By JeanMarie Brownson, Dinner at Home
August 14, 2013
People always ask chefs to name their favorite dish. Impossible! But I will tell you this: A ripe peach makes me so happy. Especially a Red Haven peach. I organize my summer around their short season. I buy basketsful of that juicy, aromatic peach, then I pack them into lunches, eat them over the sink and turn them into jam, salads, pie, ice cream, smoothies and all manner of quick desserts.
When they are ripe, we're ready. I have homemade pie crusts in the freezer to hold a double-crust peach pie the minute the fruit turns ripe. For a great peach pie, I peel the peaches (but you don't have to), slice them and sweeten them with a little sugar and a pinch of salt to heighten things. For thickening, I use quick tapioca, my favorite way to thicken fruit pies because it dissolves more readily than other thickeners and does not have a starchy mouth feel.
This summer, I'm using that same tapioca trick to gently thicken a quick batch of refrigerator peach jam. You can use any ripe peach (or even nectarines) for this jam; just be sure they are juicy and tender. If necessary, let them sit on the counter a day or two until the flesh just gives with slight pressure from your thumb. Then refrigerate the peaches for a few days if you are not using them immediately. Know that supermarket peaches get mealy from being refrigerated when underripe.
If you're loath to make jam because of the time and canning equipment investment, I urge you to try this recipe. All you need is a saucepan and some covered containers. The finished jam is simply kept in the refrigerator; it should last a month or more. At our house it's gobbled up way before then, so I freeze a few containers too. This speedy, loose, chunky jam makes a great topping for toast, ice cream, plain yogurt or as the start of some quick summertime desserts such as the trifle that follows.
For the trifle, use large cubes of either pound cake or angel cake and soak them in sugary bourbon before layering them in glasses or jam jars with some of the peach jam and chopped fresh peaches.
How to peel a peach
Heat a large pot of water to a boil. One at a time, slip the peaches into the water and boil just long enough to loosen their skins, about 20 seconds. Remove to a cutting board. When they are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to slip off the skin.
Quick peach jam
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Makes: a generous 2 cups
Note: This recipe doubles and triples easily if you are lucky enough to have a surplus of peaches.
2 pounds ripe small freestone peaches, peeled
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon minute tapioca
½ teaspoon bourbon or pure vanilla extract, optional
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom or nutmeg
Working over a medium saucepan to capture the juices, slice the peeled peaches a scant 1/4-inch thick, dropping the slices into the pan. Add remaining ingredients. Heat to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until peaches are tender and juices thickened, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool. Refrigerate in a container with a tight-fitting lid up to a few weeks.
Per tablespoon: 24 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 5 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Peaches and cream trifle with ginger and bourbon
Prep: 30 minutes
Chill: 30 minutes
Note: Angel cake makes a lighter trifle. Peach nectar or very sweet black tea can be substituted for the bourbon.
4 to 6 thick slices pound cake (about 10 ounces total)
¼ cup bourbon
5 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
½ -inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled
8 ounces mascarpone
½ cup whipping cream
¾ cup quick peach jam, see recipe or best-quality peach preserves
2 or 3 medium peaches, halved, pitted, diced or very thinly sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
1. Have 6 flat-bottomed rocks glasses or jam jars (8 ounces each) ready. Cut pound cake into ½-inch cubes. Mix bourbon and 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl.
2. Grate the ginger into a mixing bowl. Add the mascarpone, whipping cream and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Beat into soft peaks with a hand mixer or whisk. (Be careful not to overbeat, or mixture will look lumpy.)
3. For each dessert, put a layer of the cake cubes into a glass. Drizzle with a little of the sweetened bourbon. Layer in this order: 1 tablespoon peach jam, a small scoop of the whipped cream, a couple of peach slices and some raspberries. Repeat the layers. Make the remaining 5 desserts. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Serve garnished with mint sprigs.
Per serving: 568 calories, 33 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 65 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 212 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
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