, a double batch of Rebecca Courchesne’s Peach Jam from the Preserving book, puffed peach-filled pancakes, and innumerable breakfast parfaits of Greek yogurt, peach slices, and my favorite granola from La Brea Bakery. I wish that my summer days had been long enough to share more recipes, but I was committed to other writing assignments—lots for the Williams-Sonoma website, as well a series of recipes for Parenting Magazine. (Look for my article on Christmas cookies this December!)

Given that I was doing so much baking, my thoughts naturally drifted towards the preparation of something quite a bit healthier when it came to recipes for my own household. Other than the plentitude of peaches I had stowed away in our back fridge, inspiration came in the form of a fruity vinegar. Sonoma Market had a tasting of Sonoma Harvest vinegars on their threshold a few weeks ago. My son and I sampled nearly a dozen of the concentrated fruit vinegars and decided on the Mango White Balsamic pictured here. Mellow and not-too-ascerbic, fruity and not-too-sweet, it presented an abundance of culinary possibility. (Without it, the flavors are simple to replicate with equal amounts mango nectar and golden or white balsamic vinegar. Add a touch of simple syrup too if you like a hint of sweetness.)

I knew almost immediately how I wanted to use my new purchase—paired with the peppery flavor of arugula, the sprite of mint, the crunch of jicama, the sweetness of peaches, the mellow nuttiness of pine nuts. A perfect pairing of tangy and sweet. I experimented with different variations on a similar theme, adding slices of garlic-marinated grilled chicken breast to make the salad more of a substantial meal on one occasion and shards of roasted shallot for earthy flavor on another.  As with most of my favorite dishes, here the ingredients speak for themselves. This salad is delicious prepared simply, as here, or experiment with your own combinations.

Peach, Arugula, and Jicama Salad

4 cups loosely-packed baby arugula leaves

6 small peaches (about 1 1/2 lb)

1 small jicama (about 1/2 lb)

1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

2 sprigs fresh mint

Mango-White Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup Mango-White Balsamic Vinegar OR 2 tablespoons each white balsamic and mango nectar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the arugula, spin dry, and place in a salad bowl. Peel and slice the peaches. Add to the bowl. Using a small, sharp knife, remove the peel from the jicama. Cut the jicama into matchstick-sized pieces. Add to the bowl along with the pine nuts. Remove the leaves from the mint sprigs, stack the leaves, and thinly slice. Sprinkle the mint over the salad.

To make the Vinaigrette,in a small jar or cup, mix together the vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the salad and toss to mix. Serve at once.

Makes 4 servings

Wine Pairing Notes
This salad is particularly excellent paired with a light rosé.  Look for rosés that are pale salmon in color (not as deep in hue as the one I sampled for the photo above). I tend to prefer many of the lighter european varieties, but California winemakers also produce some good rosés. Try the 2011 Goldeneye Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, a light-bodied, nicely balanced rosé from one of my favorite Anderson Valley wineries.







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