“Do I dare to eat a peach?” asks the repressed narrator of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” You should dare to eat a peach, and go even further by spicing it up with kitchen staples such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne. To make savory spiced dishes with peaches, use spices from India, Latin America and Asia that pair well with the sweetness and floral notes of this summer stone fruit.
The aromatic bite of the common dessert spice cinnamon pairs beautifully with peaches in pies, cobblers, crisps and other desserts. You can use cinnamon alone to spice any peach-based dessert or add other common dessert spices, such as ground ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and mace. Award-winning cookbook author Deborah Madison uses ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon in her spiced peach cobbler. Use the intense flavors of cloves, allspice and nutmeg sparingly or precisely follow a recipe’s instructions. You can add milder cinnamon and ginger with a more generous hand.
Black pepper may be the most common spice, but it’s not an obvious choice for fruit. A simple dish of sliced fresh peaches tossed with salt and freshly ground black pepper makes an elegant, understated and surprising side dish for a pork roast or other grilled meats. Serve perfectly ripe, fresh peaches with salt and pepper, perhaps adding a sprinkling of sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Or dress halved fresh peaches with salt, ground pepper and extra-virgin olive oil and grill them until they're nicely caramelized.
Chili peppers and peaches make an exciting spicy-sweet combination that’s delicious with meat, seafood or tofu. A "Bon Appetit" recipe recommends constructing a sauce from peaches and chipotle peppers as a summery topping for grilled chicken. Or make a spicy Asian-style grill sauce from hot chili paste, peach nectar or preserves, soy sauce, rice vinegar and peanut butter. In place of hot chili paste, try using chopped fresh jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers or a small amount of dried cayenne pepper. To add smoky undertones to a peach-based sauce, sprinkle it with some smoked Spanish paprika.
Peaches frequently appear in chutneys, a chunky relish that traditionally accompanies Indian dishes but also tastes delicious with grilled meats. Peach chutney contains chopped fresh fruit, an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, sugar and spices such as the Indian blend called garam masala, ground cumin and fresh or dried ginger, plus salt and pepper. Some chutneys also contain dried fruit, aromatics and fresh chili peppers.
- “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”; Deborah Madison; 1997
- Epicurious; Grilled Shrimp Satay With Peaches and Bok Choy; July 2008
- Epicurious; Ham and Fresh Peach Chutney on Corn Bread; July 1995
- Epicurious; Fresh Stonefruit Chutney; Jill Silverman Hough; August 2008
- Food Network; Peaches with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper; Mario Batali
Cindy Pineo has been writing about diet, wellness and culture since 2002. She is coauthor of the book "The Atkins Diet and Philosophy." Pineo holds a Master of Arts in English literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Arts in humanities from the University of Chicago.