Roasted Nectarine Sundae with Caramel Sauce and Toasted Pecans
Roast ’em! Kick up fruit flavors with a quick oven roast.
Strawberries are the light at the end of the tunnel. After too many months of apples, pears and citrus, and basically swearing off of fruit all together, strawberries annually remind me that hope it not lost. They mean cherries and apricots are soon to follow, with other stone fruits not far behind. I can eat fruit out of hand by the pound but after a while I look for new ways to make it shine. Roasting is my go-to cooking method.
Roasting, a common vehicle for meats and veggies, concentrates the sweetness of summer fruit. It elevates dishes like strawberry shortcake and can take an ice cream sundae to entirely new heights (see below).
As with roasting just about anything else, 400° is a good oven temp. While your oven is preheating, tackle the seasoning of your fruit. For stone fruit like peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots, I simply halve them and remove the pits. For strawberries, remove the stems but leave them whole. Grapes and small cherry tomatoes are lovely right on the stems. A baking dish just large enough to hold the fruit snuggly is the right pan for the job.
After dotting the fruit with small bits of butter or some really fruity olive oil, I add a bit of seasoning. If sweet is what you’re after, sprinkle with your sugar of choice: white, brown or demerara all work well, as does honey. The amount of sugar depends on the sweetness of your fruit but anywhere from half a teaspoon to a couple teaspoons per piece will work. To take things in a more savory direction, you can use sea salt, chile flakes, fresh herbs or cracked black pepper.
From here, feel free to play a bit. Kirsch, vin santo, dry wine, sweet vermouth, balsamic or pure vanilla extract all add some depth of flavor and a bit more sweetness. Split and scraped vanilla beans are crazy fragrant after roasting, and freshly ground cinnamon or nutmeg add lovely aromatics as well.
Timing is important here. You need to cook the fruit until it’s tender and concentrated in flavor, but if you go too far you’ll end up with mush (which, truth be told, is still pretty damn tasty). Begin checking your fruit after 10 minutes. A sharp paring knife in the center should hit just the slightest bit of resistance. Total time depends on the size and ripeness of your fruit so do yourself a favor and babysit a bit here.
This is serious bang-for-your-buck cooking: little work for big flavor. It’s the perfect vehicle for experimentation so use your abundance of summer fruit and have some fun with it.
Roasted nectarine sundae with caramel sauce and toasted pecans
- 4 whole nectarines, firm but ripe, halved and pitted (any stone fruit works here)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- Kosher salt
- 1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
- ½ cup caramel sauce (see recipe below)
- ½ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
- Preheat oven to 400°. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish and place the fruit in, cut side up. Dot the fruit with bits of butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and top with a small pinch of salt. Roast until fruit is just tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes depending on ripeness and size.
- Meanwhile, scoop ice cream into four cold serving bowls. When the fruit is done, cut each half in half again and top each bowl with four pieces of roasted fruit. Combine any juices in the pan with your caramel sauce and drizzle over the top of the ice cream. Sprinkle with pecans and enjoy. Summer in a bowl!
- To make homemade caramel sauce, combine 1½ cups white sugar and ¼ cup water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the syrup is a dark golden color. You can swirl the pan gently to ensure even cooking if some spots darken faster than others. Remove pan from heat and slowly and carefully add ¾ cup heavy cream and 6 tablespoons butter. The mixture will bubble up quickly at this point so be sure your pan is big enough. Stir to combine and let sit for a few minutes to thicken. Cooled sauce can be kept, refrigerated, for up to 1 month. Warm gently before using.
Roasted Nectarine Sundae with Caramel Sauce and Toasted Pecans was published in the Summer 2015 issue. © 2015 Edible San Francisco.