By Marsha Fottler –
August is National Peach Month, a time to celebrate and eat a Far Eastern contribution to America’s favorite stone fruit category. This is the month to also enjoy and to cook with other delicious stone fruits such as nectarines, apricots, cherries and plums. China claims the peach and references to this juicy and beautifully colored fruit date back to the 10th century BCE. The peach was a favorite food of the emperors and a common subject for Chinese painters, sculptors and ceramic artists.
The Chinese sold or traded the prized peach to the Persians who introduced it to the Romans. Eventually, the peach came to America in the 16th century with Spanish explorers and then appeared in Europe. Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Monticello and when Queen Victoria hosted a dinner, it usually concluded with a large peach on a white napkin for each guest.
Today if you want a peach all you have to do is visit a local farmers’ market, pull up to a farm stand along the side of the road or shop your local supermarket. High summer is the best time for fresh peaches which are grown in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, California, Michigan and Colorado. The peach is America’s second largest commercially grown fruit crop after apples and Georgia claims to have the best sweetest ones. The state produces 130 millions pounds of peaches annually and there’s a peach proudly displayed on the Georgia license plate.
Peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and plums are the perfect grab-and-go food, you don’t even have to peel them to enjoy them right from the kitchen counter. But, these stone fruits are equally as satisfying in recipes both sweet and savory. Cooking magazines, cookbooks, the Internet and recipe cards at the grocery store are full of enticing ways to prepare stone fruits in August. Here are three you might want to try.
Warm Grilled Peach and Frisee Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing
(Serves 4. From the cookbook Cook With Jamie by Jamie Oliver).
2 large ripe peaches, halved and pits removed
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 frisee or endive lettuces, dark outer leaves discarded, inner leaves washed and dried
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Small bunch of fresh mint (small leaves)
Put peaches, cut-side down, on a white-hot griddle pan or grill and char them on both sides. Remove and put on a large platter or divide among four plates. Drizzle the peaches with a little olive and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put your lettuce leaves into a bowl with enough of your goat cheese dressing to coat the leaves, and toss together gently. Grate on a little Parmesan and put a pile of salad on each plate, next to the peach halves. Scatter over some baby mint leaves. (note: you can also sprinkle on the salad some warm crumbled walnuts).
Goat Cheese Dressing:
2 ½ ounces crumbly goat cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese freshly grated
Put the goat cheese into a pestle and mortar with a little salt and pepper. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and mix up. Add the walnut oil and Parmesan and mix.
(Serves 12. From the cookbook Grant Corner Inn by Louise Stewart & Pat Walter).
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs beater
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup milk
4 ripe peaches, peeled and chunked
Whipped honey butter (see below)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 15-inch baking pan. In a medium mixing bowl, blend oil and sugar, beat in eggs and set aside. Into a small mixing bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and cornmeal. Add dry ingredients to sugar-egg mixture alternately with milk. Stir in peaches. Pour into pan and bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with whipped honey butter.
Whipped Honey Butter
(makes about 1 ½ cups)
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
¾ cup milk honey
In small mixing bowl, beat butter with electric hand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add honey, scraping down the sides and beat until mixture is smooth and creamy. Allow to stand at room temperature for half an hour if refrigerating before use.
4 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced (about 5 medium peaches)
1 cup white wine
1 cinnamon stick (3-inch)
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons honey
juice ½ lemon
6 ounces plain yogurt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
fresh mint for garnish
In a medium saucepan combine peaches, wine, cinnamon and cardamom over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until peaches are soft. Remove peaches from heat and let cool slightly. Puree in food processor or blender until smooth. Add honey, lemon juice, yogurt and vanilla and pulse until smooth. Thicken with more yogurt if desired. Refrigerate until chilled. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh mint, and serve.