White peaches--my favorite summer dessert--get them while they are in season! Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
If you don't have peach trees in your backyard, visit your local farmers' market or pick-your-own farm for the freshest, just-picked summer produce.
Spread peaches and nectarines out in a single layer to ripen; check them everyday since they ripen quickly.
One of the most memorable desserts of my life was a simple, unadorned white peach. This experience took place over 20 years ago while I was dining with dear friends at Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley, California. Although there were many intriguing dessert selections and even the promise of a divine chocolate confection, I chose an organic white peach. My decision was prompted by the fact that I truly love peaches, not to mention it was the height of the season for them and I had never had a white peach before. It was served simply on a plate accompanied by a small, sharp knife and a fork.
The first thought that occurred to me when the dish was placed in front of me was, how do I eat this in a restaurant? Often, I just eat a peach whole, dripping over the kitchen sink, which in my opinion is the best way to eat a peach. At home, I almost always peel peaches because of the fruit’s typically fuzzy exterior, and then slice it into eighths or twelfths onto a plate. Nonetheless, I believe that at this particular food establishment, any way I’d decided to consume the peach would have been accepted.
In the end, I decided to slice it; however, first, before cutting into it, I held it up to my nose and smelled its sweet perfume. It was so sweet and fragrant it made my mouth water and I passed it around the table to share the olfactory experience. Then I cut into it and juice trickled out. I divided the peach with a chef/surgeon-like skill into 12 slices; the skin separated from the peach peeling off effortlessly. I love a ceremony, and this indeed was an ode to the white peach. The first bite was ethereally sublime and it made the hairs all over my body stand on end. This was the perfect peach. It was flawlessly ripe; dripping juice, at once sweet and tart and melting in the mouth. I passed the plate and shared the manna with friends; ecstatic sounds after their initial first tastes were followed by quiet reverence. Truly nectar of the gods.
I am always seeking the perfect peach. Fortunately, they come to us every year, along with the other wonderful stone fruits of summer. Nectarines, apricots, plums and cherries are to be savored and enjoyed while they are in season. I delight most in eating these fruits out of hand or sliced at the table. We are so fortunate to be able to grow these fruit trees here and we start to reap their bounty beginning in July with the early varieties and the later fruits ripening by the end of August, sometimes early September. Our window for locally grown stone fruits is just a little over two months and we should be savoring them daily! What I am saying here is eat them fresh, as is, and relish them every day.
For the past three weeks, I have been in peach (and tomato—however that is another story) heaven. We have had the right weather this year for perfect peaches and nectarines. I salivate as I write this. I have been eating at least one, or two peaches or nectarines, sometimes three, everyday. I eat whichever is the ripest; peeling them at the sink. I’d say about 50% of the time I just eat them out of hand, and the other 50% I slice them onto a plate and sit down and eat them with a fork. A favorite breakfast is a sliced peach or nectarine with cottage cheese or yogurt. I also quite like them in oatmeal with a touch of maple syrup and perhaps a little fresh chopped cinnamon or lemon basil. They are just-right for in-between meals. Ideal after lunch or supper, peaches make a great bedtime snack. Get the hint? If you don’t have fruit trees in your backyard or a fruit farm in your neighborhood, then visit your local farmers market and take advantage of this wonderful fruitful season!
My mom’s birthday was this past week and guess what kind of cake she wanted? Yep, you got it: peach cake. Check out this different take on an upside-down skillet cake; Peach Skillet Cake. Happy Birthday Aud—85 years young!
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