The story of Peaches and Prosciutto with Fresh Mozzarella and Mint Pesto begins at last week’s farmers market. A Cambodian man with a face the color of carved hickory sat in the open side door of his van. In front of him a couple of tables with a few flawless eggplants and some peaches on display. I felt the peaches. VERY firm. “Do you have any that are riper?” I asked, glancing hopefully toward the dark interior of the van. He gestured toward a case of peaches at the back of a table. SECONDS, a hand-lettered sign said. “Just those. But they taste good.” Peaches of all sizes and shapes filled a generous produce crate, some with funky shapes, some with spots, a handful small as golf balls and just as hard; most, in any event, impossible to see or feel since they were buried. My fingers migrated over the fuzzy surfaces of several dented candidates. Softer, but still too firm. “I have to use them tomorrow,” I said, wondering if I might find a couple of just right ones to photograph entombed beneath their bruised sisters. He sighed, pulled a jackknife out of his jeans, cut a wedge from one of the large seconds on top and handed it too me. To my surprise it felt much softer in my mouth than it looked. The flesh resisted, then collapsed between my tongue and upper palate, releasing a mouthful of peach juice. It was absolutely perfect–sweetness, edged round by a few tart onlookers. He watched as I swallowed and wiped my mouth. “Tastes good, right?”
I apologized for doubting him and asked how much he was asking for them. they cost. He tapped the sign with the tip of his knife. $20. “You have to buy the whole case.” He smiled and closed his knife with a snap. Ball in your court, pal. “Fine,” I said. “I’ll take them.”
Which is how the peaches won the coin toss for Easy Antipasto – Peaches and Prosciutto with Fresh Mozzarella and Mint Pesto. After having given up eating supermarket peaches (too hard, too sweet) local Massachusetts peaches are teaching me that it’s never too late to ignite the embers of an old love, and evidently I’m not alone in my renewed affections. A few years ago I only found one farmer doggedly selling peaches in the market; now there are always at least three. Maybe people are buying local peaches because the fruit seems nuanced in a way that typical supermarket offerings are not. You can’t eat a farmers market peach with your hands without making a mess, which we all need to do from time to time, and their sweetness is balanced by a faint tart counterpoint. Salty prosciutto couldn’t ask for a better dining companion. With just those two ingredients, and a bit of fresh mozzarella, you have the kind of meal that Inspector Montalbano rhapsodizes about in the Sicilian mystery novels of Andrea Camillari. But we had a raft of culinary fellow travelers in our larder, so Jody upped the ante with a pistachio-mint pesto that doesn’t require much more than a quick buzz in the food processor. The fresh mozzarella makes it a sumptuous enough to stand in for lunch, if that’s where’s you want to go. Local cherry tomatoes, now at their spectacular peak, don’t require peeling. What did I say? Easy. Since making this antipasto, our household has consumed a couple of mixing-bowls’ worth of peaches with yogurt as we’ve worked our way to the bottom of the vendor’s case of seconds. The rest have been peeled and put in freezer bags for winter smoothies. Like some sinners, a few were beyond redemption. Still, that twenty bucks may have been the wisest investment I’ve made all summer. Enjoy. Ken
Peaches and Prosciutto with Fresh Mozzarella and Mint Pesto
- 1 cup mint leaves + plus a few small ones for garnish (use leaves as young and as pale as possible)
- ¼ cup parsley leaves
- 3 tablespoons toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
- Freshly grated zest of lemon
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 good size peaches (about ½ pound)
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 1 5-6 ounce ball fresh mozzarella
- ½ pound thinly sliced prosciutto
- Put 1 cup mint and the parsley in a food processor and pulse to chop the leaves. Add 2 tablespoons of the pistachios, the lemon zest and garlic with 5 tablespoons olive oil and buzz once or twice to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and cover. At this point you can refrigerate overnight.
- Lightly rub the blade your knife over the surface of the peaches. This helps separate the skin from the flesh and will allow you to peel them easily. You don’t have to press very hard, if you do you may bruise the peach. Peel the peaches, cut into ¼-inch wedges. Put into a small bowl and toss with lemon juice. If the skins are stubborn, you can use a peeler.
