August 22, 2012

stop and smell the peaches

Grilled Peach Salad with arugula, almonds, goat cheese and a White Balsamic Vinaigrette


Growing up, my parents in their frugality would often buy produce in bulk from roadside stands. It was just the three of us, yet whole boxes of whatever was in season were purchased, at a discount of course, and the challenge was to eat the whole box of peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges, okra, or eggplant, before the contents went bad.  There were days in summer, where all we ate were peaches. 
Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Peaches. 






As I write this, the smell coming from the paper bag in the kitchen fills the house with deliciousness. It is the scent of summer.  It brings me back to my old growing up kitchen, so long ago, with that 60's daisy wall paper on the ceiling, and sticky hands and cheeks. To this day, my favorite way to eat a peach is leaning over the kitchen sink.




People sometimes ask me how to pick out a good peach. The first clue is always by their scent. You can't judge a peach by its looks alone. A beautiful rosy colored peach may be utterly tasteless. A not-so-pretty, dented, lopsided, or bruised peach may be surprisingly flavorful.  Your best bet, is to let your nose be your guide. Their smell will mimic their taste. A good peach will smell of sweet nectar.

When looking at color, look at the background color of a peach, not just the beautiful reds and oranges. When the overall background color, behind the red and orange hues, turns golden, the peach is at its peak.  It should also feel weighted and heavy and the flesh should give to the touch. Peaches can ripen after they are picked, but they don't get any sweeter. Like apricots, the longer they are allowed to mature on the tree, the sweeter and more concentrated the flavor. Bottom line, it is rare that I find  good peaches at a mainstream grocery store.

The most obvious way, of course, is to just try one. If the juices are running down your chin and elbow, chances are, it's probably a good peach.

super amazing peach growers...




These are organic peaches called Early Red Havens. They were grown by Bob and Shelly Berryman of Twin Springs Organic Farm in Rice, Washington, who have been growing certified organic peaches every summer since 1981. Juicy, sweet and super fragrant, to me, these peaches are perfection. Each peach is tree-ripened and then hand picked. They go back to the same tree several times, only picking the ones that are at their ideal ripeness, ensuring each peach has reached its peak flavor. Peaches are "climacteric", meaning they can ripen after they are picked. But they can't get any sweeter. Sweetness and flavor come from being allowed to mature on the tree, before they are picked.

Their peaches are grown in an arid dry region of Washington, near lake Roosevelt. This perfect combination of dry climate and fertile soil allows the sugar content and flavors to become really concentrated. You can find them at the Thursday Market on Perry Street and the Liberty Lake Market on Saturdays. They also can be found in Seattle.





You really don't need to do too much to a good peach. Sliced over vanilla ice cream for a refreshing dessert, or over your morning yogurt and granola, they are mouthwatering. I also really love them in salads. 

Grilling peaches is fun way to prepare them. Last summer for a farmers market fundraising dinner, we grilled peach halves for dessert and served them with mascarpone cream, toasted pistachios and a reduced balsamic drizzle. So good. The peaches were warm and juicy and flavorful. It was the perfect combination. This is an easy dessert to make. Lighten the mascarpone cream by folding in a little fresh whipped cream into it. For example.... 1 Cup mascarpone mixed with 1/2c- 1 c freshly whipped cream.

This salad is an easy way to try grilled peaches. Although I have to admit, when short on time, I make the same salad with out grilling the peaches and it's really just as good. But for the sake of trying something different, this is worth a shot.


purple basil and nasturtium petals add color and flavor 


There are hundreds of varieties of peaches which can be further classified into clingstone, freestone or semi-freestone. This tells us basically, how firmly the peach attaches to the pit. Clingstones stubbornly attach to the pit, making halving them a little more difficult. 

The first step in making this salad is removing some of the fuzziness off the peach. Use a dry towel and gently buff the peaches. If the peach is very ripe, this may tear the skin. Instead, hold under a running faucet and with your fingers, gently rub. If you are not a fan of peach skin, it's actually really easy to peel off after the peaches are grilled. Or before hand, dip them in a hot water bath for a few seconds and the skins will slip right off. Halve the peaches.

clingstone peaches, cling to their pit






Because these are clingstones, the flesh held on so tightly to the pit, the pit split apart. I will say that freestones are easier to work with, especially if you are making large quantities, but the extraordinary flavor of these clingstones are worth the little extra effort.  In small amounts, scooping out the seed is not that difficult.


super easy white balsamic vinaigrette


Make an easy vinaigrette with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and a little honey or agave.
I like using white balsamic vinegar verses regular balsamic in this vinaigrette because it's a little lighter and brighter on the palate and also doesn't dull the gorgeous color of the peaches. But if you can't find it, a good quality balsamic works just fine.




Lightly brush a little olive oil or some vinaigrette on the peaches and place on a preheated grill set to Medium. Make sure your grill is good and clean, using a wire brush to scrape off past endeavors.




