Nectarines are pocket fruit. Wrap one in a paper towel and you've got nature's version of a hot pocket. Perfect for eating on the go and with a soft, red-yellow center.
The end of August is also traditionally the end of nectarine season, which means we better make the most of the next week or so. You want fruit that has a bit of give, but is not bruised. A nectarine should ripen after two to three days on the counter.
Nectarines are smaller than peaches and shouldn't be fuzzy. There are dozens of varieties, but clingstone and freestone are the names to remember. The "stone" refers to the pit, which the flesh then clings to or frees easily from depending on whether it is a clingstone or freestone.
Like pears, nectarines shine on the grill. Nectarines caramelize, sealing in the flavor and getting a nice, soft texture after only five to seven minutes. Try chef Bobby Flay's recipe for grilled nectarines with blue cheese, honey and black pepper. Don't forget dessert. Nectarine sorbet is refreshing, and nectarine and blackberry crumble is comforting.
Nectarine is also one of my favorite additions to summer cocktails. One Cointreau-based drink, the Summer Fizz, calls for whatever you can chop up in the kitchen to balance out the lime juice. And you can make a quick version of sangria by simply adding sugar, nectarines and basil to red wine. Those who aren't sold on fruit in their cocktails can make a Nectarine Daisy. It's more bourbon than anything else, and the nectarine is your edible garnish.
[Image via Flickr: albastrica mititica]