My parents both grew up in New York. My dad on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and my mom on Long Island. I don’t think either of them gave a single thought to the West coast until my dad decided it would be a very good idea to move the family to Seattle for an oncology fellowship. At that time, the family was just my mom, dad, and me and they thought they would move back East as soon as the fellowship was over. Unexpectedly for both of them, especially my mom, they fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. Aside from an ill-advised to Springfield, MA for a quick year, they have been here ever since.
My dad grew up quite poor, living 5 people in a one-bedroom apartment. When he lived there, the Lower East Side was not the hip place it is now. He hated New York and missed very little about it when he left. My mom on the other hand missed a lot of things. The Italian food, bagels, real bakeries, the shopping, the buzz of the city, and corn, tomatoes, and peaches. Seattle has come a long way since 1973. Our restaurant scene is finally getting exciting. If you know where to go, the shopping is decent. The bagels still mostly suck but there are a number of good bakeries. Because of our climate, not much can be done about the tomatoes, peaches, or corn.
Now I know our tomatoes leave a lot to be desired. There is a farm that brings pretty good ones to our markets from the eastern (and sunnier) part of our state, but I’m pretty sure they are still not as good as one from a New Jersey farm stand. Personally, in contrast with my mom, I’ve always felt that our corn and peaches were pretty darn good. Or, I did think so until a couple of weeks ago.
The Friday of IFBC, I was lucky enough to attend a pie baking class with the master – Kate McDermott. If people could be national treasures, Kate would be one. She teaches small groups The Art of the Pie and she has taught classes to some of the culinary world’s greats including Ruth Reichl, formerly the editor of Gourmet (RIP). Kate has an extraordinary energy about her. She dedicates each pie to someone she knows and she talks to her dough. I love that.
As Kate went on and on about these California peaches, from Frog Hollow Farm, I got a little suspicious. She is the type of person who shops as locally as possible – why was she being a traitor to our Washington peaches? This was the last weekend of August – the peak of local peaches. Frog Hollow who?
And then, she passed around a peach. We all smelled it. I was shocked at the fragrance. Could we bottle that? I’d like to spray that on my neck and wrists each day, thank you very much. And it was not just the smell – the look of the peach was absolutely perfect. Fat, round, golden, not too fuzzy, and lots of red mixed with the orange and yellow. It was just gorgeous. Something I would want to paint if I were the painting type. With this set-up, I don’t have to tell you how amazing that peach tasted. Finally, all the years of my mom saying, “You don’t know from peaches” made sense. I didn’t know from peaches. I did understand how Alice Waters had the audacity to serve a peach on a plate for dessert. If it was the peach I tasted, I would have applauded.
Kate went on to show us how truly easy it is to make a pie. She is not strict about measurements and encourages using your hands as tools. When her first crust didn’t roll out as easily as she wanted it to, she laughed it off saying that even experts can have challenging-crust days. The finished pies were perfect in that not-perfect way of homemade pies.
I would love to tell you that I had a huge slice. The truth is, I had no pie. Why? Kate uses lard and butter as the fats in her pies and seeing as lard is not exactly vegetarian, I opted out. I do have to tell you that I wasn’t aware that Kate used lard and when we first walked in to Diane’s Market Kitchen, the very cool space where Kate’s classes are held, she had little scraps of dough that she had rolled with cinnamon and sugar and baked. Of course I popped one in my mouth. Half an hour later, when she pulled out the lard, I panicked. After not eating meat for 24 years, I had just eaten some lard. My stomach knotted and I felt like I wanted to cry. I contemplated leaving the class. Then I realized that I had two options. I could freak out, or I could be grateful that my diet is a choice and not a necessity. I know people with allergies and intolerances that have landed them in the hospital multiple times. This was just a bummer and better to look at it that way. Onward. Diane was kind enough to pull out an almost savory biscuit and top it with many slices of glorious peach and some yogurt/honey sauce that was divine. Not pie but extremely delicious.
At the end of the two hours, I had learned a lot and had certainly fallen in love with Frog Hollow Farm peaches. I told Kate I was on my way to pick up 5 food bloggers who would be staying with me for the weekend and she offered me one of the finished pies to take with me. How sweet is that? The next day, on a break from the conference, my 5 friends and I came back to the house to eat pie. I told them my lard story and about my new found love for California peaches.
End of (very long) story.
A few days after the conference, when the hubbub had died down, I received a box. It was, yes, a box of Frog Hollow Farm peaches sent by my friend Cheryl. Talk about an amazing hostess gift! Because there were 12 beauties in the box, I got to make peach ice cream, a peach crisp, give them to my boys for breakfast, eat them myself for breakfast, and enjoy them in this salad. Here I used local heirloom tomatoes, local green beans, local basil, local shallots in the dressing, and those California imports. This may have been my favorite way to eat them.
Interesting that my posts from one and two years ago include “What Do You Do with” in the title. It’s a mid-September kind of question apparently…
One Year Ago: Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin
Two Years Ago: Zucchini Stuffed with Chickpeas and Israeli Couscous
Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Dana Treat Original
Serves 2 generously
1 large ripe peach
3-4 small heirloom tomatoes, preferably different colors
½ lb. green beans, ends trimmed
¼ cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1 small shallot
2 tbsp. champagne vinegar
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans and allow to cook until slightly tender but with some personality, about 4 minutes. Scoop them into a large bowl of ice water. Once they are cool, drain well. (Can be made one day ahead. Wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate.)
Cut the peach in half and remove the pit. Cut into thin slices and add to a salad bowl. Cut one of the tomatoes into thin slices and cut the others into wedges; add to the bowl. Add the basil and drizzle with dressing (you won’t need all the dressing.)
For the dressing:
Finely mince the shallot. Place in a bowl or in a glass jar with a lid (my preference when making dressing). Pour in the vinegar and the lemon juice. Add a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk or shake well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.