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Posts Tagged ‘peaches’

 

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One of my college roommates is an army wife, the kind whose husband gets stationed in Iraq for over a year, leaving the onus of running the house, the three children and the three pets in it (and oh, yes, herself) pretty much on her shoulders. But this heroine still insisted on making her daughter a birthday cake, and used her favorite family recipe.

Her great-great grandmother’s recipe, to be exact. (I did the math.* This cake goes back to a time when anything but a tricorn hat was death on the red carpet). It’s easy to make. And the result is a tender, powerfully vanilla-y cake with a crumb that manages to be hearty and delicate at the same time.

There it is above with some of the mulberries from the tree outside my balcony. But this cake is versatile!

-It can be split, filled, and frosted with butter cream for a birthday.

-It can be topped with ice cream and hot fudge, or powdered sugar or creme fraiche.

-Or it can be sliced warm, unceremoniously plopped into the bottom of a bowl, and topped with yogurt or creme anglaise along with any manner of fruit. Here we are the top of August: choose something that’s ripe and ready now. Peaches. Plums. Blackberries. Raspberries. Blueberries. The cake will slurp up any sweet liquid and make it luscious.

1 1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

2 c all-purpose flour

1 c milk

1 tbsp. baking powder

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

A pinch salt (my addition)

Set oven to 375. Grease two 8″ cake pans. (Use springforms if you have them, or shanghai them from a friend; they have removable bottoms and make it easier to take the cakes out.)

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. In a smaller bowl, combine flour with baking powder. Add to butter mixture, alternating with milk. Add extract and mix until combined. Bake for 25 minutes until golden and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Enjoy…and thanks, Beth 🙂

*I’m crap at it, but I did it.

 

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Carrots with the dirt still clinging. I hacked off the tops and fed them to Esmerelda Goat at Silverton Farms. She quite enjoyed them.

Dear Organizers,

Okay, yesterday clinched it.

Compliments first—and soak ’em in, because once I’m done all bets are off.

You know I’m a big fan. I’ve sung arias to farmers and their markets time and again. (Even more than that.)

Here’s what you get right:

1) You created the market in the first place, reviving a homespun way to buy food.

2) People get to meet, kibbutz, share recipes, and have a groovy old time.

3) We get the opportunity to buy food straight from the dirt. And sometimes it still has dirt, or feathers, or errant sticks in with it. This is a plus, I’m telling you. I like finding inchworms. It’s nearing high summer in New Jersey. I’m wildly digging the butterstick squash, the beans, the little potatoes, the sweet bells, and the countless other treasures borne of our happy little Zone 7’s earth and rain and sky.

Okay, put away the Kleenex and turn off the Luther Vandross*. All set? So glad. We’re going to hear a lot more on that last note:

What the…? Mangoes? On a New Jersey farmers’ market table? Jesus H. Sebastian God. I saw a dozen of these yesterday, and it wasn’t the first time. Lemons and limes. Bananas. Blueberries from Canada, when they’re in season right here, right now. When NJ produces 52 million pounds every season.**

Even more insulting, peaches and plums bought at bloody Pathmark, transferred to an aw-shucks-ain’t-that-homey-hope-they-don’t-notice-they’re-from-Bolivia pint box, presented to us with the store stickers still attached, and with the price marked up. To make matters worse (as if you could), most often all of the produce, local or not, is tagged with a ‘Jersey Fresh’ label. That’s stones. Oh, also? That loses you at least one customer, and I can’t imagine I’m alone.

Forget that this mishagoss doesn’t support NJ. Forget that often enough you’re continuing to hoodwink the consumer into thinking produce is in season when it’s not. Even forget the number it’s doing on the environment, bringing in food from thousands of miles away when you can get it right down the road.

Factor in nothing but the incomparable, insane flavor and nutrition that come from collards that were in still in the ground at 7 this morning and still have 4 this-morning’s dew on them. I’ll pay more for them. They’re worth more.

I’m at a farmers market, people. I don’t want some bollocksy greens that were picked a week ago Thursday and have been on vehicles with six different plates from three different countries. If I wanted greens that have more stamps on their passport than Beyonce, I’d go to Pathmark.

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Red plum from a NJ farmer’s tree.

Educate me. Please. I know quite a few farmers. I would never suggest the work a farmer does is easy. I know the powerful resilience it takes to fight the fight every season—against the weather, the bills, the aging machines (especially if he or she is one of them), the land developers whispering sweet nothings through screen doors. Making ends meet and staying optimistic takes a mighty, consistent effort, and they have my respect and gratitude always.

You might be thinking:

1) Some farmers sell non-local produce because they had a bad season.

2) Some only grow two things and want to sell their wares just like everyone else, want to make the trip to the market worth their while.

My rebuttal:

1) This has been a lovely, good-sun and good-rain growing season so far.

