Green Peach Salad Comes Back From Out Of Nowhere

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I deliberately left July free of extra-work activities, but it flew by and I haven't used my time well. In my defense, I can say that we have remained busy so I've been unable to stay ahead on desserts and a lot of the things we are doing now involve fresh vegetables, which means they must be made in small batches and not very far in advance. As per usual, there are tomatoes and corn all over everything. Tomato sandwiches were duly delivered to both studios of WUNC and to the offices of Algonquin Books. They were also served to the board of WXYC at its August meeting which was held in my living room. Although it has become hot and dry lately, this has really been a great summer for local gardens. I almost never run out of heirloom tomato plates and Walter Atwater's ninety plants have allowed me to use tomatoes lavishly in watermelon salad and on those tarts. The trimmings of all these other dishes have been sufficient to keep me in cold tomato soup (served as always, with popcorn).

The blackberries have finally given out, but it has been a generous season. I was always in too much of a hurry this year to savor my early evening forays and the people I encountered were less involving. There was one guy who was always somewhat wide eyed as he contemplated the money he was saving by picking berries instead of buying them "in the shops." He would actually have beads of sweat on his upper lip and would begin to tremble slightly as he explained his clever thriftiness. The same street people were prowling the bike trail again, and although they looked a little more flinty for another near of being homeless, they were always cordial. At one point we had so much fruit that I would have blackberry pie, blackberry sherbet and blackberries in sabayon on the menu on the same night. There was also blackberry infused vodka in the bar. There were also a lot of wild plums this year. They are small yellow ones like mirabelles. They grow in a grove right beside one of my blackberry patches. We had wonderful sorbet and an even more wonderful plum curd for tarts.

One night in mid-month I came home late to an email box full of messages asking if I had seen the food section of the Times. Melissa Clark had mentioned the green peach salad in my cook book in an article she had written. It's remarkable that a piece that wasn't about me and that didn't actually include the recipe at all could stir up such interest. In any case, the salad promptly returned to our menu and I have to say that it is much better than I remember. When you ask your suppliers if the have unripe peaches you are likely to receive a curt "certainly not", but in fact they are fairly easy to find. I have also been using some of the less green ones to make a raw compote that is just sliced peaches, sugar, salt and orange peel. The sugar and salt cause the fruit to "cook". I think it's sensational and we're using it on top of the long absent buttermilk pie.

posted by Bill Smith at 5:40 AM 0 comments


Monday, July 6, 2009

In Spain the word mora refers to mulberries, but in Mexico it has transferred over to the blackberry. This gives us one of my favorite Spanish words- morado, meaning purple, the color of blackberries. It comes up often in pop ballads because it describes the color of the bruises that love can leave on the heart. My hands have been morado as well lately because we are having one of the biggest blackberries seasons that I can remember. You may recall that last summer I went on at length about the swath of them that follows the railroad track through the middle of town. It's about a hundred yards from my kitchen door so I'm able to pick them almost every day. It's high season for everything now and it seemed to come upon us so suddenly that I haven't even had time to put fried okra on the menu yet.

Tomatoes , corn, beans, cucumbers and every kind of herb have returned to their traditional places on our summer menu. The cold fried chicken has caused it usual stampede. The tomato and watermelon salad is back as well, but everyone around here makes their own now so it's less of a big deal. It pleases me, though, that so many people have taken this recipe into their home repertoires. Someone brought me some of those Sea Island red peas from Anson Mills and when I tasted them I was reminded of something my great grandmother used to make using peas and corn so a new salad may show up soon. That is if I have time. I can't decide if I'm slowing down with age, but it sometimes seems to take all my time just to keep the basics on the menu.

I had said that I wouldn't make blackberry pies because the wild ones had so many seeds that I was afraid that they would seem gritty. The berries pureed in a food mill for the sherbet, so a lot of the seeds are removed and the Madeira sabayon only uses a little fruit. However, peaches didn't show up as expected this week so I decided to make just two pies to bridge the gap. Instead of being seedy, the pies had the consistency of Fig Newtons and were perfectly delicious. It looks like we will have at least a week more of blackberry picking so look for more pies. At left is a portrait of some of our summer gleanings.

posted by Bill Smith at 5:07 AM 0 comments

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