Seasonal Chef: Peaches

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Hearing the word “peach” reminds me of the Macinaw Peaches, from Oregon, that are ripe for just two weeks every year. Eating them brings your taste buds alive, like having a circus in your mouth. Macinaws are a miracle of nature, like the Aurora Borealis.  Well, almost. Peaches do bring your taste buds alive and are one of many miracles of nature … but, Mackinaws only exist in the land of Seinfeld.

So were does that leave us? I’d say with some pretty darn tasty peaches – everywhere! We’re in full fledged peach season right now with a couple of varieties to choose from: white peach, yellow peach, white and yellow nectarine and peacharine. Peaches and nectarines are essentially the same fruit, only nectarines have a smooth skin. A peacherine is a cross between the two. Each sweet and juicy with a hint of tartness.

Peaches are another of the many foods that are so good for you. Low in calories with virtually no fat, they are a great source of Vitamins A, C and also B-carotene, the pro-vitamin that converts Vitamin A in to your body. You can find them year around, but they are in season from May through October. So now is the time to get them!

Peaches can be used in many different ways: the ubiquitous pie, tarts and muffins; the Bellini, a Prosecco and peach puree cocktail originating in Venice, to name just a few. They can be eaten raw, grilled, baked and pureed. As always I decided to look for another way to use this ingredient, other than the typical application.

More after the jump …

First I decided to do a salsa recipe. Larry and I both love salsa’s. I make them all the time using all sorts of ingredients from veggies to beans and of course fruit.

For this peach version I used both white and yellow peaches, but you can use all yellow if you prefer. I added red onion and bell pepper to get the savory side of this going.

Lime, jalapeño, garlic and cilantro finished it up. I will say that this is a salsa you are going to want to make and eat right away. The flavor will hold up over night, but sadly the pretty peaches won’t. It’s not really like a tomato salsa … the peach breakdowns quickly and doesn’t look as pretty the next day.


This salsa is very versatile. You can use it straight up with chips, or as an accompaniment with your main course. I decided the latter was the way to go and picked up a lovely piece of halibut from my favorite fishmonger Lou at Port Chester Seafood. This piece was especially beautiful and I wanted to do something simple – so a bit of salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil is all it took. I did a nice grill on both sides and then let it rest for a couple of minutes. The center bone came out easily leaving me with two perfect fillets for us.

I had a little Bok Choy left over from last week’s CSA from Gaia’s Breath Farm and added that to the dish, after a quick sear. Larry is a big fan of avocado so I thought “why not?” I finished it with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh basil from my garden. This could have easily been perfect with chicken too. The salsa is very versatile.

That was going to be the end of the story for this week, but a few nights ago I came across something interesting and decided to give it a try today. I have Mark Bittman’s fabulous tome How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and use it not only for ideas, but as a resource guide. I was looking at some of his peach recipes and read a tiny mention of peach pickles. They sounded intriguing. A quick check of the pantry assured me I had everything I needed, so I put this together in less than 20 minutes:

The pickling liquid just needs to come to a boil and then cooled.

While that is happening you can get your peaches peeled and sliced. Top with the liquid and get then to the ‘fridge. Mark describes these as being like a middle eastern turshi, or pickled vegetable, traditionally served over rice.

I happen to like cooking this brand of short grain brown rice. It’s super simple and has a great nutty flavor.

Here is my finished dish. I must say these pickles are wickedly briny and spicy – I love them. If you’re not up for a real kick then cut the chili flakes in half.

I hope you enjoy these two simple dishes using peaches. If you would like to taste them this week I will be demoing them today (July 25) at the Farmers Market at PepsiCo in Purchase, and on Thursday (July 26) at the Phelps Memorial Hospital Farmers Market in Sleepy Hollow. Both days I will  be there from 11:30-1:30. Please stop by my table and say hi!

Buon Appetito!

 

Chef Maria’s Peach-Pepper Salsa
Makes about 4½ cups

1 garlic clove, minced
Zest and juice of 1 large juicy lime
¾ cup red onion, ¼” dice
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups peaches, ¼“ dice,
1 cup red bell pepper, ¼ “ dice
2-3 tablespoons jalapeno, finely diced
2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

In a large mixing bowl mix the zest, juice and garlic. Add the onion and salt to combine. Add in the peaches, bell pepper and jalapeno gently tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add the cilantro and serve.

Cook’s note: the jalapeno and cilantro are a personal taste. Add more or less to your own.

 

Mark Bittman’s Peach Pickles (slightly adapted)
Makes about 4 cups

1 ½ cups cider vinegar
½ cup white wine vinegar
4 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons dried mint
2 teaspoons coriander
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
2 lbs peaches, peeled and cut into wedges, about 4 medium size

In a non-reactive pot add all the ingredients except the peaches. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile peel and pit the peaches. Depending on the size cut them in 4 or 6 wedges and place in a glass jar.

Pour the cooled pickling liquid over them. Seal and place in the ‘fridge for a few days … the longer you wait the better they get! He says they last indefinitely, but they are so tasty, they will be gone before you know it!

Cook’s note: feel free to add less chili flake if you don’t want them to be “wickedly” spicy.

 

Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her  on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She’s an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer’s markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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