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Grilled Peach Melba

The easiest way to peel peaches and other thin-skinned fruits is to blanch them first. Score the blossom end (bottom) of each peach with an X. In small batches, immerse the peaches in boiling water just until the skins begin to wrinkle and curl at the X, 20 to 60 seconds, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Immediately transfer the fruit to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When the fruit is cool, you should be able to slip off the skin with your fingers; use a paring knife to remove any skin that does not come away easily.

You can serve the dessert with homemade raspberry puree (recipe follows) or with purchased raspberry sauce.

Ingredients:

For the raspberry puree:

  • 1 1/2 cups raspberries
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. sugar

For the buttermilk pound cake:

  • 1 1⁄2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room
     temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 large, firm ripe peaches, about 1 lb. total,
      peeled
  • Good-quality vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions:

To make the raspberry puree, in a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries until smooth. Add the lemon juice and salt. Add the sugar to taste and puree again until well blended. Strain into a bowl through a medium-mesh sieve to remove the seeds, pressing the mixture with the back of a spoon to push it through. Set aside 1/2 cup of the puree for drizzling over the cake; reserve the rest for another use (it will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days).

Preheat an oven to 325°F. Coat a 5-by-9-by-4-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Dust with flour, then tap out any excess.

To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, and repeat to add the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center of the cake springs back when touched and a skewer inserted into it comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let the cake cool completely. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.

While the cake is baking, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat. Lightly oil the grill rack. Halve and pit the peaches, then cut each half in half again. Place the peach quarters, cut side down, on the grill rack and cook until grill marks appear, about 4 minutes. Turn them so that the other cut side faces down and grill for 4 minutes more. Turn them so their rounded sides face down and grill until the peaches sizzle slightly and are easily pierced with a skewer, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the peaches to a platter and let cool to room temperature. (This can also be done in a grill pan over high heat.)

Cut the cake into thick slices and arrange them on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until the edges are a light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. To serve, place a warm cake slice on each plate and top with 4 grilled peach quarters and a scoop of ice cream. Drizzle each serving with the raspberry puree and serve.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Fruit Dessert, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2004).