- Cut the tomatoes in half. Add to the bowl with the peaches. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Add 3 tablespoon pesto, more if you like, and toss. You may have some leftover pesto.
- Arrange the prosciutto, with a little wave, out onto a platter in a single layer. This isn’t just esthetic – the waves prevent the prosciutto from sticking to the plate and make it easier to serve. Spoon the tomatoes and peaches over the prosciutto. Rip the mozzarella into 12 pieces and arrange over the prosciutto. Garnish with reserved mint leaves and remaining pistachios.
We made this on September 5th, a broiling 90° day that had somehow escaped its proper place in the middle of July. On a cooler day I might used the stove to blanch the herbs before making the pesto in order to keep their color vibrant. But not that day. I might also have blanched the peaches for a few seconds to loosen the skin, but thank God they were ripe enough to skip that step too. For pesto, I like using young light green leaves–they give the sauce a bright minty flavor–but that day all I could find was mature hearty mint with deep green leaves. If you find yourself in my position there’s a couple of things you can do to insure you end up with a minty pesto. First, use a food processor instead of a blender. The former is easier on the herbs. Mature mint can include a hint of bitterness if it gets banged around too much and a food processor is easier on the leaves than a blender. Second, try to make it ahead to let it rest awhile. My pesto definitely improved after sitting overnight in the fridge.
Can we call them New England peaches? Our local farm stand has lots of peaches having planted six varieties to extend the season. Thanks for the smoothie idea as well. This will be on our menu until the farm runs out starting today. Ken, your writing is almost as good as Jody’s recipes. : ) Us
Haha! Almost… Ken
…and yes, let’s call them New England peaches. Ken
Oh goodness. Yummy
Thank you, Maryam. Ken
Beautiful photos and a beautifully written post. I really loved your story-telling. I cannot believe you bought the whole crate and that you saw the bottom of it. I love the way you described your interaction with the vendor and the joys of eating peaches from the farm versus the hard peaches you get in the stores. There really is something about making a mess and about someone who is invested in your enjoyment of the wares. The antipasto is a great combo of flavors and textures. Love your shot of the mozzarella. I’m craving this dish right now. It’s simple enough. Maybe tonight.
Thanks, Amanda. He was a good guy and deserves a round of applause for 1) putting up with my skepticism and 2) growing peaches (peaches in New England!) in the first place. This is an easy beautiful dish. I loved shooting the mozzarella–it reminded me of being a kid in rural Michigan with my first telescope and getting my first magnified glimpse of the moon. It’s made of cheese! You gotta love the 50mm. Ken
P.S. I forgot to add that some of those peaches will end up rolled in dukkah. :-)
I’m not surprised about the dukkah given the pistachios in the pesto. I actually thought of that. I always tell my best friend’s 2 year old that the moon is made of cheese. I’m glad you know it too!
Perfect recipe.. I need something easy for mon night and this has everything I love to eat! Great photos… Makes me hungry!!
It’s one of those buy-good-stuff-and-assemble recipes, which we do a lot this time of year because there’s all this local stuff that’s so great. If I recall correctly, you’ve probably got a beautiful Italian platter to assemble this on. :-) Ken
I do have a couple of perfect platters… A friend from CA just gave me this very cool pottery bowl that would be cool in your blog sometime:)
That can be arranges. :-) Ken
What glorious pictures. The peaches sound wonderful – I’d’ve bought the whole box too. And I have to confess I’d like to burgle your house and nick all of your dishes :)
It’s a fair cop, officer, I’ll come quietly. Just let me grab a peach on the way out.
You know, Linda, I think the world divides into two types of people–the first buy things while travelling, undaunted by the huge amount of grief involved in getting said purchases home intact. The second is composed of those who can’t be bothered. My wife is in the first group. I’ve learned not to keep my opinions to myself, and try to be as supportive as possible. The quality of the photo props stays high as a result. (Although I’m sure your place is trove of goodies as well–swap, shall we, for a year?) Ken
Lol, reminds me of the time we bought a whole tray of apricots in southern France and half of them had disintegrated by the time we got home! The remainder made splendid jam though. Ditto the extremely fragile porcelain coffee set I bought in a French flea market, which did make it home intact. My husband too has learned to make supportive murmuring noises whenever I drag him into yet another antique shop/junk shop/auction house. And yes, a swap sounds wonderful, if somewhat hard to arrange. :)
Wonderful combination of flavors here. Love the mint pesto idea. Lovely story Ken and great exchange with the peach farmer/seller.
