Story, Photos and Recipes by Robin Fannon
There is positively nothing better than a juicy vine-ripened tomato in peak season. Unfortunately, those beautiful displays of the bright red fruit (yes, tomato is classified as a fruit) are deceiving. For the most part, commercially grown tomatoes are sprayed or gassed with a chemical called Ethylene, which causes them to turn bright red and actually changes the components, to raise the sugar content and lower its natural acidity. The reason is that tomatoes are highly perishable and delicate once ripened, so the process of packing, transporting and storing results in loss and waste. Hence the use of chemicals to give the appearance of a ripe fruit when basically underneath the color is an unripe product.
It’s a good business model for growers, but bad for our health and our taste buds. Nothing beats the flavor of a naturally grown, organic tomato, as God intended them to be. Seek them out at farmers markets (know your Farmer!) or farm stands. Better yet, grow them yourself. They are easy to cultivate and do well in pots on your patio or deck.
Moving on to peaches, or stone fruit in general. When the temperatures warm up, I immediately start craving these delectable goodies. A sweet, perfectly ripe, juicy peach is heavenly. Nectarines and plums run a close second. Stone fruit has many health benefits like helping the body to create collagen (wait, what?), improving eyesight and encouraging healthy digestion. Wow, all that and you feel like you’re cheating on your diet? There are so many wonderful recipes, both sweet and savory, to choose from. I love to simply add them to salads, cut them up and freeze for smoothies or use them in baked goods. Grilling them lightly also brings forth these juices and intensifies their flavor.
So, get out there and forage for some summer produce, then get in the kitchen and experiment with some creative recipes. Or, you can keep it super simple, like a good ol’ fashioned southern tomato sandwich on white bread with mayo (the jury is still out whether Duke’s or Hellmann’s is the better choice) and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.
Throw a dill pickle on the plate, pour some sweet tea and head on out to the porch swing. Heavenly indeed!
Grilled Bourbon Peach
6 peaches, halved and pitted
6 chocolate cookies (crumbled)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
¾ cup toasted pecan halves, chopped
Garnish: fresh raspberries, fresh mint
Preheat the grill or use a cast-iron grill pan with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat.
Press cut side of peaches in granulated sugar to coat. Place peaches cut side down on grill. Cook until grill marks form and peaches are slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
In a medium bowl, beat cream, confectioners’ sugar, and bourbon with a mixer at medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
Chop up grilled peaches and layer in a goblet alternating with cookies and bourbon whipped cream. Sprinkle with pecans, and garnish with raspberries and mint, if desired.
Heirloom Tomato, Creme Fraiche and Ricotta Tart with Pesto
6 to 8 small, multicolored tomatoes, such as heirloom, kumato or Campari sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 sheet packaged puff pastry, thawed (about 7 ounces)
3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
¼ small red onion, very thinly sliced
Red-pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)
¾ cup fresh ricotta
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)
Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. Set the sliced tomatoes on top in a single layer. In a small bowl, combine one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon pepper. Use it to season the tomatoes evenly on both sides then cover with another paper towel and let sit 15 minutes, allowing the salt to draw moisture out of the tomatoes.
As the tomatoes sit, heat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the middle of the oven. Working on a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out the puff pastry into a 9×11 inch rectangle, trimming any uneven edges. Prick the inside with a fork every few inches, leaving a half-inch border. Using a pastry brush, coat the center of the puff pastry with the crème fraîche, leaving the border unbrushed.
Working within the border, layer the tomatoes and red onion on top of the tart, allowing them to overlap slightly. Transfer to a sheet pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until puff pastry is browned and puffed, 30 to 35 minutes.
Sprinkle tomatoes with pepper. Dollop with fresh ricotta. Thin pesto with olive oil until it reaches the proper consistency for drizzling; drizzle on top of tart to taste. Top with basil, if using, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Peach, Burrata Salad
6 cups mixed greens
8 ounces burrata, cut or torn into bite sized pieces
1 large peach, sliced
1 cup fresh tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
¼ purple onion, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Let Burrata come to room temperature for best flavor.
In a large shallow serving bowl, layer the greens. Place the Burrata pieces on top. Layer with the sliced peaches, tomatoes, and onions.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper making sure to season the burrata pieces well. Drizzle with balsamic glaze