• Stir It Up: Peach perfect in any language
     | August 02,2013
    Dirk Van Susteren Photo

    A French tart of peaches and cream celebrates one of the “most delicious fruits to be found in France.”

    According to the fabulously French Larousse Gastronomique culinary encyclopedia, the peach is “one of the best and most delicious fruits to be found in France.” Given that France was, for the writer, the culinary center of the universe, that can be read as “one of the best and most delicious fruits to be found,” period.

    Who’s going to argue? Certainly not the poets (Virgil), writers (Zola) and painters (Renoir) who have immortalized peaches in word and image.

    In honor of Prosper Montagne, the culinary giant who wrote Larousse Gastronomique in 1938, I began searching specifically for French recipes for peaches. They are not hard to find. These came from a delightful new book, “Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking From the French Riviera,” by Hillary Davis, an American living in France. This book will have you searching your farmers market for the freshest, best quality produce and meats, and find you preparing them carefully, maybe with Edith Piaf playing in the background.

    “Do I dare to eat a peach?” asks the narrator in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” You bet. Or, en Francais, “Bien sur!”

    Madame’s Peaches and Cream Tart

    Yield: 8 servings

    1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan

    2 cups all-purpose flour

    ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

    Pinch of salt

    5 cups thickly sliced, pitted (but not peeled) peaches (4 to 5 peaches)

    2 eggs

    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    1 teaspoon pure almond extract

    1 cup heavy cream

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour a 9- or 10-inch pie plate, or a tart pan with a removable bottom (see note).

    In a bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add flour, ¼ cup sugar and salt; work with your hands until all the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture feels like coarse sand. Spread mixture into prepared pan and press down. (It will not really come together as a dough until it is baked.) Lay the peaches in a decorative pattern on top. Sprinkle with ½ cup sugar. Bake for 20 minutes.

    Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon sugar and the extracts. Whisk in cream and carefully pour over peaches, making sure you don’t let the liquid overflow the pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and return to oven. Bake for 30 minutes until top is golden. Allow to cool and set before serving.

    Note: I recommend a 10-inch pie plate. I used a tart pan with a removable bottom, and the liquid began to seep through. If you use a tart pan, put it on a baking sheet, pour in the liquid, sprinkle with sugar, and move the sheet and pan quickly into the oven.

    (Recipe from “Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking From the French Riviera” by Hillary Davis; Gibbs Smith, 2013)

    Peach and Raspberry Salad With Dark Chocolate Sorbet

    Yield: 6 servings

    For the sorbet:

    ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

    ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

    Pinch of salt

    2¼ cups water

    1 tablespoon corn syrup

    3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

    ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

    For the fruit salad:

    ½ cup sugar

    1 star anise, broken

    ½ cup water

    1 tablespoon orange flower water (see note)

    6 ripe peaches

    2 pints fresh raspberries

    Make the sorbet: Combine the sugar, cocoa, salt, water and corn syrup in a saucepan; whisk to blend. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate, vanilla and espresso powder. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a covered container and freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

    Make the fruit salad: Combine the sugar, anise and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, discarding the anise. Stir in the orange flower water.

    Peel the peaches over another bowl to catch the juices (you can omit this step). Slice them into the bowl, pour the sugar syrup over the top, cover and refrigerate.

    Spoon the peaches and juices into chilled bowls. Divide the fresh raspberries among the servings and top with sorbet.

    Note: Orange flower water is sold in specialty shops and Middle East markets. If you can’t find it, you can omit it, or substitute the zest of one orange. Add and remove it from the syrup with the anise.

    (Recipe from “Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking From the French Riviera” by Hillary Davis; Gibbs Smith, 2013)

    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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