Tag Archives: Peaches

On the Table: Farm Stands of Northern Chester & Montgomery Counties, PA

At dinner’s end, with guests gone and a tired me sitting on the couch, Christina nicely extolled a wonderful dinner. While I appreciated her compliments, I expressed that this dinner was not a culinary triumph that required any great skill. I asserted, as I often do, that preparing a nice meal is more a matter of aspiration and planning than it is any great skill. You could have prepared this dinner.

Here is the slightly ridiculous haul from my drive through Northern Chester & Montgomery Counties. My farm stand shopping is a matter of faith. I have faith that when I get home I will find good uses for all that I have purchased over the week.

Here was my mostly Northern Chester & Montgomery County Menu:

Hors d’oeuvres
Roast marinated sweet & hot peppers with grilled bread
Deviled eggs
Soppressetta from DiBruno’s
Cerviche of diver scallops with coriander

Dinner
Cold Beet Soup with Cucumbers, Sour Cream & Dill

Tomato & Red Leaf Lettuce Salad

Grilled Shiso-marinated Swordfish
Creamy Corn Salad
Grilled Wax Beans

Cherry Grove Farm Toma Primavera

Peach Sorbet with Blackberries & Doughnut Peaches

Dinner began at 7 PM with the Blanc de Blanc Champagne from J.Maki’s Chester County winery. Everyone agreed it was excellent by any standard — not just excellent for being a local champagne.

Light hors d’oeuvres included roast, marinated sweet and hot pepper, deviled eggs and a DiBruno’s house-made soppressetta. The deviled eggs includes mayonnaise, mustard, a tiny dice or cornichon, fresh chives and topped with sweet smoked Spanish paprika. Frankly, the roasted peppers were a pain to peel — but they were possibly the unexpected hit of the evening. I bought them at a stand in a residential street from a “backyard” farmer whose mode of transport was a golf cart rather than a tractor. The peppers were arrayed in little plastic baskets like we use to serve burgers at Frog Burger — $1 a basket, one red sweet and one hot green. But they were very thin-skinned peppers that were difficult to peel after I charred them in the broiler. I cut them into short, thin strips and tossed them in olive oil and garlic. They were served with grilled bread — something a bit different from fully crisp crostini. I plan to post a “How to Make Grilled Bread” Tip in the next week or so. DiBruno’s house-made dried sausages are a go-to easy hors d’oeuvres addition.

Another very easy hors d’oeuvres are sliced diver scallops — also know as dry scallops because they are not packed in that awful white liquid that lesser quality scallops can be packed. They are simply thin-sliced and “dressed” about a half hour before guests arrive with lime juice, olive oil, chives and crushed toasted coriander seed — plus a little sea salt and pepper. There is a similar recipe on page 149 of At Home using pink peppercorns.

Unlike recent weeks when dinner was served family style on the table — that is, on platters where guests helped themselves, this menu was a plated dinner.

This cold beet soup is the third cold soup I have done this month. As frequently noted, I am a fan of soups as meal starters. They are easy, do ahead and lend themselves to dressing up. Here, the soup is dressed up with a small dice of cucumber, a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill. To make the soup, I just peeled the beets, cut into similar-sized chunks, cooked in a corn stock with onion and garlic, pureed in a blender and flavored with red wine vinegar. Look for the recipe tomorrow.

The cold soup co-opted the first course that would likely included tomatoes so I added a small tomato salad to the menu. I picked up some beautiful red accented lettuce from the Z Farm stand on Rittenhouse Square in the morning. The tomatoes and sweet onion came from my trip as did the basil. So, this is just the lettuce, two slices of tomato, topped with small yellow pear and orange tomatoes — cut into half as even the smallest tomatoes should be — dressed with a little balsamic, very good olive oil, Maldon sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and topped with a basil chiffonade. Everything was ready to go to be plated well before guests arrived.

