We are approaching the end of summer, but peaches are still plentiful. I don’t know why I love peaches so much, I don’t think I had a fresh peach until I moved to the United States to go to college. See, we don’t grow peaches in Panama. And the imported ones available at the grocery store were badly bruised and quite mealy.
Growing up, my grandparents would take me to a little ice cream shop at the beach. The ice cream shop served a variety of ice cream desserts. Some were simple, and some were completely over the top. I would always order the same thing: peach Melba. The peach Melba was made with a canned peach half, thick sugary syrup, and raspberry jelly. It was all sugar. To add insult to injury, I would request for a dollop of marshmallow fluff on top. I always ate every last bit of it.
The funny part is that I thought that our server’s name was Melba. Since she was the one that always assembled and served the peach Melba, I was certain that it was her recipe and that she had named the recipe after herself. Many years passed before I learned that the peach Melba recipe had been created by Chef August Escoffier in the late 1800s to serve to an opera singer: Nellie Melba. I was so disappointed.
Poached Peaches with Vanilla Bean and Kaffir Lime Leaves
A ripe summer peach is best eaten out of hand, but this is an easy and elegant thing to serve. And it is the foundation for peach Melba. To assemble a peach Melba, you just need one peach half, a small scoop of good vanilla ice-cream, and a few raspberries. You can make a raspberry sauce or purchase one if you like. I think the tart raspberries go well with the sweet peaches. Add a little bit of the syrup to the bottom of the dish.
1 vanilla bean
2 cups white wine
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves (you can substitute dry, or a small segment of lime peel)
3-4 medium peaches
1. Cut the vanilla bean down the middle length-wise and scrape out the seeds. Place the vanilla bean pod, the seeds, the wine, water, sugar, and kaffir lime leaves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Once the sugar dissolves, gently place the peaches in the syrup. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes over medium-low heat, turning the peaches around halfway during the cooking time. To test for doneness, pierce a peach with a toothpick. The peach should be soft, but not mushy.
3. Remove the peaches from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a shallow bowl to cool.
4. Bring the syrup to simmer over medium heat, and continue to cook until reduce by 1/3. It should be thicker and syrup like. Let the syrup cool and place in a container that is big enough to fit the syrup and the peaches.
5. Once the peaches cool a bit, you’ll be able to slip off the skins easily. After you remove the skins, cut them in half, remove the pit and gently scrape any fibers from the core if desired.
6. Store the peaches in the syrup, along with the vanilla bean. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
If you have any leftover syrup, make a cocktail with some of the syrup and some sparkling wine. You can also puree the poached peaches with some of the syrup for a Bellini base.