Each Peach Pear Plum

I try as best I can to write this blog seasonally, so that the recipes will line up with the fruits and vegetables available at your market. (Apologies to those reading in Israel.) But in the world of journalism, where I come from and where I still have a small role, it doesn’t always work that way. I guarantee you that editors – magazines, newspapers, and even online publications – are currently busy putting together their Thanksgiving sections. And so for the Rosh Hashana section you are reading this week and last in your go-to papers, the editor began crafting that in early summer, probably even earlier as this year is the earliest I’ve ever remembered it being.

peach pound cake

A few years back, the kindest editor I’ve ever had hired me for a freelance food article for his upcoming Rosh Hashana section. The assignment was delightful: Explore some local apple orchards, pick a few bushels, bake and cook up a few dishes, and write it all up. And make sure to photograph the process the entire way through.

There was a hitch, though: The article was due on September 1, so he could get the section out at least a week before the start of the holiday. But going apple picking in August in New England is, um, tricky. Basically, the months of September and October are prime times for apple picking, but August is still all about stone fruits. Every orchard we tried was just like my CSA has been for the past few weeks: Full of perfect peaches, and nary an apple in sight. So while we went and picked and photographed, the apples I used for the recipe came from the grocery store.

making the cake

Rosh Hashana is freakishly early this year, but rather than try to force something, I’m rolling with it. You’ll remember the zwetschgenkuchen, the Concord grape pie and perfect plum tort that I have brought to my mother’s house for the Holy Days. This year, I’m going with a peach pound cake. (I’m also bringing that date nut bread for Sylvie’s mother-in-law. She hosts us for the 4th, and I feel it’s the least I can do as a thank you.)

It may not be a traditional fall recipe, but I think Lilli approves. When we fed her peaches a few weeks earlier, she finished the meal by licking the juices off her bib.

Lilli eating peaches

I’m calling this a pound cake, but it’s certainly been updated from the traditional “pound of butter, pound of sugar, pound of flour…” recipe. In addition to the peaches, there’s both vanilla and almond extract, which gives the cake a great flavor. The batter is also remarkably fluffy, given all the eggs, butter and sugar.

A few notes: Thankfully, you don’t have to peel these peaches like I have to when feeding Lilli, or like the other peach cakes I’ve baked this summer. The recipe says you can use frozen peaches too, so I guess you can make it in the dead of winter. I never have sour cream on hand, but always have Greek yogurt around; it makes a great substitute. Although the recipe doesn’t say it, please put the tube pan on top of a baking sheet. Twice I’ve had to enlist Rich’s help to scrape errant batter that has dripped from the tube hole onto the oven racks and bottom. I know, you’d think after the first time I’d have learned my lesson. The recipe calls for confectioner’s sugar once the cake has cooled down, but I would call that optional, as I’ve just simply forgotten that step two times now and the final product has been delicious.

Peach Pound Cake from TasteofHome.com

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

6 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

2 cups diced fresh or frozen peaches

Confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the extracts.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the sour cream, beating well after each addition.

Fold in the peaches.

Pour into the greased a floured 10-inch tube pan.

Bake in the 350-degree oven for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

Yield: 12-16 servings

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The Last Hurrah

Rich heard the clanging and crashing from the back room and came running. My guess is he was worried that a plate had fallen to the floor, or maybe a pot had slipped from its hook off the rack on the wall. The noise turned out to be the sound of a serving spoon scraping the last bits of the buttermilk dressing off the serving dish directly into my mouth.

“Oof. Yuuwersppdtuseethif,” I said by way of explanation. (For those of you who don’t ordinarily deal with people talking with serving spoons and platters in their mouths, what I said was “Oops. You weren’t supposed to see this.”) I swallowed, licked the spoon, and put the dish back on the table.

I couldn’t help myself. Really, I couldn’t. I saw this dinner as a final farewell for my tomatoes and peaches. Sure, I knew there’d be a few more to come in next week’s CSA box, but something had happened overnight in Boston. As soon as we’d turned the page on Labor Day, the sky grew dark, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, and a near-constant rain started to fall. Summer, the clouds seemed to say, is definitely over.  All I had left to remind me of the season were some ripe tomatoes and peaches. These needed to be treated with utmost respect; something special for their last hurrah.

I’m not sure if it was the storm or a dream, but the night before I sat straight up in bed and whispered “buttermilk,” which had taken on a kind of reverence that perhaps someone’s childhood sled name whispered by a fireside might. The thought of buttermilk haunted me the next day, its creaminess, its twang. I wanted it to bathe my tomatoes in it. And, if I was lucky and found the right recipe, my peaches could enjoy a buttermilk treatment as well.

I found the dressing recipe I was looking for via Deb, who found hers via Gourmet. I changed mine up a little bit, using a summer sweet Vidalia onion instead of a shallot. I have leftovers of the dressing, and I plan on drizzling it on top of every vegetable in my crisper, then perhaps going out to the market and buying a plain old head of iceberg lettuce to continue the dressing-fest.

