COOKING WITH CHRISTIE: Everything is Peachy!

By Christie Popp

One month ago, I wrote that strawberries were just coming into season. What a difference a month makes! Last Saturday, I bought a flat of what are likely the last strawberries of the year. I spent the day preserving them for the winter as jam, popsicles, and frozen for future smoothies. I am sad, but not really. Because the same day that I bought that flat of berries, the peach farmer had a sign that said “peaches next week.”

 

I love peaches, but they are not the easiest to grow in Indiana. Though our summer heat often rivals the South, our winters can be a little cold for the moderate-temperature loving fruits. One late spring frost or ill-timed hailstorm can wipe out the entire crop (as happened a couple of years ago). Yet, when it works, it works. Fresh farmer’s market peaches are incredible. I feel like it is officially summer when my hands and arms are sticky from a juicy peach. Peaches, of course, need no recipe. They are perfectly suited to snacking on the back porch on a hot summer day. However, in case you have a burning desire to do something with your peaches, I offer you three easy, delicious, no-cook summer recipes that celebrate this magical fruit.

 

Peach Caprese Salad

For many years, I had an early-summer dilemma. The temperature was hot, the basil was ready, and my belly wanted a caprese salad. Few things are more enjoyable than the contrast between the acidic tomato, creamy mozzarella, and sharp, herby basil leaves all drowning in olive oil. But good tomatoes did not come on until later in the summer. In a moment of desperation, I used peaches, which were in season. Now, this has become an annual June tradition. Dare I say, I almost like this version better than the original?

 

The Ingredients

  • Peaches
  • Fresh mozzarella (You want the kind in a ball, often sold in whey)
  • Basil Leaves
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

The Process

This recipe is simple: Chop or slice your peaches. Layer on a plate with your sliced or torn mozzarella. Scatter basil leaves on top. And finish with a heavy drizzle of (good quality please!) extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Everything is to your taste. You can make a mini-salad with one peach and a little mozzarella, or increase the portions to feed your family!


Peach-Ricotta Tartine

This recipe was inspired by a similar dish I ate at the restaurant Marché in Nashville, Tennessee.  It is a quick and yummy way to start your morning, but it would be equally good for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack. A tartine is a fancy French word for a slice of toasted bread with something good on top. And, in this case, that goodness is nothing more than the essence of summertime sweetness. This recipe makes two tartines, and both will be for you because you won’t want toshare.

The Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 tablespoon butter (for spreading)
  • 1 medium size peach, sliced into strips
  • 1⁄2 cup ricotta cheese (the loose kind, not Ricotta Salata)
  • two slices of rustic bread, such as sourdough or baguette, cut lengthwise (you want a strong bread here, so save the sandwich bread for later!)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Honey
  • Jam (optional)
  • Blueberries (optional)

 

The Process

  • Toast your bread.
  • Spread a light layer of butter on top.
  • If you would like, you can spread a small amount of jam over the butter (I like the added sweetness and the moisture, but it is entirely optional. I don’t always do this).
  • Top with ricotta cheese (about 1⁄4 cup on each slice, though the exact amount will depend on the size of your bread)
  • Place peaches and optional berries on the ricotta cheese
  • Drizzle with honey

Peach-Tomato Gazpacho

I wish I could remember who inspired this recipe, which I read years ago in a cooking magazine. But I can’t, so I’ll say it’s my own. I’ve never been to Spain nor had “true” gazpacho, so I can’t make any claim to this recipe’s authenticity. I can say that it is delicious. The sweetness of the peaches balances the acid of the tomato. I love a cold soup on a hot summer day, and this one is tops. The best thing is you could substitute any number of juicy fruits for the peaches (watermelon, melon) and still get a wonderfully cooling result.

 

The Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb of Tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • 1 lb of Peaches (roughly chopped)
  • 2 thick slices of slightly stale bread
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (or more if you like!)
  • 3 Tbs of Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs of vinegar (preferably Sherry)(or more to taste)
  • Water (optional)
  • 1 jalapeño (optional, for spice)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Ice (optional)

The Process

If bread is very hard, soak in a small amount of water for 1-2 minutes until softened. Combine bread, tomatoes, peaches, garlic, optional jalapeño, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a blender. Process until smooth (or to your desired consistency if you prefer it chunkier). Add small amount of water to thin if desired. If you want to serve this ice cold, you can also blend in ice. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator (if desired). Pour into bowls and drizzle with last tablespoon of olive oil. Serves 4.