This spectacular dessert, originating from the South of France, is best served during the late-summer and early fall months when the stone fruit is perfectly ripe and naturally sweet. Choose yellow and white nectarines that are tender-crisp – ripe but still have a firm feel. I found the organic stone fruit from a local grower – Frog Hollow Farms – at Diablo Foods in Lafayette.
As the seasons change, feel free to use cherries, figs, pears or apples in the fall and winter. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or good quality vanilla or the honey-lavender ice cream I made.
Chef Charlie’s ProTips:
Lavender: If you aren’t traveling to Provence anytime soon, I found dried lavender by Spicely, at Whole Foods Market. To make the most flavorful ice cream, use only the freshest lavender. Be conservative with the lavender, it can be strongly-flavored and can overwhelm the final dish.
Ice Cream Maker: If you don’t have an ice cream maker (yet), I highly recommend the easy-to-use, and reasonably-priced Cuisinart 1 1/2-quart ice cream maker.
When making, always ensure your ice cream freezes well, by chilling the ice cream base to below 40˚F before adding to your maker. The Bärenjäger honey liqueur I used is available at Bev Mo in mini sample-sized, nips.
Nectarine Gratin with Walnuts
6 tablespoons butter, divided
8 tablespoons sugar, divided
4 white nectarines, split and pitted
4 yellow nectarines, split and pitted
2 whole eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers (optional)
• Preheat oven to 425˚F. Using 4 tablespoons of the butter, liberally coat a 3-1/2-quart oval baking dish (or similar), and then sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the sugar on the bottom.
• Place the halved fruits, cut-side down, in the pie dish. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, and salt until there are no lumps. Pour the batter evenly between the fruit, letting it drizzle down through the pieces to the bottom of the dish.
• In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar, the walnuts, and the lavender, if using. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and dot the top.
• Bake until the topping is crisp, the fruit is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, and the batter has puffed and cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Serves 6 – 8
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Honey – Lavender Ice Cream
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup half and half
1 tablespoon dried lavender
6 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Bärenjäger honey liqueur (optional)
• Prepare an ice bath in a medium-sized bowl, set aside.
• In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the heavy cream, half and half and lavender to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.
• In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, honey and the liqueur (if using). Gradually add the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture visibly thickens, approximately 3 – 5 minutes or until the temperature reaches 175˚F. Do not let the mixture boil or it will curdle. Cool for 15 minutes in an ice bath. Cover and chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.
• Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. The ice cream can be removed when it is in a soft-serve consistency (after about 20 minutes). Remove mixture from the maker to a small stainless bowl. Place in the freezer for a minimum of 2 hours and preferably overnight, to freeze properly.
Makes 1 1/2 quarts
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