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Published August 20, 2013, 10:00 PM

The Lost Italian: A peachy time of year

The peach trucks are rolling into town from Georgia, filled with this beautiful summer fruit. We usually enjoy peaches in August from Colorado, but sadly their crops were devastated by poor weather this spring. Fortunately, the Georgia peaches have been just as big, beautiful and delicious.

By: Tony and Sarah Nasello, INFORUM

The peach trucks are rolling into town from Georgia, filled with this beautiful summer fruit.

We usually enjoy peaches in August from Colorado, but sadly their crops were devastated by poor weather this spring. Fortunately, the Georgia peaches have been just as big, beautiful and delicious.

Tony and I love this stone fruit for its beauty, succulence and versatility. Typically, when it comes to peaches we think of desserts and sweet fruit dishes, but they pair well with savory foods, too. Tony loves peaches with fresh mozzarella cheese, as this tender, mellow cheese is a perfect complement to the peach in flavor, texture and color.

Last week we featured a traditional Caprese Salad, with slices of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, but peaches would make a wonderful substitute for the tomatoes. We recommend drizzling some balsamic reduction (recipe featured in our April 17 column) over the peaches and cheese, and suddenly you have a new salad.

Three years ago in August, we introduced a special salad at Sarello’s that we dubbed our Peach Summer Salad. We were amazed by the number of requests we received for this recipe, which features fresh spinach leaves tossed with our Red Wine Vinaigrette, topped with slices of fresh peaches and strawberries, cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese, and toasted almonds, and finished with a dramatic drizzle of Balsamic Reduction.

We love the way the colors seem to pop from this salad, and if the stunning presentation is enough to entice you to try it, the taste experience will ensure that you make this dish a second time.

While the peaches are definitely the star of this salad, there is a harmony of flavors among the ingredients: the delicate tartness of the strawberries and dressed spinach leaves perfectly counter the sweet and juicy peaches. The nuttiness and crunch of the toasted almond slivers provide a lovely balance in texture and flavor, and the balsamic reduction adds just the right amount of zing and zest.

This salad is easy to assemble, especially if you make the two dressings in advance. Peaches are best when cut and served immediately, but you can prepare the fresh mozzarella, strawberries and almonds earlier in the day until ready to use.

Tony says he is always happy and sad to see the arrival of the peach trucks because while peaches are his favorite fruit, he knows this is a sign that summer is coming to an end. His favorite antidote to these peachy summer blues is his family’s tradition of serving fresh peaches marinated in red wine at the end of a meal.

After dinner, Tony’s parents would cut a peach into slices which they then dropped into a wine glass full of red wine to marinate for 10 to 20 minutes. Then they’d eat the peaches straight from the glass before enjoying the fruit-infused wine.

One of Tony’s favorite memories of his father is watching him eat peaches over the kitchen sink because they were so juicy. This simple act was confirmation that the peaches were ripe and ready to eat, and I love knowing that someday Gio will also have this same memory of his own father.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com

Peach Summer Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

6 cups fresh spinach leaves, stems removed

2 balls fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed

12 to 16 small-medium strawberries, stems removed and cut into quarters

3 to 4 fresh peaches, Colorado if available, cut in half and then into thin slices

1 cup toasted almond slivers

2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic reduction

Directions

Toss the spinach leaves with the red wine vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Add strawberries and mozzarella, and gently fold in with the spinach. Be careful not to toss or over mix these ingredients.

Place the spinach leaves on individual serving plates or a large platter. Fan the peaches out into groups of four to five slices, and lay on top of the spinach. Drizzle the balsamic reduction across the salad, moving from side to side. Sprinkle the toasted almonds around the salad and serve.

Tony’s Tips

Toasting the almonds brings out a more robust nutty flavor. To toast, use either the oven or stovetop and watch them closely to prevent the nuts from burning.

Ripe peaches have a sweet aroma, and will yield to the touch when gently pressed.

Once the peaches are ripe they can be stored in the refrigerator, but be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving for best results.

Red Wine Peaches

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

4-6 medium or large fresh yellow peaches, cut into wedges, skin on

1 bottle red wine (whatever you are drinking with dinner or a medium-bodied Italian red wine, such as Valpolicella)

Directions

To marinate, place the peach wedges in a medium-sized bowl and pour enough red wine so that all the peaches are submerged in liquid. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

To serve, ladle the peaches into a wine glass and top each glass off with the marinated red wine. The idea is to eat the peaches first, and then drink the wine.

Tony’s Tip

Don’t marinate for more than 2 hours, or the peaches will become mushy.

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