Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prickly Pear and Pignon: Native Foods for Thanksgiving

I had planned to write a detailed story of my first prickly pear harvest and preparation, but I find myself yet again with too little time and a conviction that it is more important to get this to you in time for everyone’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. It is odd for us New Englanders to think that cactus and pignon trees are the source of Thanksgiving holiday foods, but yes: they are as native as wild turkeys and corn. So here I am, recommending these desert natives as foods at home on your Thanksgiving table as cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.

Actually, I’m in Connecticut as I write this and tomorrow expect to have just about as Yankee a Thanksgiving meal as any Plymouth Pilgrim.  But do try to enter into the idea that the fruit, or “tunas,”
of a paddle cactus (nopales or opuntia) is tantamount to maize. The Indians here in the Southwestern desert rely on it much as their East Coast counterparts do corn, and it is just about as versatile.

Preparation, however, is a little trickier, as I found out. The tunas need to be removed with a pair of tongs (ironically, corn tongs do very well) so you do not come into contact with the fine spines directly. Or at least, that is the idea. (Cut to two months after I harvested, when one of my fingers swelled and blackened to the point that emergency physicians thought I’d had a “vascular event” and might lose my finger, only to have that very finger, swollen and black to bursting, push out a tiny, hairlike cactus spine in an amazing example of the body rejecting what is not good for it, after which all returned to fleshy normal after a few days).

Bizarre, yes, but to continue the story back in the kitchen: after removing the tunas from the cactus, they need to be smashed/pureed, and then sieved, sieved, sieved to a smooth puree. A lot of work, sort of like dealing with rose hips, but then one has a thick juice of many proclivities. Margaritas are nice. Jelly. Sauces, from barbecue to reductions. And this ice cream, which I paired with another native item, pine nuts. Slightly candied, they complemented the watermelon-like taste of the prickly pear, and added a crunchy brown contrast to the prickly pear’s pink presence. Different, and nice.

Wishing you all a Thanksgiving that, whether through succotash or cornmeal or maple syrup, recognizes, in gratitude, the native foods that keep us all alive, and happy.

Prickly Pear Pinon Ice Cream

I used a base from Jeni’s ice cream book, and an adaptation of her praline recipe. Makes 1 qt.

2 c whole milk
1 T + 1 tea cornstarch
1.5 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ tea fine sea salt
1 ¼ c heavy cream
2/3 c sugar
2 T light corn syrup
1/3 c prickly pear puree

1/3-1/2 cup pignon praline (see below)

Place the bowl of an ice cream maker into the freezer about 8 hrs before you plan to make ice cream, or overnight.

Whisk 2 T of the milk with the cornstarch. In a small bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and cook over moderate for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture and salt into the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the prickly pear puree, adding enough to make a vivid pink, Pepto-Bismol-like color. Refrigerate til cold, or overnight. Place the chilled bowl into the ice cream maker; burn it on and add the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. It will take about 20 minutes for the ice cream to being pulling away from the aides, at which point it is done. Pack the ice cream into containers, alternating with the pignon praline (below), and press a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment directly onto the surface of the ice cream. Seal with a lid and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Pignon Praline

Makes about 1 cup.
1 scant cup pignon/pine nuts
1 T unsalted butter
1 T maple syrup
1 T sugar
2 T natural local honey (I used raspberry honey)
¼ tea fine sea salt
Dusting of cayenne, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Melt the butter with the sugar and maple surup; add the salt and cayenne, and stir. Put the nuts into a small bowl and stir in the butter-sugar-spice mixture. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes; stir, and bake another 5 minutes. Remove and let cool completely, stirring occasionally to break them up. Store in a tin or freeze.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dates: Luscious and Local

When I saw the big boxes of slightly dusty, fresh picked dates at the farmer's market, I had to buy some. At $10 per pound, they were not cheap—although I don’t know, maybe that is not too bad for dates. But they were beautiful.  There were two varieties, Hadrawi and Halawi. The Halawi is golden-brown, plump and fleshy, soft and caramel-y sweet; the larger Hadrawi is darker, almost mahogany in color, an oblong, rich, smokey-sweet fruit.

I don’t usually eat dates out of hand; to me, they are for putting into things like date-nut bread. But the farmer offered me to taste them so I could decide which of the varieties to buy, and I was really surprised by how wonderful they were: luxurious, rich, luscious are words that come to mind. Here, clearly, was a case—as in so many other foods from fish to potatoes—where local really makes a difference, even the difference between whether you eat it or not.

