Sunday, July 26, 2009

Peach and Fig Chutney

Sometimes I overbuy beautiful fruit at the farmer's market. Usually it's a way to force myself to make something new. A couple of weeks ago I bought a few pounds of peaches. We were going to have dinner with friends, and I thought that I would make a peach crostata for dessert.

We ended up going out to dinner instead. It was my birthday, so I was actually quite happy not to make my own dinner. But I ended up with a bag full of ripe peaches to contend with. Rough, I know.

I had been eyeing a recipe for pickled peaches in the Chez Panisse Fruit Cookbook to serve with grilled duck breasts, but it just didn't seem to have the right balance I was looking for.

Inspiration came on a walk through the neighborhood when I saw some ripe figs hanging from my neighbor's tree. I haven't bought figs at the market since discovering two fig trees in the neighborhood. For one, figs are mighty expensive at the market and totally sub par compared to picking them fresh from a tree when they are perfectly ripe. I don't think there is any food quite as sexy as a ripe fig.

So that settled it. I was going to make a peach and fig chutney. The sweet richness of the figs was just what I wanted to mellow out the "pickled" peaches. The original recipe called for the addition of pickled ginger which I left out. I didn't want a chutney with too much going on. The fruit was so beautiful, and I really just wanted to let their beauty shine through.

I also decided to leave the chutney on the juicy side so that it would have a bit of sauce to drizzle around the grilled duck. It was delicious! The chutney had the perfect sweet-tartness to balance out the richness of the duck. We served it with a bottle of pinotage that we brought back from South Africa last year. Perfect.

Peach and Fig Chutney
adapted from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook

1 pound ripe peaches, unpeeled
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 pound fresh ripe figs, such as Black Mission
3/4 cup cider vinegar, premium quality, unfiltered if possible like this
4 tablespoons honey
1 1/4 teaspoons mustard seeds
pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon minced Serrano chili

Cut the peaches in half, remove the pits, and cut each half into 1 1/2 inch chunks. Toss the peaches with the lime juice and set aside. Remove the fig stems and quarter the figs lengthwise. Set aside.

In a skillet, combine the vinegar, honey, mustard seeds, salt, and pomegranate molasses. Place over moderate heat and reduce to a syrup, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the peaches and cook over low heat, covered, until softened but not mushy. This will take 5-15 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Add the figs and chili and cook, covered, an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat, transfer to bowl, and cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

makes 2 1/2 cups.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Corn, Tomato and Barley Salad

I love cycling. Louis and I used to go on long cycles every weekend. We would generally cycle a 30 mile loop from our place up to Tilden Park in Berkeley and back home along Skyline Blvd. We live in such a beautiful place, and the views are stunning from Skyline Blvd. which runs along the ridge of the East Bay hills.

Unfortunately we haven't cycled much in the last several years. Louis got pretty busy gigging on the weekends, and then Ella came along. We just got out of the habit. But I missed it. I feel a great sense of freedom when I'm on a bike. It is definitely my favorite form of exercise.

We got new bikes about a month ago and have been going on lots of rides. I've found that the best way to get Ella excited about being strapped into the trailer is to promise a picnic along the way.

So we cycled up to Robert's Park and had a picnic.

I made a variation of a salad that I make at least once a week. It contains some sort of grain, most often barley or quinoa, and a mix of whatever vegetables look good at the market. Sometimes I mix in some cheese, nuts or beans. This type of salad is endlessly versatile, and it keeps well which makes it an excellent choice for a picnic.

I've become quite addicted to these salads. Barley has a lovely chewy texture that is totally satisfying. I tend to use quite a bit of vinegar because the barley absorbs a lot as it sits. So, if you aren't serving the salad right away, you should taste and adjust the seasoning again before serving.

Corn, Tomato and Barley Salad

2 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob
1 zucchini cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 cup of farro or barley (whole grain, not pearled)
1 shallot diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
handful of arugula

Combine the barley with 4 cups of water and salt to taste in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook at a bare simmer until just tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the corn and zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until softened but still al dente, about 5 minutes. Add the diced shallot and sliced cherry tomatoes. Turn off the heat, add about 2 teaspoons of vinegar and taste for salt. Add the vegetables to a bowl with the barley. Toss in a handful of arugula or torn basil leaves. Taste again for balance of salt and vinegar.

Serves 4