Nectarines are bountiful in the region’s farmers’ markets right now (and will be available through the end of September). Did you know that this lovely, juicy stone fruit—one of summer’s most delicious treasures—is simply a fuzzless peach? In fact, the two fruits differ by only a single gene—the gene for skin texture.
There are more than 100 varieties of nectarines in existence, including freestone and clingstone varieties; and more than 95 percent of the nectarines produced in the United States are grown in . . . you guessed it: California. There are two types of nectarines: yellow-fleshed and white-fleshed. White-fleshed nectarines, with their low acidity and subtle, perfumey flavor, are best when eaten out of hand or added to salads for a sweet, refreshing kick. But the yellow-fleshed nectarines, with their higher acidity, are wonderfully versatile: in addition to their eat-‘em-as-they-are charms, try adding them to salsas, pizzas (really!), ice cream and chilled fruit soups—and, of course, they shine in baked goods such as scones, pies, cobblers and crisps.
It can be a little tricky to pick ripe nectarines. Leave it to your nose and fingertips to make the decision: ripe nectarines are enticingly fragrant and give slightly to a (gentle!) squeeze. You can store nectarines at room temperature, but they will last longer if you keep them in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.
Try ripe, local yellow nectarines in this scrumptious (and quick!) epicurious.com recipe, a great summer dish which incorporates the stone fruit into a zesty chutney that’s served alongside pounded, grilled chicken breasts.
Grilled Chicken Palliards with Nectarine Chutney
1 lb firm-ripe nectarines, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 lb total)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs
Prepare grill for cooking. Simmer nectarines, tomato, garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, curry powder and salt, uncovered, in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened but still saucy, about 20 minutes.
While chutney is cooking, sandwich chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin until 1/4 inch thick. Pat chicken dry and brush tops with oil, then season with salt and pepper.
When the fire is hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack 1 to 2 seconds), place chicken, oiled sides down, on lightly oiled grill rack and grill 1 minute. Brush tops with oil and season with salt and pepper, then turn chicken over and grill until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Serve chicken with nectarine chutney.