Here in the Midwest, the gold standard of summer produce is the Missouri peach. I used to hate peaches, and no wonder, given the quality usually found in your local grocery store. They were mealy, watery, and just unpleasant. It took a lot of convincing from Anden to finally get me to try a Missouri peach, but when I did, it was a revelation.
When you bite into one, the juice rolls down your chin and your hand; I usually have to eat them over the sink. They have a tartness that makes the tastebuds tingle and I can never eat just one. I was so smitten with these balls of summer sunshine, that they began showing up in almost every meal (see baked oatmeal and lavender kebabs). No longer satisfied playing supporting roles in these blog posts, my new favorite summer fruit finally gets it’s chance in the spotlight!
Apartment living has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but one thing I really missed this summer was easy access to a grill. Grilled peaches have all the best qualities of baked goods, without the fuss of peeling and slicing. Just cut them in half, lay them face down on the hot grill and within minutes you have a sweet summer treat. But what to do when close-quarter apartment complexes don’t allow for personal grills? Broil.
Much like grilling, the intense heat sears a skin on the cut half of the peach and locks in all of the flavor, which intensifies as the natural sugars caramelize. A little wildflower honey sweetens the deal and adds a lovely, fragrant touch. I served these with a dollop of cool Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon and they were the perfect dessert.
1 tbsp Honey (1/2 tbsp per half peach)
2 tbsp Greek yogurt (1 per half peach)
Pre-set the oven to broil and allow the oven to heat up a bit while you prepare the peaches. Slice the peach in half and carefully remove the pit.
Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of honey over each peach half, letting it seep into the crevices left by the removed pit. Place the peaches, skin side down, onto a roasting pan and set on a rack in the middle of your oven, about 5-6 inches from the heat source. Broil for about 1 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
Let the peaches rest outside of the oven for a few minutes, then top with a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
The combination of creamy, cool yogurt, with hot, sweet peaches is a knock-out. I don’t even feel guilty eating three helping of this dessert in one night.
For something a little more savory, I recruited the help of the garden, our CSA share, and a gift from Anden’s former employers.
Peach and Basil Roasted Chicken
For a couple of summers in college, Anden worked on an organic farm near his parents’ home in Northeast Iowa. The Fauxs (pronounced “fox”) operate on a 14 acre plot of land. About two-thirds of that is used for produce and poultry raising and the other third is living, storage, and equipment space. They raise egg-laying hens (affectionately known as “The Ladies”), fryer chickens, turkeys and ducks. Last weekend, Anden went home for a visit and came back with the gift of a free-range fryer. It’s been a while since I roasted a whole chicken, but generally speaking, I prefer buying a whole chicken to bits and pieces at a time. Not only does it save you in terms of cost/pound, but you get several meals out of a single chicken.
How do peaches play into this? When combined with fresh basil and a bit of lemon, an aromatic stuffing transforms your standard roast bird into a sensory delight.
1 whole fryer (2.5 lbs)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small lemon (2.3oz)
1/2 of a peach (3 oz)
3 cups chopped carrots
1 1/4 lb waxy potatoes
1/2 cups sliced beets
1 oz fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 425.
When roasting a chicken, you want to keep the chicken away from the direct heat of a hot roasting pan. You can buy a roasting rack for this, or just lay down some vegetables, place the chicken on top, and let the veggies catch all of the drippings. Because I absolutely love color when I’m cooking, I went with bright red beets, purple and orange carrots from the garden, and some waxy potatoes from last week’s CSA share.
Clean and chop all of the veggies, then layer them in the bottom of a 9″x13″ roasting pan. To prepare the chicken, give it a good rinse inside and out (remove the gizzards if included!) and pat dry with a towel.
Quarter a peach and clean the basil to prepare it for stuffing. Stuff half of the basil in the cavity of the bird, add one quarter of the peach, then prick the lemon with a fork and stuff it in. Add the second quarter of the peach, then finish off with the last of the fresh basil. Using twine, tie the legs together to keep everything in.
Rub the olive oil all over the bird, then season with salt and pepper. To keep the wing tips from burning, tuck them behind the back.
Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the layer of vegetables.
Roast in the center of the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until you prick the thickest part of the thigh and the juices run clear.
Once you remove the chicken from the oven, use two dry towels to flip the bird breast side down and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. Allowing the bird to rest right after you remove it from the oven helps the meat retain its juices when you cut into it, and resting it upside-down means all of those juices go back into the breasts.
Serve the chicken with the pan vegetables, one of the peach quarters, and other veggies of your choice. I included sauteed swiss chard with garlic.
All this week, I’ll be packing up the apartment for our move to Vermont next Saturday! I can’t believe it’s happening so soon, but I’m really looking forward to this next chapter in our lives. See you all next week!