“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
― Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters
And so, dear readers, we have moved again. From Tennessee where so many life events (some good, and some bad,) have come and gone, the winds of change have filled our sails once again and we have embarked on a new journey. This time lady fortune has lured us further Westward to the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just east of The City of Angels. Had you asked me in June, I would never have guessed that we would end up living in Greater Los Angeles. But here we are, with a new home, and new jobs, getting back into the swing of things. Its a new swing but it has a nice groove; and with my penchant for produce, I could certainly do much worse than to end up in LA.
Though we were sad to leave behind our phenomenal CSA program in Tennessee, we are so fortunate to have moved to an area where high-quality farmers markets are abundant. We have tried three of the area’s local markets so far and have been overwhelmingly impressed by the variety of local ingredients and handmade goods. The knowledge and passion of the vendors and artisans gives the market its buzz and verve. Fruit vendors proudly pass out samples of their home grown produce and will gladly spend time with conscious consumers to explain their growing practices. Artisans offer up color on the inspiration for their wares which vary from market to market but include an immense variety of goods from beautiful handmade soaps, to aged balsamic vinegar, to home dried fruits, freshly popped kettle corn, local honey, and a multitude of baked goods. These are the markets I have been longing for – and with the scent of sweet summer fruit in the air and passion emanating from each booth, inspiration abounds.
Now in its 13th year, The South Pasadena Farmers Market has a strong reputation as one of the best in Greater Los Angeles. Situated smack dab in the middle of what is arguably one of the most picture-perfect towns in the local area, the farmers market buzzes with activity every Thursday evening. The sense of community is immensely strong at this evening market. Parents bring their children to participate in sing-a-longs led by a local musician. Food stalls serve up dinner to hungry shoppers who set themselves down at communal picnic tables to enjoy their feast “en plein air.” Produce purveyors banter with their regulars while welcoming newcomers into the fold proffering up wedges of nectarines and samples of fresh pea pods for old and new shoppers alike, whetting their appetite for the weeks peak produce.
It was one such sample of a tangy golden nectarine that seeded the inspiration for this salad. Only a stones throw from Georgia, we were plenty fortunate in Tennessee to be on the receiving end of the region’s well renown peaches. But despite Georgia’s claims of dominance in the production of peaches, I have been overwhelmingly impressed by the variety and quality of stone fruit for sale at the Pasadena Area’s farmers markets. To preserve their delicate flesh from bruising, most peaches, plums, and nectarines are picked, packed, and taken to market just a day or so before they fully ripen. Though I have traditionally found underripe fruits to be unpleasantly tart, or lacking in flavor, some of the semi-firm nectarines offered up for sample struck a cord. Tangy but sweet, firm but not crunchy, the nectarine shows a different color and new versatility when eaten just before it reaches the pinnacle of ripeness. In this salad that sweet yet tart flavor plays well with the zesty chiles, sweet summer corn, and punchy onion; and the fruit brings a citrusy brightness acting as a foil for the earthy rye berries that make up the bulk of this grain-based dish.
The original recipe called for cucumbers but I have adapted it here to include some lovely golden zucchini in its stead. As we typically prepare dishes for Dustin’s packed lunches in advance, I wanted to use a vegetable that would keep well in the salad for a few days and not leach too much water into the dish, hence the swapping in of zucchini for cucumbers. For similar reasons, I would strongly suggest using a golden zucchini over a yellow summer squash. If you cannot find golden zucchini at your local market, feel free to substitute a the traditional green variety that is so insanely abundant during the summer season.
From place to place, vendor to vendor, and varietal to varietal, I find there is so much variance in corn. Some summer corn is so sweet and tender that I will happily eat it “raw,” cut straight from the cob (or perhaps still on it.) If you are lucky enough to happen upon corn that is brilliant in its naked state, simply remove it from the cob and add it to the salad uncooked. At times I find corn to be too starchy to eat without at least some cooking. There are countless ways to cook corn and virtually all will work for this dish. If you happen to be lighting up the grill you can simply wrap the shucked corn in foil and let them steam in the foil for a 10 – 15 minutes, or until the kernels darken ever so slightly in color and become tender allow the corn to cool before severing the kernels from the cob. Another method I like involves removing the kernels from the cob and briefly blanching these in boiling water. Once the water has returned to a boil, leave kernels to bubble away for about two minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon to a prepared ice bath. The ice bath will halt the cooking process and brighten the color of the corn slightly. If using this method, allow the kernels to drain well before adding them to the salad.
Sweet Corn and Sour Nectarine Rye-bouleh (adapted from Kitchen Confidante)
128g (1 C) Cracked Rye
2 Ears of Sweet Corn, Raw, Steamed, or Boiled (See Note on Corn Above)
2 Slightly Firm Nectarines, Pitted and Diced
1/2 C Diced Red Onion
2 Small Golden Zucchini, Diced
1/2 Hatch Chile, Seeds Removed, Finely Sliced
1/2 C Chopped Cilantro
1/4 C Chopped Mint
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon, Strained
1 TBSP Sherry Vinegar
1/2 TSP Agave
1/4 Cup Good Olive Oil
In a medium saucepan (with a lid) bring 3 cups of water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, place the cracked rye in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse the rye in several “changes” of water, as you would rice before cooking. Once the water has boiled add a pinch of salt and the grains. Once the pot has returned to a boil, place the lid on the pot and remove it from the heat. Let it stand for at least 5 minutes before removing the lid and tasting one of the grains. The grains should no longer be crunchy but should still have a somewhat firm texture. If they are not soft enough, return the lid to the pot and let stand several more minutes before testing again. Once the grains are to your liking, drain in a fine mesh colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Give the colander a few shakes to rid it of some of the excess water and leave the grains to drain while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Place corn, nectarines, onion, zucchini, and chiles in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add cilantro, mint, lemon juice, sherry, agave, olive oil, a liberal pinch of salt and several cracks of pepper and toss again. Add the well drained rye berries and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.
