As sun-kissed berries yield to stone fruit in the annual summer harvest, peaches are coming in as sweet as pie. Summer time reminds me of plump peaches picked from a tree, rubbed down a sleeve to remove the fuzz, and biting into fruit that was so juicy, it oozed down your arm to your elbow. While we made cobbler all year long, peach cobbler was at its best with summer-picked peaches. Here's my grandmother's consistently good recipe:
==B Big Mama's Peach Cobbler (serves 10)==
2-2/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
16 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 oz cold cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
23 Tbsp milk or half-and-half
2 Tbsp sugar
5 lbs. ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1" pieces
11¼ cups sugar
5 Tbsp. cornstarch
1½ Tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
Heaping ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1. For the pastry: Put flour, salt, baking powder, butter, and cream cheese into a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 610 pulses. Drizzle in vinegar and 3 tbsp. cold water and pulse until mixture begins to clump together (it won't form a firm ball), 610 pulses. Transfer to a large sheet of plastic wrap, press dough together, gather plastic wrap over dough and flatten into a 10" square. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
2. For the filling: Combine peaches, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 400°. Cut off two-thirds of the dough, roll out on a floured surface into a 14" x 18" rectangle, and ease into a 9"x 13" baking dish. Brush rim of dough with milk, fill pastry with peaches, and dot with butter. Roll remaining dough out on floured surface into a 10"x14" rectangle, cut lengthwise into 12 strips, and lay on top of filling in a lattice pattern. Crimp and trim edges. Brush strips with milk and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake for 15 min., reduce heat to 350°, then bake until pastry is golden brown, 30-40 min. more. Let cool briefly before serving. Vanilla ice cream served on the side is an extra treat.
I've been eating more fish these days and salmon's at the top of my fish list, although I always worry about cooking it too dry. Lately, I've been baking it in moisture-resistant paper ("en papillote" in French), allowing the fish to steam in its own juices and locking in aroma and flavor.
==B Salmon in Parchment Paper (serves 6)==
2 medium (8 oz each) yellow summer squash, cut into half-moons
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
6 pieces (15" x 12" each) parchment paper
2 medium (8 oz each) zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
6 piece(s) (6 oz each) skinless salmon fillet (Note: For even cooking, choose fillets of uniform thickness.)
1. Preheat oven to 400F. From lemon, grate 1 tsp peel and squeeze 2 Tbsp juice. In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, yellow squash, shallot, oregano, oil, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp coarsely ground black pepper.
2. Place parchment rectangles on work surface with a short side of parchment closest to you. On half of each parchment rectangle, arrange 1/6 of zucchini slices lengthwise, overlapping slightly, 2" from edge closest to you. Place salmon on zucchini; sprinkle with lemon peel and ½ tsp salt, then top with yellow-squash mixture. Fold other half of parchment over ingredients. To seal packets, begin at 1 corner and tightly fold edges of paper over about ½" all around, overlapping the folds.
3. Place packets on large cookie sheet. Bake 17 min. or until salmon turns opaque throughout (to check for doneness, open 1 packet first, being careful to avoid escaping steam). To serve, carefully cut all packets open, and with spatula, gently transfer salmon and vegetables to 6 dinner plates. Spoon any liquid remaining in parchment over salmon and vegetables.