For those of us crazy enough to spend the summer in North Texas, there is a reward. Sugary, juicy, and as messy as they are delicious, there’s nothing I look forward to more than Texas peaches when the thermometer moves into the triple digits. This month, the freestone varieties are finally available, so they’re even easier to eat.
Several years ago, my mom started making peach cobbler for my end of July birthday instead of chocolate cake. More like a pie, with a crust on the bottom and the top, it’s not like any other cobbler I’ve had before, but Mom insists that it’s a cobbler. I’m not about to argue with her. I’ve tried several times to replicate her recipe, but it never turns out like hers. Instead I make other things with peaches and leave the cobblers up to her.
I bake crumbles, like the one below, made with Texas blueberries and a hint of cardamom and thyme from my garden. I like to add herbs to desserts if it makes sense. Peaches welcome all sorts, including rosemary, which I use in the peach-rosemary granita and whipped cream, and basil in the peach and tomato panzanella, below. Peaches’ sweetness benefits from the herby notes; they accentuate rather than overwhelm.
All of these recipes are easy and take less than a half-hour to put together, plus some waiting time – baking the crumbles, and waiting for the granita to freeze – no big deal. The hardest part about making anything with peaches is waiting for them to fully ripen after you buy them and take them home. Right now, I have two paper sacks filled with peaches stashed away in a dark kitchen cabinet, trying to hurry the process along. I pull them out and peek into the bag several times a day, the equivalent of opening an oven door. Come on, peaches, hurry up. I’ve been waiting for you all year.
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Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef and author of COWGIRL CHEF: Texas Cooking with a French Accent (Running Press). Read her blog (www.cowgirlchef.com), and follow her on Twitter (@cowgirlchef) and Instagram (cowgirlchef)
Brown butter peach and blueberry crumble with cardamom and thyme
½ pound peaches, peeled and sliced
½ pound blueberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup sugar
½ lemon, juiced
pinch sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves plus more for serving
½ cup/1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
½ cup toasted almond slices, plus more for the top
vanilla ice cream for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put 6 (4-ounce) ramekins on a baking sheet.
Toss the peaches and blueberries with the cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, salt and thyme leaves. Let this rest while you make the crumble topping.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat until it gets brown. It’ll take about 15 minutes. Pour this into a bowl with the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, sea salt, cardamom, and almond slices and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Spoon the fruit mixture into your ramekins and top with the crumble mixture. Add a few extra almond slices on top if you’d like. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream.
Peach + Rosemary Granita with Whipped Cream
1 cup sugar
3 (4-inch long) branches fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
2 pounds rip peaches
1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Put 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat along with 1 cup of water and the rosemary branches. Once the sugar melts, turn off the heat and let the rosemary steep for an hour.
Meanwhile, peel the peaches and remove the pits. Slice into quarters and put into the blender. Add as much of the rosemary simple syrup as necessary for a sweet mixture — err on the sweet side because freezing diminishes some of the sweetness. Pour into a shallow glass dish and place in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so, scrape back the edges — they’ll freeze first — into the center and continue to do this until it’s frozen and firm, just past the point of a super-thick Slushie.
Make the whipped cream. Pour the whipping cream into a bowl fitted with a whisk, and add the sugar and vanilla. Turn to medium, then medium-high, and then finally, high, until you have soft peaks.
To serve, spoon a layer of peach-rosemary mixture into a glass, top with whipped cream, and garnish with fresh rosemary.
Peach and Tomato Bread Salad
4 thick slices country bread (to yield 2 cups croutons)
2 pounds peaches
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes (all colors)
sea salt and pepper
2 to 3 heaping tablespoons homemade or store bought pesto
basil leaves for serving
Parmesan for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the bread into large croutons, about 1-inch square. Toss these onto a small baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until crispy.
Peel the peaches and remove the pits. Slice them into wedges, then into pieces about the same size of the croutons.
Slice the tomatoes the same way.
Put the bread, peaches, and tomatoes into a bowl, add sea salt and pepper to taste, pesto, and toss. Serve with fresh basil leaves and Parmesan.