Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer's Seducer......

The peach season starts in late May in the warmer sections of the United States and runs through late September. There are hundreds of varieties of peaches being cultivated, but one thing holds true for them all…they send out an alluring aromatic sortie alerting us to their ripeness. If you buy unripe peaches leave them at room temperature for a few days to allow them to develop their full sweet potential. There are a few foods I refuse to eat if not locally harvest ed - the peach is definitely one. If harvested unripe and then stored under refrigeration, as needed for transportation, the ripening process will be arrested resulting in flat tasting, mealy textured fruit. I use (if I must!) these “unfortunate underachievers” in braises and chutneys where their tart, sweetness can be put to good use. I also prefer to use these under-developed peaches when on their firm side when I grill peaches for a summer vegetable plate. Too soft and the peach will breakdown too quickly.

The peach has a fraternal twin, the nectarine, which is a natural deviation that results in a fuzz-less skin. After that the two fruits are indistinguishable with each having red, yellow or white flesh variations. The white-fleshed varieties are sweeter because there is a lower acidity to the fruit though as any peach or nectarine ripens the acid levels decreases allowing its sweet nature to come through.

Both the peach and nectarine start the season as a clingstone meaning the meat is adhering to the pit. Though by mid-season (late June/early July) we start to get freestone varieties where the pit easily comes away from the fruit. Anyone who has tried to half a peach knows the frustration of separating a clingstone from the meat.

Peach Cobbler - yields 8 to 10 servings

Cobbler Dough
2 1/2 cups flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/2 -teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4-cup sugar
1-pint sour cream
2 teaspoons - vanilla
2 egg yolks

2 –1/2 pounds peaches – halved, and pits removed
2-tablespoons sugar

To prepare the cobbler dough combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl mix the sour cream, vanilla and egg yolks until blended together. Add it to the flour mixture and mix to a sticky dough.

Pre-heat an oven to 375 degrees.

Butter a 13x6 inch oven proof baking dish. Place the peaches on the bottom and sprinkle with sugar. Drop by the spoonful the cobble dough over the peaches. Sprinkle additional sugar if desired, and bake uncovered for about 25 to 35 minutes or, until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or cold with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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