If you are anything like me, you look forward to summer peaches all year. But unless you live near an orchard and can get them when they are at their best, even “fresh” summer peaches can be under-ripe. That’s mostly because the fruit is picked before it is ready in order to make it easier to transport. Trouble is, that means peaches often disappoint when we bite into them.
Luckily, the grill comes to the rescue! The heat of the grill intensifies the natural sugars in peaches _ as well as other under-ripe fruit _ as well as softens the flesh. The end result is a sweet, slightly caramelized and soft peach. Delicious!
The key to grilling peaches is to cut them in half and remove the pits. You must brush the fruit all over with untoasted nut oil or olive oil to keep the juices inside and prevent the fruit from drying out. For added flavour, you can replace the pit with a bit of flavoured butter (as I do in the recipe below), or sprinkle the cut side with a simple “dessert rub” of cinnamon, sugar and a pinch of salt.
Other than that, there is little to know. Make sure the cooking grates are brushed clean and use a medium-low direct heat. Sugar — natural or added — burns quickly and any food with a high sugar content requires a gentle, low heat.
I love serving grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream and a pecan streusel topping that I bake similar to granola. It tastes like pie! But my favourite way is this recipe for grilled peaches with raspberry butter and amaretti cookie crumbs. Peach melba inspired the raspberry butter that I place inside each peach half to melt and sauce the peach. The addition of amaretto deepens the flavour and adds a sophisticated side to the dish. The crumbled amaretti cookies echo the amaretto flavour and add a welcome crunch to the dessert that is made perfect by a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.
GRILLED PEACHES WITH RASPBERRY BUTTER AND AMARETTI COOKIE CRUMBS
Start to finish: 20 minutes
4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
Un-toasted walnut or hazelnut oil (or olive oil)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, to serve
8 amaretti cookies, crumbled
Heat the grill to medium-low.
Brush the cut side of each peach half with the oil. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt, butter, amaretto and jam until smooth. Spoon a bit (about 1/2 tablespoon) of the mixture into the centre of each peach half. Place the peaches, cut side up, on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the skins begin to pull away from the flesh, about 5 minutes. About halfway through the grilling time, brush the melted butter mixture at the centre of each half all over the cut side.
Remove the peach halves from the grill, being careful not to spill the butter mixture from the centres. Set aside to cool slightly, then serve warm or at room temperature topped with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and a sprinkle of amaretti cookie crumbles.
Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”