2) I see this practice most often among farmers who already have a dozen-plus different homegrown offerings. They set out all of their beautiful produce right next to watermelons from Georgia, picked unripe so they could travel the distance intact, when NJ’s own luscious melons will be in season in only two or so more weeks.

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Purple cabbage in noon-time sunshine.

It’s time—long overdue, to be perfectly honest—to take a page from Greenmarket in NYC. Many years ago when the Market was in its infancy some growers began showing up with bananas. The higher-ups ix-nayed that. Food was to be local, harvested within a certain number of miles, or it wasn’t allowed on the tables.

What’s keeping NJ—or any state or country’s market—from doing the same?

Pull it together,

MCP

*Actually, that you’re welcome to deep-six entirely.

**No, that’s not a typo.

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You know I’m not usually one to make the fancy stuff, but the recipe for the above looked so good that it had to be done. And I just tried a search on Gourmet.com, successor of the late and much lamented magazine, so I could link you to it, but it’s not there.

Crapsky. I hope you like the picture.

Well…it’s choux (the eclair itself), which made my house smell like Christmas because my dad used to make puffs from the same batter every year at the holidays.

I bought the peaches from a local farmer yesterday. They’re peeled and sliced and tossed in a little bit of sugar.

The cream is heavy cream to which I added a little more sugar and a little bit of bourbon and whipped until thick.*

The sauce is completely out of control. It’s homemade caramel to which you add sweet butter and more bourbon. Right now the cold of the fridge has made all of that butter firm up, which is good because I’ve been trying to think of things I could stick in there to sop it up with and I don’t even drink.

Then you stack those puppies up and eat them with a fork. Unless you’re my brother-in-law, in which case you go at them like a meatball parm. Which I wholly respect.

Only one month left of summer…I say let peach juice run down your arms.

*I told my Facebook tribe this morning that I didn’t know until I bought this bottle that liquor can come in plastic bottles as well as glass. Useful when I’m on the lam and don’t want to be weighed down when I’m jumping from boxcar to boxcar. Those boys at Jim Beam are always thinkin.’

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It’s overcast today, at the tail end of a few alternately windy, thundery/lightningy, rainy days, and the greyness covers every inch of my little place here. But inside my fridge is a plateful of fruit that’s the opposite of grey: pink-and-yellow orbs made entirely of sugar, rainwater and sun, held together by dappled translucent skin. Edible summer.

Every August I put on my old boots, head to an orchard twenty minutes away, and collect as many peaches as I can carry. The day I went last week was sunny and still, and the heat made the air feel drowsy. Even the bees buzzing by seemed half-asleep.

A few varieties were ready for picking. I chose Raritan Rose, a succulent white peach, so ripe they were beginning to drop from their branches. It’s also freestone, meaning the pit comes loose from the flesh easily. (Clingstone, on the other hand, does what its name implies.)

Back at home, I brought out a recipe that must be at least eighty years old, and I hope it never gets lost to humankind. It belonged to my ex’s grandmother, who was raised on a Pennsylvania farm in the 1920s and ’30s. A dessert simply called peach cake, it’s actually more of a custard pie with fruit added.

So many of our oldest and most treasured recipes must come from farms. In the days before anyone had ever heard of triglycerides, when exercise equipment was a plow and a team of horses, thrift and flavor were all that mattered. Extra eggs, cream, butter—they were all there for the taking, and take those farm folks did.

I think you’re going to dig this.

Nana’s peach cake calls for melted butter. That’s hard to work into the dough, which is like pie dough, so I use bits of cold butter and work it in with my fingers to disperse it. I see Nana also eventually embraced prepared foods, as so many housewives and mothers in the 1950s did; a farmer’s daughter’s work never ends, and she would have welcomed the chance to cut a corner or two when she could have. The recipe calls for canned peach halves. Of course you can use those, but this time of year, it’s kind of bats to do that. Use fresh local peaches instead. And if you can get them, use fresh local eggs, or cream, or butter, and you’ll get as close to farm fresh as Nana did. Lucky girl.

1/3 c cold unsalted butter

2 c all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c granulated sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 c heavy cream

2 egg yolks

3 peaches, sliced (if organic, leave the skins on)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Work butter into sifted mixture of flour, baking powder, salt and 2 tbsp sugar until mixture looks like coarse meal. (A lot of recipes, old and new, say this. It’s kind of archaic. It means you want to see lumpy itty-bitty bits of butter throughout.) Pat dough into the bottom of an 8×8 inch pan and press up the sides about 1 “. Arrange the peaches on top and sprinkle with remaining sugar mixed with cinnamon. Bake 15 minutes. Pour over all beaten egg yolks and cream (I love that phrase 🙂 Nana spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, and that’s evidence of that German dialect’s nutty syntax.)  Bake 30 minutes longer. Serve room temperature or cold.

 

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