Once you lay them down, don't fiddle with them. Just let them sit and develop grill marks. About 5 minutes later,  gently flip one and see if it is nicely grilled and ready to turn. When they are, carefully turn them, with a metal spatula, and try to retain some of the grill marks. Grill for just a minute or so.




Sometimes having more precise grill marks is important. For these photographs, I wanted you to be able to tell the peaches were grilled. Normally, I just place them on the grill, like above. But here is another  way to grill peach slices on your stove top....by using a grill pan. This is handy if you don't own a grill. You could also place this cast iron pan on your BBQ, keeping your house cool.



purple basil...

Purple basil, also found at the farmers market, gives this salad a beautiful color.  It is actually a little milder in flavor, but really fragrant.  Once the peaches are grilled toss the arugula and purple basil with some of the vinaigrette.  Lay on a platter. Slice grilled peaches and arrange over top, along with shepherds cheese.


Instead of a bowl, try artfully arranging on a platter...


Sprinkle the salad with nasturtium petals and serve.  Nasturtiums add bright spots of color and an unexpected nuttiness and spiciness. When selecting cheese, choose one that is not too salty. Chèvre, fresh mozzarella, or a fresh sheep's milk cheese work great. Salty cheeses, like feta, not so great.


Nasturtiums add color and a spicy nuttiness 






A different way to use this basic recipe is to turn it into an appetizer. Easy and flavorful, wrapping it in bresaola gives an interesting twist.  Bresaola is an Italian cured meat, actually made of beef, not pork. It is sliced paper thin and is deliciously lean. 

Grilled Peach and Bresola Appetizer Roll 
with Arugula and Balsamic Drizzle



When my girlfriends and I took a trip to Tuscany last year, we ate at an outside cafe, set high in the village of Montepulciano along the outer edge wall. With a view overlooking the vast green hills below, dotted with brilliant yellow mustard and small villages in the distance, it seemed surreal. We had been planning this trip, no kidding,  for years, putting money away each week to make it happen. To be there, in that moment, with my favorite people, surrounded by such beauty was dreamy.  It was there I had a bresaola salad and fell in love. Slices of delicious bresaola lined the outer edge of my plate and in the center, a salad of rocket and parmesan, drizzled with fresh tuscan olive oil and a little balsamic. Everything on the plate came from that local area. It was one of those perfect dining experiences that I will always remember. So simple and satisfying.

Lay pieces of bresaola on your work space.
Fill with dressed arugula, basil, cheese and a grilled peach slice.



Roll up and skewer.


Drizzle with a little reduced balsamic...


Voila!



print recipe

Grilled Peach Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

(serves 4)


by Sylvia Fountaine, Feasting at Home Blog- June-1-2012

Ingredients:
3 Ripe, delicious smelling peaches, halved
6 oz arugula (or other favorite green)
a slightly firm, mild sheep’s milk cheese, chèvre, or fresh goat cheese, or even queso fresco or fresh mozzarella (nothing too salty like feta)
1/8 C Toasted slivered almonds
Purple basil leaves
Nasturtiums

White Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 1/2 T white balsamic vinegar
1 T honey or agave
4 T olive oil
pinch salt
Cracked pepper
You could add a T fresh orange juice to this if you want, or even some finely diced shallot would be nice.

Instructions:

Mix the vinaigrette together in a cute jar. Half the peaches, scooping out he seeds if necessary. Brush with a little of the vinaigrette and place on a grill preheated to medium. Let grill for 4-6 minutes uncovered until they have noticeable grill marks. Using a metal spatula gently turn over and grill one more minute. Try to keep peach in tact. Cut peaches into wedges.

Toss greens and purple basil leaves and slivered almonds with some of the vinaigrette.. You will have some left over. Make a bed of greens, and place grilled peaches on top and bits of cheese. Sprinkle witih purple basil and nasturtium petals. So easy.

Details

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 10 minute Total time: 20 minutes







6 comments:

  1. This looks amazing!! What beautiful pictures too! I'm going to have to make this. Thank you for the post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks and let me know how it turns out.

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  2. A stunning salad! Love the appetizer too.

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  3. What is shepherds cheese? And where do you find it. Thanks,KJH

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    Replies
    1. Shepherds Cheese is a sheep's milk cheese. Cheese made from the milk of a sheep, vs. a cow or goat. In Spokane, I sometimes find it at Huckleberries, Saunders Cheese Market or the Main Market Co-op. If you are not in Spokane, try a cheese store or a gourmet grocer. And goat cheese works just as well. :)

      Delete
  4. Shepherds Cheese is a sheep's milk cheese. Cheese made from the milk of a sheep, vs. a cow or goat. In Spokane, I sometimes find it at Huckleberries, Saunders Cheese Market or the Main Market Co-op. If you are not in Spokane, try a cheese store or a gourmet grocer. And goat cheese works just as well. :)

    ReplyDelete