I had grilled fresh swordfish earlier in the week for Christina and she lobbied to have it again for our guests. Given my failure to locate duck or lamb or pork on my drive, I went for the swordfish. It was marinated in a little garlic, shredded shiso — a minty, grassy herb that I got from Z Farm and olive oil. It was grilled in my grill pan — good as any you would get off a backyard grill. Served with a properly trimmed lemon wedge. There is a similar recipe on page 198 in At Home. I decided to grill the yellow wax beans. Just lightly tossed in olive oil and grill. Here a grill pan is much better than an open grill as there is no place for the beans to fall. The grilling adds a dimension to the otherwise very simple beans. See At Home page 307 for Grilled Green Beans. And what’s the purpose of a summer’s dinner but for an excuse to eat corn. Here it’s shaved with just a little sweet red pepper for color and purple scallion. What was unusual about this corn salad is that I had some leftover home-made mayonnaise from the deviled eggs and felt that the plate could use something creamy so I dressed the corn salad in the mayonnaise. It was sweet and creamy with a little bite from the scallion. One does not frequently see a corn salad with a creamy dressing.

We served the J.Maki Viognier with dinner. Like the champagne, it was also excellent. If you are not familiar with Viognier’s — a varietal grape that typically not bone dry and with tropical fruit overtones. At Home owners check-out the wine chart on page 32.

Rather than a full blown and filling cheese course added to an already ample meal, I served just a little bit of a Toma Primavera from Lawrenceville, NJ’s Cherry Grove Farm. I would put this cheese up there with the world’s best cheeses. It is available at the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market. It’s served with a little grilled bread.

Weaver’s peaches were ripe, sweet, spectacular and easy to handle freestones. I made a peach sorbet by simply pureeing a mix or yellow and white peaches — skin and all – them passing the puree through a strainer to remove the larger pieces of skin — adding a ginger-scented simple syrup and then freezing in my ice cream freezer. It is important to “temper” sorbet or ice cream before serving. That means removing it from the freezer so it has a chance to soften somewhat. The peach sorbet was served with a grilled half of a yellow doughnut peach. I used an apple corer to get the pit out while accenting the “doughnut.” These were brushed with honey from Jack’s Farm Stand of two weeks ago and olive oil and grilled. Blackberries provided a color and slightly sour counterpoint.

Prep and Service Strategy
I always counsel that the ideal is to begin planning a weekend dinner at least the weekend before and spread your tasks over time. My current schedule isn’t allowing me to do this, but here’s how I would approach this meal if I were you. The sorbet and roast marinated peppers the weekend before. (Be careful not to eat those wonderful peppers during the week!)  The cold beet soup early in the week. You can also make deviled eggs mid-week though I would not stuff them until Friday or Saturday. Shop on Thursday for everything else except the swordfish and scallops. On Friday, grill bread and store in air-tight bag, dice cucumbers and chop dill for soup, slice onions for tomato salad, rinse lettuce and store in damp towel, blanch yellow beans, make corn salad, chop garlic for swordfish marinade, make lemon wedges and remove pits from doughnut peaches. Friday also set the table and chill wine.

That leaves for Saturday during the day, slice scallops, marinate swordfish, grill yellow beans, slice small tomatoes and make basil chiffonade. Grill doughnut peaches. Place hors d’oeuvres on platters or bowls. Make sure you give yourself one relaxed hour before guests arrive. If you follow this schedule that will be easy.

To turn-out dinner: dress scallops, bowl and garnish soup, arrange and dress tomato salad, grill swordfish and plate entree, cut cheese and plate with grilled bread, plate sorbet with doughnut peach and peach sorbet.

I am not suggesting this is no effort. Nor am I suggesting you try to repeat this exact meal — though I believe you could. What I am suggesting is that by planning ahead and spreading out your tasks, this can all be fun and not a chore — including the shopping.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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On the Table: Fragrant Peach Butter Recipe

This recipe is the result of On the Road: The Farm Stands of Salem, N.J.

