I write to you now from a new home! In mid-July, Brad and I packed up our lovely Ohio apartment, left our jobs, and drove nearly 1300 miles across the continent to Colorado. It’s a domestic destination I’ve had for a long, long time: having spent eleven years away, I’m finally living back in the land of dry air, big skies, and seemingly endless sunshine. And our new apartment, full of windows and light, has the view to prove it.
It’s so great to be back!
And spectacular vistas aren’t the only benefit Colorado has to offer. It’s peach season here, and Palisade, Colorado is famous for growing wonderful peaches. They’re so perfectly delightful raw — juicy and cool and bursting with flavor — that I can rarely justify breaking them down for cooking. But I’ve been on a fruit crisp kick in recent months, so I thought I’d give one a try.
Originally, this recipe was designed for halved peaches, with their skins, and with a buttery almond mixture smushed across the face of each before baking. The peaches form their own little baking dishes this way, and there’s no hassle of peeling or slicing. However, I found the peach skin to be someone irritating, so I gave it a shot in a more traditional slices-of-fruit-buried-by-crumbly-goodness format. I definitely prefer the latter.
July and August in my childhood meant lots of raspberries. Produce in general, really: my grandparents planted each year a massive garden, and I strongly correlate the start of the school year with boxes of produce on the floor next to the fridge, pan fried okra at dinner almost daily, and raspberries.
Though I love most berries, the raspberry is by far my favorite. Sure, strawberries get a lot of credit as the first fruit of the spring, blueberries sustain me, strong and steady, through the heat of the summer, and blackberries dress up desserts with a splash of deep, fruity decadence. But raspberries, so fragile when picked ripe yet bursting with sweet and tart flavor, will never fade for me.
In Durham, raspberries don’t seem to be a popular cultivar. I’m not sure if it’s the climate or what, but I have only ever seen one, maybe two vendors at the farmers market here with these tiny red berries, and when they do it’s usually just a few pints at a time. So each week of the brief raspberry season in this city, I try to take full advantage. This week, I paired them up with a few luscious peaches for some hand pies!
Oh, happy day. Happy glorious day, I’ve arrived in Colorado! And I’m about to go off the grid.
Four days waaaay up in the Rocky Mountains with no phone service, no interwebs, not even electricity except for three hours every evening.
I cannot wait. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as few days without a single moment looking at a screen.
But! I did want to leave you with a summery dessert to savor during this heat wave. Using two fruits that simply scream “SUMMER!!” (can you hear them?), it comes together quickly and easily and most importantly, it doesn’t require too much oven time. I know, I know, hot dessert during a heat wave?? Just wait, the heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top of it makes it worth the 20 minutes your oven will be on.
In a moment, I’ll show you how to make this tasty dessert. It’s easy. It’s delicious. It’s summer in a ramekin. I’m horrified that I’ve never made it before.
But first, a public service announcement.
Don’t be scared of ugly fruit.
A blemish, a torn bit of skin, or an asymmetrical shape do not a bad fruit make. Just like a frizzy hair day (read: every day I spend in the South) doesn’t make me a bad person. Contrary to what grocery stores would have you believe, not all squash produce pops out of the ground coated in wax and uniform in shape and size. Embrace variety.
“Seconds”, as you’ll see and hear them called, can provide an extremely economical way to buy fresh, local produce in bulk. While Grade A (code for pretty freakin’ perfect) produce is usually sold at the farmers market by the quart, pint, or pound, seconds are usually sold in bulk for a very low price so the farmer can avoid trucking home boxes of excess, super-ripe produce.The first batch of peaches I bought this season (about a month ago, amazingly… NC peaches ripened in mid-May) were seconds, and instead of paying $5 a quart, I paid $2 for an entire bagful that is now mostly sliced and in the freezer. This week was even better: the peach lady only had seconds available by the time I made it to the market, asked me how many I wanted, and wouldn’t let me pay her a dime for the eight peaches she placed gently in a bag.
Not too shabby, right?
If you frequent farmers markets or buy directly from farm stands, keep your eye out for seconds. Some vendors will have a seconds section, others keep them to the side until the Grade A produce is sold. If you don’t see any, ask! Chances are you’ll get a sweet deal.