Thursday, August 22, 2013

Grilled Peaches with Lavender Cream

To me, peaches and lavender are a match made in heaven. I'm especially fond of their combination in this delightful jam, which has quickly become a fan favorite. Last summer, we had unexpected guests for dinner and I had nothing in the way of dessert in the fridge. I did have some perfectly ripe peaches from the farmers market and half a carton of heavy cream. The two together made the perfect last minute dessert, and one I've been pining to make again all year long.

There really couldn't be anything simpler than peaches and cream, after all, it's just two basic ingredients. I find grilling peaches and flavoring the cream with lavender kicks everything up a notch. The grill marks give a wonderful caramelization to the peaches, while the lavender provides a subtle floral flavor. Utterly delicious! This is a great recipe to liven things up during your work week, or even as a no-fuss dessert at an upcoming summer dinner party. Using 8 oz. jelly jars makes an ideal serving size and gives the dessert a rustic, homey feel. 

Recipe by Michael Sullivan

For the lavender cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon food-grade dried lavender flowers
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the peaches
2 to 3 ripe peaches (about 1 pound)

For the lavender cream
Combine the cream and dried lavender in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture just to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat, and pour the cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl. Discard the dried lavender. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream (to prevent a skin from forming), and place another sheet over the bowl. Refrigerate the cream until very cold, about 2 to 3 hours.

Place a mixing bowl and whisk attachment (or whisk) in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to chill. Remove the bowl from the freezer and add the chilled cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract. Whip the cream on medium speed using an electric mixer (or by hand if you want the workout) until soft peaks form. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

For the peaches
To remove the skins from the peaches, using a paring knife, slice a large "x" on the bottom of each peach. Place the peaches in a pot of boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove using a slotted spoon or spider and transfer to an ice bath. Once the peaches are cool, peel off the skins, slice in half, and remove the pits. Slice each peach half into 1/2-inch thick slices. 

Just before serving, grill the peaches over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until grill marks appear. Remove the peaches from the grill and transfer to a plate to cool slightly.

Put 3 peach slices in each of the 8 oz. jelly jars. Add a couple spoonfuls of cream over the peaches, add a couple more peach slices over the cream, and continue alternating layers of peaches and cream until all of the peaches are used up. Top each jar off with a dollop of cream and serve immediately.

Serves 4 

  • You can find food-grade dried lavender at specialty herb shops, farmers markets, or at well-stocked grocery stores. Find it online here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Succotash

Sufferin' succotash, I can't believe it's already August! With corn in abundance, it's the perfect time to make succotash. It's an ideal dish to make when you find yourself wondering around the farmer's market overwhelmed by the amount of colorful produce, and can't decide what to make for dinner. Though non-traditional, just about any summer vegetables can be incorporated into succotash. 

Succotash originates from the Narragansett Native American tribe in Rhode Island and traditionally consists of fresh corn and lima beans. Succotash became particularly popular during the Depression and World War II, as it was healthful and the ingredients were cheap and easy to come by. It remains popular in America today from New England all the way down to the South. In most parts of the country, succotash has been adapted over the years to include all kinds of delicious veg.

I think succotash takes well to a little acid. I squeezed some fresh lime juice over the finished dish, which I think brightens it up nicely. Alternatively, you could drizzle some vinegar over the succotash, with the same results.  Try adding tomatoes, potatoes, or summer squash too; let the market inspire you. This is a dish that really celebrates summer's bounty, so feel free to have fun with it!

Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl

1/2 pound fresh or frozen lima beans, shelled (or any fresh shell beans will do)
1 tablespoon vegetable or corn oil
2 slices (3 ounces) thick-cut bacon
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Half a red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, washed, stemmed and seeded, and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears of corn)
1 scallion, white and light green parts only, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A squeeze of fresh lime juice 

Fill a small saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the fresh or frozen lima beans and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally (if using another type of fresh shell bean, such as cranberry beans, cook for 20 to 25 minutes). Drain the beans in a colander and run under cold water to stop them from cooking. When cool, set aside.

Heat the vegetable or corn oil in a large cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the bacon strips and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set aside. 

Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan. Return the pan to the stovetop, add 1 tablespoon of butter, and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute for about 5 minutes more. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the corn and cook until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the beans to the pan and cook until just heated through. Add the remaining butter and stir until it has melted. Remove the pan from the heat. 

Crumble the bacon over the  succotash, add the scallions, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice (or a drizzle of vinegar) over the succotash and stir to combine. I like to serve succotash directly out of the skillet at the table for a more rustic approach. 

Serves 6