Saturday, August 29, 2009

Enjoy Glorious Peaches—available now!

Make no mistake, that cute little chin-soaker of a peach eying you from her basket at the fruit stand is not just another pretty face! Packed with Vitamins A, C and E, full of fibre and only 40 calories, the Romans’ “Persian Apple”, has served the world as a fast-food, backpack snack for over 3,000 years. Ms. Peach first appeared in ancient China where she became a symbol of fertility and affection by overcoming all odds and growing with gusto in eroded and overgrazed land. Next she peeled over to Russia and Persia (Iran) about 1,000 years later where, in the true spirit of viral marketing, she cropped up on popular Asian trade routes after Chinese traders discarded their leftover peach stones along the way.

My guess is, if Miss Peachy could speak she would have a few juicy secrets to tell about some powerful men in history who surrendered to her charms. Now Miss P, did Alexander the Great die of “the drink” or something more sinister? But before the Big Guy’s demise around 323 BC he debuted her to Greece where she basked and flourished in the warm Mediterranean sun. For centuries afterward, she carried on globetrotting across Europe, hob-knobbing with the palates of royalty at every pit stop, stemming a sea of admirers in every port. Louis XIV became so addicted to her, he seeded a pension for his sole French peach supplier to ensure he’d never do without! Throughout France she became a symbol of womanly beauty with names like Belle de Vitry and Téton de Vénus. Go ahead, quench your curiosity and check your French-English dictionary for the intimate details! Ontario peach varieties still bear enticing, feminine monikers like Harrow Diamond, Garnet Beauty and Early Redhaven. By the 1500’s, Spanish explorers cultivated a huge fan club for this little gemstone, among North America’s native people. Her popularity spread across the US and into Canada as more European settlers arrived and planted orchards.

Today, the peach grows in over 60 countries. Synonymous with rare beauty, luck and abundance, T.S. Eliot asked, “Do I dare eat a peach?” and Steve Miller sang, “I really love your peaches, wanna shake you tree!” No need to submit to a dare or to a shakedown. There are plenty of peaches on fruit stands now—ready for your enjoyment!

Try these simple peach recipes to complement your next meal.

Elegant Peach Appetizers

3 large freestone peaches

12 slices proscuitto, turkey or chicken breast

¼ lb Cambozola (or your favourite strong-smelling cheese)

25 large mint leaves

lime or lemon juice

Leave peaches in skins, slice in half and remove stones. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Cut meat slices in half lengthwise. Leave rind on cheese and slice into 24 pieces, 1” long and ¼” thick. Press cheese into peach wedge, cover with mint leaf, wrap meat slice around the centre of the stack with a bit of the mint leaf and cheese poking out the side. Arrange on a platter and squeeze a little lime or lemon juice over top. Serve right away. Makes 24.

Chic and simple Poached Peaches in a Raspberry Sauce

4 ripe, firm peaches

¼ cup Cointreau, Amaretto or orange juice

¼ cup white sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 cup raspberries or blueberries

1 tbsp lemon juice

Biscotti biscuits (optional)

Halve peaches, remove pits. Place cut side up in a shallow 10” microwaveable dish. Pour liqueur over peaches. Cover and microwave on High for 4-6 min or until peaches are tender. Cool for 15 min. In a 4-cup glass measuring cup or bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Pour liquid from peaches into cornstarch mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in raspberries. Microwave uncovered on High for 2-4 min (stir twice partway through cooking.) or until mixture boils and thickens. Stir in lemon juice. Serve two peaches in each serving dish and spoon sauce over top. Place a ginger or other biscotti biscuit on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Peach Blueberry Crisp (adapted from "Smart Cooking" by Anne Lindsay)

Tip: to peel peaches...first make sure they are ripe and just a little soft! Place them in a large bowl and cover them with boiling hot water. Let soak for 5-7 minutes. Drain. Run under cold water. With a sharp knife, gently coax the peel from the peach flesh. The peel should come off easily. Word to the wise: Mind your knife and your fingers during this part, peaches can be slippery little devils when wet!

6 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches

2 cups blueberries

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tsp cinnamon


1 cup quick-rolled oats

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tbsp butter (room temperature)

In a large 8-cup baking dish combine peaches and blueberries. In a small bowl combine sugar, flour and cinnamon; add to fruit and toss to mix. Combine rolled oats, sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over top of fruit mixture. Bake in 350 F oven for 25 minutes until mixture is bubbling and fruit is barely tender. Topping should be lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.