By Sarah Lagrotteria
It’s a cruel riddle: Whose fruit bowl is full but has nothing to eat? The person who bought too many not-yet-ripe pieces of stone fruit. These recipes are intended to keep you from wasting one single piece by biting in too soon. Almost-ripe stone fruit works better in a cooked preparation than fully ripe, which falls apart. So next time you are gently pressing on your fruit, hoping in vain that it’s almost ready, just pickle, roast or grill it instead.
Pickled Peaches- Makes two 16-ounce mason jars
This pickle is sweet, salty, spicy and succulent. Pick peaches that aren’t quite ripe and let the brine cool slightly before pouring it over the fruit. These will keep for 1 week, refrigerated, but never last that long. Enjoy as you do any pickle: on a burger, with grilled or barbecued chicken, chopped and scattered over barbecued ribs or grilled fish, on a cheese plate or tucked in a grilled cheese sandwich. Or just eat them by yourself by the light of your refrigerator. We all do it.
1½ cups apple cider vinegar
1½ cups water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon juniper berries
1 star anise
½ teaspoon cloves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1½ teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
¼ small habanero pepper, cut carefully while wearing gloves, de-seeded and sliced into thin rings (optional but encouraged)
8 small to medium-sized peaches
Special equipment: cheesecloth
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt. While the liquid comes to a boil, wrap the salt, juniper berries, star anise, cloves and thyme in small swatch of cheesecloth to make the bouquet garni. Add to the liquid. Add the mustard seeds and habanero pepper. Let boil until sugar dissolves and then boil for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool until just warm.
Peel peaches and cut into quarters. Cut each quarter into thin (¼-inch) slices and place into mason jars. Use tongs to remove bouquet garni and habanero peppers from the pickling liquid. Pour liquid over peaches. Let cool completely then cover and refrigerate for 4–6 hours before eating.
Roasted Plums- Serves 4
Even with a good dose of black pepper, these plums work in both sweet and savory preparations and are best served with cheese. Filled with a small scoop of mascarpone cheese and drizzled with honey. Or fill with goat cheese and top with toasted pistachios as part of a cheese platter. I love them cut into smaller wedges and tossed with arugula, bacon, good blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette made with the plum juice. When simple is best, add them warm to a bowl of good vanilla ice cream, black pepper and all.
4 red or black plums, halved, pits removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the one to 375°. Lay plums skin-side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil and then with honey. Sprinkle with salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. You should be able to see the pepper on each plum. Roast until tender but not falling apart, 12–18 minutes depending on ripeness. Enjoy immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Grilled Nectarines- Serves 4
Like the roasted plums, grilled stone fruit can go sweet or savory. I love these tossed in a salad of grilled Vidalia onions and bacon with a buttermilk dressing. Or added to any green salad, particularly one that features grilled chicken or steak. Serve as a warm side to barbecued chicken or ribs. Or fill with sweetened homemade ricotta cheese and top with a grating of amaretti cookie. White nectarines, peaches and white peaches work beautifully as well.
4 large, almost-ripe nectarines, halved, pits removed
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your grill or grill pan. Lightly drizzle the cut side of the nectarines with olive oil. This is for flavor and to keep them from sticking to the grill. Sprinkle sugar all over the cut side. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
When grill is hot, place fruit cut side down directly on the grates and let sit until you see the fruit beginning to soften around the edge, about 2–6 minutes depending on ripeness. Remove from the heat and set skin side down on a platter. The flesh should be slightly caramelized and you should see clear grill marks. Enjoy warm or let cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days.