Nectarines: an un-peach of a dessert

September 07, 1994|By Irene Sax | Irene Sax,Newsday

There is no tooth fairy. Thunder is not caused by clouds bumping together. And a nectarine is not a cross between a peach and a plum.

Surprised? A nectarine, it seems, is actually a smooth-skinned -- variety of peach, a product of natural mutation. A nectarine may suddenly, mysteriously, grow on the branch of a peach tree.

Both are fragrant, sweet and tart. Both are so juicy when they're ripe that eating them in public is a task only for the socially secure.

Holding a napkin under your chin to catch the juices, you bite through the nectarine's thin, golden skin. First comes a scarcely perceptible flash of bitterness. Then moist, yellow flesh, both sweet and lemony. And then you're left sucking the big, bumpy pit that's tucked in your cheek. All for about 50 calories.

Add nectarines to savory dishes, so their tartness cuts the unctuousness of pork or duck. Brush nectarine quarters with teriyaki sauce, then thread them on skewers to grill with shrimp ++ or scallops. Or let the nectarine star in a hot-and-minty salsa that you serve with chicken breasts or grilled fish.

But they're best adding a special summer fragrance to sweets, especially when you combine them with the berries that ripen at the same time, as in our nectarine-blueberry pie. If you use store-bought pie shells, the pie takes no time at all.

The stone-fruit's answer to lemonade is the smoothie, a cool, refreshing drink that has some calories but all of them healthful. And the nectarine duff is a variation on plum duff. It looks like a cake but is quick, easy and plain enough to serve for breakfast. Try it.

Nectarine Salsa

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 ripe nectarine, chopped (about 2/3 cup)

1/3 cup chopped scallions

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mint

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve with grilled fish or chicken.

Nectarine-Berry Pie

Makes 8 servings

4 large, ripe nectarines, pitted and thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 store-bought, 9-inch pie shells

1 egg, beaten

sugar for glaze

In a large bowl, combine nectarine slices, berries, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Stir until fruit is coated.

Pour filling into one of the pie shells and invert the second shell over it. Crimp edges and press with fork to seal. Cut holes in top crust so steam can escape.

Place a baking sheet on lower rack of oven to catch juices. Set pie on middle rack and bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes. Brush top crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar; bake for for 15 more minutes.

Nectarine Smoothie

Makes 2 servings

2 soft, ripe nectarines

1 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1 cup low-fat milk

Cut the nectarines into chunks and discard the pits. Put in blender with yogurt and milk and puree until smooth.

Nectarine Duff

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/4 cup butter

1 cup flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup milk

4 to 6 nectarines, peeled and sliced thick

Melt butter in 8-inch-square baking pan. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Gradually add milk and stir until flour mixture is just moistened.

Spoon the batter evenly onto the melted butter. Arrange the nectarine slices in rows on top of the batter. Bake 35 minutes at 375 degrees and serve slightly warm.

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