When I was a kid, my mom’s stories about her aunt’s peach farm began as soon as the first peaches appeared in golden pyramids at the grocery store. For her, summer days on the farm brought peaches that required two hands, juice that streamed down your chin and left invisible sticky fingerprints on lawn chairs and car doors.
For many years, oral allergy syndrome prevented me from enjoying these luscious summer gems. Oral allergy syndrome isn’t quite a food allergy; if you’ve ever eaten fruit or vegetables and instantly felt your mouth, lips and throat turn itchy, you probably have it too. It’s caused by an interaction between the proteins in the food and allergens you’ve inhaled. Ever wonder why you don’t experience the same itching when the fruit or vegetables are cooked? Heat causes protein to change shape, preventing the reaction. Science!
Five years of allergy shots later, I can finally enjoy peaches again. So one day at the beginning of August, my manfriend and I took a much-needed vacation day, unplugged from our laptops and books, and headed out to a local orchard to pick up some local peaches for what we soon called PEACH FEAST 2K14 (the all caps are completely necessary).
At our local orchard, we wandered deep into the rows of trees and carefully tested each peach, gathering some super ripe ones for crumble, some firmer ones for kabobs, and some slightly underripe ones that would last the week. Still, our planning didn’t stop us from essentially going ham, and we ended up with two sacks stuffed with peaches.
Luckily, we both love to cook. In the car on the way home, we selected the following recipes with peaches, strategically planned to extend the lifespan of the peaches throughout the week.
Recipe 1: Peach Salsa
Start by making this guy. It needs time to hang out in the fridge while all the flavors meld together. You can make a big batch or a little batch depending on how much you’d like, so think of this recipe in terms of ratios instead of measurements. You can also replace the peaches with mango if you’re having a MANGO FEAST. I recommend using firmer peaches for this because they can begin to break down if left too long (though you’ll probably polish the salsa off quickly if you’re anything like us). Pro tip: When you finish the salsa, save the juice and pour it over your next batch as long as it still seems fresh.
2 large peaches
3 medium sized tomatoes
½ white onion
A generous handful of chopped cilantro
Generous squeeze of lime juice (we made a big batch and ended up using a whole lime)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Finely dice the onion, tomato, and peaches so that all the pieces are the same size. Finely mince the cilantro, squeeze the lime juice over the mixture, and add the salt and pepper. Then mix it up, cover it, and let it sit in the fridge. A child or an intelligent monkey could make this, if they had the dexterity to handle a sharp knife!
Recipe 2: Peach and Bourbon Crumble
While the salsa is melding, you’ll want to get started on the best part of the meal: Dessert. For this, we turned to one of my favorite journalists-turned-cooks, the lovely, literary, and delightfully British Nigella Lawson. We added a few American tweaks to her recipe, the most important one being a large quantity of bourbon. (You can just leave it out if you prefer a less boozy version if alcohol isn’t your thing.) This is my kind of dessert because you can adjust it to suit however many peaches you have, and estimating on the measurements won’t affect the structural soundness of the dish. The vanilla whipped cream is essential, so don’t skip it!
6 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
A generous dousing of bourbon
1 cup flour
¾ cup oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold and cut into small cubes)
3 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
Heavy whipping cream
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and put the bowl you plan to use for whipped cream in in the fridge to chill.
The crumble topping needs a little time to hang out in the freezer, so make that first. Mix the flour, oats, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; stir to combine. Cut the butter into small cubes. This is the part where it gets messy: dive in and squeeze everything together with your hands until it becomes a mixture that “resembles oatmeal,” as Nigella puts it. Then stir in the sugars and pop it in the freezer to cool off. As I’ve said, I’m no baker—I messed this part up and it still turned out completely fine.
Slice up all your peaches and toss them into a glass baking pan, add the other ingredients (except for the butter), and toss to combine. You can also mix them in a bowl and then add them to the pan if you’re not too lazy to wash the extra bowl, as I am. Dot the pan with little pieces of butter. Once you’ve combined everything evenly, arrange the peaches in an even layer in the pan. Pour good bourbon over the peaches until it forms a fine layer on the bottom of the pan. Pull your crumble mixture out of the freezer and spread it in an even layer over the peaches.
