We in the Philadelphia area are smack in the middle of peach country - as New Jersey is the fourth-largest peach-growing state, followed directly by Pennsylvania.
And, at the moment, local peaches are at the height of their season and flavor, with the fruit making its annual sweet, lush showing at farmers' markets and groceries around the region.
Despite the hard freezes in April, the regional peach crop of 2016 has been described as average - which is far better than growers in winter-ravaged New England can say.
With supplies of fresh peaches expected to be steady well into September - and prices reasonable - restaurants are adding them everywhere.
Here is a sampling:
For breakfast and brunch, the City Tap House restaurants sell a Georgia peach waffle - a Belgian waffle topped with toasted pecans, bourbon peach compote, molasses syrup, and chantilly cream.
At Sbraga at Broad and Pine Streets, house-made peach butter is served with the cheese plate. The version by pastry chef Marqessa Gesualdi consists of nothing more than very ripe peaches and a cinnamon stick, and is easy to replicate at home.
Peaches are a natural for salads. At Whetstone in Queen Village, sous chef Eric Leveillee's peach and radicchio salad uses raw and sautéed peaches, radicchio, and pecorino, and is topped with ginger-mirin vinaigrette. "They resemble the texture of meat or a ripe tomato, so to me they don't always have to be [thought of] so much as a fruit," said Leveillee, who tossed sliced yellow peaches into a recent dish of sage cavatelli with braised rabbit.
At Talula's Garden on Washington Square, the Three Springs Farm peach salad includes whipped ricotta, arugula, baguette crisps, and black pepper gastrique.
The peach salad at the Twisted Tail in Society Hill is sweet and sour, as chef Leo Forneas uses pickled as well as grilled peaches. It's finished with wild arugula, celery, and a white balsamic vinaigrette. Forneas is a fan of Jersey peaches. "They're very seasonal, and so every time I get them, I think of driving to [work at] the Borgata [in Atlantic City], when I would stop at a rest stop and get one to eat on the way," he said. "It was a mess but it was delicious."
The Honeygrow chain's Son of a Beach salad starts with organic baby spinach and arugula, adds cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, peaches, pickled peppers, and fresh mozzarella, and is topped with balsamic vinaigrette.
Part of the multicourse menu at West Philadelphia's Marigold Kitchen is veal flank steak with seared foie gras, polenta, arugula gel, Vidalia-peach chutney, and veal jus.
At Nectar in Berwyn, the pork chop is served with roasted peaches, curry Beluga lentils, and herbs.
The natural inclination with peaches is toward dessert. The crop from Green Meadow Farm in Gap, Pa., makes its way into gelato from Capogiro and Capofitto.
The vegan lemon cake at Flora in Jenkintown is garnished with roasted figs and roasted peaches tossed with mint and basil.
At Paris Bistro, chef/owner Al Paris slices peaches and works with turbinado sugar, butter, and puff pastry dough to make an easy tartin.
Drinks come into play, too. Distrito's Moorestown location serves a peach honeysuckle margarita with gold tequila, Triple Sec, honeysuckle simple syrup, lime juice, and peach puree. It's also garnished with a bruleed Jersey peach wedge.
Taproom on 19th in South Philadelphia makes a house-infused vodka by steeping peaches for three weeks. It adds the kick to Georgia sweet tea.
Makes 4 ounces
6 very ripe peaches, skin and pit removed
1 cinnamon stick
1. Place skinned and pitted peaches in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour blended peaches into a medium saucepan and place on the stove on medium-low heat. Add the cinnamon stick to the peach mixture. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring every few minutes, making sure mixture does not burn. Cook until the water evaporates, the sugar caramelizes, and the mixture reduces and thickens. The peach butter will be done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear trail when scraped across the bottom of the saucepan.
2. Remove pot from stove. Remove cinnamon stick from mixture. Allow peach butter to cool before placing in a separate container for storage. Keep refrigerated in a sealed container for up to a week. Peach butter can be eaten with cheeses, used as a dip for breads and crackers, served on top of ice cream, and eaten by the spoonful right out of the container.
- From Sbraga pastry chef Marqessa Gesualdi
Per two-teaspoon serving: 19 calories, 5 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, trace fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Makes 2 servings
1 peach, cut into eight wedges and grilled
2 cups sliced radicchio, sautéed
1 cup sliced radicchio
1/2 peach, sliced thin
2 cups frisee
1 ounce pecorino cheese shaved
For the ginger mirin dressing:
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (approximately 11/2 knobs)
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 cups olive oil to emulsify
3 teaspoons salt
1. Arrange salad ingredients on plate. Mix dressing, top the salad. Makes two salad servings with extra dressing.
- From Whetstone sous chef Eric Leveillee
Per serving (using 1/4 cup dressing): 125 calories, 11 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 8 grams fat, 14 milligrams cholesterol, 421 milligrams sodium, 10 grams dietary fiber.EndText
Makes 12 servings
1 pound sweet butter
1 cup turbinado sugar
6 fresh large peaches (a little firm to the touch), washed, peeled, pitted, and sliced in half
A package of puff pastry dough (defrosted if frozen), cut into 12 circles to cover each peach half
1. Put the butter into a saucepan. Add the sugar and melt it into the butter over low heat.
2. Put half of the butter mixture on the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan. Top with a layer of peach halves cut side down.
3. Pour over the rest of the butter and top with a circle of puff pastry dough.
4. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of turbinado and bake at 475 degrees in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let the peaches rest for one hour so they can absorb their juices and set.
5. After one hour, turn each peach over so the pastry is on the bottom. Drizzle remaining juice in the pan on the dish to finish.
- From Al Paris, chef/owner of Paris Bistro
Per serving: 466 calories, 4 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams sugar, 33 grams fat, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 400 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.EndText
Makes 2 servings
For pickled peaches:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 sprig thyme
2 local peaches, cut into quarters
For grilled peaches:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 star anise
2 local peaches, cut into quarters
1 sprig rosemary
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
Black pepper, ground, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups wild arugula
2 celery stalks, chopped into long bias cuts
1. To make the pickled peaches: Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and bring to a simmer or until the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature, then add the thyme and peach and reserve. Remove the pickled peach, drain in a paper towel, and reserve in the fridge.
2. To make the grilled peaches: Combine maple syrup, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves and bring to a simmer, remove from heat, cool to room temperature, then strain to a bowl. Add the peaches with the rosemary and marinate until needed. Then toss in a bowl with the extra-virgin oil. Grill until it starts to caramelize without burning; try to get as much as smoked flavor into the peach.
3. To make the vinaigrette: In a mixing bowl, combine the shallots, maple syrup, vinegar, and mustard and slowly incorporate the oil, then season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice and adjust according to preference.
4. To assemble the salad: While the peach is cooking, use another mixing bowl and combine the celery and wild arugula, lightly drizzle the white balsamic vinaigrette, and lightly toss.
5. On a platter, place the pickled peach and grilled peach around, then top with the arugula salad and serve.