A Note: If you’ve followed my newsletter since last May (!!), you might’ve noticed that the format has loosened and shortened. This is a result of a busy schedule, and while I would like to get back to a more structured newsletter, it will be more of this format until things calm down and level out a bit. Essentially, you’ll find recipes that got me through the month. I hope that it’s still somewhat interesting to read!
When I worked at Rhode Island Monthly magazine, a local lifestyle publication, I wrote an article about peach farmers. They were in the midst of a recovery year, after a wicked frost destroying most of the harvest the year before. I was amazed by the resilience and dedication these people had to their orchards, which are notoriously difficult to manage and far from lucrative. But the peaches, the peaches were worth it.
A good peach is hard to find. They should be sweet but tangy and plush but not mush. All too often they are flavorless, a result of being picked early and shipped far; their syrupy nectar hasn’t had time to sweeten and perfume the flesh.
So, when you do find some good peaches, snap them up. While a peach eaten fresh and messy is a beautiful thing, good peaches can also sing in a pie when time is taken and care given. Here’s a peach pie to make for the sole reason of celebrating a beautiful bundle of peaches.
A Celebratory Peach Pie
The key to this peach pie is not only good peaches, but some blackberries for tartness and a teaspoon of almond extract in the crumble topping. The other trick to this pie is using a springform pan. Once baked and cooled, remove the outer ring and a glorious, thick round of a pie emerges. Serve with vanilla ice cream that melts and melds with the blushing filling.
For the dough:
I use the New York Times recipe for all-butter pie dough, shared here:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
10 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp ice cold water (you may need more or less, so add it slowly)
For the filling:
3 lbs peaches, peeled and cut into 8 wedges per peach (when they are ripe, often the skin comes off quite easily. If they are really ripe, it might be a little trickier, so don’t worry if you get some peach skin in your pie)
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tsp
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp pectin
1 Tbsp cornstarch
For the topping:
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
pinch of kosher salt
8 Tbsp butter, melted
First, prepare the dough…
Pulse the flour, salt, and sugar together in a food processor.
Add the butter, then pulse until pea-size crumbles form.
With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the cold water, until the dough starts to come together. It’s always best to add less water, check it by giving it a pinch to see if the dough sticks together, and adding more if needed.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Now, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and make the filling…
Toss the peaches with 1/2 cup of sugar, lemon juice, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Let sit for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, strain out the juice into a small sauce pan, you should have about 1/2 cup. Add the pectin and 2 tsp sugar to 1/2 cup of strained juice and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir pectin mixture into the peaches. Add the cornstarch and toss to coat.
Shape the pie…
A little note here: I use a 9-inch springform pan and simply butter it up to avoid sticking. It hasn’t failed me yet.
Butter the springform pan bottom and side.
To shape the dough to the pan, roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Place the springform pan in the center and use a knife to cut out a circle in the dough in the shape of the bottom of the pan.
Place the dough circle in the bottom of the pan, gently patting it down.
Now, we’re going to form the sides of the pie : Take the scrap dough with the hole cut out in the center and cut it into roughly 5 x 3 inch strips (the strips will have a rounded bottom but that’s fine). Gently pat the strips around the sides of the pan, gently pushing the bottoms into the bottom dough circle. Continue until all the sides are covered (it’s okay if there are seams, just make sure they are really stuck together).
Scrape the peach filling into the pie crust, cover, and place in the fridge until ready to top and bake.
Get started on the topping…
Whisk together the sugars, almond extract, vanilla extract, flour, salt and walnuts.
Melt the butter, then drizzle into the flour mixture. Stir with a fork until large crumbles form and butter is integrated.
Put it all together…
Take the filled pie out of the fridge and pour on the topping, gently patting it down.
Place pie in the oven on middle rack and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until topping is golden. Let rest for 15 minutes.
Remove springform pan siding. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
A Reinvigorated Open-Faced BL(A)T
It’s officially peak tomato season, which means your Instagram is probably being flooded with pictures of ready-to-burst tomatoes. I’ve always been a bit wary of tomatoes, so this yearly fetishization perplexes me. Sure, tomatoes are delicious in dishes (like sauces, soups and pasta dishes), but a raw slab of tomato just doesn’t do it for me. The same goes for one of the most famous ways to enjoy a raw tomato: The BLT. But, inspired by a tip from a co-worker, I found a path out of my raw tomato rut. The trick? Marinate them. Give the watery red slabs a good bath in some red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper (I added a pinch of dried oregano, too). Let them stew a bit then slap them onto a lightly toasted piece of sourdough slathered with basil chive mayo, a few wedges of avocado, and some (tempeh) bacon. This juicy, tangy, lush open-face BLAT (minus the L, because what does it really add?) is one I can get behind.
For the tomatoes:
1 large, ripe tomato, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slabs
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or another vinegar of choice)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
For the basil-chive mayonnaise
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, grated
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp chopped chives
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups of neutral oil, and more as needed
For the sandwich:
2 slices of sourdough sandwich bread, lightly toasted
4 strips bacon, cooked (I used tempeh bacon, but you can do whatever you fancy)
1/2 avocado, sliced into thin wedges
A few leaves of basil, torn up for topping
First, marinate the tomatoes…
Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the slide tomatoes, push them around a bit with your fingers, cover and let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.
While the tomatoes marinate, make the mayo…
Using either a hand blender or standard blender, blend together all the ingredients except the lemon juice and oil. Slowly stream in the oil until a thick but spreadable mayo forms. Stir in the lemon juice, give it a taste and see if it needs more salt and pepper. Set aside.
Take your toast and slather it with the mayo, then layer on the avocado, bacon, and last but not least the marinated tomatoes. Sprinkle with finishing salt and torn basil and take a nice juicy bite.
A Simple Bowl of Buttered Lima Beans
Lima beans, plucked fresh the pods, simmered, and served in butter is a revelation. Unlike the slightly tough and mealy limas you might have grown up eating, fresh-cooked limas are ultra creamy, so soft they practically burst in your mouth. They are worth finding and preparing in this simple way.
3 lbs of lima beans in their pods
4 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper
First, shell the beans. Then, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the lima beans for about 25 to 30 minutes, until tender. Drain, toss in butter and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Serve immediately. They are a bowl of pure, simple comfort.