Sour Fruit-Missing Summer

As January drizzles into February here in London, I find myself not just pining, but actually aching for summer fruit. By which I mean summer fruit of Europe, or at least the Northern Hemisphere — peaches, and nectarines, and berries. I wake up dreaming that I’ve just bitten into a peach not quite ripe, still with a touch of tang, yet warmed by the sun, and voluptuous in my mouth without yielding entirely.

This is how bad it’s become. On this score at least, I must agree with the “don’t export non-seasonal fruit” brigade. Not, I add with just a touch of shame, because of air miles and the like, but simply because there’s just no damn point. No peach or nectarine I purchase at this time of year is going to be more than woolly. Even if I select the one that’s not quite ripe yet, still quite firm, and let it sit on my counter for a day, it’s still hard and flavourless. Any taste at all is either fridge-burn or the bitterness of a long journey.

I hate winter, really I do. But to cheer myself up, and in anticipation of the summer that may yet come, here is a fabulous salad recipe for peaches or nectarines, adapted from Jamie Oliver. It’s not a sweet fruit salad, but rather the best lunch you can have on a hot summer’s day, sitting on the loggia of a Tuscan villa, watching the sun sparkle on the sea. I know this because that’s how I’ve eaten this salad, and for me it’s ever since been as much a part of that day as the loggia, the sun, and the sea.

It is also, by the way, one of the more appropriate uses for balsamic vinegar that I can think of.

Peach Or Nectarine Salad With Prosciutto And Mozzarella

You will need:

  • 1-2 peaches, or nectarines, torn or cut into chunks.
  • 2-3 slices of prosciutto, torn into strips
  • 1 ball of proper buffalo mozzarella, torn or chopped into small bits
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a good hunk of ciabatta bread (optional- or just a good hunk.  Also good for summer)

Quite simple really. Just scatter the pieces of peach or nectarine (no need to peel either- the skin of nectarine doesn’t get in the way, and the velvety skin of peach adds just another texture) on a plate, then drape the strips of prosciutto over them and scatter over the mozzarella bits. Then drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil, and season to taste. eat just as is, or with a hunk of ciabatta to soak up the vinegary fruit juices. Or tear the ciabatta into large bits as well, and add to the salad.

I promise, you, the perfect summer lunch.  Just the thought of it is getting me through these long cold dark months.

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