Peach Season in Review

So, peach season came and went without me getting myself together enough to post the delicious things happening in my kitchen. So, let’s do a quick recap now before the onslaught of apple & squash season, ok?

Of course, my first stop on the peach train was this Peach-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce that I thought I mentioned last year… upon looking for a link, it seems I never finished & published that post, oops! This time, whoops, I realized partway through that I was out of bourbon. (These days, I really only use it to cook – not much hard drinking going on with small children in the house.) There was, however, the remainder of a bottle of rum hiding in my cabinet, and I took a chance. Sure enough, it was sweet & smoky enough to do the job. I’d recommend it as a substitute in a pinch.

I’ve mentioned before that my family has a tradition of “pickins” (known to the rest of the world as “apps” or “tapas”) while watching a movie, usually on Friday nights. One week, it featured Thug Kitchen‘s Grilled Peach Salsa. Yummmmm. It was worth the rush to grill the peaches before the rain resumed; I won’t even begin my rant about this summer basically being monsoon season.

Grilled peaches, yum!
The finished product

I took a chance on a new recipe with some of the peaches. I’ve yet to actually cook it up, but I’ll let you all know how it is when we finally do enjoy it. I found this recipe for  make-ahead Slow Cooker Asian Peach Chicken Thighs, and I set up a couple of future dinners.

“Nature’s candy in my hand or can…. or pie…”
Dinner assembly
Blurry, but ready to freeze
Reminders to myself that the remaining steps are saved on my computer. God help anyone else who tries to decipher this gibberish.

Little Chef insisted that we make a Peach Cake. He did this on the same day I was making barbecue sauce, so his perception of what ingredients we needed was a little… off.

Peaches, eggs, butter, brown sugar… lemon juice? Orange juice? Ketchup?? Lime juice???

Never fear, we found a credible recipe. We used this one, and I substituted brown sugar, since Little Chef was insistent that that was what he wanted. It turned out delicious.

The finished cake, sans barbecue ingredients

High Summer, Part 1

I took this ridiculous picture today.

What you’re seeing here is the sum total of both my Coeur et Sol share and my Bloomfield-Montclair share, along with some backyard harvest, though minus whatever we ate from Chelsa’s share last night.

It’s high summer. Tomatoes. Summer squash. Eggplant. Ground cherries (which I’m shamelessly popping as I type this up). Basil, canteloupe, beets, peaches…

Getting this treasure trove really helped my outlook on life today, and it’s been therapeutic to process this evening. Late afternoon, I had an unfortunate patch of bad news, so my cooking reporting is not quite as varied as I’d hoped it’d be by this point, but there is always tomorrow.

I had hoped to make ratatouille tonight, but with the interruption, we had sandwiches, instead. I did make a killer salad for a side: Coeur et Sol salad mix, purple radish, yellow cucumber, and Montclair-Bloomfield ground cherries and green bell pepper. Yum.

I’ve been itching to try out Thug Kitchen’s Peach-Mint Sun Tea. It lives up to every bit of the hype. Peaches came from my share. Mint was the orange mint I have growing in my yard. I did find I needed to strain the tea after blending, which they don’t mention in the recipe.

I broke out the CSA cookbook for the first time this season, and I used some of the parsley that’s thriving in my yard to try making Chimichurri. It’s currently steeping. I could have used the next-size-down jar (I made a half-recipe), but I didn’t realize that until too late. Live and learn.

Eggplant. There is eggplant everywhere. Tonight, I made an eggplant parm that will likely go in the freezer tomorrow. I breaded and baked the slices of eggplant in the same manner that I did for the eggplant sandwiches from last week. I sauteed portobello mushrooms and basil (from my share) and mixed that into the (jarred) sauce to make things more interesting. I used the leftover eggs from the breading process to thicken the ricotta; my mom used to do that for calzone filling.

I found myself with an abundance of thyme from my yard, as I often do. Thyme is really easy to grow, and I’m grateful for it, because it’s one of my favorite herbs. It’s really easy to dry, and I documented the steps tonight for you to follow. This drying method works well for any non-oily herb. I’ve had great success with thyme, dill, rosemary, savory, oregano, and marjoram with this method. Herbs like basil are better dried in an oven or a dehydrator because they have so much moisture that they risk molding before they’ve successfully dried.

First, you’ll need your herbs, kitchen string or yarn, scissors, and a brown paper bag. I save the lunch-style bags I get from things like bagels for this purpose. Tonight, the bags came from my fruit share, actually.

Tie a bundle of the herbs together, leaving a long  tail of string. Place them inside the bag, with the string coming out of the top. Pinch the top of the bag and tie it shut, like a drawstring, but leave a nice long tail. Label your bag with the herb and the date, and cut ventilation holes in the bag. use both string tails to tie the bag up in a cool, well-ventilated, dry space. I use a closet in my kitchen that otherwise holds a recycling bin, broom, mop, etc. It has a bar across, as though one would hang coats in there,  so it’s really convenient for hanging. You can see the graveyard of old strings in the photograph – this has been my drying place for years, and I’m a little lazy about cutting down the bags.

On average, your herbs should be dry in a couple of weeks. This will vary due to temperature and humidity. I usually err on the side of leaving them hanging longer – there’s little damage that can be done. Store the dried herbs in glass jars or repurposed empty spice jars and revel in the feeling of not paying an arm and a leg for the store-bought stuff.

Clearly we’re not through the pile of veggies yet. See you in installment #2.

Applesauce Therapy

Sometimes, when the outside world feels like it’s too much to process, self-care looks like homemade peach applesauce.

Please ignore my messy table. I’m only on cup one of coffee for the day.

I don’t follow a recipe for applesauce anymore, though I got my start with this one. I found it to be good but too watery, so I often use just a splash of water, rather than measuring anything out. I use whatever pile of apples I’ve gotten from the CSA – usually a plastic shopping bag’s worth. I like adding cinnamon and vanilla extract, but you can experiment with what you like. To make a two-fruit applesauce, I just add in a smaller amount of the other fruit – today I used two large peaches to my bag of mackintoshes. Bring to a boil, and then simmer on medium heat until everything is mushy enough to be mashed with a potato masher. It freezes well, thank goodness. My son is an applesauce fiend, and it’s nice to always have some on hand.