When you have fruit that is full of juice, that smells like God’s own orchard, that will only be around for a little while… why would you dare to eat a peach any other way but straight-up, over a sink to catch the runoff, maybe with a towel nearby? So, really: Go out and get you some sloppy-good peaches and have a great time. See you later.
But me, well, I have a mortgage to pay and a paycheck that depends on me coming up with recipes, so I’ll stay right here and manufacture some reason to hang out in the kitchen.
Just kidding! I love my job! And also hanging out in the kitchen, boss! And you will too, even with your bag of perfumed peaches, once you start smelling the toasted almonds for this wonderfully weird fruit salad.
If I have to do something to a peach other than just mash it into my mouth, I almost always reach for the almonds—the two have a natural love for one another, so much so that if you ever crack open a peach pit, you’ll see the inside looks and tastes pretty much exactly like a bitter almond.
But what to do with the almonds? In summer, every third thought turns to tomato, which leads you to basil, which then causes herbal, nutty pesto to command your attention. True, pesto with garlic and cheese sounds gross with fruit, so why not try a sweet variation?
And ta-da, here we are with a peach salad dressed with sweet mint pesto. The pesto is, I confess, not the most gorgeous thing in the world—mint turns a deep greenish black when you rough it up—but its flavor blends gorgeously with almond and olive oil. Add a spray of lemon for a little pick-me-up, and get out of the kitchen.
Peach Salad with Sweet Mint Pesto
Serves 2-4, with plenty of leftover pesto, great for having with other summer fruits
For the sweet mint pesto:
½ cup almonds, preferably without skins
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 ounces fresh mint
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pinch salt
For the salad:
4 peaches (good, ripe ones, because you deserve them)
4 leaves mint, thinly sliced
Toast the nuts: In a small sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add almonds and toast, stirring. You’ll hear a gentle sizzle. Keep stirring the nuts until they turn fragrant and blond, but not really brown. (The lighter color keeps the flavor milder and creamier.) Toss with a generous pinch of salt and dump into the bowl of a small food processor or blender.
Strip the mint and buzz: Pull all the mint leaves off the stems, giving you about 1 moderately-packed cup of leaves. Buzz the almonds in the food processor or blender until they’re pulverized. Add the mint leaves and buzz some more, until the mint is reduced to, well, not very much at all. Add the sugar and a few drops of water, like ¼ teaspoon to help marry the flavors, and buzz a couple seconds to combine.
Stir in olive oil: Transfer the mint-almond mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in the olive oil with a fork. (You do this so you don’t accidentally emulsify it in too much –you want the oil to be a little separate so the pesto stays loose.)
Assemble the peach salad: Slice the peaches into ½” wedges into a large mixing bowl. Finely grate the lemon’s zest and toss with the peaches. Squirt some lemon juice on the fruit, just enough to give you a nice sweet-sour balance. Add about two tablespoons of the mint pesto and gently combine; you can use your hands to rub it on for even distribution. Taste, and add more mint pesto as you like. Serve, with some sliced mint leaves on top.