Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ode to a Peach

"From Blossoms" by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaces we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

That pretty much sums it up for me. Is there a more divine fruit than the peach? It's a personal mission to eat them as often as possible while they're in season. I make a beeline for the peach stand at the Farmers Market each Saturday. I don't even feel badly when I bump into an old man or step on the foot of a small child in my quest (but I do shout my apologies over my shoulder as I run by). It's serious business.

I found a beautifully simple and tasty recipe for a dessert I served last weekend. Let me remind you I'll only take on baked goods if there is no icing, no ingredients listed in ounces, and preferably no electric mixer involved. This fit all the criteria, plus made a delicious canvas for my beloved peaches.

It comes from the amazing Lee Brothers' most recent cookbook Simple Fresh Southern that my mom gave me. This book is filled with all the good parts of Southern cooking. Fancy enough to serve to company, but with down-home flavor and the simplicity you crave for everyday meals. For me, I always feel like I'm eating a bit of home in each bite. It's comfort food — elevated.

And I'm not the only peach fan around here. . . .

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Bourbon Peaches

3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk (you can use low-fat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 lbs ripe peaches (about 8 medium)
2 cups bourbon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Heat oven to 425 degrees with a rack positioned in the top third of the oven.
Sift the flour with the baking powder in a large bowl. In a second large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until creamy and yellow, and then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla extract, sugar and butter. The mixture will look curdy and broken; that is fine. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until the batter is combined and smooth.
Divide the batter among 9 standard-size nonstick muffin-pan cups, filling them 2/3-full. Bake for 9 minutes. Check the cakes by inserting a knife tip between the rim of the cake and the muffin cup and pulling gently to expose the side of the cake. If the side of the cake appears evenly browned, the cakes will hold together when inverted and are ready. If not, continue baking for another minute and then check again. When the cakes are done, invert them onto a cooling rack until ready to eat.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring enough water to cover the peaches to a boil. Cut an X into each peach at the pointed end (opposite the stem end). Drop the peaches into the boiling water and cook until the skin loosens, 1 - 2 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the peaches). [Note: This technique can be used to peel tomatoes too.] Remove the peaches from the water and set aside until cool enough to handle. Gently peel off the skins, cut into wedges, and pack the peaches in a quart jar or arrange them in a medium bowl.
In a large saucepan, bring the bourbon to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, and add the sugar and salt. Continue to simmer until the mixture is syrupy, about 6 minutes. [Note: this took more like 15 for me.]
Pour the syrup over the fruit, seal the jar or cover the bowl, and let cool. Then chill in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving on top of the buttermilk cakes with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. [Note: The peaches will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.] Yields: 9 servings.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, you are killing me!!! We've been eating fresh peaches with ice cream this summer and dying happy little deaths in the process... But Bourbon? Pudding cakes? Pardon me while I get out my measuring cups...