Peach and verbena "jello" salad


Flat white peaches are one of my favorite fruit to munch on all summer long.  For as long as I can remember, white peaches have always been preferred to yellow peaches in the Mayssonnier household. Much more fragile than the yellow peaches, they bruise easily and don't keep more than a few days, especially when you buy them at perfect ripeness at the Marché des Lices. Their sweetness and juiciness makes them the perfect fruit salad ingredient. I've done a version with fresh verbena for years, just tossing the fresh leaves with the peeled peaches and a sprinkle of sugar, and letting it sit overnight in the fridge. This time, I was inspired by a diner in a fancy restaurant where gelatin seemed to be a main ingredient in everything gave me another idea.  Lemon Verbena 'Jello!" 

The market's "herb lady" sells an incredible variety of fresh herbs and salads

The lemon verbena plant, Aloysia triphylla, has long stems and slender, feather-shaped leaves, and has been used in France (where it is called verveine or verveine citronelle), for years as a base for tea, a flavoring in cooking and liquors and a fragrance in perfumes and soaps. Lemon verbana has a wonderful floral-lemony scent that will last for hours in your kitchen, and its strong herbal and lemony flavor is more and more used on sorbets, cakes, spritzers or fruit sirup like the one I make here.  Beware that the fresh leaves dry in a few hours after they've been cut from the plant, but then, they can be kept for months in an airtight plastic container like any other herbal tea.

Dried verbena
White peaches ha

it's a very simple recipe, however it brings some different textures to a very basic fruit salad with 5 ingredients: peaches, verbena, sugar, agar-agar (I don't like to use the regular gelatin made with pigskins or bones), and a dash of lime. It's bright and fresh, perfect for a summer picnic.

Recipe:  Peach and Lemon Verbana "Jello" salad 

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 8 white peaches,
  • 1/2 cup of packed fresh verbena leaves (if you can only find dried, 1/4 of a cup is enough) ,
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar,
  • 3 cups of water,
  • 2 g of agar-agar,  
  • 1/2 lime

Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and the verbena. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let simmer for 30 simmer on low heat to infuse the verbena. Let cool. Strain the verbena leaves. Add the agar agar, and bring back to a boil and let it boil for 30 seconds. Pour into your mold. Let cool in the fridge for at least two hours. Cut your jelly in cubes, add to the peeled peaches and stir. Sprinkle a few dried or fresh verbena leaves on top of the salad before serving. Serve with a wedge of lime.



Marc's wine pairing: This dessert is fruity with herbaceous hints and a bright dash of citrus from the verbena and lime. So a wine should stand up to all those favors and bring something to the party too. This French sweet white wine, from the Maury appellation near Rivesaltes, can be a great aperitif or when paired well a good dessert wine. La Preceptorie, made with a blend of grey grenache, white grenache, macabeu and white carignan, complements the peaches and the jello with it's own flavors of peach and mango along with floral notes of honeysuckle. Together with the splash of lime everything comes together a multi-layered mouthful. The Parcé family has been making great wines in the appellations of Collioure, Banyuls and Maury in a tiny corner of Southwest France for generations. We bought this wine at Eric Macé's eclectic wine shopn Cave du Sommelier on rue Hoche in Rennes.