Lighten up your summer dessert with seasonal stone fruit
When I walk through my local farmers market right now, I couldn't be happier. Why? We're right in the middle of summer stone fruit season. Peaches. Nectarines. Apricots. Plums. Cherries. Some of the most succulent fruits imaginable are at their peak right now. I could make a meal for myself by just strolling past the stalls and enjoying all the samples!
Nothing quite matches the simple pleasure of eating these juicy fruits by hand. But eventually, people who love to cook want to try creating something with them in the kitchen. Because stone fruit are so juicy and sweet, along with a wonderful touch of acidity, they find their way happily into not only sweet recipes but also savory ones. I've enjoyed spicy barbecue sauces and chutneys made from them, as well as chunks of the fresh fruit tossed into chicken or seafood salads.
Naturally, though, you'll get around to making a summer fruit dessert. There are delicious peach, apricot or cherry ice creams, and pies beyond description; not to mention cakes and sweet quick breads studded with juicy, jewel-like nuggets.
For me, however, the ultimate summer desserts have got to be cobblers. Compotes of cooked fruit topped with thin, rustic-looking layers of pastry or biscuit dough and then baked in the oven until golden-brown on top and bubbling underneath. The name alone is so much fun, suggesting something homespun that has been "cobbled" together. (Some food historians will also tell you that rough pieces of cobbler dough placed on top of the filling resemble an old-fashioned cobblestone street.)
I must admit, though, that I do sometimes have one problem with cobblers: Their dough toppings can feel a bit heavy on the stomach, especially at the end of a generous meal on a hot summer evening. So, what can you do?
Many years ago, at Spago, we came up with an ingenious solution: replacing the traditional heavier topping with one of the lightest forms of pastry imaginable. Phyllo, the ultra-thin sheets of dough popular in the Middle East, is readily available. (You can find premade packaged phyllo dough in the freezer case of well-stocked supermarkets, or buy it online. Thaw the dough before use, following the manufacturer's instructions.)
As described in the following recipe, the phyllo dough is easily cut into thin strips that are arranged into nest-like ring shapes, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and briefly baked. Then, once the fruit mixture (here, a combination of nectarines, cherries, apricots ad blackberries) has been cooked in the oven in individual ramekins, each serving is topped with its own "nest" of crispy, flavorful, golden phyllo.
It's all so simple, and sure to earn the delighted admiration of your summertime dinner guests.
SUMMER FRUIT COBBLER WITH PHYLLO NESTS