I have a friend who once declared to me once, “Oh, I hate fruit!” Hate fruit? How is that possible? That’s like saying I hate movies, or I hate dinner parties. Sure, some are better than others but to declare all fruit inedible? How sad!
Then, I thought of all the mamas out there begging their little ones to ‘try just a little bite?’ I myself once tried coaxing a picky cousin to believe that clementines were Nature’s Candy. And since my little bundle of joy will be here soon, I started thinking about my favorite fruits. What could I convince a grown man and a picky child equally effectively with?
A trip to the farmers market and a swirl of ripe peach on the deeply perfumed late summer air. What oceans I would cross for a perfectly ripe peach! To bite through a snap of taught skin and release a rush of nectar so sweet, its no wonder the humble fruit has a been a metaphor in centuries of love poems!
Selecting a Peach
Its just barely the end of summer, so the peaches currently at the market have been on the tree branches for a long time, meaning that in the hot summer sun, they have had the opportunity to develop lots of sugar. Choose peaches that smell deeply of peach. Even if they are still firm and a bit under ripe, you should smell peachiness. Find those free of deep bruises, have intact skin, and feel heavy for their size when you pick them up. Seek out white peaches for a truly delicious treat!
The Mealy Peach
Alas, there are times when even I, a seasoned peach squeezer, go home with the picture perfect specimen only to bite in, and instead of a rush a sweet juice, I am met with a mouth of wet fur. Not real fur of course, but the flesh of a mealy peach. Like Cinderella at midnight, the mirage is broken and my peach is tossed into the compost. This phenomenon occurs when the peaches are harvested too early and put too long into refrigeration, resulting in the offensive mealy texture. Shopping at the farmers market nearly eradicates this risk.
The Freestone Peach
Unlike the mealy peach, I love to learn that I’ve picked up a bag of freestone peaches! As their name suggests, the freestone peach flesh releases easily from the pit in the center and the surrounding pulp in deeply red and flavorful. Their cousin, the clingstone peach, needs to be cut from the pit or the pit nibbled around. This distinction rests with the breed of the tree planted so if you are curious, ask the farmer at the market what she’s got growing.
Finally… Peaches in February.
When I teach people about cooking and eating I regularly use the phrase “peaches in February” to describe our modern expectation of delicious food year round, regardless of what nature has in mind. Certainly root vegetables can get a bit tiresome but running out to the grocery store and buying peaches flown in from all over the world has a huge carbon footprint and you are virtually guaranteed a mealy, disappointing peach experience. Instead, put in a little work now and some dedicated freezer space and come February, you can have all the peaches you want!
Frozen Summer Peach Slices
Lots of peaches
Lots of freezer space
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil
- Make an ice bath: Fill a large bowl with ice then cover the ice with water. Don’t be stingy with the ice
- Using a small paring knife, score an “x” just through the skin of the blossom end of the peaches (opposite where it was connected to the tree.) Gently drop a few peaches at a time into the boiling water and wait 30 seconds. Fish the peaches out of the pot and plunge into the waiting ice bath. Continue until all the peaches are blanched.
- Slip the skins from the now cold peaches and discard. Slice the skinless peaches into 1/2” slices and arrange in a single layer on sheet trays lined with parchment paper. Put the peach-filled trays into the freezer and let sit until the peach slices are frozen through
- Move frozen peach slices into labeled, 1-gallon size zip top freezer bags. Enjoy in February.
Spicy Fish with Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salsa
You can use any firm fish like striped bass, mahi mahi, or shrimp.
For the Salsa
3 ripe peaches
3 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes (or enough to be an even amount with the chopped peaches)
1 jalapeno, minced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/4 c olive oil
juice from the other half of the lime
really good sea salt to taste
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Let sit 20 minutes. Taste for saltiness. Too salty? Add more lime. Not salty enough? Add more salt!
Meanwhile, for the fish:
2 fish fillets (about a pound)
2 T olive oil
1/2 t mustard seeds
1/2 c finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 T grated fresh ginger
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (or more if you like it hot)
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 T tamarind paste, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1/2 lime juice and its zest
1 tsp brown sugar
- In a pan large enough to hold all the fish, heat the oil on high. When it starts to shimmer, add the mustard seeds and heat until they start to pop. You can’t miss it – its like popcorn. Immediately add the onion and toss with the mustard seeds. (This cools off the oil so it doesn’t burn.) Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the ginger, jalapeno, coriander and turmeric. Stir and let cook 3 minutes.
- Add the diluted tamarind to the pan and simmer 3 minutes more. Add another 1/2 cup of water and stir to combine.
- Add the fish fillets. Cover and simmer 5 minutes.
- Take off the cover and spoon the juices over the fish. (You’re not going to flip the fish, so be generous in your basting.) Cover again, and cook until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes, but this depends on the thickness. Check its doneness by stretching out your thumb (seriously) and poking the meaty part where the base of your thumb meets your palm. When the fish feels that firm, its done. Move the fish to a warm plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
- Add the lime juice and zest to the pan. Simmer to reduce the liquid to saucy consistency. Don’t worry too much here. You’ll know when it “looks right.” Trust yourself! Serve the fish with some sauce and with the salsa.
Frozen Peach Margaritas
Everyone’s got their favorite margarita recipe. If not, here’s one to get you started. Otherwise, toss some of your frozen peach slices into your blender with your preferred proportions and enjoy. Equally delicious in September and February. These proportions make one drink. Multiply as necessary.
1/4 c of your favorite tequila
1 T triple sec
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tablespoon sugar
Frozen peach slices from 1 peach (approximately)
6 ice cubes
- Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. For extra flair, garnish with a little lime zest.