Succulent Summer Stone Fruit

Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia all produce peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and cherries in brilliant hues. For many, the stone fruit harvest might conjure up childhood memories of summer canning: sterilizing dozens of jars, then blanching, peeling, pitting, and packing the season’s bounty. Rows and rows of colorful, artfully packed jars filled with pepper-pickled peaches—freestone Elbertas or juicy clings—rosy Tilton apricots, and brandied Bing cherries lined the pantry and cellar shelves of Northwest homes.

With all the great weather we have been having here in the Northwest, the fruits are plentiful and perfectly ripe this time of year, so I know you all have been enjoying the fruits already! And for those of you who have never peeled a peach the quicky way, here is another chefy trick I’ve learned over the years: just boil a big pot of water and immerse your peaches a few at a time for 30 seconds or more, depending on the peach, and when the skin starts to get loose, immediately run the peaches under cold water and slip the skin off.

There are so many different ways to enjoy all types of stone fruits. Eat them fresh from the tree, sliced in a salad, baked in a pie or preserved in a jar. Not many people have time to can these days and fewer and fewer people know how. So how about trying a Zippy Nectarine Salsa; it’s a quick, 15-minute throw-together for a busy day’s backyard barbecue.

Eating fruit just picked off the tree with the sun shining in your face and juice dribbling down your chin is the best way to enjoy it, but I hope you will sample these recipes for a little summer deliciousness. Copyright © 2009 by Kathy Casey.

Zippy Nectarine Salsa

An easy-to-prepare,  zippy & refreshing salsa to serve with grilled chicken breast or halibut.

Makes about 2 cups

2 large nectarines, diced 1/4-inch, about 2 cups
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced, more or less to taste
   or use a dash of Asian chili paste for spice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced lime zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of fruit)

In a small bowl mix all ingredients together not more than 20 minutes before serving.
Serve well chilled.

Copyright 2009 Kathy Casey


Stone-Fruit Almond Shortcake with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream

Makes 6 servings

6 cups mixed sliced ripe stone fruits, such as apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, and nectarines
1 cup sugar, or to taste
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur (optional)
6 Almond Scones (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, sprinkle the fruit with sugar. Mix gently, then let sit for about 30 minutes to “juice up.”

Meanwhile, in a chilled bowl, whip the cream and brown sugar together with a whisk or an electric mixer until the cream forms soft peaks. Be careful not to overwhip. Fold in the amaretto. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, split the scones and place the bottoms on plates. Divide the fruit mixture among the scones and top with the whipped cream. Place the scone tops back on, slightly askew.
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Copyright © 2006 by Kathy Casey.
Almond Scones
Makes 8 scones

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon water

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together into a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 dinner knives until the mixture is the texture of coarse crumbs (just like making a pie crust). Stir in the almonds.

In a separate bowl, whisk the whole egg with the 3/4 cup buttermilk until blended. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid into it. Combine with a few swift strokes. The dough should form a ball and all the flour should be incorporated. (If the dough is way too dry, add 1 tablespoon more buttermilk.) Do not overmix.

On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick round. Carefully place on an ungreased baking sheet, then cut into 8 wedges, leaving the sides still touching.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white and water until mixed, then brush the dough lightly with the egg white glaze.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the scones are cooked through and golden. Let cool slightly before serving.

Chef’s Note: Serve 6 scones for dessert and then you’ll have 2 extra for breakfast or seconds!
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Copyright © 2006 by Kathy Casey.

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