Category Archives: Peaches

Plato tradicional.

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I love quesadillas, that authentic Mexican treat that I first enjoyed overlooking Boothbay Harbor in Maine. It was the day before my 21st birthday and Sandy Larsen née Bugbee took me out to dinner. I believe that evening’s special involved crab and brie. Authenticity aside, it was delicious, and certainly freed me to think beyond chicken and cheese.

Just about anything tastes good grilled between two tortillas with hot melted cheese, including, it turns out, peaches. Sounds funny, right, but think about the joy of peach salsa over grilled chicken or with salty tortilla chips. Peaches are a natural with sharp Amish cheddar, mild Asian Barbecue sausage from Canales Quality Meats, warm cumin and bright red onion between hearty corn tortillas.

I cook the sausage and onions and assemble these ahead of time for entertaining. Stack them in the fridge, pull them out and fry them right up. A pizza cutter is your best friend for slicing these without pushing all the filling out. No salsa is needed, but this smoky peach salsa would gild the lily* beautifully.

*We don’t us phrases like “gild the lily” nearly often enough anymore. “Right as rabbits” is a bit neglected too.

Peach Quesadillas

Ingredients:

  • 3 Asian Barbecue sausages*
  • 1 red onion, diced and sautéed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 8-10 6” corn tortillas
  • 2 – 3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 3 peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Olive oil

*No Asian Barbecue sausages on hand? Sauté any good pork sausage and add a tsp of Chinese 5 Spice powder and a tablespoon of soy while cooking.

Directions:

  • Squeeze the sausage from the casings and sauté over medium heat, breaking them up with a spoon until crumbled, browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add 1 tbs olive oil to pan and sauté onion until softened and edges begin to brown. Season with cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Layer one corn tortilla with cheese, cooked sausage, peach slices, onions and basil. Top with more cheese and a second tortilla.
  • Fry quesadillas in 1 tbs oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes per side, turning once when the tortilla begins to brown in spots.
  • With a pizza cutter, slice into wedges and serve.
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Love from the C’bus.

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C’bus is short for Columbus, OH and this week it played host, along with my dear friend Ray, to a wonderful evening of good food and even better company. The experience started with a trip to Columbus’ North Market for groceries. Big shout out to Lan Viet for her generous gift of Thai basil and to Ben and co. at North Market Spices for beautiful ground cardamom – I can’t wait to stop back and stock up before my return to DC!

These ingredients, along with fresh, ripe summer fruit, were the inspiration for our dessert: peaches and blueberries, macerated in sugar and cardamom and topped with Thai basil-infused, hand-whipped cream. The spicy, licorice-y Thai basil was pleasantly herbal, but chopping it finely with sugar covered the grassy flavor. The warm, bright cardamom brought out the rich sweetness of the peaches and acidity of the blueberries achieving perfect balance.

It was a simple finish to a spectacular evening. Thank you C’bus. It is always a pleasure.

Peaches and Blueberries with Thai Basil Whipped Cream

Macerating means letting the fruit soften in its own juices. If your peaches don’t release a little juice on their own, add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Ingredients:

  • 3 peaches, sliced*
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 2 tbs roughly chopped Thai Basil
  • 1-2 tbs sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream

*You can peel the peaches if you have a fuzzy texture issue, but that just seemed like a lot of work to me. You can slice as thin or thick as you like. Thin slices give each bite a better balance with the blueberries.

Directions:

  • Toss sliced peaches and blueberries together with cardamom and sugar. Let macerate in fridge for 30-45 minutes. If they don’t release any liquid after the first 15 minutes, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. How liquify this gets depends on how juicy your fruit is. Just go with it.
  • Sprinkle the roughly chopped basil with the sugar and chop together until the basil is broken down almost as finely as the sugar.
  • Whisk the cream to soft peaks. Then whisk in the basil sugar.
  • Serve the fruit topped with a generous dollop of cream. And by “dollop” I mean “giant spoonful.”

“I’ll take ‘things you can make from scratch’ please, Alex.”

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It’s not often I pull out a cookbook and follow a recipe step by step. Usually faced with an ingredient or inspiration, I pull book after book off the shelf combing them to profile flavors and techniques before hitting the kitchen to experiment. But recently I was bored.

Armed with thick-cut, bone-in pork chops, the season’s first fresh peaches and young zucchini, I wanted to do more than salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh herbs. I went to my go-to, Chris Schlesinger, the chef of Cambridge, MA East Coast Grill, and he didn’t disappoint. I made his barbecue sauce and marinated, grilled zucchini as written. It was delicious!

No longer bored, I was inspired. The grilled peaches were delicious, but I wanted that peach flavor right on the grilled pork. I started by cooking down fresh peaches into a thick pulp, then deglazed the pan with peach infused vinegar. Cumin, cardamom and dry mustard gave depth, chili powder and fresh ginger heat, and a chili oil delivered smokiness. Glazed grilled pork chops were delicious. as were the Asian Barbecue sausages from Eastern Market’s Canales Meats.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

Rule #1 of barbecue sauce: use it toward the end of your cooking and place your sauced ingredients just to the side, not directly over, the hot coals, so it glazes. Otherwise the sugars will burn. About 2 minutes per side, right at the end.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 Candy Sweet red onion, diced, about 1 cup
  • 2 peaches, diced.
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 /2 cup Peach Vinegar*
  • 1 /2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup Red Chili Chilean Oil*

*Order these online from DC’s Sapore Oil and Vinegar or substitute with white vinegar and a chopped chipotle chili.

