Monday, August 4, 2014

It's That Peachy Time of Year

Peaches, plums and nectarines have been on sale for 99 cents a pound somewhere for weeks. There must have been good crops somewhere, even if not around here. I miss seeing the tables full of ripe peaches at the Farmers Market.

I didn’t like fresh peaches until I was in my late 20s. I was visiting a friend near Sacramento and we stopped at a peach farm and bought some huge, sweet, fully ripe peaches. The kind that drips juice down your face. They were wonderful! And I’ve been hooked ever since.

The best way to eat really truly tree-ripened peaches is to just dig in and eat them out of hand, juice and all. With lots of napkins. The ones we get at the store aren’t that good, but there are things you can do with them. Slice them up and serve them over ice cream or in yogurt. Make ice pops. Add them to a fruit salad. After that, you usually end up with the heavily sugared peach pies or cobblers or crisps or jam or things like that. Which are good, but I figured there had to be ways to fix them that didn’t involve so much sugar. And so my search began.

Looking online, I found the usual pies, crisps, cobblers, and so forth. Lots of sugar. (I found several recipes that said to weigh the peaches and then add an equal weight of sugar!) So I looked in my cookbooks. I had the best luck in old cookbooks, 40 or 50 years old, or even older. I guess people ate healthier back then. And did a lot more cooking, too. Here are a smattering of the recipes I found that looked especially good. But first, Peach Shortcake the way my grandfather’s sister taught me to make it. She’d be over 100 now, if she were still alive. She said that they had Peach Shortcake sometimes for supper in the summer. Just Peach Shortcake. Dinner, of course, was at noon in those days.

PEACH SHORTCAKE starts with a rich biscuit dough, with extra sugar and butter and an egg. It’s baked in a single big round “cake,” then cut in half (in two layers) and buttered. It’s topped with sliced and sweetened fresh peaches, then the other half, and more fresh peaches. Fresh cream is served to pour over it all. Or you can use whipped cream, but Aunt Kay preferred the liquid cream and I agree. Not the healthiest of meals (though it has three of the five major food groups – fruit, grains and dairy!) but oh, so good! You can use the same biscuit/shortcake recipe for Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Shortcake and so on.

But back to easier and healthier recipes. BROILED PEACHES OR APRICOTS is simply broiled halved peaches with just a touch of butter and brown sugar. Add a few blueberries and you’ve got BROILEDPEACHES AND BLUEBERRIES. Similar, except that it’s cooked on top of the stove instead of being broiled, is SAUTEDPEACHES OR APRICOTS. The peaches or apricots are dredged in flour and then sauted in butter. Salsa is big during the summer. PEACH AND PEPPER SALSA is great with grilled fish. Or fish that’s cooked on the stove, if you don’t want to grill. Or with chicken. Maybe not with chips, though. If you’re looking for something very elegant, try CHILLED PEACH AND NECTARINE SOUP.

By the way, do you know how to peel peaches? Just dip them in some boiling water for about a minute, then immediately into a bowl of cold water. The peel will slip right off. You can use the same technique for peeling tomatoes, too.

Enjoy the peaches during their short season this summer, and let’s hope for a better local harvest next year.

---Mary Anne---

No comments:

Post a Comment