Fragrant Peach Butter
This All-American favorite is given a mildly exotic flavor with the addition of lemongrass, ginger and star anise. Feel free to skip these additions and make plain peach butter. It’s simple to make. The key is ripe peaches. If your peaches are not ripe, place them in a brown paper bag and leave out on your counter until ripe — usually no more than a day or two. In this recipe a syrup is infused with aromatics and the solids strained out. This syrup is combined with fruit.  Use peach butter on toast or a scone, mix into fresh ricotta or use it as a glaze on grilled chicken breasts – brushing the breasts just before removing from grill.

Do ahead Peach butter may be stored in refrigerator for four weeks.

3 pounds ripe peaches, flesh cut from pits
1/3 cup tender lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, thin sliced and bruised
1 ounce ginger cut into thin slices
4 star anise pods
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water

1. Combine sugar, water, lemongrass, ginger and star anise in small pot, bring to simmer and simmer slowly for 30 minutes. While doing this, make sure you do not boil away liquid. Off heat and strain out solids, reserving liquid. Measure liquid and add water to bring to 1 cup if it is less than I cup. If you have more than 1 cup, don’ t worry about it. It will cook away in Step 2.
2. In a heavy bottom pot large enough to hold peaches, combine peaches and liquid. Cover and bring to simmer for about 10 minutes to soften peaches and render liquid. Remove cover and continue cooking over moderate heat to thicken. As mixture thickens and peaches begin to disintegrate, reduce heat and stir to make sure peaches do not stick to bottom. When mixture is very thick, remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Transfer to work bowl of food processor and pulse until smooth. If butter seems too thin, you can return it to your pot to continue cooking, but be very careful not to scorch bottom. Place in storage container and refrigerate.

Yield 2 1/2 cups

Note: A fruit butter is a smooth, very thick puree – usually sweetened with sugar. This same process can be used to make other fruit butters.

Fragrant peach butter uses ripe Jersey peaches, lemongrass, ginger, sugar and water.

Early Jersey peaches are “cling,” meaning that the peach flesh clings to the pit. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the flesh away. Some flesh will be left on the pit.

Cutting up peaches into smaller pieces enables them to cook more quickly and evenly.

Trim away the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass stalks and then cut thin slices.

Bruising lemongrass with a meat pounder enables the lemongrass to more readily give up its flavor. You could use the bottom of a heavy pot or even a hammer.

After lemongrass, ginger and star anise are cooked in syrup to release their flavors, the solids are strained from syrup and discarded.

Transfer peaches and infused syrup into a thick-bottomed pot.

Cover and cook over moderate-high heat for about 10 minutes until peaches render their liquid.

It will now be more “watery” than before peaches rendered liquid. This hastens the process of removing liquid, leaving you with a thick fruit butter.

While there is still lots of liquid, you can cook over moderate heat to begin process of boiling away liquid. Take care to occasionally stir to prevent peaches from sticking to bottom and scorching.

As it thickens, reduce heat and stir more frequently.

As the peaches cook, your butter will require more attention and frequent stirring. You will have a sense that it is thick enough when you run a rubber spatula across the bottom and a bare strip of pot remains visible for a moment before filling back in. My peach butter took about an hour to cook down, but cooking times will vary based on the size of your pot — a wider pot will enable quicker evaporation of liquid — and your cooking temperature. If after you process your butter in a food processor it still seems to thin, you can return to pot to thicken it further.

Here’s the finished Fragrant Peach Butter.

Additional Peach Recipes from At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining
Crispy Peach Crumble P.404
Champagne with Peach Nectar P.34
Peach Shortcake P.447
Wine-Poached Peach Sorbet P.419

See the At Home blog for this recipe and more than eighty recipes published on the blog.

Next week: On the Road: The Trenton Farmers Market and the Farm Stands of Mercer County, N.J.

