Sunday, June 28, 2009

Peaches and... Pork?

In my Midwestern upbringing, mixing meat and fruit is something most people never even consider. Fruit is relegated to breakfast, desserts, or snacks (with an occasional fruit salad thrown in for a side at a picnic). Meat is a main dish, usually served with potatoes or rice and sometimes an iceberg lettuce salad. The combination of juicy, ripe fruit and salty cured meat is not earth-shattering in some cultures, but in my family it would have been considered simply strange. As you can imagine, this Ohio-raised girl will never forget the first time she experienced the classic Italian duo of melon and prosciutto.

I was studying abroad in Rome during my third year of college, and had exposure to many things one doesn’t necessarily see every day in the Midwest (it’ll take a few glasses of wine to get those stories out of me though!). One night, my group dined at a restaurant near our pensione that specialized in different kinds of meat – grilled, roasted, braised, smoked and cured, with practically any species considered fair game. This made tough eating for the vegetarians in the group, but the rest of us loved the feast. One of the appetizers they served was a platter of almost over-ripe golden cantaloupe slices, wrapped loosely in paper-thin mauve prosciutto that was rimmed with creamy white fat. It was visually stunning, but the tastes and textures were enough to stop us all in our tracks. It was an explosion of intensely sweet juice from the soft cantaloupe flesh, followed by the unmistakably porky and slightly toothy prosciutto impregnated with tiny salt crystals that crunched lightly between our teeth. They complimented each other perfectly in their contrasts, the way any good relationship does; the melon made the prosciutto seem saltier and the pork made the cantaloupe taste sweeter.

The star of this weekend's farmer’s market were the succulent, perfect peaches that have just begun hit their seasonal peak. I bought about half a dozen from Frog Hollow and tried them in various dishes the rest of the day. Lunch was my favorite, by far. While at the Ferry Building I also picked up a crusty sweet rustic baguette from Acme, sweet sheep’s milk ricotta from Cowgirl Creamery, and a few slices of prosciutto from Golden Gate Meat Company. When I got home, I sliced the baguette on the bias and spread a spoonful of the ricotta on the bread. The ricotta was fresh and delicious but its role was to contribute an almost-creamy texture to the dish, as its delicate flavor was slightly overpowered by the concentrated sweetness of the golden peach wedges nestled into the bed of white cheese. I added a light crack of black pepper then topped the sandwich with a blanket of salty prosciutto sliced so thinly it was almost transparent. It was immensely satisfying, and the swine kindly played second fiddle to allow the peaches to show off the lush juices they’ve been working so hard on all year.
For dinner that night, the peaches played a part in a simple appetizer. I had bookmarked a recipe from last year’s July issue of Food & Wine that also called for the delicous combination of pork and fruit; peach slices and a basil leaf wrapped in thinly-sliced pancetta. The delightful little packages crisped on the stovetop in a touch of olive oil and received a drizzle of aged balsamic to finish. The texture of the crispy pork was a nice contrast to the ripe peach, but in this case the pancetta was not so willing to step aside and let the fruit steal the show. The peppery pork overpowered the peach and the balsamic competed for our taste buds’ attention. The dish was distracted rather than complex, but I would certainly not call it a failure as it still featured amazing ingredients cooked perfectly.

Dessert ended with peaches and cream, a combination more familiar to the folks back home. I lightly whipped fresh cream (also purchased at Cowgirl) with dark brown sugar and a touch of vanilla. You might think that one would get sick of peaches after featuring them in three dishes in one day, but I can honestly say that was not the case! They were so perfectly ripe, that I wish I would have saved one to snack on right now...oh well, it’s time to move on to the apricots and plums!

Peaches and Prosciutto

1 slice of high-quality, crusty bread
1 heaping tablespoon of ricotta
½ perfectly ripe peach, sliced into ½ inch wedges
1 slice of paper-thin prosciutto
Black pepper
Spread the ricotta on the bread. Layer the peaches on, add a crack of freshly ground black pepper. Top with the prosciutto. Enjoy!
Add basil or arugula.
Add a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil on top of the peaches.
Use Serrano ham instead of prosciutto.
Use cantaloupe or strawberries instead of the peaches.


  1. oooh, as usual, you don't disappoint! my mouth is watering...right now!

  2. That looks delish! Thanks for sharing!

  3. looks so mouth is watering...thanks for sharing!!!

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