I ended up buying half Hadrawi and half Halawi dates, and that is the combination I used in this cake. It is an adaptation of a recipe from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, adjusted to accommodate what I had on hand.

Chocolate Date Pistachio Cake

You can substitute 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate for the cocoa and eliminate the 2 T water, and walnuts or pecans for the pistachios. Serves 9.

6 oz very fresh dates
1/3 tea baking soda
¼ boiling water

1 oz semisweet chocolate
2 T unsweetened cocoa
2 T water

4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ tea salt
2/3 cup sugar
½ tea vanilla
1 large egg
¾ cup sifted a-p flour
1/3 c sour cream
½ cup unsalted, shelled roasted pistachios

Line an 8” square pan with foil and butter it generously. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Pit the dates (I use my fingers). With a very sharp knife, slice the dates thinly, then cut them crosswise into small pieces. Sprinkle the baking soda and water over; stir and set aside.

Combine the chocolate, cocoa, and water in a small bowl or cup, and microwave for a minute or two, til the chocolate is melted. Stir to combine; add more water if needed to make a smooth paste.

Cream the butter with the salt and sugar. Add the vanilla, chocolate, and egg and beat until just combined. Add the flour and sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the dates with their liquid and the pistachios.

Pour/spoon into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes; turn out and remove the foil. Let cool completely before cutting into squares or thick slices. Serve plain or with a little butter.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hatch Chile Fever

I’m a Poblano and Serrano girl myself, but the Hatch chile has an amazing number of aficionados out here. Not sure why.  I mean, the Hatch is OK, if you need a mild and somewhat neutral, or at least very understated, chile flavor. It is similar to, although somewhat meatier and richer than, the widely available Anaheim, a close relative to the Hatch. Much of its popularity may be that it is, in fact, a mild chile, with a Scoville rating for the traditional variety around 1000 or even lower (a Serrano is 10-15 times hotter). This makes it palatable both to a lot of sensitivities to “hot,” and easy to incorporate into a wide range of dishes without making a particular statement. But really, I think its popularity is a lot about it being “local.” Hatch chiles hail from the area in and around Hatch, New Mexico, and their brief season from late August until a week or two ago makes them special to those who live within striking (or fast direct shipping) distance. Similar varieties are grown in Texas and other southwestern states.
I did not get into the genuine frenzy that is Hatch season, but as it waned, I did feel as if perhaps I was wanting in local spirit if I didn’t buy any and show a little enthusiasm. So I bought the very last bag of roasted hatch chiles—the very last of the season, it turned out—from the chile roasters at the farmer’s market. As I paid for them, I was told that I had gotten the last ones, and there would be no more until next year. I tried to exhibit a suitable combination of gratitude and regret, but was secretly more pleased that I had also picked up the last bag of roasted roma tomatoes.
Many people use Hatch chiles to make chiles rellenos, but I neither like their shape for that—too long and skinny—nor their flavor (remember: only Poblano for chile rellenos!). At the farmer’s market I had also bought a gigantic bag of freshly made tortilla chips, so decided to use my tomatoes and chiles to make a super-quick, rustic salsa. All the roasting work had been done, so it took about 3 minutes including the peeling and deseeding. Feel free, as I did, to add a little heat with a hotter chile of your choice in the privacy of your own home; it will retain the round smoothness of the Hatch while satisfying your conception of “chile.”
Hatch Chile Salsa
1 lb roasted Hatch chiles
1 lb roasted Roma or other tomatoes
2 tea, generous, salt
3 whole peeled cloves garlic
1 small Serrano chile, minced (optional) or even a little hot sauce of your choice
Chopped coriander for garnish (optional)

Rub the skin from the chiles and gently pull away the stem and seed pod; rinse out. Pull the skin from the tomatoes, but leave a little; I like some charred skin in a rustic salsa. Put all the ingredients except the Serrano into the food processor. Process for about 45 seconds until it is a kind of thick, slightly chunky puree that resembles a fine relish. For a little heat, stir in some Serrano or hot sauce to taste. Serve with chips, to garnish meats, or stir into soups, stews, eggs, or other dishes for a little Southwest flavor. This freezes well.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ricotta on Top