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté onion in butter until softened.
  • Add peaches and ginger. Cook until they are soft and mash with a fork. If your pan gets dry add a little water or peach juice to keep peaches from burning.
  • Add all remaining ingredients except Chili oil and simmer for 20 minutes until thickened.
  • Add chili oil and simmer for 2 additional minutes to bring together.
  • Season to taste with additional oil, vinegar or molasses, salt and pepper. You are looking for a nice balance of acidity, sweetness and fruit.
  • Use immediately or store in the fridge. I don’t know how long it will hold. We keep eating all of ours.

Eating salad should be a “want to,” not a “have to.” (Part 1 of 52)

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Remember that point when salad became something you had to choke down with dinner each night because it was good for you? That was when you fell in love with salad dressings: Ranch, Thousand Island and Italian started a habit that lead to more sophisticated dressings like jars of Marie’s Blue Cheese, Judie’s Poppyseed Dressing (and popovers!) and Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette.

These dressings were all good, but it was like doctors treating the symptom while missing the disease. We were covering up for the increasingly tasteless vegetables we were bringing home from the grocery store. No more. Welcome to 52 weeks of holistic healing for your daily meal.

In my entry for a simple vinaigrette, I mention that it is the most asked for recipe I serve in my home, and the variations are without end. Starting this week I am going to blog 52 weeks of recipes that will take the salad from a must eat back to the vaunted want-to-eat status it deserves.

This is the last time you go to the grocery store, pick up a bag of tasteless Romaine hearts and slather them in thick Ranch or Blue Cheese to stop the pain. Today we start with fresh ingredients, make our own dressings and dress our ingredients lightly. Your perfectly dressed salad should glisten lightly with dressing. When you are done serving there should be almost no dressing in the bottom of the bowl.

To good taste and good health (and the occasional wedge of iceberg slathered in Marie’s rich blue cheese).

White Peach and Nectarine Salad with Mesclun Greens

The honey helps bring out the sweetness in the fruit. White peaches and nectarines taste sweeter than their yellow cousins because of lower acidity.

Ingredients:

  • 1 white nectarine, thinly sliced
  • 1 white peach, thinly sliced
  • 4 -6 cups mesclun greens – two big handfuls or so

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup peach vinegar*
  • 1 tbs chopped tarragon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 cup mild grassy olive oil like Koroneiko*

*Peach vinegar and Koroneiko olive oil are now available online from Sapore Oil and Vinegar in DC. If you want some quick substitutions to toss this together tonight, use a light white wine vinegar with a good quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Whisk together vinegar, tarragon, shallot and honey with a pinch of salt and crack or three of pepper.
  • Mix the fruit and greens in a large bowl.
  • Whisk the oil into the dressing in a thin stream until it gets thick and creamy.
  • Taste your dressing with leaf of the greens. Correct seasoning and lightly dress your salad.

Dinner, July 4th 1999.

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My husband, Jason, will tell you that I can’t remember what I was just talking about, but I can tell you exactly what I had for dinner on the third Tuesday of June in 1996. I’m not quite that good, but I do have a memory for meals.

Many of those memories come from summer. Long, late, lazy meals with family and friends. Fresh fish with the Creelmans in Madaket, lobsters and cornbread with the Bugbees on Southport Island, my first frogs legs at Bastille Day on the beach in Newport, RI. I remember fourth of July 1998 at home making the same baked beans and ham that Gram Forgiel made for my Mom. Fourth of July 1999 was a honeydew and cantaloupe salad with ginger and honey, grilled lamb chops and a tequila, lime, kiwi chutney cooked quickly in the microwave to keep the colors bright.

Summer meals are memorable because they don’t compete. There’s no thirty-day buildup, panic or planning like we have for big holidays. The meals are not grand nor the expectations high. The food is fresh, the techniques simple, and the flavors are as bright as our memories of them.

This peach salsa is quintessential summer. Quick and easy – no cooking – colorful and fun, flavors light and fresh, and pairings are simple – cumin spiced shrimp, grilled chicken or pork, a bowl of crisp tortilla chips. It’s delicious. Dare I say, memorable.

Peach Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper
  • 1/2 large cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 tbs Smoked Olive Oil*
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbs honey

*The smoked olive oil from Sapore is like catching a mouthful of campfire smoke (this is a good thing!). To substitute, swap out the smoked oil and jalapeño for a chipotle chile or two.

Directions:

  • Mix peaches and vegetables together in a bowl.
  • Stir through oil, then cumin and cilantro.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and honey. The salt will bring out the flavor in the veggies, especially the fresh tomatoes, while the honey brings out the flavor in the peaches.
  • If this makes it into the fridge before you eat all of it, check the seasoning when you bring it back out to serve. It holds up beautifully for a few days, although the colors will darken a bit.

*Peeling peaches is fun for nobody. We all hate doing it. Cutting that “x” in the bottom then blanching. 1/2 the peel is left behind and the outside of the peach starts to soften, making it hard to cut neatly. Visit Bob King at Washington, DC’s Eastern Market and buy one of his magic peelers. Ask him to show you how to shake it back and forth to peel the peaches. Come back and thank me. 😉