I have a real soft spot for road side produce stands. Growing up near Lancaster County PA we were blessed to be around an amazing wealth of amazing farm fresh produce which could almost always be found on road stands that littered the Bucks and Lancaster county areas. I have great memories of stopping at these with my Mom our our frequent Sunday morning outings to Adamstown’s many antique markets. These stands are always piled high with farm ripe, fragrant produce stacked high in wicker baskets. What is amazing about fresh summer produce like farm stand peaches and tomatoes is that they have been allowed to mature on the vine/tree and as such are ripe with juicy lush flavor.
When I drove by one such stand while exploring the many Latino grocers and thrift stores on Nollensville Road here in Nashville the other day, I knew I had to stop. What I found were baskets and baskets of juicy red tomatoes, brialliantly green okra, tightly husked corn, and mounds and mounds of fragrant peaches. I had been wanting to make a home baked fruit pie for months and knew immediately what I wanted buy. I purchased 4 pounds of peaches for an amazing price of 5 dollars gingerly laid them in a box on the floor of the car and drove home as carefully as possible so as not to bruise my delicate passengers. I brought my new fuzzy friends home and let them sit on the counter for an additional day to bring them to the peak of ripeness.
This recipe can essentially be divided into two procedural components. The first is the crust, which can be made a day or two in advance and then stored in the fridge until needed. The crust should be rolled out to form both bottom and top of the pie the day you intend to bake it. Note that the rolled crust will need to cool at least two hours before filling and finally baking.
The pastry itself is extremely versatile, It lends itself quite well to sweet pies and fruit tarts but I have successfully used it in savory applications as well (as I will show here in one of my next few posts!!) Don’t cut corners when making the crust – over working the pastry or not allowing it to chill properly will make the crust tough. I was amazed that the crust did not need to bake before filling but I trusted the original recipe’s advice and filled the unbaked shell and it turned out beautifully crisp both on top and underneath of the peach filling.
The second component is the peach filling which could not be simpler to make. While I am traditionally a bit tuned off by recipes that mention corn starch I feel it worked well here to thicken the pie filling. The pie recipe initially called for only 1/4 cup of reserved juices mixed with 3 TBSP of corn starch, but I increased the amount of juice to 1/2 cup as I traditionally like my pie fillings to be a bit looser and I was pleased with the outcome. If you like your pie filling a bit more viscous feel free to reduce the amount of peach juice to 1/3 or 1/4 cup. While Bon Apetit suggested the extra peach juice should be discarded, I saved mine and added it to unsweetened ice tea to create some absolutely amazing peach iced tea! I bet it would make a great sauce for pork chops, or a brilliant component of a home made BBQ sauce as well!
In my mind nothing goes better with a slice of pie than a big scoop of ice cream, and I have found none better suited for the job than dreamy creamy haagen-daz. I am not sure if it is purely my imagination but their thick and custardy vanilla even seems to melt a bit slower than super market brands which allows the diner additional time to savor the beautiful contrast of crisp, warm, and tangy pie against the cold, smooth, and milky-refreshing ice cream.
Lattice Topped Peach Pie
The crust for this pie comes from a recipe from “Bake!” by Nick Malgieri. It’s is a phenomenal crust recipe and really a no fail pastry provided you follow the directions to a T. The filling is from the August edition of Bon Appetit and was initially written for multiple varieties of stone fruit totaling up to 4lbs of fruit, I opted to use just peaches as I wanted that beautiful peach flavor to dominate the pie but feel free to use multiple types of stone fruit.
For the Crust2 Cups All Purpose Flour 1/2 TSP Salt 1 TSP Baking Powder 12 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter Cold, Cut Into 12 Pieces 2 Lg Eggs
In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and pulse to mix.
Add the butter and pulse in short increments until the butter appears in small pebble sized pieces. Add the eggs and pulse until the dough has almost formed a ball.
Invert the bowl onto a flour dusted work surface and carefully remove the processor blade. Very gently press the dough into a cohesive ball then divide into two smaller discs. Wrap discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For the Peach Filling4 Pounds of Farm Ripe Peaches
1/3 Cup Sugar
3 TBSP Cornstarch
1/4 TSP Freshly Grated Nutmeg
To make the filling. Cut peaches in half. Remove pit and place cut side down on a cutting board Peel peaches with a paring knife trying to cut off as little of the peach flesh as possible. Cut each half lengthwise into 6 wedges cut wedges in half to form 12 triangular wedges from each peach half. Do this for all four pounds of peaches. Place halves in a large bowl and toss with 1/3 cup of sugar and allow to rest for 2 hours at room temperature.
To Finish1 Egg Beaten
1 TBSP Sugar
I would have been hopeless without a visual guide for making a lattice pie crust. Luckily one of my favorite cooking resources “Simply Recipes” has created an indispensable visual guide which walks through the process with step by step pictures. I highly recommend you visit the site and take their direction on how to form this beautiful and intricate crust.
To put the finishing touches on the pie simply brush the top and sides of crust with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrease, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes or until the crust is deeply golden.
Serve warm, with a big scoop of ice cream and enjoy!