Friday, August 7, 2009

Peach Salad With Fresh Lemon Verbena Leaves

During August, the peak of peach season in Northern California, little rows of fruit in varying stages of ripeness are lined up on my kitchen counters. Each day I select the ripest for immediate use. Recently I happened to have on hand a ripe honeydew melon and some fresh picked lemon verbena leaves and decided to combine them in a salad. (Fresh mint or basil may be used instead). The fragrant leaves lend an unexpected elegance to a very simple preparation.

4 ripe peaches, washed and sliced into bite sized pieces
1/2 ripe honeydew melon, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 handful fresh lemon verbena leaves, separated from stems

Place sliced fruit in a medium sized bowl. Lightly crush the aromatic leaves in your hands, cut into strips with a scissors and add to salad, tossing briefly. Serve in small glass bowls garnished with a sprig of lemon verbena. Try serving with a little fresh lemon or lime juice and a pinch of sea salt; a dusting of hot red chile powder is also delicious!

Note: Lemon Verbena (aloysia triphylla) is a woody shrub native to South America. Its slender elongated leaves have a distinctive lemon- citrus flavor. It grows in many California gardens; you may have a neighbor who will share some cuttings with you. For a delightful tea, pour boiling water over a few leaves and steep for 3- 5 minutes.