I came across this unfinished post when trying to think what I could do for the blog this weekend, so as not to fall hopelessly and irrevocably behind. I’m sure you will understand that even we over-responsible and over-perfectionist types must occasionally take the path of least resistance. A mostly written blog post, with a finished recipe and photos all done, is such a path—practically a highway.
So, I made what you see here sometime in July. As mentioned before, I do think that Olga’s thin pizza shells are a really good product; when I am in Little Compton, they are aRicotta crostini freezer staple, and I can make a pizza in minutes. This is a good, but somewhat dangerous, thing. I eat a lot of these little pizzas, in infinite variation, when I am in Rhode Island. 
Narragansett Creamery, which makes really good mozzarella, also makes nice ricotta; in fact, their hand-dipped cheese, made from unhomogenized milk, placed first in the Wisconsin World Championship Cheese Contest. So here is a white pizza using both their cheeses that can be assembled in seconds, not minutes. I prefer Olga’s white shells to the whole wheat, but the whole wheat works well here. You can use any leftover ricotta to make crostini with toasted French bread; sprinkled generously with salt and pepper, it is a light snack to have with a glass of white wine.Ricotta mix
Rhode Island White Pizza
This makes two small oval pizzas, enough to serve 4-5 as an appetizer or 2-3 for a light lunch or supper.
2 Olga’s whole wheat pizza shell (or your own)
1 cup Narragansett Creamery or other fresh ricotta cheese
8 oz Narragansett Creamery or other fresh mozzarellaRicotta cheese and garlic
1 large egg
1-2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced  
1 oz parmaggiano reggiano, grated
5 or 6 large leaves of fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450F, higher if it will go.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
In a small bowl, mix the ricotta with the egg, salt, and pepper. Slice the mozzarella into 1/8” slices and grate the parm. Stack and roll the basil leaves tightly, then slice them thinly. 
For each pizza: Place the pizza shell on a cornmeal-dusted pan or, if you are using a pizza stone, peel. Spread with the ricotta mixture, leaving a small edge. Distribute the mozzarella and the garlic over the pizza shell and sprinkle with the parm and a little additional freshly grated pepper. Bake 5-8 minutes, depending on your oven heat; turn on the broiler and brown the cheese a little if desired. Remove the pizza to a board and generously garnish with the chiffonade of basil; drizzle with extra virgin if you like. Cut and serve.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blame It On Rio

Rio Chiquita Banana     Rio beach from Copa     Rio view from Tijuca
Rio caldo de canaIt is true that I always start slowing down on the blog at this time of year, when I leave Little Compton to return to the start of a new academic year. This is always a busy time, but this year it has been a bit more hectic than usual. I moved, as you know, to Tucson, which means I moved to a new university. This is the ultimate figure-it-out-yourself challenge, in terms of information about, well, anything. I’m fine with that, but it’s rather time-consuming and inefficient; seems there could be at least a tiny guide to tell you things like: here’s how you find your roster. Or that you have to request a course site because they are not, in contrast to prior experience, set up automatically. Or, here’s where we moved your room or your course time without telling you.Rio pastel
But I digress. The thing that really set me back is that I went to Brazil the second week of classes, and it took a lot of time to prep others for my being away, and then to regroup when I got back. So my absence from the blog: blame it on Rio. But thank Rio for the photo-essay.
The purpose of my trip was to give an invited keynote/lecture at a conference, but who goes all that way (it was about 30 hrs of travel door to door) Rio my lunchwithout a side trip at  small marginal cost? Not me. If you have not been to Rio, it is beautifully situated. I was fortunate to have met some academics at the conference who lived in Rio and who insisted on arranging a real tour of the city beyond the beach, and arranging a dinner at a restaurant along the lake. It was very nice.
Rio Small fish
Of course, for me the highlight is always the street. I like to walk around, and to eat odds and ends as I go. I came across a wonderful farmer’s market one day, and rather overdid it. Here are some photos, plus a few from the famous Feira Hippie (hippie fair), where hearty Bahia food is served. The  green drink is caldo de cana—pure sugar cane.    As you sit there, they stuff huge Rio fruitesugar cane stalks into a machine sort of like a chipper (a la Fargo), which squeezes out the sugary insides and pops the empty skeletons out the back. Don’t try this at home; it looked dangerous. But the cold, iced green liquid was delicious and refreshing. Oddly, not super sweet, but Rio sausagessmooth and vanilla-y tasting. The  fried square is pastel de queijo (cheese in a pastry), and the big pancake thing is tapioca flour, sieved right there before it went into the pan, coconut, cheese, and sausage; that is mine in the frying pan on the right. Desserts in Brazil are excellent.  Tropical fruits, eggs (flans, meringues), coconut, tapioca, and chocolate are common ingredients.
I will try to keep up the blog with all the good things here in Tucson. 

