Baker’s Delight: Peach Pie

Summer fruit pie has been on my mind. So, last week I made three batches of pie crust and froze two. The other one I made into a peach-blueberry pie. Each bite was like a taste of summer!

Since it’s just Jeremy and I here, a 9-inch pie is a little too much for us. I found a lovely 6-inch Pyrex pie plate at the thrift store and it’s become my go-to pie baking pan. One 9-inch pie crust becomes a top and bottom crust for this little pan. When I made this pie, I cut the recipe in half, but aired on the side of a heavy-half. If you want to make the recipe into a peach-blueberry pie, substitute a cup or two of blueberries for some of the peaches.

PEACH (-Blueberry) PIE
(slightly adapted from Pie Pie Pie)
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Basic pie dough for a 9-inch, 2-crust pie (I made a gluten-free pie crust)

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (for gf, use a gf all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 pounds peaches, halved, pitted, and thinly sliced, to make about 7 cups fruit
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out half of the dough for the bottom crust and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust and set it aside on a sheet of waxed paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with whisk until evenly mixed. Add the lemon juice and peaches and toss until the fruit is completely coated with the sugar mixture. Pile the peaches in the dough-lined pan, mounding them slightly in the center. Scatter the butter over the fruit.

Put on the top crust, then trim and flute the edges. With the point of a sharp knife, cut several vents in the top for steam to escape.

Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and you see juices bubbling through the vents.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Counter Culture

My sister and her family are staying with us just now and so together we are having plenty of fun in the kitchen. Our cooking styles are very similar, except for the fact that my sister, Christina, must stay gluten-free. That’s not hard to do when there is so much summer produce abounding just now. Meals are simple but bountiful, full of salads, fresh veggies, and sometimes even homemade ice-cream.

Have you ever wondered what’s the big deal with fava beans? I have. And, when I saw they were available as an “extra” at our CSA this week I grabbed a few handfuls of the green-beans-on-steroids-looking-things. Later in the week my sister and I pulled them out and began shelling the beans. That’s when I remembered that favas have to be “double-shelled”. Once they are out of the bean husks, the favas must then be taken out of a further, tough-skin that surrounds the actual beans. That’s big deal number one about favas — they take a lot of work.

We dumped the handful of beans we accumulated into the steamer and let them be for a few minutes before placing them on a dish and dressing them with butter, salt, and pepper. Then we took our first bite. We knew instantly why favas are a big deal. Wow were they good! One by one we popped them into our mouths. The texture was amazing. I’m comparing it with the reason I like Macadamia nuts so much: that buttery, melt-in-your-mouth feel. Favas have that. What did they taste like? Something very mild, nutty, a bit like a buttery green bean. Now I’m hoping there will be more next week at the CSA.

I also came by some peaches in the last week. A friend is away for the summer and said I could have the harvest from her peach tree. The apricot-sized peaches arrived in between the July 3rd  parade and two afternoon celebrations. They were so ripe that they were going bad by the hour. That first night I salvaged what I could from the bad ones and the next day I blanched, peeled, and chopped the rest. Some of the peaches are destined for jam — those I chopped fine and froze in batches of 2 cups for easy conversion later on. The rest of the peaches will probably end up in smoothies and homemade ice-cream.

I am so excited about grilled flatbread right now. A friend made it for us over the 4th of July weekend and I saw how easy it was to make and grill. The taste is amazing. We ate the flatbread with bruschetta and olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s. But, it’s easy to just turn it into a pizza by spreading foil on the grill after you’ve cooked the flatbread, placing the flatbread on top of the foil and then layering on your pizza toppings. Here’s Bobby Flay’s pizza dough recipe that was used.

As we all know, it’s zucchini season. The recipe I always fall back on is the one I’ve been eating since I was a child. We saute zucchini (and sometimes onions too) in some olive oil. About half way through we throw in some fresh, chopped tomatoes and cook until all is tender. Sprinkle on some basil, oregano and garlic powder and then a good handful or two of shredded cheddar cheese. Good. Good. Good.

One of the delights of zucchini season is fresh fried squash blossoms. Oh yum! I’m eyeing my plants right now, checking to see how many blossoms I have and how many I can sacrifice. Any day now I’m going to make them….

Market Fresh: Basil

One nice thing about summer is the availability of fresh herbs — whether from the farmer’s market, or your own backyard! If you don’t have a garden, you can even grow herbs in pots, which is what I’ve done for many years.

Basil is a popular herb, with many varieties to choose from. My sister just introduced me to “Boxwood Basil” which has tiny leaves and grows much like the boxwood shrub. Last year I planted a few rows of mixed basil seeds and ended up with some lovely purple basil mixed in with four other kinds.

I’m sure most of us think of pesto, or caprese salad when we think basil. Caprese salad is my favorite salad of the summer, but basil doesn’t need to stop there. Think of it as an addition to a green salad, a topping for a plate of sliced tomatoes, the fragrance on top of a pile of fresh pasta, and even, paired with fruit, the end note to a lovely meal (see below).

This Basil Green Goddess Dressing from Ina Garten is delicious! And a sure way to make the most of your summer crop. And, when the basil runs out, why not try it with another herb, such as parsley or tarragon.

BASIL GREEN GODDESS DRESSING
(Barefood Contessa at Home)
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1 cup good mayonnaise
1 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts (8-10 green onions)
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice)
2 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. anchovy paste (I left this out)
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream

Place the mayonnaise, green onions, basil, lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the sour cream and process just until blended. (If not using immediately, refrigerate the dressing until ready to serve.)

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even contemplated pairing basil with something sweet, such as peaches or nectarines. I was pleasantly surprised to find the combination worked! This is a fresh and easy way to make a tasty summer dessert, and if you don’t want to cook the peaches, you can just slice them fresh and add a squeeze of orange juice and some shredded basil.

WARM PEACHES WITH BASIL AND HONEY
(BBC Good Food)
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2 Tbsp. butter
2 ripe peaches or nectarines, stoned and thickly sliced
2 Tbsp. clear honey
juice of 1 orange
8-10 basil leaves, shredded

vanilla or white chocolate ice-cream to serve (Greek yogurt is also particularly nice!)

Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the peaches or nectarines, then cook both sides until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the honey and stir to make a sauce, then add the orange juice and allow to bubble briefly. Stir in the basil and serve warm with scoops of ice cream.