Kitchen Call: A passion for peaches

Linda Bassett

Can there ever be too many peaches? I guess they’re like anything else rare and costly: We want it more and are willing to pay the price.

In Colonial New England, lobsters were so plentiful that they climbed out of the sea and could be gathered in baskets on the beaches. When a family’s cupboard was bare, they sent the kids out to gather the creatures for supper. It was considered a disgrace to be forced to eat these plentiful, wild shellfish.

Today, the shellfish are more difficult to capture, requiring boats and traps and favorable weather conditions, so the shellfish are considered a delicacy — and not an inexpensive one.

Yup, peaches can be like that, too. So for the weeks before local peaches are available, I buy peaches from California and Georgia. I buy them every day, if I can. Because I prize peaches so much, I decided to put together a batch of recipes. The recipes are compiled without calorie consciousness, only for flavor.

A couple of guidelines I find useful: Store peaches at room temperature — as long as that’s not in the 90-degree range — until soft and sweet, then refrigerate. Skip all the overworking when skinning –– no boiling water or sloppy ice baths. A vegetable peeler does the job fine.

Fresh Peach, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad

Makes 4 servings, easily doubled

4 peaches, pitted and cut in half

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

10 cups baby arugula, washed and dried

6- to 8-ounce log favorite goat cheese, crumbled

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil for the dressing. Taste and add salt and pepper. Whisk again.

2. Slice the peaches into thick wedges. Transfer to a salad bowl. Add arugula. Drizzle in half the dressing and toss gently so that the peaches do not break. Sprinkle in the goat cheese. Toss gently once more before serving. Add remaining dressing individually to taste.

Fresh Peach-Grilled Corn Relish

Note: If the grill is already lit for the hot dogs and burgers, add some ears of corn, take off the kernels and put them into this easy relish.

3 chopped, unpeeled peaches

1/2 chopped red onion

1 chopped orange bell pepper

2 ears fresh grilled corn kernels

Hot sauce, to taste

Toss together the peaches, onion and pepper. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Add the grilled corn kernels to the mix and spice with a shot of hot sauce, and toss gently again. Use right away.

Make these recipes early in the day if you intend to use them for best results. They give an entirely new character to grilled or broiled fish fillets, shellfish, chicken or pork chops.

Peach-Mango Salsa

Note: Change up the mango to half a pineapple for an entirely different peach-based salsa.

3 to 5 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted

1 medium firm ripe mango, peeled, pitted

1 medium red onion chopped fine

3 tablespoons fresh limejuice

1 small jalapeno chili, seeded, minced

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, to taste

Dice the pealed and pitted peaches and the papaya. Toss in a bowl with onion and limejuice. Stir in jalapeno and cilantro. Salt, pepper to taste. Refrigerate, 2 to 24 hours. Taste for seasonings. Makes 3 cups.

Minty Peach Relish

3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted

1/4 cup fresh chopped mint

1/4 cup red peppers, chopped

1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped

Coarsely chop the ingredients together. Place in a bowl and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to meld the flavors. Take out of refrigerator 10 minutes before using. Makes about 1 cup.

As a vegetarian main course or side dish: Peaches also work as a vegetarian main course in on a bed of romaine lettuce, sprinkled with chopped walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and olive oil and lemon juice dressing. The peaches may be brushed with olive oil and grilled first for this idea.

Grilled Peaches with Ricotta

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)

3 peaches, halves and pitted

2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil

6 ounces ricotta

1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

Zest of 1 lemon

A few grindings of black pepper

1. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

2. Heat the grill until the coals turn white. Sprinkle cut sides of peaches with vinegar-olive oil mixture. Grill peaches until they barely begin to char, about 8 minutes. Brush with the balsamic glaze. Continue grilling 2 to 3 minutes longer until they begin to caramelize.

3. Beat the ricotta until it begins to smooth out. Stir in the basil and lemon zest. Makes 4 servings.

Plate the peaches, and fill the hollows with the ricotta mixture. Grind the black pepper over the top. Serve while peaches are still warm.

Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at Read Linda’s blog at Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.