“I’m obsessed with peaches,” says Antoni Porowski, whose voice sounds like hot honey drizzled on a fresh produce, even through the phone. “There’s nothing that’s more ‘summer’ than a perfect peach.”
We’re in the final stretch of summer—the flies are extra confident, we’re treating iced rosé like a meaningful source of hydration, and living through a pandemic continues to be a lot. When it’s too hot (or too existentially perplexing) to preheat an oven, Porowski’s grilled peach salad—printed in his cookbook Antoni in the Kitchen and appearing on this year’s Kentucky Derby at Home menu ahead of the race this weekend—is here for you.
“I wanted to come up with something easy that you could make for yourself or a significant other or a small group that you’re podding with, during social distancing,” Porowski says. The highly adaptable recipe calls for peaches (yellow, white, donut, even plums or nectarines), tomatoes (heirloom if you can), cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano, but you can swap for buratta or goat cheese), fresh basil, and toasted almonds. You can skip cheese to make it vegan or add in a protein to make it a meal. Or you can eat a single-serving grilled peach/tomato/cheese/basil/almond salad as a fancy snack, thinking fondly of the infamous peach scene in Call Me By Your Name, and the pre-quarantine days when having a human sex partner was less of a public health risk.
The problem with peaches, Porowski points out, is that they’re a little like an avocado—it’s hard to pick out a perfectly ripe peach, and even harder to eat it in the right window. If you are not careful, purchasing a peach will send you down a dread spiral: Ripeness! Rotting! The passage of time! Grilling peaches will save you from your spiral. “They sweeten up and soften so they have a nice little bite and they’re not mushy,” says Porowski. “Even just throw them on a pan for just a couple of seconds, to get them nice and caramelized—the acid from the tomato and the sweetness from the peach go really well together.”
His voice drops to a whisper and I worry that the Fab 5 are going to jump out of my closet and start roasting my life choices. “Toasting your almonds is so incredibly important,” he murmurs. “It renders some of the fat and it makes them really nice and crunchy.”
When Queer Eye first premiered, fans made fun of Porowski, whose role on the show is to teach adult men with identifiable meals in their beards how to make edible, elegant food. Critics claimed that Porowski, who leans toward simple dishes and fresh ingredients, wasn’t really cooking. Now, with hundreds of millions of people making most of their meals at home every day, does he feel like he’s getting the last laugh?
“With quarantine, some people have more time on their hands and they’re making different kinds of breads,” he says, politely refusing to dunk on people during a national emergency. “But at the same time, we have to eat every day! Even though I’m zero percent Italian according to 23AndMe—I was very disappointed to find that out—if you look at Italian cuisine, it’s so great because it’s so incredibly simple. The best things are just three or four ingredients. It’s about learning how to treat them and how to use them properly.”
The Queer Eye star says he’s been enjoying the simple things this summer—a perfect peach, soft scrambled eggs, his foster dog, Neon.
A few days after our conversation, he posted a video of himself making those five-ingredient soft scrambled eggs (‘literally just eggs, water, a tiny little dab of butter or olive oil, really good salt, and a lot of fresh cracked pepper”) for Martha Stewart herself. You know how it is. Simple.
Antoni’s Grilled Peach and Tomato Salad With Crunchy Almonds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the grill
3 medium firm-ripe yellow or white peaches (about 1¼ pounds), cut into ¾-inch-thick wedges
¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 medium tomatoes (any color or variety, about 1 pound), cut into ¾-inch-thick wedges
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2- to 3-ounce hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ cup roasted salted almonds, preferably Marcona, coarsely chopped
1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high or heat a grill pan over a medium-high burner. (On a charcoal grill, most of the coals should be covered with white ash, and you should be able to hold your palm an inch or two above the cooking grate for no more than 2 to 3 seconds.) Lightly oil the grill grate.
2. Grill the peaches cut side down until nicely charred, 1 to 2 minutes, then turn so the other cut side is down, and grill until lightly charred, another 1 minute or so. Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, stack the basil leaves on top of each other, tightly roll up lengthwise, and slice crosswise into thin ribbons.
4. Arrange the peach and tomato wedges on a serving platter, alternating them in any sort of pattern you like (circles or rows). Top with several pinches of flaky salt, then drizzle with the oil and vinegar. Shave the cheese over the top, then sprinkle with the basil and almonds.
Tip: The peaches should be firm but ripe. Grilling them releases their juices, but they should have a bit of juice in them at the outset to get the ball rolling.
In our column That Thing I Always Cook, creators you admire—chefs, designers, actors, reality stars, influencers, and more—offer up the story behind their favorite recipe, along with how to make it yourself—something we could all use right about now. Read them all here.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
Originally Appeared on Glamour