Saturday, August 21, 2010

Peachy Keen

Ah, I had such plans for my five weeks off this summer!  I would cook! I would write!  Instead, I got sucked into some sort of hazy summer wormhole.  It grabbed hold as soon as I could relax and spit me out about three weeks later, dizzy and confused, feeling like I’d been abducted by aliens and had my memory wiped clean.  I re-emerged just in time to plan a solo road trip in which I spent a week eating and drinking my way up and around California.  A few more days of relaxing at home and it was back to work to begin the cycle of a new school year. 
I went into my time off with a list of recipes I wanted to share, and things I wanted to write about in here.  But things don’t always work out the way you plan.  Well, things rarely do, it seems.  And I’m learning to roll with what is, rather than clinging to what I want things to be.  So, I didn’t write.  And yet, there are things that must be shared before it’s too late.  Like this peach salad, for example.  I’ve labored over the clever angles I could take in sharing this with you.  But nothing’s coming, summer’s winding down, and the peaches will be gone before we know it.  So, I'll share it anyway, clever angle, or no. 

It was a gypsy musician I dated four summers ago who introduced me to this simple dish. When I met him in August '06, I was reeling from an awfully significant breakup, and had all the complicated issues to go with it.  As often happens when we rebound quickly, he became the catalyst of mind-blowing growth in my life, and as a result, I was able to give myself a good honest look in the proverbial mirror.  I would not be the stellar person I am today if it weren't for that time, so I am deeply grateful to him for that.  (He did have to put up with a little bit of crazy along the way.)  But seriously, I’m not sure which deserves more thanks: the personal growth he influenced, or the stunning peach salad he shared with me. 

I was actually skeptical when he suggested making it.  I wasn’t a big fan of peaches growing up.  The ones I’d had were shallow in flavor, minimally sweet, and then there was that fuzz…way too much fuzz.  But I can honestly say, this salad has changed my life, and clearly for the better.  I now wait anxiously for the first show of peaches at the farmer’s market, and on a good year, I can enjoy them from March to October.  One vendor in particular has the most amazing varieties, some soft, others crunchy, but all profoundly deep in flavor with just the right amount of sweet.  And I don’t know if peaches aren’t as fuzzy as they once were, but I have yet to run across any whose fuzz gets in the way of this salad.  

This is my favorite dish to throw together on the fly for friends on lingering summer afternoons, or late at night after a few drinks out.  It takes all of five minutes to assemble, and that includes walking out to the garden to pick the basil. It’s so painlessly simple, yet it’s as satisfying as the most complex of dishes.  People love to have their minds blown by unexpected food combinations, and this little salad really does the trick.  People’s brows furrow when they see it, and their eyes light up, as they process the obviously perfect combination of these ingredients they’d never thought to unite.

So, in conclusion, here's my advice.  Get yourself to the next farmer’s market, find the best peaches you can, and make this salad.  Eat it straight from the bowl.  Or make it pretty on a platter and share it with friends.  Or eat it straight from the bowl with friends.  Enjoy it with a glass of a crisp white wine, a flute of something sparkling, or some ice cold water with lime.  Really, you don’t need to fuss, because it’ll blow your mind, just because it’s so easy, and so pretty, and so darn good. 


Don’t skimp on the ingredients in this dish.  It’s so simple that every part plays a starring role, making or breaking the overall experience.

3-4 peaches
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese 
1/4-1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Good olive oil (I use Columela)
Coarse sea salt (such as Maldon)
Freshly ground pepper

Cut the peaches and mozzarella however you’d like.  Sometimes I chop everything into large chunks and toss them in a bowl, other times I slice them pretty and lay them on a platter.  Whatever you decide, first, toss the peaches and the cheese with the hand-torn basil, and a glug or two of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Couldn't be simpler.  

1 comment:

  1. And this is now MY favorite summer salad. I didn't even know about Billy! Thanks for sharing this with us Jen!