These days, my farmers' market routine begins with a systematic sampling of the peaches at every single stand. Donut peaches, white peaches, yellow peaches: Some may be just a bit juicer or a tad sweeter, but they're all pretty darn good.
Restaurants around San Francisco are playing up the summer fruit (Seoul Patch served up a peach mochi cake; Outerlands slides slices in between their levain bread to complete a balsamic-cured ham sandwich), but here are some pairings you can try at home.
1. Peach, serrano ham, and basil skewer
This simple skewer is original and delicious. The freshness of the basil highlights the peach flavor more than its sweetness, like it would a tomato in the more familiar caprese combination. Serrano ham adds a salty, porky flavor that plays off the peach. If you want to get fancy, you can grill the peach slices for less than a minute for a slightly smokier flavor. I got my ham at Bi-Rite Market (prosciutto would work just as well), and the basil from my garden.
2. Peaches drizzled with hazelnut butter and thyme
Ever since I brought home some hazelnut butter from Rainbow Grocery on a whim, I have been putting it on absolutely everything. It reminds me of Nutella but I don't miss the chocolate -- the flavor of roasted hazelnuts is enough. I was making hazelnut-butter-dipped strawberries when one thing led to another and I drizzled it on my peaches as well. The unusual combo seemed to sweeten and intensify the hazelnut flavor, and the crunch of the nuts added a nice texture to the fruit. Feeling particularly inspired, I added a few sprigs of thyme to the mix and created a masterpiece. Drizzle, eat, repeat.
3. Bourbon ice cream sundae with peaches and lavender sprigs
Peaches with any ice cream or sorbet are obviously delicious, but the sweetness of the peaches seemed most accentuated when I paired them with Scream Sorbet's pecan-bourbon flavor. The subtly alcoholic flavor in the ice cream prevented the sundae from becoming too sweet, and the ice cream seemed to give the peaches more body. A few sprigs of flowery lavender completed the experience. Humphrey Slocombe's Secret Breakfast (bourbon and cornflakes) would also work wonderfully.
4. Peaches with cheese: Cowgirl Creamery's Clisson and Fourme d'Ambert
When I brought out a platter of peaches and cheese the other day there was a moment of dubiousness, followed by a lot of enthusiastic exclamation and a near-instant empty plate. Of the two French cheeses I chose, the Clisson or Tome d'Aquitaine ($26.95 per pound) was the more unusual because it is a washed rind goat cheese. This process, typically reserved for aging cow cheeses, creates a creamy and slightly fruity flavor with the most subtle suggestion of sweetness. Like a more complex peaches and cream, the clisson not only complimented the peaches, but seemed like it was crafted for this pairing alone.
Fourme D'Ambert ($21.95) is a nutty blue that also happens to be one of the oldest cheeses in France. An earthiness comes out in this blue that is more sweet than it is strong. Blue cheeses tend to go nicely with fruit, and though the cheese was a more dominant and resounding flavor, this pairing is no exception.