If strawberries are France, peaches are Texas. That’s what summer tastes like to me.
There is no comparison, really. Texas doesn’t have a strawberry that even comes close to the numerous varieties available in France from, say, end of May until late August. The oblong Gariguettes and the super-sweet Mara des Bois are the stars; there are many other varieties, too, such as Charlotte and Cléry, whose names aren’t as well known. I eat them until I cannot eat them anymore, which is usually about the time the season’s over.
When I’m in Texas, I’m like this with peaches, though the season isn’t as long. They’re available in June, but I like July peaches the best. Biting into the first sweet, juicy peach of the season is when you know summer’s really here.
Besides cobblers, pies and ice cream — not that I have a problem with any of those — there are so many other things to do with peaches. At the height of the season, Texas peaches are as sweet as French strawberries, and I like to think about ways to strike a balance in whatever it is I’m making so the dish doesn’t tip too far into sugar land.
I learned to sprinkle cracked pepper on fresh strawberries the first year I lived in Paris, because something needed to counter all of that sugar. Turns out black pepper’s heat is a natural foil.
I think peaches’ sweetness needs a little heat, too. There doesn’t need to be a lot of it, but even a little (as with the candied ginger in the crust for the cobbler recipe), can offset the sweetness in an unexpected way and add a welcome complexity. Ditto with the fiery Fresno chiles in the salad recipe and the smoky, subtle heat of the poblanos in the quesadillas.
Not that it’s not already hot enough in Texas, but when the heat is on, I like to add just a little bit more. Then cool off with sangria. Peachy.
Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef and author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25). www.cowgirlchef.com; @cowgirlchef.
32nd annual Parker County Peach Festival
- 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
- More than 200 booths with food and arts and crafts, along with live music, children’s activities and fresh peaches for purchase from local farmers.
- $5; free for children 12 and younger.
Peach cobbler with pistachio sablé crust
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 1/2 cup pistachios, finely ground, plus 2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped (divided use)
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 extra-large egg yolk
- 6 cups (2 to 3 pounds) peaches, peeled and pitted
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1. Make the crust. In a smallish bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients. Set aside.
2. In a mixer, beat the butter until it’s light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and mix well. Add the flour mixture, combine, then add the egg yolk and mix until the dough comes together and looks uniform. Press into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, or until firm. (Tip: Do this in advance and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to roll it out.)
3. Slice the peaches. Put them in a large bowl and toss with the brown sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Let this rest in the bowl while the dough’s chilling.
4. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
5. Roll out the dough to fit the top of a 7-inch-by-11-inch baking dish (or anything you’ve got that’s a similar size). Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of pistachios on top of this and give it one more roll over to embed the larger, crunchy pistachios into the dough.
6. Pour the peach mixture into the baking dish and top with the dough. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is slightly browned. Let cool. Serve solo, or with ice cream riding shotgun.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 452 calories, 23 grams fat, 58 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 77 milligrams cholesterol, 252 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 45 percent of calories from fat.
Makes 2 servings
- 2 large white onions, sliced
- 4 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 large avocado, seed and skin removed
- 2 large peaches, pitted
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 flour tortillas
- 1 cup grated Comté cheese (you can also use Gruyere or Swiss)
- Chopped cilantro, for serving
- Lime wedges, for serving
1. Caramelize the onions. Put the onion slices, along with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low to low heat. Cook slowly, stirring every so often, for about 45 minutes, allowing the onions to gradually brown. Add 2 more tablespoons oil as they cook down, and add salt and pepper as you go. (This will make more onions than you’ll need for this recipe. Save the extra for later use.)
2. Roast the poblano pepper. If you have a gas stovetop, put the poblano on the grill, and let the flame burn the skin, turning with tongs so you roast all sides. If you don’t have a gas stovetop, this will also work under the broiler. After all sides are equally charred, put the pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to cool. Then, scrape off the charred bits, slice the pepper open, and remove the seeds. Once cool, slice into matchsticks and chop into 1/4-inch pieces.
3. Slice the avocado into fourths. Do the same with the peaches. I leave the skin on the peaches so they’re easier to manage.
4. Get out a grill pan and with a paper towel, spread around 1 tablespoon of olive oil. (You’ll only need the extra tablespoon of oil if you need to do this in batches.) Turn the heat to medium-high. When it’s hot, add the peaches and avocados, largest side down first. Once you have a good sear with grill marks, gently turn to the other side. Let this sear, too. Remove the peaches and avocados and let them cool on a plate.
5. Chop the avocado pieces into 1-inch cubes. Slice the peaches in half or thirds, depending on how large the peaches are.
6. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter per quesadilla over medium-high heat.
7. While the butter is melting, assemble the quesadillas so they’ll be ready to cook when the skillet’s hot. On each of two plates, put 1 flour tortilla and add: 1/4 of the cheese, 6 or 7 peach slices, 1 tablespoon caramelized onion, 1 tablespoon roasted poblano and 1/4 of the cheese. Top with the other flour tortilla and give it a gentle smash.
8. When the butter has started to brown, add the quesadilla to the skillet. Let it cook until the bottom browns, about 2 minutes or so. Carefully flip it over to the other side, and cook until it’s brown, too. Remove, put on a plate, slice into quarters and serve with chopped avocado on top, some chopped cilantro and lime wedges. Repeat with the other quesadilla. Serve right away.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 1,289 calories, 81 grams fat, 113 grams carbohydrates, 33 grams protein, 83 milligrams cholesterol, 968 milligrams sodium, 11 grams dietary fiber, 56 percent of calories from fat.
Peach, melon and cucumber salad
Makes 4 servings
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- Juice of 1 lime
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 small handful cilantro
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
- 2 cups diced peaches (see note)
- 2 cups peeled, seeded and diced English cucumber
- 2 cups diced cantaloupe
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped red chile (I used Fresno)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, cilantro, soy sauce or tamari and oil.
2. Put the peaches, cucumber, cantaloupe, half of the mint and the chile in a large bowl. Add as much of the vinaigrette as you like, toss, and taste for seasonings. Add the rest of the chopped cilantro on top. Serve.
Note: I like a hearty 1-inch dice for everything here. That way, even though the ingredients are different, they’re the same shape.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 97 calories, 1 gram fat, 19 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, no cholesterol, 110 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 6 percent of calories from fat.
Peach and strawberry sangria
Makes 6 to 8 servings
The origin of this recipe comes from Bottino’s restaurant in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood; I tweaked it a bit and made it my own.
- 2 cups diced seasonal fruit, such as strawberries or peaches
- 1/2 orange, sliced into thin wedges
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup medium fruity red wine (I used a pinot noir)
- 1 750-milliliter bottle full-bodied white, such as chardonnay (not dry)
1. In a large bowl, mix the fruit with lemon zest, sugar and red wine and allow to macerate for 1 hour.
2. Add the white wine. Stir. Serve with plenty of ice.
Note: This is a great drink for a party. It doubles, triples — even quadruples — very easily.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 177 calories, trace fat, 18 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 32 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 2 percent of calories from fat.