We’re really hitting the peak of the produce season here in New England, and finally getting ripe peaches in the markets and farm stands. Several years ago at around this time of the year, Roy took me to Fabulous Niagara Falls. Which were, certainly, quite fabulous and worth a story in their own right. But one day of our trip we abandoned the Glory of the Falls and hared off cross-country to Niagara-On-The-Lake, which is a very cute town smack in the middle of a very surprising wine country. To be perfectly honest, I don’t usually associate words like “Canada” or “New England” with words like “Vineyards” and “Good Wine”. Martha’s Vineyard notwithstanding, but that’s got very little to do, at present, with grapes.
As it turns out, however, Niagara-on-the-Lake (I am told) possesses a micro-climate very similar to the Burgundy region of France, which makes for some surprisingly tasty wines. And the ice wines, of course, are superb. The denizens have chosen to make maximum use of this micro-climate and the vineyards by installing Sonoma-style wineries on site, including vineyard tours, shops, gorgeous buildings, and some very, very excellent restaurants offering dining right there in the vineyard.
We dined that night at Trius and had a meal to remember for at least, oh, five years based on the dates from my pictures for that trip. I remember the entire meal as ranking right up there with any that I’ve had in France, or Italy, or Manhattan, or San Francisco, or Houston – all dining heavens of the first water. The first course, however, seized my attention as something I had never previously encountered. It was some sort of corn-peach-white wine soup, and I spent the months after our trip to Niagara attempting to recreate it in my own kitchen. I came close, but I never quite hit it. The resulting dish is nonetheless one I turn to at least once a year, when the corn is high and lying in heaps of light green ears on the tables at every farm stand in the countryside, and the peaches are growing soft, ripe, and juice.
Here it is:
6 ears corn
1 onion, chopped finely
2 good cloves garlic, pressed, or minced
3 large ripe yellow (not white) peaches
6-8 C chicken stock
1 C heavy cream
If your peaches are not ripe enough to peel with your fingers, they’re not ripe enough to make this soup. Put a bowl in the sink, and peel the skins off with your fingers, catching all of the juices in the bowl. Pull out the pits. Use your fingers to crush the peaches up nicely, and put them in the bowl too.
Strip the kernels off of the ears of corn, and put both the kernels and the cobs in a large stewpot. Put the onion, garlic, peaches, enough stock to cover everything and bring to a boil. If you are feeling adventurous, add a generous pinch of cayenne pepper or ground chipotle. Turn down to a fast simmer and cook, uncovered, for at least a half hour, although you can go quite a bit longer, and extract more flavor from the corn cobs every minute of it. Cool, then remove the cobs. Run everything else through a blender to puree. Stir in whipping cream and serve warm.
While I was working on this one, and doing research on the web for it, I ran across another wonderful thing to do with peaches. This one is more of a stew than the previous recipe, but SOOOOO GOOOOD.
1 onion, chopped
2 T butter
2 lb ripe red tomatoes
2 big fat yellow peaches
½ C cream
½ t salt
As before, if your peaches aren’t so ripe that the skins are basically falling off, they’re not ripe enough for this dish. Put a bowl in the sink to catch the juices, pull the skins off over the bowl, remove the pits, and crush the peaches with your fingers.
Pour boiling water over the tomatoes to loosen their skins. When the skins start to split and fall off, drain them, and holding the tomato over the bowl with the peaches, pull the skin off with your fingers. Be sure to catch all the juice and seeds. Pull the tomato cores out and discard, and crush the tomatoes with your fingers.
Heat the butter in a stockpot, and saute the onions until they start to turn translucent. Empty the bowl of peaches, tomatoes, and fruit juices (because, remember kids, tomatoes are a FRUIT) into the stock pot. Sprinkle a generous amount of tarragon into this, at least a tablespoon, maybe more depending on your taste. Add the salt and bring the whole thing to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the tomatoes disintegrate.
Let it cool a bit, then puree it thoroughly in a blender. Stir in the cream. Serve hot or cold. Top with more chopped tarragon.