Rio flans 2    Rio bahiadessert    Rio meringue

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bookending Summer: Eggs and Blueberries

When I first arrived in Little Compton this year, I was treated to a tour of the hen-house of the ex-husband of one of my best friends from college. He had dropped some eggs off to her house while I was there, and I said I’d love some too. So on my way out from her house to my little cottage in LC, I stopped by and met the girls. They were of assorted colors, ages, and sizes—a real harem to the large and pompous rooster who strutted about like he owned the place, such as it was. 
Henhouses are not the most lovely places, but the eggs one finds still-warm in the nests sure are. A skilled water-colorist could scarcely match that palette of soft greys, greens, and blues, and no coffee with cream or perfect suntan can rival the warm brown hue of a RI Red brown egg. They are such a delight to behold, sitting on the counter, lined up in their cartons, ready to be as simple or as exotic as you choose. The perfect food, but also the perfect companion for any mood, space of available OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         time  (eggs are the ultimate, satisfying quick supper), or season. Wouldn’t we all like more of those? Or even one, let alone a dozen?
Eggs are always in inventory, and so when it was time to leave LC—yes, I am back in Tucson, and the semester starts Tuesday—there was no question of throwing them out. It was still blueberry season, and so I wanted to do something that would showcase both the eggs and the berries—the bookends of my summer. This custard tart, a more contemporary version of the pie my grandmother made frequently because it could be so quickly whipped up with what was on hand, is delicious plain, of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         course. But it takes nicely to ornament, as pairing it with a little quickly cooked blueberry sauce proves on first bite.
Custard Tart with Blueberry Sauce
Use an all-butter crust for this, and please use whole milk. Serves 6-8.
For the tart:
Pâte Sucrée for a 9” tart, here.
3 fresh large eggs
Scant ¾ c sugar
Big pinch salt
2 ½ c whole milk, scalded
1 tea vanilla
A little freshly grated nutmeg (optional if using sauce)
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and salt with a whisk. Scald the milk and remove from the heat; add the vanilla and the nutmeg if using. Set aside.
Roll out the pastry and fit it into a tart pan with a removable bottom, trimming the edge. Brush the bottom with lightly beaten egg white. Give the custard mixture a stir and pour it into the tart pan; I prefer to open the oven door, pull out the rack and put the pan with the pastry on the rack, and pour the custard in right there. You may have a little extra; pour it into a custard cub and bake it alongside the tart as a treat for the cook. Bake for about 30 min, until lightly golden on top and a sharp knife inserted half-way to the center comes out clean. Blueberries
For the blueberry sauce:
1 pt blueberries, washed and picked over
¼-1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, to taste
2-3” piece cinnamon stick
Dash salt
¼ lemon
Put the first four ingredients in a medium-size aluminum or stainless steel pan; squeeze the juice from the quarter lemon into the berries, then toss the lemon into the pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce, stirring, for 5 or 10 min, til it is thickened but still fluid and the fruit remains largely whole. Cool. You can also serve it over ice cream, of course.
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunny Squash Blossoms

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         For better or worse (often worse), I am one of those over-tolerant people. I am open-minded. I accept things. I make do. I forgive (except the unforgivable—yes, there is such a thing). I eat squash.
No, it’s not a favorite. But my Pollyanna tendencies, catholic as they are, are wide-ranging and expansive. As with a lot of things, and a lot of people, I look for the best in them. Surely the very best a squash has to offer is its flower.
To begin with, squash blossoms are as irresistibly sunny as Pollyana herself. They are pretty but fragile, so use them as soon after you buy (or if you are lucky, gather) them, before they wilt. Despite putting them in water (if on stems), they will fade fast, so stuff them right away even if you are going to cook them later. Naturally, I like to fry them. But you can poach or steam them, stuffed or not, if you insist.

Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, Mexican-style
They’re only Mexican-style because of the cheese and the beer. Treat zucchini flowers as their delicate nature demands: minimally. Serves 4 as an appetizer or a side to plain grilled chicken or fish.
One dozen fresh picked zucchini flowers, preferably with stemsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
½ cup queso fresco (or use farmers cheese, ricotta, or goat cheese)
1 ear corn
¼ tea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 large egg, beaten and divided
½ cup flour
3 oz, approx, Corona™ or other lager, enough to moistenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
olive oil for frying
lemon or lime (optional)
Gently separate the leaves of the flower and, using your finger nails, clip off the pistil of the flower at the base of the stem; you should be able to see the hollow of the stem. If your flowers are dirty, wipe them carefully with a paper towel so as not to tear them; do not wash.
In a small bowl, cut the corn from the cob with a sharp knife, then scrape the cob to extract any milk; as mentioned last week, the corn is a little dry this year, so not to worry if there isn’t much. Add the ½ cup of cheese, crumbled well, and the salt and pepper; stir/break up with a fork. Add ½ the beaten egg, reserving the rest for the batter, and stir.
Using a small spoon—an iced tea spoon works very well, but so does a plastic picnic spoon—open the flowers with your fingers and spoon some of the corn-cheese filling into the cavity: how much will depend on the size of your flowers, which may vary. Fill them to the top of the cavity, where the blossoms separate into the darker petals. Pull the petals together into a point or, on smaller flowers, fold them over a bit. Set aside on paper towels.
In another small bowl, mix the flour and a little salt, and stir in the egg and beer until you have a batter about the viscosity of thick heavy cream.
Choose a heavy frying pan and pour in about ¼” of olive oil. Heat to medium high; you can also use an electric frying pan heated to about 360F, and if you can fry outside, do: these spatter. Holding a flower by the stem, put it head-first into the batter and twist/twirl it to cover; place it in the pan. Repeat with additional flowers, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry the flowers until they are golden brown, turning once or twice; remove to paper towels to drain, and salt. Serve at once, as is or with a squeeze of lemon or lime, with a glass of white wine.
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Late Corn, New Potatoes, Early Chowder

As it was two years ago, the corn was late. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a little dry. It’s good, mind, but not iconic. When you go to scrape the milk from the cob after cutting off the fresh corn, there’s very little there. As I said, dry.
So the corn is not as good as I would prefer for fritters or other things where I like all that corny milkiness; I made some corn pancakes, and they were good, but not as infused as they might be. Still, the cobs boiled up into a pretty creditable corn stock, though I did cook them a little longer than usual to extract their flavor.
This week, following on the record-breaking heat that the East Coast and much of the country has experienced, has been rather cool—more like a nice June than a peak-summer July. I don’t know if it is a sign of a shift toward the end of a short summer. I did notice that the Joe Pye-Weed has appeared at the side of the road, always an omen. There was one night when I wished I had some socks. Perhaps I am just talking myself into end-of-Little-Compton-summer to ease myself out, heading as we are toward the start of another academic year. All good things. . . .OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
While the corn was late, the potatoes were, I think, a tad early. How I love them. I culled all the tiny ones to make cocktail potatoes (can I reiterate how much I love these and  how perfect they are with a crisp white or champagne?), and have been making lots of potato salad as well. A few extras are just enough to combine with the stock to make a chowder.
Corn Chowder

This is a simple, straightforward soup. I like my chowder thin, not thick and pasty. Serves 6.
3 oz salt pork, chopped, or 2-3 T lard or butter
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 medium red skin brand new potatoes, diced
2 T finely minced celery
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 qt corn stock (follow instructions here)
2 ears corn
1 ½ c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
1 medium-large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped

