Now that temperatures are on the rise, that can only mean one thing; summertime is here. And
that brings the peak of the baseball season, vacation for the school kids and the fruits of
summer. All varieties of stone fruit whether they be peaches, nectarines, apricots or plums and
berries by the bushel. What? You don’t care for stone fruit because you can never get them vine
ripened? And the supermarket berries are either tart, squished in their plastic cages, moldy or all
of the above? I hear you, I feel your pain. In the dissociated 50th State, we never get tree
ripened stone fruit. Always need to brown bag them for several days to let the ethylene gas
released to “bag ripen” them. And of course the 92-plus degree temperatures during the summer
pretty much slow cooks the fruit (aka brown bag composting).
But wait. If we hit the fruit with sudden high heat just to tenderize that under ripe flesh, it
would make the fruit palatable. And since this is summer, I hear gas and charcoal grills are once
again the rage of the culinary fashion world. But why just stop at summer fruit? How about
inviting some fall melons to the party. Maybe a little tango with pineapple or mango. If you’re
gonna light up the grill for appetizers and entrees, might as well make it a full meal with sides
and dessert to boot!

Sadly, it’s a reality that a lot of produce in your neighborhood market isn’t harvested at peak
ripeness. And that goes beyond fruit. Tomatoes that are more light orange than red with the
texture of a baseball, red, orange and yellow bell peppers that have beautiful color but taste like
the green variety and corn that tastes more like corn meal than fresh corn. Of course, part of it
is our (my) own doing. Who the heck lives 2500 miles from the nearest continent in the
middle of the largest ocean on the planet? Well, yours truly along with 1.2 million other
malcontents who demand vine, tree or bush ripened produce. Until that Stargate portal is a
reality, it’ll take time to transport said produce which means harvesting at a period when the
tasty travelers are firm enough to weather the miles – at least 2500 miles – of the voyage
ahead. Which invariably means stone fruit that is stone hard.

Turn Up the Heat

One way to deal with slightly under ripe fruit is to turn up the heat. Literally. Heat softens
slightly tough fruit flesh. High enough heat also can caramelize natural sugars in fruit which
adds another flavor dimension to your end product. Heat from a grill also adds a touch of
smokiness to the flavor profile the same way it complements fish, poultry, pork or beef.  The
key to grilling fruit is to get a hot enough grill to cause caramelization of the outer surface but
a short enough grilling period to prevent your final product from being smoky fruit baby food.
And while caramelization is easily obtained in animal protein (browning steaks); it’s not as
simple with fruit. Why? Fruit contains a lot more water and less amino acids, both of which
inhibit the Maillard reaction from occurring (Maillard reaction for science geeks, browning to
everyone else). Heating fruit also helps to evaporate some of the moisture concentrating the
remaining sugar and flavor compounds… which may have been “diluted” in the original “fresh”

Grilled Fruit Accoutrements

Grilled mango is also great with this salsa but my recipe doesn’t contain any. Why? In my
middle-age-hood, I seem to have developed a strange allergy to mango sap. I can consume the
flesh without problems but develop a strange rash when making contact with the sap. If you
have no mango allergies, add cubed bits of 1 grilled mango to this salsa.

Grilled Peach Salsa

2 large firm peaches (don’t get fully ripened)
3 Roma tomatoes diced
¼ cup finely minced red onion
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Finely minced fresh jalapeno (optional)
Chipotle Tabasco (optional)

With a paring knife, make one continuous slice down to the pit around the circumference of
the peach in line with the peach seam. Gently twist each half in opposing directions – one half
should be pit free and one should contain the pit. Remove the pit – if you have cling peaches,
use the paring knife to loosen the pit from the flesh. Brush cut edges with vegetable oil then
place on a hot grill. Grill for about 1 to 2 minutes then turn the peach 90 degrees and grill for
another 1 to 2 minutes. Flip halves over and grill another 1 to 2 minutes. Let peach halves cool.
When peaches are cool to the touch, dice into small cubes (the skin should come right off the
flesh). Add the rest of the ingredients and toss then serve with chips or crackers like traditional
salsa or serve with cooked fish, chicken or pork.

This relish is best served with Caribbean flavored marinated chicken or pork tenderloin. Since the
tropics usually include a certain degree of culinary heat, some degree of chili pepper is usually

Grilled Nectarine and Pineapple Relish

2 large firm nectarines
About ¼ of a peeled and cored pineapple (look in produce section for pre-peeled/cored
pineapple slices)
½ green bell pepper, medium diced
¼ cup finely minced red onion
1 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1 tbsp garlic flavored olive oil (or regular olive oil)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Finely minced Jalapeno, Serrano or Habanero pepper (optional)
Tabasco (optional)

Make one continuous slice in nectarine down to the pit on seam side of nectarine. Gently twist
each side in opposing directions. Use a paring knife to help remove the pit from one of the
sections (the other section should be pit free). Brush vegetable oil on cut side and place on a
hot grill. Grill for 1 to 2 minutes then turn 90 degrees and grill for another 1 to 2 minutes. Flip
over and grill another 1 to 2 minutes then remove and let cool. Brush pineapple with olive oil
and grill each side for 1 to 2 minutes until nice grill marks appear on slice. Remove and let cool.
When nectarine halves are cool to the touch, cut into medium dice chunks. Do the same with
pineapple slices. Toss with the remaining ingredients and serve with alongside cooked fish,
chicken or pork.

For an additional flavor component, let the compote marinate with one quartered Habanero
pepper (or one finely minced Habanero if you have an asbestos tongue). The cold frozen yogurt
(or ice cream) will temper the Habanero heat so that it simply gives a slight after burn down the

Mixed Grilled Melon Compote

¼ cantaloupe melon peeled and seeded then sliced into ½ inch slices
¼ honeydew melon peeled and seeded then sliced into ½ inch slices
8 to 10 fresh strawberries cut into medium sized cubes
Mixed summer berries
1 heaping tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
12 fresh mint leaves finely sliced (chiffonade)
Pinch of salt

Brush melon slices with vegetable oil then place on hot grill. Grill each side for 1 to 2 minutes
then remove and cool. Cube melon slices into medium dice then toss with the rest of the
ingredients and serve with frozen vanilla yogurt (or ice cream if you must).
The Fruits of Labor