No oranges or apples may cross my doorway. It is the season of stone fruits. I walk into the grocer and the sweet aroma of peaches swirls around my head. And I buy and I buy and I buy. Which means I could devour and still have some leftover for baking.
Only there's no time to bake. I am prepping for my 32 elves. Organizing schedules, curriculum, editing the summer plays. Getting my ducks in a row because if you work with kids in theatre, the first day is destined to be baptism by fire. It's a truism. (And it was.)
In La Cucina, the Regional Cooking of Italy, I spied many simple recipes. I didn't exactly follow it because that would be too simple. I have devised my own version of simple. I routinely cut sugar and when serving to bike-a-thon adventurers, I decided to not send them on the road laced with grappa.
The MS 150 route actually wound its way near our home. 3 miles from the finish line, they were looking strong. I think it was the stuffed peaches. They biked 150 miles in two days. They went by - fast!
Baked-Stuffed Peaches - serves 4
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds toasted
4 amaretti cookies - crushed (can use small almond biscottis if cannot find amarettis)
1/4 cup honey
Garnishes: yogurt or creme fraiche or whippe cream or ice cream; berries
Baked-Stuffed Peaches Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Foil and spray a baking pan. Halve peaches. Cut out pit and scoop a little pulp out for a delineated indentation. I can't believe I just wrote "delineated indentation." Throwing simplicty out the window already! Put on prepared baking sheet. In a small, dry skillet, toast your almonds - for just a minute. Put in bowl and add butter to same skillet and melt. Crush amaretti cookies and put in bowl with almonds. Cover all with melted butter. Stir. Add honey and mix well. Fill peaches with honey-nut mixture. Bake just two minutes for medium peaches and 3 minutes if peaches are large. Remove from oven. Add a dollop of something creamy. The "boys" added berries. Serve and savor how simple summer fruit can be.
This is a wonder of a cookbook. I have used this all winter - it completes my circle of cooking by giving me a framework for discoveries of ingredients in new combinations. It shows me why my grandmother specialized in certain foods. And it is fascinating that an enitre cuisine developed out of foraging. Of what was local and fresh. From necessity to feasts of flavors. From peasant food to cuisine.
And as pleasant as it would be to live on stone fruits, I need to find ten minutes to cook. To lose my elves, my stage directions, my piles of "things I am sure I will need some day" and enter a zone of aromas, simmer-sounds and almost-instant gratification.
The Shoemaker's elves do not cook. My 32 elves (ages 7-10) who I met today managed to lose two sweatshirts in fifteen minutes (without leaving their seats), asked if they could skip "break time" (needed more by the staff than the students) to do more creative dramatics and somehow morphed into 33 elves. Which meant a new role needed to be written immediately after returning home. In my effort to clear my work room, I broke a desk (it happens). Luckily, I have a dumpster sitting in front of my home.
They're out of season I believe, but my local grocer has some lovely Meyer lemons. Minnesota never does follow the crowd. Check out our politics. We had a wrestler for governor! It was the lemon's sheen that drew me in. Some people flock to diamonds. I like fruit with sheen. The aroma made me buy a few.
And my garden is filled with arugula, tarragon, watercress and basil. I took some of everything. I especially wanted the spicy herbs. I was interested in the lightness of Amanda Hesser's Lemony-herb Pasta from Cooking for Mr. Latte. Of course, I doubled the lemon, doubled the herbs and reduced the chicken broth further to have an intense sauce that did not drown the pasta in broth - it just sort of lightly danced around it. I also got dinner on the table in less than fifteen minutes. I was Super-Elf!
1 lb. fettuccine
1 lb. fettuccine
2 cups chicken broth
2 Meyer lemons
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup chopped favorite herbs (I did pick the spicier ones)
Cook pasta according to package directions. Put chicken broth in medium sauce pan. Zest two Meyer lemons (regular lemons are fine) and add to the broth. Also add the juice of the two lemons and the garlic. Simmer and reduce to 3/4 of cup. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water (I didn't need it). When pasta is drained, add sauce to the noodles and carefully mix to incorporate all. Add pasta water by tablespoons if some noodles are dry. Add 1/2 the herbs and mix. Add the other half of the herbs and mix. Serve. Pass freshly-grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano separately.