Fall. Pumpkin. Leaves. Fall! Pumpkin Spice! Leaves! FALL. PUMPKIN SPICE….I get it. I really do. Fall is my absolute, unequivocal favorite season and I have been more than happy to pull on sweaters while daydreaming about the not-so-far-off time that the crisp weather that accompanies me on morning walk will last all day long. Yes, I am excited for fall.
Here’s the deal. It isn’t fall quiteyet. We are still hitting 70’s here, with strong sunlight that keep our afternoons warm (downright hot, if you couldn’t resist a sweater while getting dressed this morning. Thank goodness for chilly offices). And, while decorative gourds and sweet potatoes are showing up at the farmer’s market, the tomatoes, peaches, and melons are still overflowing. Even if I am wearing a sweater, I am not ready to kiss “summer food” goodbye. Braising and stews and soups can wait. I’m going to go eat a peach.
As well as my resistance to fall, another odd change has occurred. I’ve never been a fruit-on-salad kind of person. While I’m sure I’ve had one or two very delicious salads with strawberries in my life, and I will jump at the chance to add dried cranberries into salads; the thought of fresh fruit mixed among greens and vegetables has been less than appetizing. Occasionally, I will get a hankering for mandarin oranges on an Asian-style salad, but only with a lot of sesame dressing, tender chicken, and crunchy seeds. I have realized, however, is if the greens and lettuces are decreased and the more weighty vegetables are increased, I tend to love the fruit+vegetable combo. Add a bit of cheese and I am totally sold. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to come to this realization. I’ve been pairing fruit in meat dishes for ages: apples and pork, pineapple in asian dishes, lemons and oranges with chicken. I love the sweet+savoury profile. With this new expanse of fruit and vegetable dishes to explore, I have been happily pairing and partnering any fresh produce I can get my hands on. I have been keeping the produce raw, cold, and fresh–still distinctly in the summer season for these dishes.
On Labor Day weekend, M and I had our mothers over to catch up after
ignoring being unable to see much of them during the camp season. It was only a day after we returned from North Carolina, and after a weekend of trying new restaurants, pizza, ice cream, and road trip snacks, all I wanted was vegetables. While M took care of the short ribs, I mixed up kale salad, potatoes with mojo verde sauce, a ton of grilled veggies, and the crowning glory: this Balsamic-Peach Caprese salad. Adding peach to caprese is certainly not a new idea, but one I had avoided for a long time, given my thoughts on fruit and vegetables intermingling. But I saw it (and did not order it) on the menu at the Saxapahaw General Store and it struck a chord with me. I am so happy that I made that salad. I only had the chance to take one photo before everyone in attendance devoured it, but I will continue to make this as long as I can get my hands on peaches and tomatoes.
Caprese is one of the simplest salads to put together, yet it looks beautiful and special. Yes, I am well aware that true Caprese means tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and just a touch of salt and olive oil. But I also love the little zing that a bit of balsamic vinegar and black pepper can add to that mix. These also compliment the peaches sweetness perfectly. Ripe peaches have the texture of the perfect tomato: where the flesh is firm and there isn’t too much of the seeds to squish and get slimy. Between the texture and the sweetness, peaches are the perfect addition to the already perfect Caprese.
A couple of slices, a sprinkle of salt, and a little drizzle of olive oil are all that separate you from this fresh, delicious salad. Be sure to use the highest quality ingredients that you can find–in such a simple salad, every ingredient shines.
Balsamic-Peach Caprese Salad
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: N/A
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella
- 3-4 small or 1-2 large, firm tomatoes (I used campari)
- 1 large, ripe peach
- 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 Tbsp. high-quality olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Black Pepper
Thinly slice the mozzarella. I usually get an 8 oz ball and cut it in half, then slice from there. The smaller pieces of cheese are more on scale with my small campari tomatoes. (Typically, I count the slice of cheese that I end up with, so I can cut the peaches and tomatoes accordingly). Slice the tomatoes, then the peach into slightly thicker slices. Add the peaches slices to a bowl, pour the balsamic vinegar over the peaches and mix gently to coat. (This spreads the balsamic flavor through the whole dish, and, unlike drizzling the vinegar over everything, keeps the cheese white, rather than staining it brown). Layer a piece of cheese, a basil leaf, a tomato slice, and a peach slice. Repeat until all slices are organized into the pattern on the plate(s). Drizzle olive oil over the dish, then sprinkle salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers promptly.
Well, I had hoped to get jumpstart on my newest project, My Grandmother’s Recipe Box, and bring you the first of the recipes. However, the day after I lasted posted, my oven did not heat up. I tried a few times of turning it off and on, but I did not want to fiddle too much since we have a gas oven and our gas lines (while the stovetop control is wonderful) pretty much have me existing in a mild state of terror. I grew up with electric coils, and while I know modern gas lines are very safe and secure, I still worry almost constantly. So, I waited for the boys to come home and shoved my rapidly-rising, unbaked bread dough into the fridge. They came home and fiddled some more with no luck, but were pretty sure that the oven wasn’t turning on at all (no sound or smell of gas), so I stopped hyperventilating about a gas leak. And, even more lucky, our stovetop was still working. But, that did mean we had to submit a request with our rental company and it took a week for the repair to come. Needless to say, there was no baking down this week, and it seems like all of my grandmothers’ recipes require some time in the oven. Instead, the crockpot came out twice, and I did a lot of sautéing (and lugged the over-risen bread dough to my mother’s to bake). Thankfully, all is working perfectly, just in time to make one of my more ambitious projects: the latest Snickers-bar-inspired dessert for M’s birthday tomorrow. That will, in some form, make it onto the blog quite soon, I am already suspicious that the recipe I tried did not turn out as I planned. I am hoping that the addition of caramel-peanut filling and salted caramel frosting will help to perk up a sub-par cake.
In the meantime, I am taking a quick break, as I wait for my butter to come to room temperature, to round up my recipes that might find a place on your Thanksgiving table. I am traveling up to visit family, so, aside from serving as a gluten-free consultant and helping wherever I can, I will be taking the easier role of ‘guest’ for this holiday. Several others seem to be starting their recipe round-ups as well, so , if you are beginning to plan out your feast, take a few minutes to look through some of my favorite recipes.
Butternut Squash Gnocchi have the familiar flavors of the holidays, but are a more unusual way to add that squash flavor.
This Quinoa and Wild Rice Stuffing is chock full of apples, squash, sausage and herbs, and a nice change from traditional bread stuffings.
My Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing is quite close to the real deal, and the combination of white bread and cornbread makes for a truly flavorful dish.
How about some French Bread? Perfect as a base to cube for traditional stuffing, or to slice as is for the table.
Popovers are always first in line on our table at any occasion.
I am all about my pies at Thanksgiving. My family rotates between some combination of Pumpkin, Apple, and Strawberry-Rhubarb. Use the Best Gluten-Free Pie Crust for a fool-proof pie.
Chocolate-Coffee Pots De Creme are surprisingly simple, but make for an elegant end to the evening.
These Pumpkin Scones makes the perfect breakfast on a busy Thanksgiving morning. Make ahead and freeze, then thaw for a delicious start to a hectic day!