It’s my favorite time of the year. The hot summer weather is bringing my favorite fruit to the market — stone fruit. Peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots. Of course they are delicious eaten out of hand, but these colorful fruits also star in some of my favorite summertime desserts. There are peaches for crumbles, cobblers and crisps, plums and pluots for homemade jams and streusel-topped coffeecakes, and nectarines for simple tarts or puff pastry turnovers.
Every year, I try to find a new way to eat them, and this year I focused on the other ingredients I could combine them with to enhance their naturally gorgeous flavors.
Everybody has an opinion on what makes a good chef. Some think it lies in the ability to thrive in a hot, high-pressure environment, or in a commitment to use only the freshest, high-quality ingredients, or a passion for continuously perfecting their technique. But the real skill needed to be a great chef — and a good cook, for that matter, lies in the creative ability to harmonize flavors. A good chef knows how to balance the four basic tastes of salty, sour, bitter and sweet and intuitively discover which flavors complement each other and will elevate a so-so dish into one that is really special.
While many chefs are intuitively gifted and just seem to know which flavors will marry, many others rely on one of my favorite books to help them — “The Flavor Bible” by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (Little, Brown and Company, 2008.) It is one of my favorite reference books when developing recipes. The book is basically an encyclopedia of ingredients listing all the herbs, spices, seasonings and flavors that will enhance and elevate each ingredient “that allow you to coax the greatest possible flavor and pleasure from them.” Isn’t this the experience everyone who loves to cook is looking for?
Most stone fruit, including cherries and apricots, have an affinity for many of the same…