Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Perfectly Peachy Decadence.

I dread the end of summer. 

I miss the kids when they're at school, although I do manage to get more written without their company.

I miss the amazing tomatoes from the garden, which are now shrimpled, brown, ungainly vines.

I miss the incredible sweet corn from our local farmer. And I'm holding a little grudge, too, because he assured me there would be corn until the end of August.

Excuse me? It's only August 22. Give me my corn!

I know that soon—too soon—I'll be missing those drippy, hurt-your-teeth-with-sweetness South Carolina peaches. I'm currently eating my weight in peaches daily.

Speaking of weight...guess who lost 25 lbs? Still, there's more to go, but for now I'm celebrating.

And you know how I did it?

By eating the most delicious, fresh, amazing local fruits and veggies instead of junk. And eating less.

Wow, it's rocket science.

Still, this isn't about diets and weight loss or the fact that I did just eat a handful of Lucky Charms. This is about celebrating summer and gorging on delicacies that we'll miss when it's cold, gray, and nasty.

It's about peach crisp.

Not cobbler. Crisp.

I've never been a cobbler girl. My dad used to make cobbler, using the doughy Bisquick mixture as the topping. I would scrape off the mushy biscuit wannabes to get to the good stuff underneath, still wishing for a bit of sweet, crispy topping.

When faced with an enormous load of peaches I bought for my lunches, I realized we would soon host a fruit fly fest in our kitchen if I didn't use them quickly.

It was time for a crisp.

Naturally, I turned to my good friend, Alice Waters.

Alice never fails me. Not only is she my hero with her Edible Schoolyard project and Chez Panisse Restaurant, but she holds my hand when I have an overabundance of zucchini or spinach and no creative culinary thoughts in my brain. Alice doesn't bully or tease about my domestic shortcomings—but she insists on the real deal.

Fresh food. Local. Sustainable.

She makes cooking—and eating—a pleasure.

Alice's The Art of Simple Food is my go-to cookbook, used more than any of our dozens of kitchen guides. When I was a college student, my mom presented me with my first cookbook: The Joy of Cooking.

I'm not quite sure what she was thinking. After all, in college we lived on Raman noodles and Avanti's pizza bread. Cooking didn't coincide with my lifestyle.

Still, I know many college students are much more evolved due to our local food revolution. Our son and his girlfriend often cook elaborate meals with the ingredients from our gardens. I think they would actually enjoy The Art of Simple Food.

But they can't have my copy.

I still look up the recipe every time I make peach crisp.

Last night, I opened Alice's book and tackled the pile of peaches while Peter and Mikey went to soccer practice. By the time they came home, the house smelled amazing.

Of course, peach crisp alone is delicious. Peach crisp with homemade whipped cream, however, is divine.

So, to help you celebrate the dwindling summer days, I'm sharing with you Alice's recipe for Peach Crisp, and my own recipe for homemade whipped cream. You may need to travel to SC for the peaches, because you know we grow the best peaches in the country, right? We even have the giant peach to prove it. 
(Or, as our oldest son said when he was a little guy: “Mommy! Look at the big butt!”)

Peach Crisp
Slightly adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
4 pounds ripe peaches
1 tablespoon sugar (if needed—check the sweetness of the peaches first)
1-1/2 tablespoons flour

Preheat over to 375 degrees.

To peel the peaches, use a sharp knife and cut an “X” at the base of each peach. Dip the peaches in boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds, then peel off the skins. Cut the peaches in half, remove the pit, and slice into 1/2-inch pieces. (Be careful—those naked peaches are slippery little buggers. My left ring finger is proof. Ouch.)

Add the sugar and flour to the peaches and mix well. Place the fruit in a 2-quart baking dish to await the topping.

Crisp Topping
(Note: Alice's version calls for nuts, which I don't use. If you want a nuttier crisp topping, toast 2/3 cups of nuts—pecans, walnuts, or almonds—allow to cool, then chop coarsely. Add to mixture.)
1-1/4 cup flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt (leave out if using salted butter)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used a little more—we like lots of cinnamon.)
12 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces.

First, thoroughly mix all of the ingredients except the butter. Add butter a bit at a time, mixing into the flour mixture with your fingers, a pastry blender, or stand mixer using the paddle attachment. (Because I'm a lazy cook, I use the mixer.) Work until the mixture comes together and has a crumbly texture.

Spoon crisp topping evenly over the top of the fruit mixture. Place in 375-degree oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Homemade whipped cream
1 pint whipping cream
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add all ingredients into bowl of stand mixer. Mix on high for 2-3 minutes or until correct whipped cream consistency. (Check mixture frequently after two minutes to ensure that you're not making butter!) Can store in the refrigerator for several days.

Serve with peach crisp. Or eat by the spoonfuls without any adornment, as Kiki is known to do.

Happy end of summer fruit binging!

XO ~

P.S. Confession: I only wish Alice Waters was my best friend. Sadly, we've never met...


  1. 25 lbs! Amazing! Good for you. And thanks for the recipe!

    1. Thanks, Libby! Those nasty lbs just crept up on me when I was helping to care for my parents...and it was definitely time to get rid of them! Still more to go, but the yummy, summer food sure helped. It's easy to eat healthfully in the summer! (Except for that stick-and-a-half of butter in the crisp, that is...)

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  3. Way to go Julie, 25lbs. good job!! We have been eating our weight in peaches since May!! Gotta love SC peaches. Oh, we call it the GIANT peach James and the Giant Peach. ahahahah

    1. Thanks, Janet...still some more lbs to go, but it's a start! Our oldest son was obsessed with James and the Giant Peach when he was little...OBSESSED. He loved the creepy Tim Burton movie version, too. And every time I drive by the GIANT peach butt, I just have to giggle! Enjoy your peaches!

  4. Thanks Julie and congrats on your weight loss! You've inspired me (now I'll feel guilty eating this amazing peach crisp.)