The peach cake came via the food community Food52, which was founded by Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the New York Times, and Merrill Stubs, a freelance food writer and recipe tester. The site’s first project was a crowd-sourced cookbook, and this recipe was one of their first contests winners: You submit a recipe, readers vote, and each week the winning recipe makes it into a cookbook, hence the name Food52. I think the tasting notes on this one sum it up:

The cake is chock full of juicy summer peaches, and the addition of ground almonds sets it apart from other simple butter cakes. It’s luscious and a bit custardy in the areas surrounding the peaches — a texture that works when the cake is either warm or at room temperature. Don’t be alarmed if the batter seems to curdle when you add the buttermilk, as it will come together again once you mix in the dry ingredients.

If you’re on the fence about purchasing an entire bottle of buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk. In five minutes, you’ll have enough buttermilk for both these recipes.

Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients

1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons minced Vidalia onion

1 Tablespoon sugar

3 Tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, onion, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until sugar has dissolved, then whisk in chives.

Simple Summer Peach Cake

Ingredients

3 ripe peaches

3/4 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

6 Tablespoons softened unsalted butter

1 large egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Turbinado sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Cut the peaches into bite sized pieces. Toss the peaches with nutmeg and 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and remaining sugar with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the egg, buttermilk and extracts, and stir to combine.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this flour mixture to the butter mixture, mix until smooth (some lumps may remain). Pour into the prepared pan.

Press the peaches into the top of the cake. They can be nicely arranged, but it made more sense to cram as many peaches as possible into the cake. Sprinkle Turbinado sugar over the top.

Peach-Basil Ice Cream: Want or Need?

In every language I’ve studied, I have always confused the verbs “to want” and “to need.” French, Latin or Hebrew; Roman or Semitic script, my tests would always come back with the same red marks through those verbs. Call it pathological.

So last fall, when someone brought a batch of homemade ice cream to our neighborhood potluck, I decided I NEEDED an ice cream maker. Setting myself a ridiculously low budget, and assured myself that if I could find an ice cream maker for that much, it was meant to be, I logged onto craigslist, and there it was, waiting for me: a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, $25. And it came with two freezing chambers, which means I can keep one in the freezer at all times, in case I NEED to make ice cream.

KitchenAid makes an ice cream maker attachment for the mixer, but it's not as cheap as my craigslist find.

I’m a big fan of craigslist. I’ve found a lot of my wonderful kitchen tools there, including a fantastic Le Creuset saucier and a brand new set of All-Clad pots and pans (a wedding registry duplicate). All on craigslist, for a fraction of retail price.

I have definitely gotten my money’s worth from my ice cream maker. We’ve made the classics like mint chocolate chip and Heath Bar crunch, but the biggest hit so far has been peach-basil. I had a pile of fresh peaches at the beginning of the summer which were screaming to be made into ice cream. But I could see their destiny included an infusion of basil, as well.

Peach and basil work wonders together.

Peach-Basil Ice Cream

This recipe was adapted from Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book, which my husband bought from the B&J factory when he was a kid — even though he didn’t have an ice cream maker. Apparently the chocolate chip cookie recipe is that good.

Ingredients

2 cups finely chopped ripe peaches (about 5), peeled if you prefer (I see no need to peel, personally)

This is about the right size dice.

1 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

And this what the chiffonade should look like.

1 1/4 cups sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 large eggs

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

1 cup milk

instructions

1. Combine the peaches, basil, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring the mixture every 30 minutes.

Before...

2. Remove the basil-peach mixture from the refrigerator and drain the juice into another bowl. Return the peaches and basil to the refrigerator.

...and after.

3. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the peach-basil juice and blend.

4. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the peaches, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.

Excuse the blurriness. I'm just that fast!

Makes generous 1 quart.

We freeze our ice cream in an old 1-quart peanut butter tub.

Hope you enjoy it. Our foster cat Rooster certainly did!

Nom nom nom!

Tomato, tomahto

Normally, I’m skeptical of farmers’ markets. True, they are local and sustainable and organic, but they can also be extremely expensive. Last summer I spent $40 on a bag of gorgeous produce only to use it all in one meal. But this is Massachusetts Farmers’ Market Week, so I decided to take a lunchtime bike ride to BU’s on-campus farmers’ market, in hopes of procuring peaches for some ice cream action this weekend.

I had the most lovely visit with the folks from Wards Berry Farm in Sharon. And I scored. Big time. For $6, I biked away with gorgeous tomatoes, peaches and garlic:

All this for $6!

The kind gentleman running the stand noticed my means of transport and noted that the farm is only three miles from the commuter train. A weekend visit to the farm may be in the future…

I’ll get at least two meals out of these tomatoes:

I wanted to gobble these at my computer this afternoon. Hooray willpower!

Like I’ve said, stock a good pantry, and you’re good to go. Tonight I made an easy pasta with the fresh tomatoes and garlic, then tossed in some artichoke hearts and olives.

This reminds me of that Skittles commercial. A rainbow of flavor!

(The husband, who normally hates tomatoes of the grape or cherry varieties, snarfed up dinner so fast that I didn’t get a chance to photograph it.)

I also set some chickpeas up to soak overnight for a quinoa, chickpea and tomato salad for Shabbos dinner tomorrow night.

Chickpeas in a pressure cooker: 11 minutes to perfection.

Friday is my neighborhood farmers’ market. I’m definitely biking by on my way home to see if I can get some fresh basil for my basil-peach ice cream. My plant’s on its last leaves at this point in the summer.

Make me into ice cream, stat!

Come back this weekend for the recap on deliciousness.