Poached Peaches with Vanilla Bean and Kaffir Lime Leaves

Poached Peach with Vanilla Bean and Kaffir Lime Leaves

Poached Peach with Vanilla Bean and Kaffir Lime Leaves

We are approaching the end of summer, but peaches are still plentiful. I don’t know why I love peaches so much, I don’t think I had a fresh peach until I moved to the United States to go to college. See, we don’t grow peaches in Panama. And the imported ones available at the grocery store were badly bruised and quite mealy.

Gorgeous Peaches from the Farmers Market

Gorgeous Peaches from the Farmers Market

Growing up, my grandparents would take me to a little ice cream shop at the beach. The ice cream shop served a variety of ice cream desserts. Some were simple, and some were completely over the top. I would always order the same thing: peach Melba. The peach Melba was made with a canned peach half, thick sugary syrup, and raspberry jelly. It was all sugar. To add insult to injury, I would request for a dollop of marshmallow fluff on top. I always ate every last bit of it.

The funny part is that I thought that our server’s name was Melba. Since she was the one that always assembled and served the peach Melba, I was certain that it was her recipe and that she had named the recipe after herself. Many years passed before I learned that the peach Melba recipe had been created by Chef August Escoffier in the late 1800s to serve to an opera singer: Nellie Melba. I was so disappointed.

Poached Peaches with Vanilla Bean and Kaffir Lime Leaves

A ripe summer peach is best eaten out of hand, but this is an easy and elegant thing to serve. And it is the foundation for peach Melba. To assemble a peach Melba, you just need one peach half, a small scoop of good vanilla ice-cream, and a few raspberries. You can make a raspberry sauce or purchase one if you like. I think the tart raspberries go well with the sweet peaches. Add a little bit of the syrup to the bottom of the dish.

Peaches Cooling

Peaches Cooling

Ingredients:
1 vanilla bean
2 cups white wine
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves (you can substitute dry, or a small segment of lime peel)
3-4 medium peaches

Storing the Poached Peaches in Syrup

Storing the Poached Peaches in Syrup

Procedure:
1. Cut the vanilla bean down the middle length-wise and scrape out the seeds. Place the vanilla bean pod, the seeds, the wine, water, sugar, and kaffir lime leaves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Once the sugar dissolves, gently place the peaches in the syrup. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes over medium-low heat, turning the peaches around halfway during the cooking time. To test for doneness, pierce a peach with a toothpick. The peach should be soft, but not mushy.
3. Remove the peaches from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a shallow bowl to cool.
4. Bring the syrup to simmer over medium heat, and continue to cook until reduce by 1/3. It should be thicker and syrup like. Let the syrup cool and place in a container that is big enough to fit the syrup and the peaches.
5. Once the peaches cool a bit, you’ll be able to slip off the skins easily. After you remove the skins, cut them in half, remove the pit and gently scrape any fibers from the core if desired.
6. Store the peaches in the syrup, along with the vanilla bean. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

If you have any leftover syrup, make a cocktail with some of the syrup and some sparkling wine. You can also puree the poached peaches with some of the syrup for a Bellini base.

My Version of Peach Melba

My Version of Peach Melba

Peach Melba

Peach Melba

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Dutch Baby Pancakes With White Nectarines

Dutch Baby Pancake With White Nectarines

Dutch Baby Pancake With White Nectarines

It’s hard to pick a favorite summer fruit. This week I’m head over heels for white nectarines. They are juicy, sweet, and fragrant. I headed over to the Penn Quarter Farmers Market this week and there were crates and crates of the most delicious white nectarines. Look for them at your local farmers market.

Here is a super quick recipe for Dutch Baby Pancakes with white nectarines. It’s a perfect vehicle for the sweet and juicy white nectarines. If you are in the mood for canning, try this recipe for Thai Me Up jam.

Dutch Baby Pancakes
(slightly adapted from My Recipes)

3/4 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
1 small ripe white nectarine cut into thin wedges
3 cherries, pitted and cut in half (or a few whole blackberries/raspberries/blueberries)
powdered sugar and maple syrup for serving

1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place two 5 inch cast iron skillets in the oven for 15 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla until you get a homogeneous mixture.
3. Remove the skillets from the oven, divide the butter among the two skillets and wait for it to melt. Divide the batter among the two skillets. Top with white nectarine slices and cherries. Place the skillets back in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven, and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup.

Travel Tuesday: Desfile de las Mil Polleras [1,000 polleras parade]

Video from Panama’s Tourism Board for the 2014 parade.

The 1,000 polleras parade has been held yearly in Panama since 2003. The “pollera” is the national dress of Panama. It typically consists of a petticoat, a blouse, a skirt, and is accessorized by “tembleques” and “peinetas” (the head-dress), and traditional jewelry. The very first time it was held, 1,000 ladies wearing the national dress participated. The number of participants has long surpassed one thousand. The latest count was upwards of 20,000 participants.

Chairs are placed along the streets, and porches are lined with all available rocking chairs.

