We are writing this to you from 38,000 feet, returning from our cousin’s wedding in Bilbao, which lies on the beautiful coast of northern Spain. It was a festive weekend with lots of music, dancing, family, and delicious Spanish cuisine. Just before we left for this trip, we made a dessert and planned to write about it on our way back to Los Angeles, since we knew there would be plenty of time on the ten-hour flight home. Imagine our surprise when the in-flight meal included the exact same dessert: Peach Melba!
If any dish captures the spirit of summer, it is this one: juicy peaches are simmered with real vanilla beans, before being topped with freshly puréed raspberries and smooth vanilla ice cream. The result is a delightful, refreshing treat, and the perfect way to cool off, cleanse the palate, and escape the summertime heat.
Peach Melba was originally created in 1892 by French chef Auguste Escoffier to honor the operatic soprano Nellie Melba. This light delicacy can be served in different ways: colorfully layered in a tall glass like a parfait, with swirls of soft peaches, raspberry purée and vanilla ice cream blending together, or simply by placing the peaches in a bowl, and topping them with the ice cream and sauce. However you choose to serve it, we urge you to run to your local farmer’s market or grocery store and pick out the juiciest, most delicious peaches you can find. And you’d better hurry, because peach season is here for just a short time!
adapted from Nigella Lawson
For the peaches:
3 cups water
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 vanilla bean
For the raspberry purée:
1 1/2 cups raspberries
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 large container vanilla ice cream
Prepare the peaches:
Cut the peaches in half, and remove the stones if they come out easily. (If they are difficult to remove, not to worry: they can be removed after cooking.)
In a large, wide saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and lemon juice. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and use a small knife to scrape the seeds out, then add the scraped seeds as well as the bean halves to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Place peach halves in the syrup, flat side down, in a single layer without overlapping (depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook just a few at a time, then repeat with the remaining peaches). Simmer the peaches for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until they are soft when pierced with a knife. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon, and place them on a tray to cool. Once all the peaches are cooked, peel them, remove any remaining stones, and cool completely.
Make raspberry purée:
Combine the raspberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender, and purée until smooth. Pass the purée through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.
The dish can be served in two ways. To make a parfait-style dessert, place a peach half in a wine glass, then top with a spoonful of raspberry sauce and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Add one more peach half, another spoonful of sauce, and one more scoop of ice cream. Top with a final drizzle of sauce.
Alternatively, you can place two peach halves in a bowl, then top with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream, and a few spoonfuls of raspberry sauce. Serve immediately.
a few notes:
— There will be extra syrup left over from cooking the peaches. It can be saved and used again to cook more fruit: simply store it in a container in the fridge or freezer.
— This dish is gluten-free (be sure to check if your powdered sugar is GF) and can easily be made vegan if a non-dairy vanilla ice cream is used.