It’s that time of the year when a trip to the farmers market is an inspiration, a time when we can all pretend we live in Italy or southern France and exquisite fruit, produce and meat is available on demand. I’m buying pork and eggs from farmers in the market and believe me my life is richer for the experience. See my response above to Amanda regarding the peach seller. Mint pest is GREAT on fresh mozzarella. Ken
I have no words. It’s just so pretty!
Thanks, Mimi. Spring is relief, when it finally arrives, but the best food colors of the year are in the fall. Ken
Recently, I made a similar dish, except the pesto was a jalapeno-basil version. I love the idea of pairing sweet peaches (which are every now, fresh and local) with soft, salty mozz and bright mint. :-)
Jalapeno! I didn’t know that jalapeno and pesto ever appeared in the same sentence. :-) Sounds great. Ken
Pistachio and mint pesto sounds mighty fine. I’ve always been on the look out for alternatives to basil pesto, because basil is quite a fussy herb I find and sometimes weirdly can smell of cat’s pee. Anyway, this looked absolutely lovely, full of happy accidents and wonderful accidental flavour. I agree too about supermarket peaches. I’d much rather have an ugly one full of complexity and not just dripping in boring sweetness. A bit like some people I know. Sophie x
I probably eat the classic basil pesto and tomato combo in a salad about twice a year, maybe a few pasta dishes with pesto as well, and after that I’m like you, trying to get a bit off the beaten track. I LOVE pesto with gnocchi, any kind. Anyway, the confluence of things that brought this together are on the order of if-a-butterfly-bats-its-wings-in-a-rain-forest…. odd and rare. Thanks. Ken
This is such a great idea — can’t wait to try it!
Thank you. Tough to beat things that are easy, taste great and look good too. Ken
Oh my goodness. I came here to cure my writer’s block & find inspiration to write about pasta alla norma, and now all I want is to eat that dish. Must make!
Hi, Sheilia–Summer at Chez Panisse? Lucky you! Your pictures are looking great. Welcome back. Ken
I wonder if this would work with Japanese peaches which have more juice, much softer in texture and I suppose much sweeter. And they are either pink or white in color.
Ayako, I think there’s only one way to find out… we await the results of your experiment. :-) The color makes no difference, the flavor is what counts. Let us know how it goes – and send a picture of a Japanese peach – now I’m curious! Ken
Let me convert into metric measurements first…
Reblogged this on stuffdonnylikes and commented:
Might have to try this when I go home to see my mom! Thanks for the inspirations!
Happy to inspire. This is a great recipe for people who haven’t tried polenta before–or aren’t sure they’d like it. Instant converts. Thanks for the reblog. Ken
I loved reading about your experience with the very colorful man at the farmers market. I really felt transported. Now I’m dying to try and get my hands on the last few good peaches of the summer so I can make this recipe. I love how the simple preparation will lead to a dish with complex flavors. I can’t wait to enjoy this on my patio with a glass of sauvignon blanc.
What a great idea. I hope wherever you are still affords you evenings when you have the option of doing that. They’re starting to get thin on the ground here. Thanks for the kind words. Ken
What a beautiful blog, your pictures are amazing & inspiring! I am looking forward to read more about you guys.
Thanks you, Raphaelle. You have a lovely blog too and an interesting story. I’ll explore it more after I get back from Sardinia. Ken
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Oh yum! I have to remember this recipe for next summer when my family & I go to our local peach festival. Can’t wait!!
I think you’ll enjoy the combo, after the wait until next summer. :-) Thanks. Ken
Looks delicious….. The moment summer rolls around ill be giving this ago!
Hi there, for all time i used to check website posts here eearly in the morning,
as i like too find out more and more.
Thanks, Alfonzo. Glad you’re enjoying it. Ken
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