Monday, September 5, 2011
Fresh, in-season produce is the best. I have a very healthy crop of bell peppers in my yard right now. My goal is to leave them on the plants until they turn red, and I check every day for signs of changing color (today, finally, the first one started to turn!). The other day, as I was examining a large pepper, it just popped off into my hand. As I was adding it to our dinner, about five minutes later, I tasted a bit. What a delightful vegetable! I find that green peppers are slightly bitter for my taste, but this particular pepper was milder, even sweeter, than usual. And the texture! It was the crispest, crunchiest pepper I've ever had. The fact that it was raised organically in my own garden is the icing on the cake. I've been pushing local, in-season fruits and vegetables for a while now, and this confirmed everything that I've come to believe. No greenhouse-grown pepper from California or Mexico, shipped three thousand miles in a refrigerated truck and sitting in a bin in the grocery store for who knows how long, could ever compare to this. Seasonal, and eaten right after harvest, is the way to go.
The truth of this is evident in peaches, as well - perhaps more so than in any other fruit or vegetable. Store-bought peaches are bland and tired; like most commercial fruits, they are engineered for durability and shelf-stability. That means that they ripen slowly on your kitchen counter and don't bruise easily. And that they taste ok, at best. But in-season local peaches are a thing of beauty. The first ripe peach of summer (farmer's market peach, that is) is a glorious experience. Biting through its fuzzy exterior unleashes a wave of sticky juice that gushes down the front of your shirt. There's no stopping it. These peaches are sweet, juicy and delicious. They also bruise easily and go from ripe to rotten seemingly within minutes. But that's because they're real. And I prefer my fruit the way God made it to some icky-tasting science experiment. Science is cool, but it shouldn't be for human consumption.
I think the only thing better than biting into that fresh, juicy peach on its own is biting into a baked, butter-covered peach stuffed with cheesecake. It's the perfect little bite at the end of a late summer's evening. I think they're good warm, room temperature and cold - if they're too hot, though, the flavor of the peach tends to be muted. Labor Day might be almost over, but there's still time to toss a batch of these into the oven!
From Better Homes and Gardens, August 2011.
In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined. Spoon into the peach centers.
Bake 30 minutes until cheesecake is firm and slightly browned. Cool slightly and serve.