½ tea Aleppo pepper (optional)
Dozen or so Ritz crackers, ground with a rolling pinOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Chopped fresh cilantro or basil for garnish
Cut the salt pork into small dice and cook over medium heat to render the fat. Turn the heat up a little and add the onion, sautéing until translucent, then add the potatoes  and cook, stirring from time to time, until they and the onions begin to brown. Add the celery and garlic, tossing for a few minutes; add additional fat if needed (lard or butter) to keep it from sticking. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut the corn from the cobs and add to the potato-onion mixture. Add the stock, cover, and bring to a boil; remove the cover and cook, skimming until clear, for about 5 minutes; the potatoes should be crisp-tender when tasted. Remove from the heat and let sit for a few minutes. Add the tomato, cream, and milk; taste for seasoning, adding the Aleppo pepper now if using. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, reheat almost to a boil; serve in soup plates, garnished with a big tablespoon or so of the Ritz crackers, which thickens the soup just a little, and fresh herbs.
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Blogging Blunder: Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Here I am again having to apologize about comments on the blog. This time, though, I don’t think it is quite my fault. I mean, yes, I deleted about 30 comments, maybe more, but I think it was due to a change in the way blogger works since the time I started. Used to be, you could delete comments from the comment moderation page after they’d been published, and they would stay published. I liked that, because then you could always see what you had published, and which comments remained to be read and posted.  So in a move I thought was equivalent to cleaning out my in-box, I deleted a lot of comments from the moderator page and, yikes, they disappeared—forever—from the blog itself. Can’t recover them (the system asked me if I was sure I wanted to delete the comments from the moderator page because it couldn’t be undone and I, of course, said “Yes!”  And  no, it didn’t mention that already-posted comments would be deleted as well. This is my third problem with comments.
So: racheld, louise, dave, Megan, Chio, Alison, and others (I deleted so many, I can’t recall all…), I am sorry. You may remember, since I’ve talked about this before, that most of my readers email me rather than post comments, and I like that, but I also love getting the comments and posting replies. There were a few first-time commentors who were deleted, and a few long-time readers (especially on the recent peaches, sour cherries, and beets posts); to both, please don’t take the non-appearance of your comment as a sign that I am not listening and responding. I am.  As the song says, try me again.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Karla’s Perfect Peaches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         It was one of those minor, but satisfying, coincidences: the first appearance of Karla’s peaches coinciding with a visit from my old friend, Lynne, who I hadn’t seen in several years. The important bit here is that Lynne is originally from the South—Birmingham and then Montgomery, Alabama, to be precise—and though she escaped at an early age and is a committed New Englander, there are a few things that are as died in the wool (as we would say here) about her as a Southerner as the love of the ocean is for us. One of those things is her adoration, and critical judgment, of a good peach. I remember her talking about peaches to me when I first met her—many, many years ago—and, like many Southerners, she often mentions them in the same breath as the words summer, childhood, Mother, and ice cream. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
So I was excited to see the little sign saying “Karla’s peaches soon!” and then the YFF (Young Family Farm) sign with a price equivalent to those harking from, well, South, but I didn’t see them anywhere. Sold out, I asked? No, just hadn’t washed them yet—they were sitting, hidden, in a big flat out back, waiting for their pre-sale bath. I asked to take some as-is, and picked out about eight beauties. A few I would grill and put into our all-grilled chicken salad; the rest I would give to Lynne to take home to eat, leaning over, dripping out of hand.
Lynne and I had such a nice visit, but of course, when we parted after a long leisurely lunch, I forgot to give them to her, and she to take them. She emailed me when she got home—oh, no!—just around the time I discovered them on the counter when I went into the kitchen to do the dishes.
Next morning I walked into the kitchen and was immediately struck with the powerful perfume of perfectly ripe peaches. Such alliterative peaches will peel, effortlessly, without blanching. Their flesh is the ideal texture. Lynne would eat them just as is. But I, as we know, like my stone fruits cooked, with pastry. Here is the Peaches saladquickest way I know to have that combination, perfect for perfect peaches.
Peach Pizza
This is a galette (crostata), thin and simple as a pizza.
The pastry from the apple galette post
4 perfect, just-ripe peaches, medium to large OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
¼ large lemon
Pinch salt
3 T brown sugar
1 T flour
2 tea sugar
¼ tea cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
1 T maple syrup (optional)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Preheat the oven to 425F. Make the pastry according to the directions and chill.
With a sharp paring knife, run the point down from end to end to slit the skin; peel the peaches and discard the skins. (If your peaches are not quite ripe, you may need to blanch them for a minute in boiling water to facilitate peeling; and you could leave the skins on, of course.) Slice the peaches about ¼“thick and arrange them in one layer on a plate; sprinkle with lemon juice and salt.
On a rimless cookie sheet or back of a sheet pan, roll out the dough into a rough oval, about 1/8” thick (i.e., very thin). Sprinkle over the brown sugar and flour and smooth it with the palm of your hand to within an inch of the edge. Arrange the peach slices in concentric circles on the sugar/flour, leaving space between them. Sprinkle the peaches with the white sugar, mixed with the spice if using. Roll the border of the pastry in toward the peaches into a little levee.
Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes; reduce to 350 F and bake about 10-15 min more (adjust cooking times according to your oven). You will hear the peaches begin to sizzle right away; when the tart is done, they will be embedded in a thin, slightly gelled sauce. Remove to a rack to cool. Brush with a little maple syrup while warm if desired. Cut with a pizza cutter or very sharp large knife when lukewarm. Serve plain the same day it is baked, preferably as soon as it has cooled.

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