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Crook's Corner's Green Peach Salad

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Every Wednesday, food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius. This week: how to make good on the peaches you'd never want to eat, from Bill Smith's Seasoned in the South.

Green Peach Salad

- Kristen

You just never know when you're going to get a bum peach.

When you get ahold of a perfectly ripe one -- soft, sweet and ready to pour peach juice all over your shirt the moment you bite -- you know you should eat it right then and there, maybe even leaning over a trash can at the farmers market.

But for those bum peaches, the ones that could roll around the bottom of your bag all day and emerge completely unfazed, Bill Smith -- longtime chef of Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, NC -- gives us a genius way to make good, in his 2005 cookbook Seasoned in the South. Just in time for early peach season, and the hottest, most beastly days of summer -- a low maintenance, no cook, very little sweat recipe. 6 ingredients and 20 minutes till Green Peach Salad.

Bill Smith  Peach

Green peaches -- at least the ones that us regular folks not in possession of a peach orchard can get our hands on -- are not actually green. Just poke around for the hardest, most unforgiving peaches in the pile. Unfortunately, these are easy to find, especially at your local grocery store.

According to Russ Parsons, author of How to Pick a Peach, you should also ignore any deceiving red blush (it's bred into most of our peaches and nectarines these days and says nothing about ripeness -- those tricksters!). Instead, look at the underlying yellow tone. The warmer it is, the riper and sweeter your peach. Snatch those up and eat them out of hand -- or sliced up, with cream and dark brown sugar, if you must.

But cool-yellow-bordering-on-green undertones? That spells tart and crunchy, like a firm pear (Melissa Clark is a fan too). Sure, you could leave them out on the counter and they'll soften, sometimes precipitously -- but they will never be one bit sweeter, so best go make a salad.

segmenting a peach  macerating

Peel them (or don't) and slice them as you would for pie. I take this to mean wedges about 1/2-inch wide at the fattest end (I've been faulted for my "rustic" knife skills in the past, but I think big and chunky works here -- it leaves them with some crunch). Freestone or clingstone, hard green peaches will cling like the dickens to the pit, so I find it easiest to segment them before pitting -- prying off one wedge at a time. Ripe peaches would cave and turn to pulp under such pressure, but green peaches maintain their dignity.

Shake some sugar and salt over them, toss with fingers, lick fingers, and let them macerate for a mere 10 minutes -- almost immediately they'll turn glossy and pert as moisture is drawn out. A bit of peachy nectar collects in the bottom of the bowl, which you swish together with olive oil, mint and lots of black pepper -- there's your dressing.

It looks a bit like canned peaches swimming in syrup and, in a way, it is -- if you could hook up jumper cables to their slippery undying flesh and jolt them back to life (please don't actually do this). It's resilient where they're sodden, refreshingly tart where they cloy.

Seasoned in the South  Green Peach Salad

Bill Smith says this salad is great with cold meats. I think a big bowlful would make a lot of sense at either a hot, smoky barbeque or a civilized brunch. Or you could make like EmilyC, who tipped us off to this recipe (thanks Emily!): "I made it for first time last night and ate about a pound of it in two minutes flat. It’s that good."

Crook's Corner's Green Peach Salad

From Seasoned in the South by Bill Smith.

Serves 4-6.

  • 2 1/2 pounds unripe peaches, peeled and sliced as for a pie
  • Scant 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons strong-flavored extra-virgin olive oil, like Greek or Lebanese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint chiffonade

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Want more genius recipes? Try Paule Caillat's Brown Butter Tart Crust or Eric Ripert's Crispy-Skinned Fish.

Got a genius recipe you'd like to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


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Comments (14)


almost 2 years ago June

Cilantro instead of mint and a small slice of habanero chopped instead of black pepper transforms this dish into something very special.


about 4 years ago Food Photo NYC

Hooking up jumper cables to peaches...what an incredibly evocative piece of writing to grab the attention of this old greasy handed mechanic and photographer.

Since I'm so bad at picking peaches from the local mart, this will ease the anxiety since I now can make lemonade from lemons...er, peaches...er, well, I said I was a mechanic...


about 4 years ago Sagegreen

Yum! I love recipes that treat fruit like salad!


about 4 years ago Waverly

Great recipe. You never know what kind of peach you are buying. It's nice to have a good recipe for the "green" ones. Thank you.


about 4 years ago lakelurelady

Crooks Corner has one of the best shrimp and grits recipes around. Now this great recipe for peach salad. I feel priviledged to live in NC near such greats as Bill Smith, Ken and Karen Barker at Magnolia Grill and Sara Foster who runs The Foster's Market. Thanks EmilyC and Kristen for this genious recipe.


about 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Many years ago, my parents lived in South Carolina. I can still remember the warm juiciness of peaches my mom and I would pick. Here in California I've not been so lucky, so this recipe is a perfect find for me! Thanks so much for this great sounding recipe EmilyC and Kristen!!


about 4 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Great idea for those not so perfect peaches, thanks EmilyC and Kristin!


about 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Yum! This, and a little creme fraiche or ricotta, or heck, even some burrata, would make a perfect summertime lunch! Thanks for this lovely find, EmilyC and Kristen!


about 4 years ago EmilyC

I'll forever have a hankering for rock hard peaches thanks to this salad. Thanks so much, Kristen, for highlighting it in such a lovely way!


about 4 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I'm thinking about playing around with a green peach salsa this weekend. My complaint about most peach salsas is that they're way too sweet for me; I'm wondering if using the under-ripe ones might get around some of that. By the way, I love that green peaches and dignity inhabit the same sentence. I've been known to go off a tight-underwear rant about peaches having been ruined by being bred for travel and appearance. Lovely ideas for redemption here. Thank you again, Kristen.


about 4 years ago Plum Pie

I LOVE Crook's Corner!! I used to go there all the time when I went to UNC. And Seasoned in the South is a great cookbook too. Love this pick!


about 4 years ago cookbookchick

EmilyC tipped you off to this one, eh? And here I was feeling awed at the range of cookbooks you must be trolling through, Kristen, to unearth the next genius recipe! :-) Thanks to you both!


about 4 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Thanks EMilyC and Kristen. This is perfect for a midweek grocery store visit, where 2 days ago, warm hands held rock peaches - and put them back, for some sucker....Now I return with welcome apology to test this! Love it.