Our first peach season in 2001 was our biggest harvest on record.
Historic amounts of fruit were produced and I often found myself working late into the night. That first summer when Patrick, a toddler at the time, had gone to sleep, I was busy experimenting with anything and everything to do with peaches and stone fruit — pies, cakes, ice creams, sorbets, syrups, jams, chutneys mustards, salsas, sauces, drinks ... You name it, I probably tried it.
Once the season was over and we returned to San Francisco, I started working in the pastry department of Postrio, a beautiful restaurant with a grand sweeping stairway entrance, in the category of Stars, though a different vibe and location. It was a destination, a special occasion restaurant, a politician’s hangout and a rock star favorite. I was very impressed with the entire operation. Bread was baked daily, stocks always simmering in the early hours, cooking done seasonally and top notch ingredients sourced both locally and internationally.
Christine Law was the Pastry Chef at the time. Culinary Institute of America-trained, precise, serious and creative. It was great to work with her, creating seasonal menus, recipe testing, ingredient sourcing, plating, etc. All the work and preparation that goes into one dish. Remarkable really.
I admire everyone that works in a restaurant. The commitment, organization, preparation, staffing and hard work that goes into serving great meals in a fast-paced and sometimes crazy environment is truly remarkable.
One of our favorite recipes that we make here on the farm all summer long is a fresh peach pie. We try to eat dinner together whenever we can, like when growing up, and at the end of every meal is dessert. This recipe combines a bit of Postrio and some down home cooking.
Nothing quite screams of summer like a peach, and the nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it all year long, with whatever fruit is in season.
Fresh Peach Pie
Baked 9-inch pie crust — Downtown Bakery is a great source for this or let me know if you’d like my lard based crust recipe
Fresh ripe peaches — six or so medium-sized
½ cup fresh berries for sprinkling – we pick blackberries along the border of our winter creek.
Cream cheese – 8-ounce package, set out to room temperature.
½ cup sugar
4 heaping tablespoons or ¼ cup peach jam
In a bowl, combine one 8-ounce package of cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar. Taste and adjust to your liking.
Spread cream cheese mixture evenly onto base and up sides of baked and cooled pie crust. Use less mixture if it feels like too much.
In a small sauce pan, warm peach jam on very low heat. Thin out with a little water or even lemon juice. You will brush the jam to coat peaches at the end.
Peel and pit peaches, then slice. To prevent oxidation and discoloration, you can place peach slices in sugar water while you work with the fruit.
When done, spread peach slices on top of cream cheese mixture. If you used sugar water technique, be sure to drain slices.
Brush fresh peaches thoroughly with warmed peach jam.
Sprinkle with fresh berries of choice.
Eat right away or chill until ready to serve.
Plum Sorbet, adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts Cookbook
1 ½ pounds plums – Santa Rosa plums are in season now, great varieties coming
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
Wash plums and remove pits. With skin on, cook plums over low to medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring to keep plums from sticking. Add water if necessary.
Puree plums in blender.
Boil sugar and water for simple syrup.
Add simple syrup to puree.
Chill sorbet base thoroughly and freeze according to instructions with your ice cream maker.
Next Month: Summer Salads
Gayle Okumura Sullivan is co-owner, with husband Brian, of Dry Creek Peach & Produce in Healdsburg.