Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nectarines Poached with Basil

For 4th of July, we hosted a couple of college friends instead of doing a big gathering. Since there was already plenty of "real" food in the works, I didn't want anything heavy (or time-consuming) for dessert. As always, there was a long backlog of Reader-starred Food52 recipes to choose from and I decided to go with one of the ones that highlighted already delicious summer fruit. (Side note: while it may seem that I only cook from Food52, that is only 80% true - but as it turns out, other recipes are less frequently so good that they are worth sharing. At least, the salads that I chose to make from a recent issue of an (unnamed) food magazine for the same gathering really didn't turn out well enough to be blog-worthy.)

I got a big box of nectarines from one of my favorite stores, so we made this dessert with them instead of the original peaches. ("Even better" said one of our guests to that.)

Nectarines Poached with Basil
Adapted from Food52

1⅓ cup white wine
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 large bunch fresh basil
8 nectarines

1. Place the wine, sugar, and water in a wide-bottomed saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar slightly. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat, leaving the syrup to simmer gently.

2. Cut the nectarines in half and remove the pits. Drop half of the basil leaves into the syrup, and then place the nectarine halves cut side down into the syrup. Poach for about 3 minutes and then gently turn over using a slotted spoon. Continue poaching for an additional 3-4 minutes, until soft (cooking time will depend on ripeness of nectarines). Carefully prick the cut side of the nectarines to check for tenderness. The peels should be wrinkling up. You may cook the nectarines in two batches if all the halves will not fit in the pan at once. Side note: I used our widest pan so that I could cook all of them at once:

3. Remove the nectarines to a (very big) plate (or a big dish) with a slotted spoon. When they are cool enough to handle, gently slide the skins off and discard. Add all but about eight basil leaves to the syrup and bring to a boil; boil until reduced by about half. Pour any juices that have collected in the dish with the nectarines into the syrup pot. Leave to cool to room temperature.

4. The nectarines can be covered with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for several hours. When ready to serve, place two nectarine halves on a plate and drizzle with a little basil syrup. Reserve the remaining syrup for another use. (Foreshadowing: this "other use" will be covered in the next post.) Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

Serves four to eight, depending on how many nectarine halves each person wants.