It is still hot, sticky August. We are counting down to the first day of school, the beginning of fall, the leaves turning, Labor Day, a break in the weather. As ever, torpid, slow moving August seems like the longest month. Spare me the pumpkin-spiced items that are popping up already. Do not put out displays of Halloween candy. It’s still August. It is National Peach Month. In fact, August 22 is National Eat A Peach Day and August 24 is National Peach Pie Day. I’d like to be a fly on the wall in the office that makes these bold pronouncements.
In the meantime, until National Day Of folks come calling, I feel honor-bound to celebrate peaches. Mr. Sanders and I wandered through our farmers’ market last Saturday, buying an assortment of colorful heirloom tomatoes and warm, fuzzy peaches. It looks like it has been a bountiful peach season despite the heat. The cheerful sunflowers are in bloom and the crape myrtles are nodding in their ruffled glory. As luck would have it, peaches, tomatoes and basil all make deelish salads, some of which don’t require much effort on my part beyond slicing, which is good because it has been so relentlessly hot that I have taken to napping in the afternoon, in a darkened room, alone with my Kindle and Gabriel Allon. It has even been too hot for Luke the wonder dog to go for an afternoon walk. Last night he had a twilight stroll around the block, when the sidewalk had cooled, and the fireflies lighted the way.
Our clever friends at Food52 have the perfect recipe for all those peaches and tomatoes; they call it the “supreme salad of summer.” It is lighter and tangier than the Caprese salads we have started to take for granted; no heavy, slick balsamic vinegar, but a tart apple vinaigrette. Tomato, Peach, Chèvre, and Herb Salad with Apple Vinaigrette. The goat cheese is lighter than fresh mozzarella, and has a little kick. Not that I will ever completely tire of Caprese salads, but I can always make use of another cool, easy-to-assemble dinner. The shallot is attractive and tasty, too. The chèvre was a challenge to find in my little grocery store, since we do not live in Brooklyn, but I was able to score a package, tucked away in the deli department. Be persistent! (I also used Heinz apple cider vinegar, not fancy-pants vinegar from Williams Sonoma, as the recipe suggests. We are on a budget.)
Martha suggests a Peach Panzanella, which I heartily endorse. I happen to have some day-old foccacia that will pair beautifully with the sweet peaches. Peach Panzanella. I am going to toss in a few home grown tomatoes, too, because we are experiencing a second wave of ripening tomatoes, just as the zinnias have started blooming.
Light, cool cheeses help vary summer meals. I love burrata cheese, but it is hideously expensive, and you have to use it up in mere minutes. It does not do well staying in the fridge; bring it home, eat it up. So plan on an early supper tonight. And get some great bread for grilling. I like to rub a garlic clove over the surface of the grilled bread , after it has cooled a little. Yumsters. This is a meal fit for your Tuscan fantasy: warm tomatoes, peaches and bread, with mouthfuls of cool, creamy burrata. Add a nice glass of cheap white wine. A veritable feast.
Tomato Peach Burrata Salad
We have lots of color in the garden these days. Ripening tomatoes, ranging from pale green, to yellow, to Indian summer scarlet. There are the tall and straggling zinnias, and a couple of bright green clumps of basil. The mystery guests have finally stopped noshing on the basil plants, so we have armfuls of basil again. I am hoping the enormous yellow garden spiders have been practicing their stitch-witchery magic in the raised garden bed because suddenly we seem bug-free. I saw the spider busily wrapping white bundles of writhing legs yesterday. Though the busy interstate traffic parade of ants continues, unabated.
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
– Mark Twain