Friday, August 21, 2009

At Market...Peaches

This summer, on our journey eastward, I felt as if I was traveling back in time, at least as far as farm-fresh produce goes. In June at our farmers’ market, summer had arrived. Fresh herbs and stone fruits abounded, as did tomatoes and squash. But the farther east we traveled, the deeper into spring we were plunged. Local produce on the Cape was limited to baby lettuces, peas and strawberries, with other crops being hampered by a long, cold and wet spring. I missed the fresh fruits and veggies that are almost always available in southern California and came to the realization that, for as much as I complain that we don’t have seasons here as they do back east, we do have one very long, very important one—the growing season.

The day after we got home, I headed out to our farmers’ market to see what I’d been missing. The bounty absolutely astounded me. There were tomatoes, not just the red kind, but also the beautiful heirloom varieties. There was squash of all shapes and sizes, sweet corn, grapes, plums and most exciting for me, freestone peaches.

Peaches of any sort are wonderful. But freestones are special in that when they are sliced in half, the stone just pops out, leaving all the flesh behind. They are the best kind for canning because the halves stay intact, no pit excavation required. They make tasty baked desserts like crisps, crumbles, cobblers and pies, but that requires that the oven is turned on, and here in southern California, it’s really too hot to do that until, oh say, November or so.

But believe it or not, peaches are great on the grill. For a savory treat, I put them on a hot and greased grill, just until they are striped with slight char marks, and serve them sliced over a lightly-dressed salad of baby arugula with some rich, salty prosciutto or braesaola and shaved parmesan cheese.

If savory peaches aren’t your thing, it’s simple to make dessert on the grill too. By cooking them in a pouch made of parchment paper and foil, they essentially bake in their juices and become incredibly sweet and succulent. The best part is that you don’t need to heat up the kitchen. These saucy and fragrant vanilla peaches, served straight from the grill, are delicious spooned on top of vanilla ice cream or with a dollop of whipped cream. I only wish I could have captured their incredible aroma with my camera...

Grilled Vanilla Peaches
Serves 8

8 freestone peaches, peeled and halved
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (available at specialty food stores)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt

Toss peaches with lemon juice and butter in a bowl and place on a large piece of parchment-lined foil. In another small bowl, combine sugar, water, vanilla cinnamon and salt. Drizzle over peaches. Fold foil to form a packet, sealing all seams to make sure no juices escape. Grill over medium-high heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Carefully open packet, slice peaches and serve over ice cream, along with the juices.


Trish said...

Amazing. Can't say much more than that. Wow...grilled peaches. Had no idea! This looks terrific!

Just read your previous post...back to school? That is early for us here up north....hmmmm....Maybe they get out mid June then? Lovely family you have. I sure do like the fall, harvest and back to school.

Ann Mah said...

I love peaches, especially the idea of them grilled with parmesan and prosciutto, and arugula. This summer, I've been making a Mark Bittman-inspired salad: chunks of tomato and peaches, slivers of red onion, a pinch of dried chili flakes, lemon juice and olive oil.

gardenmama said...

ahhh... I am bookmarking this one!!
This looks incredible, yum! : )