When the peaches are ripe, you have to seize the moment and bake. There are few events as blissful as pulling a hot peach pie or crisp out of the oven, the fragrant juices bubbling with promise of fruit nirvana.
But if you are confining your peaches, apricots and plums to the dessert arena, you are missing out. Believe it or not, the way to really appreciate your fruit is to feature it in savory foods. With a little sweet and a little savory, your palate is awakened to a new sensation.
You will come to appreciate fruit even more if you take it out of the pastry and onto a pizza crust.
It’s not always obvious, but we usually add some sweetness to our savory foods, whether it is the natural sugars in onions and carrots, or a sweet condiment like ketchup with those salty fries.
Using fruit in place of a vegetable gives you a chance to balance sweet, sour and salt, forming a powerful combination. Ever wonder why there’s a hint of lemon in so many desserts? Or a pinch of sugar in vinaigrettes or sauces? The sour makes the sweet taste sweeter, in contrast, and the bit of acid keeps the sweet from tasting flat. The popularity of salted caramel and salt-sprinkled chocolates is a testament to the power of a bit of salt to bring out the sweetness and complexity of a food that makes you pay attention to the interplay of flavors.
To start adding fruit to your vegetable dishes, take a look at recipes where sweet, sour and juicy are in play. In the case of today’s peach pizza, I simply replaced tomatoes, which are technically a fruit, with peaches. I kept it simple to accentuate the peach flavor, and added handfuls of fresh basil. Try this trick in caprese salads, simple pastas with fresh tomatoes or tossed salads with balsamic vinaigrette.
International dishes that rely on sweet and sour are also great places to feature peaches, plums and apricots. Try tossing a few into Thai coconut milk-based curry, or slicing them into a stir-fry with tofu, near the end of cooking. Chop them with ginger, chiles and lemon for a fun chutney, or with chiles, lime and cilantro for a salsa. You’ll love gazpacho made with stone fruit, or even a tagine.
Peach and Fresh Basil Pizza
Serves 2 (6 slices).
Note: This pizza tastes like summer! If you are making the crust, you will need to plan ahead. If you are short on time, you can use a pre-baked whole-wheat crust from the store. Look for a 12- to 14-inch one, and bake it for 15 minutes instead of 20. To make a plum or apricot pizza, use 3 large plums or 4 small apricots in place of the peaches. From Robin Asbell.
• 1 c. unbleached flour, plus extra for rolling dough
• 1 c. white whole-wheat flour (or standard whole-wheat flour)
• 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
• 1 tsp. sugar
• 3/4 c. warm water
• 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
• 2 large peaches
• 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thickly (or a vegan alternative)
• 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
• 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, sliced
Start the dough for the crust at least 2 hours before baking. You can make it the day before and refrigerate overnight, as long as you have an hour for the dough to come to room temperature before rolling it out.
In a large bowl, combine the unbleached and whole-wheat flours, yeast, 1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar. Create a well in the center of the dry mixture.
In a measuring cup, stir together 3/4 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon olive oil and pour into the well. Stir the mixture together until the dough comes together. Knead the dough with your hands until mixed and smooth. Form dough into a disk. Place the dough in an oiled bowl or storage tub and cover. Let rise for an hour at room temperature (or refrigerate overnight, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping).
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a 14- by 16-inch rimless sheet pan or a large pizza pan with parchment paper.
Halve and pit the peaches, then slice each half in 3/4-inch-thick slices, then slice those in thirds. Put the peaches in a medium bowl, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, with pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss to coat.
On a floured counter, pat or roll out the pizza dough to make a 14-inch round. Place it on the parchment-lined pan and let rise for 10 minutes.
Distribute the peaches and their liquids over the pizza dough, then the mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown in spots.
Remove from oven and sprinkle basil over the hot pizza. Slice in 6 pieces and serve immediately.
Nutrition information per slice:
Calories 330 Fat 15 g Sodium 270 mg
Carbohydrates 38 g Saturated fat 7 g Total sugars 6 g
Protein 14 g Cholesterol 30 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ fruit, 2 starch, 1 high-fat protein, 1½ fat.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.