May 12, 2014

Just the right peach

I ate my first peach of the season last week. I can’t remember if the sign at the market said it was local, but from its juiciness and sweetness, I would guess that it was. It was an organic peach. I bought several, and slurped them up over the sink after rinsing them in cold water. Then, when there was only one left, I made this salad. I didn’t plan it. I was simply hungry, and scrounging around in my fridge one day, I came up with this. It was one of those perfect meals—as much because of my mood and the timing as anything else. It satisfied me so completely when I ate it outside that day, on my back steps, that I knew I had to share it here. 

I had a great uncle who used to bemoan the loss of good peaches. And it is true, for the most part, that good peaches can be scarce. If you buy a supermarket peach, chances are that it will be too large and too round, too smooth, and entirely flavorless and hard—mealy even. It won’t have ripened naturally; it will have come from miles away. It probably will not be organic; and chances are it will be an oddly mutated hybrid, too. It will bear no resemblance to what a peach, in its true character, is. 

The peach in this salad was brightly colored and very fuzzy, and ripened evenly all around. I would guess that it was allowed to ripen on the tree, until it was just close to being ready to eat. It was sweet and dripping, and concentrated in its peachiness. It split open beautifully when I scored it around the middle; its center was yellow, flecked with red, glistening and smooth. Tossed with crisp fennel and sweet spring onions, and then bathed in feta, lemon juice, and olive oil, the peach shines, countering tartness with almost honeyed mouthfuls. 

It is important that the peaches that you use for this really hold their own as peaches. You should be able to taste summer when you bite into one. If your fruit disappoints you, make something else instead. But if you get just the right peach—a local and organic and old fashioned one—this salad will brighten your day. Truly. 

Peach and Fennel Salad with Parsley and Feta
Serves 1

1 medium yellow peach (organic), pitted and sliced
1/2 of a small red spring onion (or mature red onion), sliced thinly into half-moons
1/2 small fennel bulb, sliced
Generous handful of feta
Generous handful of parsley leaves, left whole
Olive oil
Maldon sea salt (or other flaky salt) and pepper

Notes: These amounts are perfect for a generous salad for one. Double, triple, or quadruple as desired. I strongly recommend not chopping the parsley—the whole leaves impart a distinctive parsley flavor, and act as an ingredient in the salad, rather than just a seasoning.

Slice the peach directly into a bowl to catch all the juices. Add the sliced onion and fennel, and toss gently. Add the feta and a generous handful of whole parsley leaves plucked from their stems. Squeeze a halved lemon over the salad (a scant tablespoon, approximately), and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. The salad should be glistening with oil, but not drenched. Season generously with flake salt and grind black pepper over top. Toss again, gently, and serve.

No comments:

Post a Comment