Monday, August 6, 2012

Feelin' Just Peachy

When I was 16, I shot my first commercial.

It was for a St. Louis based grocery store chain called Schnucks.  I know...unfortunate family name, no?  The spot was one of those "how many happy people can we show eating fruit in a minute" type situations.  It was spring time, and they were getting ready for the summer fruit push.

I had stumbled into the gig; a mother of a friend of mine was a food stylist on the shoot and they needed a few fresh faced teens to stage a car wash and laugh and eat peaches.  A lot of peaches.  I think I ate about 27 in an hour, while being squirted with a garden hose in a parking lot on a beautiful (and chilly) spring day.  We tossed peaches to one another, taking a bite and making smiley faces to the camera.

It took me a while to muster up the strength to eat another peach.  Like Prufrock.  Only younger.

Fortunately I have lifted my peach embargo and have been enjoying this seasons crop of particularly delicious fuzzy fruits of the South.  Last week, Jerre and I, mountain weary, traveled to St. Louis to celebrate my mom's birthday.  And we made this...

Roasting brings out the natural sugars and intensifies the flavors.
Roasted Peach and Red Onion Salad with Bitter Greens

The sweetness of the peaches and onions is balanced with the bitter bite of arugula and radicchio.  Soak the radicchio is cold water for 15 minutes or so to reduce some of the bitterness.  If it's fired up, try grilling the peaches, onions, and radicchio for a fun variation!

4 peaches (almost ripe - firm to the touch, but not quite soft)
1 large red onion
3 Tbl fresh tarragon, finely chopped (plus two whole sprigs)
5 sprigs thyme
4 cups arugula
1 cup radicchio, sliced into rounds
1 English cucumber
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsp rice vinegar
zest of 1 lime
4 Tbl olive oil, divided

Preheat oven to 425.

Slice each peach in half, removing the stone.  Slice into quarter and then into eighths.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Slice onion in half through the fuzzy bulb end.  Remove outer skin and slice off most of the hairy end but not all.  This will hold your onion slices together.  Slice onion as you did the peaches, first into quarters, then eighths.  Add them to the peaches and drizzle with 1-2 Tbl oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Scatter thyme and tarragon sprigs about the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they begin to brown.  Remove from oven and set aside. Discard herbs.

On a smaller baking sheet, roast hazelnuts for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the peaches roast, bring orange juice to a boil in a small saucepan and reduce by half.  Skim off any foam that may rise to the top.  When the juice has just about reduced, add the finely chopped tarragon and lime zest.  Set aside and cool slightly.  Add vinegar and slowly whisk in remaining oil until you have achieved your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss arugula, radicchio, and cucumber with the vinaigrette.  Divide among four plates, and top with peaches and onions and sprinkle with hazelnuts.

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