In Peach Heaven
A fragrant, sweet, juicy peach is best eaten as it is—no baking, no topping, just picked ripe from the tree and eaten slightly warm, in big slurpy bites.
That’s pretty much what I thought until a couple of weeks ago, when I happened to try this appetizer at an event in Napa.
I was a guest at Beaulieu Garden, in Napa, California, invited there to moderate a panel discussion about food trends. But first, we ate. The gardens were filled with food stations, each focused on a single fruit or vegetable—a “seed to skin” menu created by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering. The guests—all caterers themselves, members of a professional organization called ISES—roamed hungrily from station to station, sampling everything from farro-stuffed grape leaves and spicy tomato lollipops to sweet corn gelato, while comparing their favorites and marveling (as was I) over how good it all was.
When I found myself having a third helping of the peaches, I knew I had to get the recipe.
Paula LeDuc’s executive chef, Daniel Capra, is kindly letting me share it with you now, before peach season goes away.
Peaches with Pistachio Butter and Bacon-Parmesan-Chile CrumbleServes 6 to 8 | About ½ hour
Each serving is only a few bites, but they’re packed with drama—the surprise of the pistachio butter (who knew that pistachios and peaches were so good together?), the crunchiness and bold flavors of the crumble, and the juicy peach supporting it all. It’s crucial to use top-quality fruit; Chef Capra uses sweet, silky Cal-Red peaches from Frog Hollow farm.* For the pistachio butter, Capra likes Sicilian pistachio paste, but it’s not easy to find so I just ended up making my own (a cinch). You’ll have a little pistachio butter left over to use on sandwiches or to swirl into vanilla ice cream.
Ingredients:½ cup shelled roasted pistachios (freshly shelled makes a brighter-colored butter)2 tbsp. safflower oil, dividedFine sea salt1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)1/2 tsp. pure orange oil* or 1 tbsp. orange zest½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese3 strips bacon, fried until crisp, cooled, and chopped fine1/2 tsp. red chile flakes2 tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, patted dry on paper towels (wet parsley tends to clump up)4 really good, perfectly ripe yellow peaches*
Instructions:1. In a food processor, whirl pistachios with 1 tbsp. safflower oil until you have butter. Season with a little salt.
2. In a nonstick frying pan, heat remaining safflower oil with orange oil over medium heat. Add panko and cook, stirring every now and then, until it’s a lovely toasty brown. Let cool, then stir in cheese, bacon, chile, and parsley.
3. Cut peaches into wedges. Put in pairs on serving plates, or arrange in pairs on a platter. Drizzle with pistachio butter and top with bacon crumble.
* Pure orange oil is extracted from orange rinds, and is very strong—you only need a tiny bit to give the breadcrumbs lots of flavor. To find Frog Hollow peaches, go to froghollow.com for a listing of the retailers they supply in the Bay Area and beyond. You can also order directly from this site and have peaches shipped to you.