Chairs

Chairs

Rocking chairs

Rocking chairs

I had the opportunity of visiting the small town of Las Tablas a few years ago when the parade was taking place. Here are a few photographs of Panamanian ladies getting ready for the event. I’m so thankful to them for letting me get a behind the scenes glimpse at the long preparations. A team of expert stylists arrived early in the morning at the house to help everyone get ready.

Polleras can take up to two years to make. Every component is hand-made. The total cost can be upwards of $20,000 when factoring in jewelry and head-dress pieces.

Several different necklaces are worn. Traditionally these are made of gold.

Several different necklaces are worn. Traditionally these are made of gold.

Each necklace is pinned to the blouse to ensure that it remains in the correct position.

Each necklace is pinned to the blouse to ensure that it remains in the correct position.

Hair spray is used in abundance.

Hair spray is used in abundance.

Make up is carefully coordinated according to the colors of the pollera

Make up is carefully coordinated according to the colors of the pollera

Tembleques are secured in place with hairpins

Tembleques are secured in place with hairpins

Traditional tembleques are made out of pearls or fish scales. Nowadays more colorful ones are made out of beads.

Traditional tembleques are made out of pearls or fish scales. Nowadays, more colorful ones are made out of beads.

Getting ready can take 1-2 hours

Getting ready can take 1-2 hours

Example of an intricate petticoat. The skirt is not worn until the very end. This pollera displays embroidered hummingbirds, can you spot one?

Example of an intricate petticoat. The skirt is not worn until the very end. This pollera displays embroidered hummingbirds, can you spot one?

Ready!

Ready!

Time to get out on the parade route and dance!

Time to get out on the parade route and dance!

It was a once in a lifetime experience that I really enjoyed. I could not believe that so many women showed up in their handcrafted polleras and danced, rain or shine. Hope you enjoyed these photos! Next year’s parade is scheduled for January 10th. Accommodations are limited in Las Tablas, so make sure to book in advance. Of course, there was great Panamanian food to be had, but more on that another time.

Simple Open Faced Tomato Sandwich and Peach & Butter Lettuce Salad

Penn Quarter Fresh Farm Market

Penn Quarter Fresh Farm Market

Who doesn’t love farmers’ markets during the summer? There is an abundance of fruits and vegetables at their peak. Here’s a peek at what’s currently available at one of my local farmer’s market here in DC, the Penn Quarter Fresh Farms Market.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Sour Cherries

Sour Cherries

Bloody Sorrel

Bloody Sorrel

Fried Cheese Curds

Fried Cheese Curds

I brought some tomatoes, peaches, red butter lettuce, and sour cherries to make Cherry Bounce–a recommendation from Mrs. Wheelbarrow who is canner extraordinaire & cocktail connoisseur. I also got a gorgeous loaf of roasted garlic Italian bread from Old World Breads, and squeaky fresh cheese curds from Coulter Farms.

Cheese Curds from Coulter Farms

Cheese Curds from Coulter Farms

Now, what to make with all this gorgeous produce? The answer is tomato sandwiches and peach salad. This is really a non-recipe. For the sandwich: slather some toasted bread with home-made mayonnaise, top with sliced ripe tomatoes, and sprinkle with sea salt. For the salad: cut a ripe peach into wedges and toss with 2 teaspoons of honey, set aside. Tear a few leaves of butter lettuce, toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the greens with the peaches. You are done.

What are your favorite farmers’ market finds?

Hope you are enjoying the summer!

Peach and Butter Lettuce Salad with Open Faced Tomato Sandwich

Peach and Butter Lettuce Salad with Open Faced Tomato Sandwich

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

I just returned from a 10 day vacation to Italy, where I indulged in pizza, pasta, wine, and gelato. I’m back in DC, and the summer heat and Italian food overindulgence has me craving light fresh foods.

One of the great things about summer is the availability of delicious, local tomatoes. In the winter, when tomatoes are not in season, I typically roast them to deepen their flavor. During the summer, I just want to enjoy them raw with a sprinkle of flaky salt and a drizzle of fruity olive oil.

Sometimes, I’m greedy and buy more than I can eat immediately. Whenever I have some tomatoes that are too ripe to slice, I make a quick gazpacho. It is refreshing, and surprisingly filling when paired with some diced avocado.

The next time I make this, I will be using some of the olive oil I brought back with me from Italy. And I might even experiment with a fun Tuscan cherry vinegar in place of the red wine vinegar that the recipe calls for. I hope you are enjoying your summer!

Gazpacho
(Adapted from Saveur)
Ingredients:
1 slice baguette, about 2 inches thick, crust removed
2 baby cucumbers peeled, and chopped
1 lb. ripe orange tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ of a small garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt

Garnishes:
1 baby cucumber, diced
½ avocado, peeled and diced
¼ of a lemon
Aleppo pepper

Procedure:
1. Place the bread in a bowl, and cover with water. Soak the bread for 15 minutes, then squeeze out the moisture with your hands.
2. Add the bread, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and ½ cup water to a blender, and blend until very smooth.
3. Season with salt.
4. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Divide into two bowls, top with cucumber and avocado, drizzle with a few drops of lemon juice, sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Serves two.