August is Just Peachy

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 1:15pm

“The walls were wet and sticky, and peach juice was dripping from the ceiling. James opened his mouth and caught some of it on his tongue. 

It tasted delicious.” 
Roald DahlJames and the Giant Peach

August is a month for cookouts, picnics and sitting back after a day at the beach and enjoying dinner with family and friends. My August menus tend toward the simple, and, I’ll admit it, lazier side of my summer repertoire. But who needs fancy meals when the freshest of ingredients can be found everywhere? A few fresh herbs, a dash of amazing extra virgin olive oil, and you’re done. 

Our theme this month is peaches —who can resist a drippy sweet peach at this time of year? Here are three go-to recipes that I particularly love for the summertime. First, start your evening with a frozen peach daiquiri. A dear friend of mine from Charleston, South Carolina, taught me the secret to this wonderful recipe and because those very daiquiris have become something of a legend among my friends on the island, I thought I’d share it with you. The secret, believe it or not, is leaving the skins on the peaches, which makes the whole process so much easier too. 

The next recipe, a grilled peach and goat cheese salad, is so easy, and it’s terrific as a starter or side salad. Try it with grilled lobster or fish – I guarantee, you’ll be sold. Finally, an ever-in-demand finale to my summer dinners, is a peach and blackberry crisp, with just a hint of almond flavoring and a lovely brown sugar, pecan and oatmeal topping. The crisp can also be made ahead, reheated and accompanied by vanilla ice cream or chilled whipped cream. What’s not to love?

Rebecca’s Frozen Peach Daiquiris 

Serves 4-5 

There’s only one rule here: Taste one of your peaches before you make this recipe. If they’re on the tart side, you will need more sweetener; if they’re super sweet, you’ll want less sweetener and perhaps more lime juice. If you don’t have a blender that can crush ice cubes, then crush the ice yourself first. If your refrigerator can’t crush the ice for you, put some cubes in a clean dishtowel and give them several mighty whacks with a rolling pin or hammer to break the cubes up. It’s good therapy…

3 - 4 cups fresh ripe peaches  (3 - 4 large, 5 - 6 medium) cut into chunks, unpeeled 

1/4 - 1/3 cup agave syrup, super-fine sugar or simple syrup — to taste

1/4 - 1/3 cup fresh lime juice  (3 - 4 limes) — to taste

1/3 cup dark rum, such as Cruzan or Mount Gay

3 fresh mint leaves, plus a few for garnish (or use lime wedges for garnish) 

3 cups crushed ice – crush first and then remove from blender, adding back once the fruit is pureed and tasted. Or crush your own (see above)

Put all ingredients except ice into the blender. Blend and taste. Adjust flavor and sweetness as needed. When the pureed ingredients are to your liking, add the crushed ice and blend on a higher setting until thick and very smooth. Serve in wine glasses and garnish with mint leaves or lime wedges. 

Grilled Peach Salad 

Serves 6

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Cook with Jamie”

Making the best of what a delectable, ripe peach (or a nectarine) has to offer, this is a wonderful, fresh salad for a summer evening’s meal. It can be prepared ahead and assembled just before dinner. Don’t dress the salad until you are ready to assemble to avoid soggy greens. You don’t need to remove the peach skin, as the grill will burn off most of the peach fuzz anyway.

Bitter greens, like friseé or curly endive make this salad because of their bitterness juxtaposed with the sweetness of the peach. Can’t find friseé? In a pinch, other lettuces like endive or a pre-washed ‘Spring Mix,’ that often contains friseé and baby curly endive, will do. 

 ½ cup Chevre-style goat cheese (not aged)

Salt and pepper to taste

7 - 8 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil – and more for drizzling

1½ lemons 

1 Tbs. walnut oil (optional)

3 Tbs. Parmesan cheese – freshly grated

3 ripe peaches – or nectarines, halved

Friseé, endive or baby lettuces of your choice

Mint — several baby leaves or a few large ones, julienned, for garnish

Walnut pieces — pan-roasted for just a few minutes (optional)

 To make the dressing, place the goat cheese in a bowl and gently break up with a fork or whisk, adding a pinch of salt and pepper (you won’t need too much salt as you’ll be adding salty Parmesan later…) Add the lemon juice and olive oil and stir a bit more with your fork, then add the walnut oil, if you have it, and the grated Parmesan cheese. Stir again but not excessively or the dressing might separate. If it does — which it might when it’s hot and humid — never mind. No one will notice.)

Toast the walnut pieces for just a few minutes, tossing occasionally in a skillet, being very carefully not to let them burn. (You really must be attentive – I can’t tell you how many poor nuts have gone screaming to their deaths over the years due to incineration at my hands!)

Meanwhile, halve the peaches and get your grill very hot. Rub oil on the grill rack and brush some olive oil on both sides of the peach halves. Place on the grill and cook until you see some nice grill stripes on both sides. Remove peaches immediately. Again, you must be attentive. The grilling won’t take long but can go very wrong, very quickly. 

Toss the friseé, endive or baby lettuces with just enough of the goat cheese dressing to coat. Taste as you go to get dressing amount just right. 

At this point, you can refrigerate everything until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, arrange a small bunch of the dressed greens on a salad plate, and place a peach half, cut side up, snuggled next to the lettuce. Sprinkle a few of the pan-roasted walnut pieces over the salad and drizzle on a tiny bit more extra virgin olive oil. 


Peach and Blackberry Crisp

Serves 10 

This peach and blackberry crisp is always a hit. Make sure to let it cool a bit first, before serving, so the juices have a chance to congeal and ‘set’ a little and so it doesn’t burn your tongue. You can also make it ahead and reheat just before serving or serve at room temperature.

When removing the skins from the peaches, the easiest method is the 30-second hot water bath method. This works like a charm if you use ripe peaches. Not ripe? Forget about it! Wait until they’re ripe. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then carefully drop peaches into the boiling water and leave for only 30 seconds — any longer and you’ll end up with baby food.Carefully scoop the peaches out of the hot water with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel or clean dishtowel. Cool for several minutes and peel. The skins should just slide off. If you aren’t using the prepared peaches right away, put them in a bowl and sprinkle on some lemon juice so they don’t turn brown.

For the filling:

1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour 

2/3 cup granulated sugar, or to taste

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. almond extract

7 cups peaches, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces 

1 cup blackberries, washed and drained

For the topping:

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 

3/4 cup old-fashioned or quick rolled oats

1/2 cup pecans or walnut pieces  -- optional

½ tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

4 Tbs. softened butter

Vanilla ice cream or chilled whipped cream to accompany 

Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter a 3- to 4-inch-deep glass or ceramic casserole dish. Place the prepared, cut up peaches and whole blackberries into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Sprinkle the almond extract and the lemon juice over the fruit and toss gently with a spoon or, with your best kitchen tool, your hands. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the peaches and blackberries and toss again with your fingers until it coats the fruit evenly. Pour the fruit mixture into the buttered casserole dish and set aside.

Mix together the flour, brown sugar, oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt, making sure that the brown sugar is fairly well distributed in the mixture. Add the softened butter and combine with your hands or a wooden spoon. Don’t overmix; it should still be ‘crumbly.’ Gently spread the topping over the fruit filling in the casserole and place the casserole in the oven for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the topping is just slightly browned. 

Cool a bit so it has a chance to set a little and serve with vanilla ice cream or chilled whipped cream. If making ahead, cover loosely with aluminum foil until ready for use. Then uncover and place in warm oven until just warmed through, or serve at room temperature.

From the 2014 August Block Island Summer Times