This Saturday’s Chestnut Hill Book Festival
This Saturday, July 10th at 2 PM I will be at Laurel Hill Gardens as part of the Second Annual Chestnut Hill Book Festival. I will discuss the At Home Project and its mission to increase home entertaining. My focus will be working with fresh herbs and will include an “herb tasting,” talk about planting a backyard herb garden, working with fresh herbs as well as a recipe demonstration of fresh salsa, chermoula — a sort of Egyptian “pesto” we are currently featuring at Cleo’s Portico at The Franklin Institute and a simple herb marinade for grilling. Lots of things to taste. Of course, I will be happy to sell and sign books. Please help spread the word. Hope to see you there.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Fragrant Peach Butter Recipe

This All-American favorite is given a mildly exotic flavor with the addition of lemongrass, ginger and star anise. Feel free to skip these additions and make plain peach butter. It’s simple to make. The key is ripe peaches. If your peaches are not ripe, place them in a brown paper bag and leave out on your counter until ripe — usually no more than a day or two. In this recipe a syrup is infused with aromatics and the solids strained out. This syrup is combined with fruit.  Use peach butter on toast or a scone, mix into fresh ricotta or use it as a glaze on grilled chicken breasts – brushing the breasts just before removing from grill.

Do ahead Peach butter may be stored in refrigerator for four weeks.

3 pounds ripe peaches, flesh cut from pits
1/3 cup tender lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, thin sliced and bruised
1 ounce ginger cut into thin slices
4 star anise pods
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water

1. Combine sugar, water, lemongrass, ginger and star anise in small pot, bring to simmer and simmer slowly for 30 minutes. While doing this, make sure you do not boil away liquid. Off heat and strain out solids, reserving liquid. Measure liquid and add water to bring to 1 cup if it is less than I cup. If you have more than 1 cup, don’ t worry about it. It will cook away in Step 2.
2. In a heavy bottom pot large enough to hold peaches, combine peaches and liquid. Cover and bring to simmer for about 10 minutes to soften peaches and render liquid. Remove cover and continue cooking over moderate heat to thicken. As mixture thickens and peaches begin to disintegrate, reduce heat and stir to make sure peaches do not stick to bottom. When mixture is very thick, remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Transfer to work bowl of food processor and pulse until smooth. If butter seems too thin, you can return it to your pot to continue cooking, but be very careful not to scorch bottom. Place in storage container and refrigerate.

Yield 2 1/2 cups

Note: A fruit butter is a smooth, very thick puree – usually sweetened with sugar. This same process can be used to make other fruit butters.

Fragrant peach butter uses ripe Jersey peaches, lemongrass, ginger, sugar and water.

Early Jersey peaches are “cling,” meaning that the peach flesh clings to the pit. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the flesh away. Some flesh will be left on the pit.

Cutting up peaches into smaller pieces enables them to cook more quickly and evenly.

Trim away the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass stalks and then cut thin slices.

Bruising lemongrass with a meat pounder enables the lemongrass to more readily give up its flavor. You could use the bottom of a heavy pot or even a hammer.

After lemongrass, ginger and star anise are cooked in syrup to release their flavors, the solids are strained from syrup and discarded.

Transfer peaches and infused syrup into a thick-bottomed pot.

Cover and cook over moderate-high heat for about 10 minutes until peaches render their liquid.

It will now be more “watery” than before peaches rendered liquid. This hastens the process of removing liquid, leaving you with a thick fruit butter.

While there is still lots of liquid, you can cook over moderate heat to begin process of boiling away liquid. Take care to occasionally stir to prevent peaches from sticking to bottom and scorching.

As it thickens, reduce heat and stir more frequently.

As the peaches cook, your butter will require more attention and frequent stirring. You will have a sense that it is thick enough when you run a rubber spatula across the bottom and a bare strip of pot remains visible for a moment before filling back in. My peach butter took about an hour to cook down, but cooking times will vary based on the size of your pot — a wider pot will enable quicker evaporation of liquid — and your cooking temperature. If after you process your butter in a food processor it still seems to thin, you can return to pot to thicken it further.

Here’s the finished Fragrant Peach Butter.

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