When you live as far out in the country as we do, one of the ways of making sense of your surroundings is by learning the common names of plants. Redbud, white oak, pokeweed, mountain mint....
Ambrosia salad eludes me. My great-grandmother makes it on occasion, along with another "salad" that involved lime Jell-O, marshmallows, and pineapple and which she called, perplexingly, Watergate Salad (which, if you must know, is a salad as scandalous as its namesake). It always seemed to me an ill-fated ending for fruit--to be tossed haphazardly with marshmallows, maraschino cherries, and sweetened coconut.
One fruit I've never seen in such dire straits, however, is the peach. Southerners have an almost innate respect for the peach, and its perfumed, golden flesh and succulent texture make it the fruit of summer. You can't make it through a summer in the South without eating a ripe peach and having its juices stream down your chin and forearms. It's just not allowed.
There aren't many things you can do to a good peach to improve it. Should you find yourself in possession of some subpar specimens, however, we find that simple applications can make the most of less than luscious fruit. Our recently posted Peach Pie is a good example of this. Peaches. Buttery pastry crust. No fooling around.
Another fabulous and incredibly simple peach dessert is Baked Stuffed Peaches, a recipe from JOY and one that deserves to be shared. This is a recipe we had overlooked until now. However, topping halved peaches with a delicious filling and baking them brings out the sweetness and juiciness of the fruit. Each peach half resembles an individual cobbler or crisp, delightful topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or even just plain heavy cream.
This dish also has the appeal of being infinitely variable. We used toasted almonds, brown sugar, and butter for the topping, but you could go in many directions from here. Use walnuts, hazelnuts, or even sesame seeds. Try baking the peaches with a dab of goat cheese in the center--a hidden surprise beneath the crispy topping. Top with almond paste loosened with an egg and orange flower water. Basically, your imagination is the limit in this case. We find, however, that simple is best when it comes to peaches. They deserve to be treated with respect.
This recipe is very easy to scale up, making it the perfect dessert candidate for a simple summer dinner party.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Halve and pit:
2 large, ripe peaches
Place the peaches in a small baking dish, preferably one just large enough to hold them. Pour over the peaches:
1/2 cup orange juice (from about 2 oranges)
Then, sprinkle over them:
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Combine in a food processor and pulse until crumbly:
1/3 cup slivered toasted almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
Divide this mixture among the peach halves. Dot with:
1 tablespoon butter, cubed
Bake until the peaches are soft, the topping is crisp and slightly browned, and the juices in the baking dish are syrupy, about 30 minutes. Serve as-is or with vanilla ice cream, lightly sweetened whipped cream, or heavy cream. The tangy syrup created by the orange and peach juices is simply heavenly when paired with something rich and creamy.