Nectarines are in the peach family and are easily recognized by their smooth skins and firm sweet flesh. Back in the early 17th century, the term nectarine was used to describe anything of or like nectar, that sugary substance gathered by bees to make honey. In Greek and Roman mythology, nectar is an other-worldly drink consumed by the gods.
All this sounds like a lot of pressure riding on a piece of fruit. But John Tenerelli is up to the task. He’s been farming for 35 years and grows over 15 kinds of yellow and white nectarines at his orchard in Littlerock, California. The farm is situated 2,900 feet above sea level. Cooler temperatures allow the nectarines to stay on trees longer when compared to orchards in warmer climes. Tenerelli says this allows his stone fruit to develop more intense flavors. The Diamond Brights balance sweetness with a touch of acidity. Find them for two weeks at the farmers’ market before they disappear until next year.
Before writing up the menu for Heirloom LA, Sara Delevan and Chef Mathew Poley discuss what’s fresh and in season. If you find ripe nectarines in your neck of the woods, Delevan suggests roasting them with baby carrots. Toss the nectarines and carrots with arugula and dress them with lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Now that’s what we call a sweet, savory seasonal salad.
Heirloom LA’s Roasted Nectarines and Baby Carrots
Yield: Makes 4–6 servings
2 nectarines, separated from the pit (or any ripe stone fruit will do)
1 lb baby carrots, scrubbed clean
1 cup Carrot Ketchup (recipe here)
1 handful arugula
1 lemon, zested and juiced
6 oz olive oil
½ cup fresh soft herbs, chopped (dill, parsley, mint, fennel pollen/fronds, basil, marjoram)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400ºF or get a very clean grill fired up to medium heat.
For the vinaigrette: In a glass jar with a lid, combine the lemon juice, chopped herbs, 3 ounces of olive oil, a tablespoon of Carrot Ketchup and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Seal and shake vigorously. Reserve and set aside.
For the carrots and nectarines: Blanch or steam the baby carrots until tender. Once done, transfer the carrots to a large bowl and add the cut nectarines. Drizzle the cut fruit and the blanched carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the nectarines and carrots to your baking pan or grill, and lightly char until desired color. Allow them to cool slightly and then cut into halves.
Separate the cooled carrots and nectarines into two separate bowls. Split the herb vinaigrette into three portions and begin by mixing one portion with the carrots and then the second portion with the nectarines. Add the arugula and the remaining vinaigrette to a third bowl and gently toss.
To serve: Arrange each component on a plate or combine the dressed nectarines, carrots and arugula altogether on a serving platter. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.