Invented in the 1890s for the famous soprano Nellie Melba, Peach Melba is a dish of poached fruits served with fresh raspberry sauce and ice cream. To peel the peaches (freestone pit more easily than clingstone), halve them before dipping into boiling water to loosen the skins. Then poach in syrup flavored with vanilla and lemon. Make both peaches and sauce a day or two ahead, so all you have to do at the last minute is assemble this elegant dessert.
|4||freestone peaches, halved and pitted|
|Grated rind and juice of ½ lemon|
|½||vanilla bean, split lengthwise|
|1||pint fresh raspberries|
|1||pint vanilla ice cream|
1. Have on hand a bowl of ice water. In a wide pot over high heat, bring 3 inches of water to a boil. Drop in the peaches and simmer for 30 to 45 seconds, or until the skins come off easily when you lift one from the pot with a slotted spoon. Transfer the peaches to the ice water and cool for 1 minute. Lift them out, pat dry, and peel them.
2. Discard all but 3 cups of water from the pot. Add the sugar, lemon rind and juice, and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the peaches and simmer 6 minutes more, turning after the first 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a bowl to cool. Let the syrup cool to lukewarm. Reserve ¼ cup.
3. Pour the remaining cooled syrup over the peaches. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
4. In a blender, puree the raspberries with the reserved ¼ cup syrup. Set a strainer over a bowl and strain the sauce through it, pressing out the juice with the back of a spoon. Discard the seeds. Cover and refrigerate.
5. In 4 coupe or other small bowls, arrange a scoop of ice cream, 2 peach halves, and 2 tablespoons raspberry sauce.
Sally Pasley Vargas