I love summer for so many reasons; the long, warm nights, linen shorts, swimming in the salty, cool Med, an afternoon on the terrace. Juicy, sweet cantaloupe melons.
And stone fruits. Nectarines especially. I've always preferred their firmer texture and smooth skin to their soft, fuzzy cousin.There are yellow and white fleshed ones at the market right now and I can't keep from buying big baskets full.
The Littlest loves them too. He and I take greedy bites, letting the juice run down our arms, tasting the sweet tartness of summer.
I've long thought about using herbes de provence to make a simple syrup for use in a dessert or drink. The earthiness of the herbes brings their signature flavor to so many savory things,why not ground something unexpected in their flavor?
An herbes scented syrup is delicious with a splash of vodka and loads of ice served in a sugar rimmed glass. Try it next time you have an apero hour along with light, soft goat cheese, crispy toasts and hard, smoked sausages.
From there it's just a stone's throw to poaching. It's something you do to pears and apples during the cold winter months but the simplicity of it is perfectly suited to a summer dessert.
My favorite blushing summer beauty holds up well to poaching and its lightness is perfect for the season. No one wants a heavy finish to an afternoon meal in the heat of June.
The herbes de Provence add a hint of French countryside to the tart sweetness of the yellow flesh. You'll feel like you're driving through Provence with your windows down on the perfect summer's day, wind blowing your hair, the sun shining on fields of scented lavender and bejeweled cherry trees heavy with fruit.
Serve with a pillow of freshly whipped cream and their pale pink poaching liquid thickened into a light syrup.
They are a surprise ending to a summer lunch, transporting you to the Luberon valley, no matter where you are.
Poached Nectarines in Herbes de Provence with Simple Syrup
4-6 ripe nectarines
1 liter of fresh water
1 1/4 cups of sugar, plus more for syrup and cream
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Wash your nectarines and cut a tiny cross in the bottom of each.
Fill a pot with the water and 1 and 1/4 cups sugar under a medium heat, stirring until the sugar is melted.
Add the herbes and vanilla along with the prepared nectarines and bring to a low boil.
Simmer the nectarines for 15-25 minutes until the flesh can be easily pierced with a knife but not so soft they fall apart.You don't want nectarine mush.
Whip your cream with a tablespoon or two of sugar and set aside.
When the nectarines are ready, remove them from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. If you want to serve them peeled you should do this as soon as they're cool enough to handle, starting from the cross you made in the bottom.
Now to the simple syrup.
Strain about a cup of the poaching liquid through a sieve and into a smaller pot with 1/4 cup of sugar over the highest heat. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, melt the sugar and bring to a rolling boil until thickened. This may take a couple of minutes. And it is very hot and sticky so be careful. No kiddie helpers for this part.
Let the syrup cool. It will be the prettiest pale shade of pinky peach. Just so, so pretty.
When you're ready to serve, dribble some syrup into your dish, add a nectarine or two and a dab of the cream. And yum.
Enjoy its subtle loveliness and say 'merci, merci' to your delighted guests.