Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick and Easy Peach Parfait

My son and his wife were visiting last week, and whenever they come to visit they come with tales of wonderful foods they've eaten or created themselves. We are all foodies of the highest order and we all cook, except my husband who leaves that aspect to me in general. He is still willing to try most of my experiments!

Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream

My son, Kenneth, is good at seeing a recipe somewhere and then winging it afterwards, using his own little twists. I had never seen this before, but on the off chance he did find this somewhere online - which obviously he did - I went online to search and found a Sandra Lee recipe. Hers is slightly different from what Kenneth did at my house last week, and plus, with me in the kitchen there were even more changes involved. 

The dessert Ken made was presented parfait style, with layers of peaches, biscotti, and mascarpone whipped cream. Ken said he had made this once before, and when we went to the grocery to pick up the needed items, he was going to go for canned peaches. Since it is summer and there are peaches available in every grocery in town, I suggested using fresh peaches. While it might be good with canned or frozen peaches, fresh are always better, in my book. When he started to prepare the dessert, he asked if I had tarragon. As it happens, my tarragon plant this year is growing lushly, so I had plenty.

Tarragon is an herb that I like to have available, but rarely use, so having something new to use it in was exciting. Tarragon has a slightly anise-like flavor, and is good in various applications, but I had never, ever thought to use it in a dessert before, so I was curious. 

Ken was reluctant to use fresh peaches at first, but as it turned out, the peaches we got were perfect. Perfectly ripe and juicy, he sliced the peaches into wedges, and left them slightly thick. This turned out to make eating difficult, as one of the larger wedges was far from bite-sized. The desserts he created were extremely large portions - really way too much for one, and possibly more than enough for even two people. Still, most of them went; a testament to the great flavors.
Tarragon Herb and Macerating Peaches

The peaches were macerated in a goodly bit of Gran Marnier Liqueur (Ken did not measure), and while I am sure this could be made with some other flavoring agent (fruit nectar was suggested on the Sandra Lee video), I think possibly some orange juice would also do the job. Since Grand Marnier is very sweet and almost the only sweetener going into this dessert, making a simple syrup, flavored with orange peel and tarragon would also be an excellent substitute. When I asked Ken how much tarragon to chop for the mixture, he just said "lots!" I chopped at least 3 tablespoons worth (after chopping = 3 tablespoons) and threw that all in with the peaches and Grand Marnier. 

Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream
The cookie layer he used was biscotti. The only kind available here in town were lemon flavored and he was uncertain, but I felt that lemon flavor would add dimension. The Grand Marnier is orange flavor and would play nice with the lemon biscotti. Plus, grating a fine bit of lemon zest over the top would look great and just tie everything together. The biscotti we found here were mid sized, at about 6 or 7-inches long. I have seen little 4-inch biscotti and I have seen far larger ones at about 9 or more inches. If the biscotti you find are longer or shorter, you may have to play with the amounts as desired. These 7-inch ones were just the perfect amount per serving.

Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream
Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream

makes 2 servings (multiply as needed for more portions) 

1 large, ripe peach
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur 
2 plain or anise biscotti, about 7-inches apiece or equivalent amount
4 ounces (1/4 cup) cold whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

fine shreds of lemon zest
tarragon sprigs or whole leaves for decoration

At least 1 to 2 hours before assembling the desserts, cut the peach into thin wedges and place in a bowl with a tight fitting lid (a zip-top bag will also work). Top with the minced tarragon and the Grand Marnier liqueur and seal the bowl. Shake to distribute the herbs and liqueur and allow the mixture to macerate for at least one hour, or two if possible. Shake the bowl often to make sure all the fruit is evenly flavored.

If using the 7-inch size biscotti, and they are individually wrapped (mine were), just use a meat tenderizer mallet with a flat size and whack the biscotti gently to break into crumbs. This does not have to be tiny crumbs, as the cookie will soften when mixed with the juicy fruit and the whipped mascarpone. Place 1/2 of one biscotti in the bottom of each of two bowls or parfait glasses.

In a small mixing bowl, whip the cold whipping cream until it just begins to hold shape. Add the confectioners' sugar and continue to beat until it will hold shape well. Do not over beat. Now add the 4 ounces of mascarpone cheese all at once, and beat very briefly, only just until the mascarpone is incorporated. If you are not yet ready to assemble the dessert, cover and refrigerate this whipped mixture until needed. 

When ready to assemble, drop about 1/4 of the whipped mascarpone cream into each bowl or glass, atop the crumbled biscotti. Top with 1/4 of the peach mixture per glass, including juices. Repeat with another 1/2  crumbled biscotti over top, then the remaining peaches and juices and then top with the remaining whipped mascarpone cream. 

The cream can be piped into the bowl or glass, for a fancier presentation if desired. Top with fine shreds of lemon zest and a sprig of tarragon for garnish.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.