Let’s Lunch: Summer Berry Granita & Roasted White Peaches

white peach melba with blueberry granita

I finally have a recipe to share with you, courtesy of my lunch buddies on Twitter who’ve chosen chilled desserts for our August lunch date. It’s been a while since our last rendezvous and with the crazy schedule that August has brought with it, I was thankful to have a deadline that would push me into the kitchen and play with summer fruits, cream and syrups.

There were so many ideas for a theme as broad as this. I started thinking about new-to-me sorbet flavors (olive oil?), but my eyes quickly glazed over while reading the eGullet discussion about the questionable stability of oil-based frozen treats. Still on the ice-cream track, I pondered the feasibility of recreating a treasured Singaporean/Malaysian dessert into an ice-cream flavor. The first attempt was promising but not quite up to scratch and I didn’t have the luxury of time (or freezer space) to test it until I was satisfied.

white peach melba with blueberry granita

At a loss, it struck me that these dessert ideas were needlessly ambitious right when we’re in the height of summer with the tastiest, sweetest fruits around to enjoy. Every year from May to September, our market harvest invariably includes a handful of firm white donut peaches which, after ripening on the counter for two days, makes for the perfect treat. The first bite is akin to releasing a fount of summer sweetness, as its concentrated nectar bursts onto the palate and, no matter how meticulous you are, the syrupy sweet juices of the white peach just keep coming. I’ll admit, the sight of me eating a peach is not a pretty one, but oh, for those few minutes, it doesn’t matter how messy sticky my hands and fingers get, or the stray drops that the napkins miss. It becomes almost meditative as I soak in every ounce of this delicious fruit, here for only a few months, before leaving again.

I’m a firm believer in keeping things simple, and leaving fresh produce at the height of their season as untouched as possible to preserve their flavors. Emily Luchetti’s recipe for a White Peach Melba does just that, lightly marinating the fruit in a mixture of Moscato d’Asti and vanilla before roasting it for a caramelized flavor. Topped with a raspberry granita – which I substituted with blueberries – and Chantilly cream, and there’s one cool and refreshing summer dessert for lunch today. Bon Appetit fellow lunchers – it’s good to be back!

Summer Berry Granita with Baked White Peaches (adapted from A Passion For Desserts)
Makes 4 servings

The original recipe calls for a raspberry granita which I substituted with blueberries as that’s what we have, but you could just as easily use blackberries or boysenberries. Be sure to taste the mixture an adjust its sweetness/sourness to your liking before freezing and mixing it.

For the granita:
6 ounces blueberries, frozen or fresh (defrosted if frozen)
¾ ounces brown sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
A pinch of salt

Puree the blueberries, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve and discard any pulp and seeds that remain. Add the sugar, water, lemon juice and salt, stir to mix. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish and freeze for an hour.

Remove the dish from the freezer, use a fork to mix up the puree and return it to the freezer. Repeat the freezing and mixing at 30-minute intervals until the puree is completely frozen.

The granita can be made a few days in advance of when it’s needed.

For the peaches:
2 large white peaches
1/3 cup Moscato d’Asti
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F. Peel and halve the peaches, removing their seeds. Slice a tiny bit off the rounded bottom of each half so that they can remain upright while baking. Place the peach halves in a medium glass or ceramic bowl.

Mix the Moscato d’Asti and vanilla and pour the mixture over the peach halves. Let sit for 10 minutes, then turn the peaches over for another 10 minutes.

Place the marinated peaches in a single layer on a baking dish or tray. Sprinkle the sugar over the tops of the peaches and bake, for 15-25 minutes, depending on how ripe the peaches are. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Place the peach soaking liquid in a small saucepan and reduce over medium heat until syrupy, about 10-15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Chantilly cream:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form and the cream achieves a satin sheen. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

To serve:
Place each peach half on a serving dish, top with the granita, cream and drizzle the reduced syrup over the whole stack.

Before you leave, check out what my fellow lunchers are having today:

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