The week before I started college at UC Berkeley, I was fortunate to spend two days helping out in the pastry kitchen at Chez Panisse. We had been shipping our peaches to the restaurant for years and I had only gotten to visit once. Of course, I was nervous. In less than sixteen hours of work, I burned a tray of cookies and tripped down a flight of stairs as I carried hand-carved chocolate shavings of the best chocolate I had ever tasted in my life. Despite my mishaps, Alan Tangren, the then-head pastry chef, shared his kitchen with great kindness and generosity. He taught me how to pick out the ripest berries (blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries). He told me to look closely and focus on the tiny spheres that make up a single berry. The ones with the most intense flavor have a dull look rather than a shiny veneer. These ripe berries also look taut and ready to explode. Because this recipe has so few ingredients, it's critical that every element be at its best. But if fresh raspberries are unavailable, frozen ones can be substituted. Serve with gingersnaps for added crunch.
- 1 cup fresh ripe or thawed frozen raspberries
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure lemon extract (see note)
- About 1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
- 2 soft peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, and sliced
- Gingersnaps, for serving (optional)
In a food processor, combine the raspberries, sugar, and lemon extract and pulse until the sugar has dissolved. Pass the raspberry mixture through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl, pushing it through with the back of a spoon. You will end up with a silky sauce. The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Scoop the ice cream into serving bowls and add a few peach slices to each serving. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon raspberry sauce over each bowl. Serve at once with gingersnaps.
Cook's Note: You can buy lemon extract, of course, but it is easy to make at home. Using a vegetable peeler, remove long, narrow curls of lemon zest from 1 lemon. Put the curls in a jar, add vodka to cover, cap the container, and leave to infuse in a cool spot. The longer the mixture sits and the higher the ratio of lemon zest to vodka, the stronger the lemon flavor will be. We start with zest strips from 1 lemon and 3/4 cup vodka and let it stand for two weeks.