Bake your crumble for 25-35 minutes. If you forget about it while eating your heavenly kabobs, don’t worry – you don’t have to be too precise. When the top is golden-brown and you can see the juices bubbling at the sides of the pan, you’ll know it’s done. Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving…and while you’re waiting, whip up a quick vanilla cream by beating some heavy whipping cream, a dash of vanilla extract, and a little white sugar with a hand mixer in your chilled bowl. Sometimes in moments of idleness, I pull up the photo I took of this dessert and just stare at it lovingly.
Recipe 3: Peach and Pork Kabobs
This one is super easy, and all credit belongs to my manfriend. Cut raw pork (we used boneless chops—buy extras for tacos later) and 1 to 3 peaches into 1” cubes and thread them onto skewers, alternating between the fruit and the meat. Roll them around in a spice mix (salt, pepper, and garlic powder in equal parts, with a dash of cumin) and then grill at around 350 to 400 degrees for around 10 minutes, or 2 minutes per side. Plan to serve 2 kebobs per person. Best served with salad and followed up by the crumble.
Recipe 4: Pork Tacos with Peach Salsa
Remember the peach salsa? Now is the time to use it! The day after your kabob/crumble extravaganza, pull out the salsa and put together some simple tacos. The salsa is acidic and bright, best paired with comforting flavors like rice and pinto beans. We sliced the rest of the pork and fried it in a skillet with olive oil, diced onion, and a generous sprinkle of black pepper, salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin, then added the already-cooked rice and beans and let the everything hang out on low heat for a little while. Serve with slices of avocado and shredded cheddar (or cotija if you’re really feeling fancy) over corn tortillas. Pro tip: Instead of baking tortillas in a foil pouch, carefully toast them over the flame on a gas stove if you have one.
Recipe 5: Midweek Peaches
Spin peaches, frozen berries, and a spash of almond milk in the blender for a smoothie. Cube peaches for a salad with arugula and gorgonzola. Dice your peaches and microwave with oats in the morning to pretend that you’re eating the crumble for breakfast (let’s be real, the crumble didn’t last until the next morning). Between simple little recipes and snacking, your week will lead up to…
Recipe 6: Cinnamon French Toast with Peaches
I hoarded the last few peaches in my refrigerator to surprise my manfriend with a delicious birthday breakfast. This French toast is rich and dessert-like, perfect for a special occasion.
1 loaf of brioche (it’s worth it to splurge at a nice bakery or Whole Foods)
Eggs (approx. 1 per slice – it’s an imperfect rule of thumb, but it works)
3 peaches, pitted and sliced
Light brown sugar
We divided and conquered on this one. While he sawed the brioche into thick slices, I cracked the eggs and whisked them together with the milk (or some of the leftover heavy whipping cream, if you’re really feeling fancy), sugar, cinnamon, and salt. The salt is CRUCIAL in such a sweet dish. Then we traded places, and he dipped the slices of brioche into the egg mixture, making sure that they were soaked through, while I melted butter in a pan over medium heat for the peach topping.
I’ve read online that toasting the bread or using slightly stale bread makes for a great French toast, but I’ve never tried it. I will say that the bread was delicate after we soaked it in the egg mixture, but as soon as it was cooked, the outside was crisp and the inside was perfectly creamy.
On the burner next to the one I was working on, my manfriend heated up a generous amount of butter in a skillet. While he cooked the slices of brioche, allowing them to become that marvelous marbled brown that characterizes French toast, I sautéed the peaches in butter, sprinkling the brown sugar over them. As I said earlier, peaches can be very acidic, so the sugar really helps them to caramelize. Once they had softened and given up their juice, I pushed the peaches to one side of the pan and tilted the pan so that the juice would collect on one side, where I added the flour and gently beat the lumps out with a fork. Then, I mixed everything up again and turned the heat as low as it could go while my manfriend finished cooking all the French toast.
Syrup or don’t syrup; the choice is yours.
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