“Fire and Ice” Peach Salad with Feta, Figs, and Prosciutto

Serves 8

This is a perfect summertime dish. The “fire” comes from heat of the serrano chiles that contrasts with the “ice” – – cool, refreshing fruit. The aromatic mint, tart lime, feta, and salty prosciutto add delicious flavor counterpoints. Use whatever fruit are best in the market.

1/3 cup sugar or honey
1/4 cup white wine or water
1 teaspoon seeded and minced serrano chiles or to taste
2 tablespoons finely diced red bell peppers
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
8 firm ripe peaches
4 ounces fresh feta cheese, cut into 8 attractive pieces
8 fresh ripe figs, fanned
8 paper thin slices of prosciutto or other salumi of your choice
Lime wedges for garnish
Garnish: Edible flower petals such as nasturtium, chive, borage, if desired

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and wine and over moderate heat stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the chiles and peppers and cool. Stir in the lime juice and mint just before serving. Syrup can be stored covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

To serve: Peel peaches if desired, cut in half and remove seeds. Cut each half into thirds and arrange along with feta attractively on chilled plates. Spoon chile syrup over peaches and arrange figs and prosciutto artfully around. Sprinkle with edible flower petals, if using.

A note on Chile heat: There actually is a way to measure the heat level in chiles. It is called the Scoville Scale and was developed back at the turn of the last century by W.L. Scoville. His method involved extraction of the heat elements in chiles known as capsaicinoids, which were then diluted to a point where they were barely detectable. For example, if a gram of chile extract had to be diluted in 40,000ml of water and alcohol to be barely perceptible then that chile was rated at 40,000 Scoville heat units. Although this is not a precise test, since each of us has some differences in sensitivity to chiles, it does give a good basic estimate.

Here are some Scoville heat ratings for various chiles:

• Bell Peppers 0
• Anaheims 800-1200
• Poblanos 800-1200
• Jalapenos 8000-10,000
• Serranos 10,000-18,000
• Japanese (Hontaka) 25,000-40,000
• Thai types 40,000-60,000
• Pure Capsaicin* 1 million
* Capsaicin is one of the compounds in the capsaicinoid family and is thought to be the most potent of the heat elements in chiles.

Recipe courtesy of Chef John Ash