Who writes an entire book on peaches? Belinda Smith-Sullivan does, and her book, "Just Peachy," ($21.99, Gibbs Smith) is a fun and delicious collection of peach recipes for every course. There are myriad recipes to make, from cast-iron peach cornbread to spinach peach salad to peach thyme pound cake. I selected the following Seriously Simple grilled appetizer -- mascarpone prosciutto peach crostini -- as it is exactly what I want to serve in the dog days of summer.
If you find you don't have time to grill the peaches, you can use raw peach slices. You can use nectarines, as well. The author suggests making your own balsamic syrup, but it is available at most markets and will help you make this that much faster. You can also make up the crostini toasts earlier in the day and keep them at room temperature until you assemble them.
I like the complementary flavors of the Italian mascarpone cream cheese with the slightly salty prosciutto, peppery arugula leaves and sweet, juicy grilled peach slices. A chilled bottle of rose will bring all the flavors together for a refreshing summertime cocktail hour.
Quick tip: Here's a technique you might include when you are grilling anything. Make sure to have extra space on your grill, and think about what you might want to have for dinner the next night. I will often grill a colorful array of vegetables like corn, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes alongside whatever else I might be grilling to use in another meal. In the same way, when I'm grilling other meals, I'll grill fruit like peaches to have on hand for quick, last-minute dishes like this easy-to-put-together appetizer.
Mascarpone Prosciutto Peach Crostini
Makes 12 crostini
For the crostini:
1 baguette, diagonally sliced
Olive oil spray
For the topping:
1 large firm peach, cut into 12 thick slices
4 ounces mascarpone
6 slices prosciutto, halved
1/4 cup balsamic glaze
1. To make the crostini: Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray each baguette slice with olive oil on both sides. Place on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly golden. Cool on pan. Store in a zip-close bag if not using immediately.
2. Spray peaches with olive oil. On a grill pan or outdoor grill at medium heat, place peach slices crosswise so they don't fall through the grates. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until you see grill marks. Do not allow to become too soft. Remove from grill.
3. Place crostini on a large serving platter. Spread mascarpone on each slice, and top with arugula leaves, a piece of prosciutto and a peach slice. When ready to serve, drizzle with the balsamic reduction.
Recipe note: This versatile recipe leaves plenty of room to play with ingredients. For example, you can omit the prosciutto and balsamic reduction and even replace the mascarpone with ricotta cheese, as shown in the photo.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)