The fruit varieties that fill farmers-market stalls right now are some of late summer’s greatest pleasures. Peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums — and their many hybrid cousins, including apriums, plumcots and pluots (plums crossed with apricots), peacotums (peach-apricot-plums) and nectaplums (that’s easy to figure out!) — have refreshingly juicy flesh and some of the sweetest, most aromatic flavors of the fruit world.
I love to eat them just as they come — raw and still warm from the sun. My sons and I can’t resist sampling slices that many growers offer at their stalls.
But cooking juicy stone fruit, so named for the rock-hard pits at their centers, extends the range of their pleasures. Just think of all the pies, cobblers, crumbles, shortcakes, ice creams, sorbets and other desserts you can make. And that’s not to mention the fresh fruit salads, wonderful riots of color and flavor; or even spicy-sweet salsas spiked with onion, chilies and fresh herbs to make exciting accompaniments for grilled seafood, poultry or meat.
That mention of grilling brings me one of my favorite ways to prepare summer fruits: quickly cooking them over an open fire at the end of an outdoor meal. The only advance preparation they require is cutting them into halves along their natural seams, removing the pits (making freestone varieties of peaches the smartest choice for that particular fruit) and brushing them with a little butter that not only helps prevent sticking but also adds an extra touch of richness.
Be sure to brush the cooking grid clean before placing the fruit on it to remove any residue of a savory main course you may have cooked. Then, just a few minutes of grilling deliciously caramelizes some of the fruits’ sugars and also softens them slightly, releasing their juices. The results are delectable — and so easy to achieve.
In fact, that ease makes me want to add another element to grilled fruit desserts. In the recipe I share here, I prepare a sorbet ahead of time, made with fresh raspberries and white grape juice, to serve alongside the fruit. If you want to save time, however, the grilled fruit would also be delicious with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream or another flavor you might prefer.
Please try this simple recipe soon with whatever stone fruit you find to be the best and most abundant. Stick with just one variety, if you like, or if possible, use an assortment to delight your family and friends all the more with a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors.
You might even be inspired to experiment with apriums, pluots or nectaplums. Part of the joy of farmers markets and cooking, after all, can be found in the discoveries you make.
GRILLED SUMMER FRUIT WITH FRESH RASPBERRY-GRAPE SORBET
2 cups white grape juice
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups raspberries, rinsed and dried on paper towels
Grilled summer fruit:
2 ripe but firm sweet peaches, halved and pitted
2 ripe but firm sweet plums, halved and pitted
2 ripe but firm sweet nectarines, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
At least several hours in advance, make the sorbet. Put the grape juice in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until it reduces to 1 cup, 7 to 10 minutes. Make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in another saucepan and boiling until the sugar has dissolved. Stir together the syrup and grape juice, and chill, either by refrigerating the mixture until cold or, more quickly, by setting the bowl inside a large bowl filled with ice cubes and water, stirring occasionally.
In a blender or a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, puree the raspberries. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a mixing bowl and pass the puree through to remove the seeds, pressing down with a rubber spatula to force all the puree through and scraping any puree from the underside of the sieve into the bowl. Stir in the chilled grape juice mixture.
If you have an ice cream or sorbet maker, transfer the sorbet mixture to the machine and freeze, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the sorbet into a freezer container with a lid, and freeze until solid.
Alternatively, make a granita by transferring the mixture to a shallow baking dish or bowl, covering it with plastic wrap, and freezing until the mixture begins to set, about 25 minutes. Using a clean fork, scrape the granita to break up the ice crystals, mixing well. Cover, return to the freezer, and repeat every 20 minutes, pushing the ice crystals from the outside of the pan toward the center, until the mixture is completely frozen but not solid.
About 15 minutes before serving time, remove the container of sorbet or the granita from the freezer. Leave at room temperature to soften slightly for scooping.
Preheat an outdoor or indoor grill or the broiler. Brush the fruit halves all over with the melted butter, and cook them on the grill or under the broiler until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
Use an ice cream scoop or a large serving spoon to scoop the sorbet or granita onto the centers of individual serving plates or bowls. Arrange the fruit around the sorbet or granita, garnish with mint sprigs, and serve immediately.