North Fork Chef: Peaches & tomatoes? Must be summer.

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07/13/2012 1:03 PM |

The lady of this house is in love
with the peach. How gently she places it
on the sill to catch the shaft of sun.
How many times she passes it under her nose
and breathes. So careful she is
not to bruise it, squeezing between finger and thumb,
coaxing ripeness …

While I who am all firm flesh
and smooth skin languish in the vegetable bin,
sandwiched between the stiff carrot and atrocious
onion. I shrivel and grow soft and must be peeled
and chopped, my seeds cast off,
and am tossed in a pot for sauce, beaten
and most horribly mashed with wooden spoon …
‘The Tomato Envies the Peach’  by Diane Lockward

Peaches and tomatoes are the fruits of summer on the North Fork. We don’t usually think of a tomato as a fruit because it is handled like a vegetable in cookery, but peaches and tomatoes have a lot in common: They are delicious whether served raw or cooked; when in season, locally grown and at their peak, they have a pure flavor that needs very little enhancement; and they are both very good for you.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce
Cut out the cores from 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Plunge the tomatoes into 2 quarts of boiling water for 1 minute and remove. When cool, peel the tomatoes and cut them into quarter-inch dice, reserving any juice or seeds. Place the diced tomatoes and the juice in a bowl and add 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Let sit for 30 minutes and serve with hot pasta such as farfalle or orecchiette. Grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over it and serve.
Serves 4.

Cooked Tomato Sauce
This recipe, taken from Marcella Hazan’s classic cookbook “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” is the simplest of all tomato sauces. When the tomatoes are very fresh and flavorful, it is great to show off the delicious tomato flavor without the traditional Italian seasonings. If possible, serve this sauce over potato gnocchi or fresh homemade pasta.

Cut out the cores from 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 1 minute and remove. When cool, peel the tomatoes and chop them, saving any juices. Place the chopped tomatoes and juice in a saucepan along with 5 tablespoons unsalted butter.

Peel a medium-sized, full-flavored onion (such as a local one) and cut it in half. Add this to the saucepan and season the sauce with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, uncovered, and let it simmer at low heat for 1 hour.

Gnocchi: While the sauce is cooking, boil 4 Yukon gold potatoes in their skins until fully cooked. When cool, peel them and press through a potato ricer as for mashed potatoes. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1 egg. Season with 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Dump this mixture onto a floured cutting board and knead into a dough. Cut the dough in half and roll out into 2 long “snakes” about 1 inch in diameter. Cut these rolls into 1-inch pieces and make the gnocchi by pressing them against a dinner fork with your finger and rolling them off of the end of the fork. The little potato dumplings will have indentations in them that help to hold the sauce.

Boil 2 quarts of water and add the gnocchi to cook like pasta. When they rise to the surface and cook for about 2 minutes, they are ready to remove and eat. Place them in shallow bowls and ladle the above sauce over them. Grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over them and serve.
Serves 4.

Peach Salsa
Plunge 6 peaches into 2 quarts of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and cool before peeling. Dice the peeled peaches into half-inch pieces and set aside.

Heat a sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. When hot, add 2 cups chopped onion, 1 minced jalapeño pepper, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger. Cook for 5 minutes and add the peaches along with the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Season with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.

This salsa is really good with char-grilled salmon.
Serves 6-8.

Peach Barbecue Sauce
Plunge 4 peaches into boiling water for 1 minute. Remove, cool and peel. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Heat a sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. When hot, add 1 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger. Cook 3 minutes and add 1 cup catsup, 1/4 cup peach preserves and the chopped peaches. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and a few drops of Tabasco.

Brush over grilled pork chops and serve some on the side.
Serves 6-8.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

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