Toast

Why We Can't Stop Eating Underripe Peaches

May  1, 2018

Green fruit doesn’t mean bad fruit. Or at least, it doesn’t have to. In Thailand, green papayas and mangoes are julienned into matchsticks, tossed with lime juice and fish sauce, dried shrimp and chiles, then topped with crunchy peanuts. It’s one of my favorite salads—and all from a fruit that, for most of my life, I left on the counter and waited on.

Peaches, it turns out, work the same way. We first learned about this thanks to Bill Smith, the chef and owner of Crook’s Corner, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In his book, Seasoned in the South, Smith shares a recipe for green peach salad. Start with rock-hard fruit. Peel and slice, like for pie. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and let hang out. To finish: olive oil, black pepper, and fresh mint. Totally Genius.

It ain't cheesy being green. (Or is it?) Photo by James Ransom

And totally ripe for riffing. (Pun intended. Always intended!) I started thinking about the possibilities after reading an article that had nothing to do with peaches, green or otherwise. It had to do with another colorfully named food: blue cheese. Specifically, blue cheese toasts. Gabrielle Hamilton—the chef and owner of Prune, in New York City’s East Village—wrote about these in the New York Times Magazine. Hers are topped with a bracing raw celery salad, with garlic and scallions, lemon juice and olive oil.

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Why not green peach salad instead? Fruit and cheese adore each other in an opposites-attract sort of way. Fruit is sweet; cheese is salty. Fruit is juicy; cheese is creamy. Fruit is tangy; cheese is funky.

To make these two recipes work together just as harmoniously, I needed to tailor each, just a bit:

  • I swapped out the peach salad’s mint for thinly sliced scallions, for a little more crunch and pep. Chives would also be wonderful. Or go back to mint, or any favorite fresh herb. Maybe basil or tarragon.
  • I also added some ground cayenne to the peach salad. This gives a little kick to counter the sweetness and evokes that oh-so-classic flavor combo: buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing. You could do a dash of hot sauce instead, or, if you’re not super into spicy, freshly ground black pepper.
  • For her celery toasts, Hamilton suggests a white Pullman loaf. I opted for a white sourdough. In any case, choose something white, not wheaty or nutty or seedy, which would distract from the other components.
  • Hamilton also suggests buttering the bread, which I almost always do, but here found unnecessary. If you use a creamy blue cheese and smear it on still-warm toast, it’s plenty rich. But if you want to butter, too, butter away! Who’s to stop you?

What’s your favorite way to show off underripe fruit? Let us know in the comments!

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