a peach of a month
July. Tops of shoulders and bridges of noses kissed by the sun, the hills bleached golden, heat hanging thick like a blanket in the air. July is always one of my favorite months, maybe because it is my birth month, but also because everything seems at its height, buzzing and vibrating and bursting with life- at the market, in the vegetable garden, rivers and oceans and adventures. Life is full. Produce is excellent, especially the fruit. Peaches, plums, melons all sirening with their fragrance and beauty.
Peaches are a firm favorite in my book, everything about them- their shape, their colour, their sweet fragrance and honeyed flesh. Eating them leaning over the sink while the juices drip down your fingers and wrists and chin. There are so many varieties here, which happily means that the season is quite long. It extends all the way through August, ending with the O’Henrys (which are the king, in my opinion). My grandpa used to drive to pick up crates of O’Henry peaches at the end of summer, wooden boxes corralling what seemed like hundreds of gorgeously curved blushing beauties. Pies, tarts, countless jars of canned halves sitting on newspaper on the counter to seal- everything peach would roll out of the kitchen until summer cried uncle and fall came steadily creeping in. Each season has its pleasures, but to me, fall coming always feels a little like when you finish a very good book and a lingering sadness follows you around for a few days after. (I speak from recent experience, as last week I finished All the Light We Cannot See and was feeling all the feelings.)
So the peaches. I usually favor yellow over white, yellow feels to me to have a richer, deeper flavor, sunlight condensed. I do enjoy white peaches too, though, for entirely different reasons, their floral smell and flavor reminiscent of honeysuckle, roses, and hot hot heat, intense honey. I had both types last week, a flat each because they looked so wonderful and I am a glutton for good fruit. The first day we ate them just so, over the sink or on the grass outside, fragrant juices baptizing chins. The next day I sliced them over our oatmeal in the morning, and for lunch, layered slices with tomato, olive oil, salt and basil as part of lunch with bread to sop up the juices. Then, at about 4 or 5 o’clock, our usual aperitivo time, I discovered a chilled bottle of Prosecco I had bought for some Aperol spritzes that had never been. Into a glass went slices of white peach and the aforementioned Prosecco, and it was so nice that I continued doing this each day until I ran out of white peaches.
The few yellow peaches that were left had gotten too soft to eat out of hand, so I baked them into a tart of sorts to salvage them from a compost fate, and they were perfect and the tart was just the thing to cap off my week of peach madness. Until the O’Henrys are back, that is.
pesche ubriache, drunk peaches
a small peach
a glass of wine, sparkling or not
Peel the peach over the glass of wine and slice pieces into it. Let it sit a minute, then alternate sipping the wine with eating the slices. Or, drink the wine first, then eat the peach when the glass is empty. I think yellow peach and red wine go together nicely, while white, sparkling or rose are complementary to a white peach. For a non alcoholic version, try a sparkling water or kombucha.
a peach tart of sorts
This recipe is lightly adapted from an old standby from Food52. It really is very simple, just a press-in dough, so if you have pastry anxiety, this is perfect. I haven’t tried it with gluten free flour, but it seems like it would do well. Do let me and others know in the comments if you try it gf and have success! The sugar will depend on how sweet/ripe your peaches are and subjective to personal taste as well. I used 1/2 cup, reduced from the originally called for 3/4 cup, and still found it a bit too sweet, but my peaches were very, very ripe.
1.5 cups (180 grams) + 2 tbsp (20 grams) all purpose flour
1/4-1/2 cup (50-100 grams) sugar, plus 1 tsp for the dough
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil or other mild oil
2 tbsp (30 ml) milk, I used oat
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp cold butter (I used Miyokos)
5 peaches give or take, pitted and thickly sliced
Preheat the oven to 425F / 220C. Rummage through your cabinet and find a tart pan, preferably about 11 inch size.
Get out a mixing bowl and add to it 1.5 cups (180 grams) of the flour, a big pinch of salt, and 1 tsp of the sugar and mix with a fork. In another small bowl (I just do it straight in my glass liquid measuring cup), mix together the oil, milk, and almond extract. Pour the liquid over the flour mix and using the fork, combine them gently with the fork, just enough to dampen the dough and just combine them (careful not to overmix). Dump into the tart pan, and using fingers, firmly pat and push the dough out and up the sides to a mostly uniform thickness.
In the dough bowl, add the remaining sugar, flour, a pinch of salt and the butter. If your peaches are very juicy, add an extra 1 tbsp flour. Using fingers, pinch and crumble the dry ingredients into the butter until you get a crumbly/pebbly mix.
Back to the tart pan. Take your peaches, and starting from the outside, overlap them in a concentric circle until you reach the center, tucking any rogue pieces in the center or bare spots. It should be nice and snug as the fruit will shrink as it cooks. Sprinkle your pebbly butter mix over the top- it will seem like too much, but it is right.
Transfer the tart to the oven and bake 35-45 minutes, until juices are thick and bubbly (mine needed the full 45 minutes). Remove from oven to a cooling rack and serve just warm or at room temperature. Leftovers were a bit soggy in the morning, but still very good. You could always pop into the oven to re crisp.