I was just outside of Silt when the car started to smell like peaches. I figured if I had to drive from Grand Junction to Lafayette I needed to inhale and ingest Palisade’s sweetest all the way home.
This time of year the wonderful, aptly named Home Style Bakery in Grand Junction sells fresh peach pie, muffins, peach morning ring and peach fried hand pies and there is someone every thousand yards in and around Palisade selling peaches by the road. The obsession peaks this weekend at the Palisade Peach Festival.
I was drawn to pick up a case of No. 2 New Haven peaches at the Ball Fruit Stand in Palisade because the place looked real. I was led to a side area to find the No. 2’s, which are cheaper, smaller, scarred, bruised or slightly overripe — in other words, my kind of peaches.
The memory of eating ripe peaches while driving down I-70 will stay with me along with the juicy mess involved. A peach upside down cake got me through the final stretch. The hard part was getting home and figuring out what to do with all that fruit… and quickly. Come winter I will thank myself for standing at the cutting board for a couple of hours.
The firmer peaches got dipped in simmering water for a few minutes to loosen the skin. I froze slices on a cookie sheet to be saved in freezer bags. The overripe peach parts went into a pot with some lemon juice and a little sugar, honey and lemon to make peach butter.
To celebrate the season, I also made a peach upside-down quick bread. This is the non-recipe. Take a pie plate, butter it, sprinkle with sugar, and cover the surface with peach slices (peeled or unpeeled). Top it with a batch of biscuits, muffin or cornbread batter and bake until bubbling. For mine I used half Bisquik and half cornbread mix plus nonfat plain yogurt, walnuts, lemon juice, eggs and milk. To serve, you loosen the cake and overturn on a plate to show off that peachy bottom. It’s a nice breakfast.
I even buttered and grilled some particularly hard peach halves until they were brown and tender. I couldn’t decide whether they were better as a side dish for grilled chicken or as dessert with ricotta cheese and honey.
After all that hauling, peeling, slicing, baking, boiling and freezing I demanded a cooling beverage on a sweaty day. Awhile back I had asked Beth Gruitch at Denver’s Mediterranean-oriented Rioja Restaurant for a white sangria recipe.
“I like sangria because it’s unpretentious and everyday, and when it’s hot you can put it over ice,” she told me. “I prefer a drier sangria style so the sweetness comes from the fruit, not the wine.” Gruitch co-owns Rioja and other eateries with James Beard and award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski. Peaches are part of the eatery’s appeal.
I improvised with the available ingredients, which is to say a cold, $4.98 bottle of white wine, peach puree and slices, lemon juice, Triple Sec and ice. That sangria spoke to me as I recovered on the patio.
If you are paying too much attention to sangria then you are doing it the wrong way. Under no circumstances should you analyze the nuances of sangria except to smack your lips and add more ice.
Rioja’s White Sangria
10 1/2 cups dry white wine
6 ounces Triple Sec
6 ounces Absolut Peach
6 ounces peach schnapps (DeKuypers)
Sliced fresh peaches
Whole ripe strawberries
Dry sparkling wine or soda water
Choose an inexpensive dry white wine like pinot grigio in a good boxed wine like Black Box. Combine all ingredients (except strawberries, sparkling wine and garnish orange slices) in a glass container and refrigerate. Allow fruit to marinate overnight before serving. Strawberries should be added the day it will be consumed because they deteriorate quickly. Tweak to your taste. Serve over ice with a splash of dry sparkling wine or soda water and garnished with an orange slice.
Local Food News
Boulder Food Rescue’s Feast of Fermentation fundraiser is Sept. 9, featuring fermented treats from local producers. boulderfoodrescue.org. … The debut Celtic Tea served Sept. 9-11 at the 40th ScotFest in Estes Park boasts warm Welsh cakes and scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, fresh brewed British Teas and if you’re lucky, Scotch Eggs. After that, everyone picks up large rocks and throws them. scotfest.com. … Tickets are on sale for the Colorado Cheese Festival Nov. 6 in Longmont. This popular walk-around tasting typically sells out before the event. cocheesefest.com. … In a promising development, Whole Foods Market is operating a pilot program for “ugly” organic produce with cosmetic flaws at 11 stores in California. Only reduced price potatoes and onions will be available initially. No word yet on exactly how ugly it is.
Taste of the Week
The exits of I-70 from Grand Junction to Denver are no longer the land of IHOP and McDonald’s. Just off the Eagle exit west of Vail is Expert Burger, the pride and joy of chef Chris McKenzie who operates the highway-side Noduru Ramen Bar in Vail. When you name your restaurant “Expert” you are asking to be doubted and I was skeptical. However, the ingredients were so good in the Zermatt burger — named after a ski resort — that I was won over after a couple bites of juicy beef, Swiss cheese, perfectly sautéed mushrooms and roasted garlic mayo on a brioche bun. I approve this burger.
Words to Chew On
“We drank sangria — red wine with fresh orange and lemon juice in it, served in big pitchers — and ate local sausages to start with, fresh tuna, fresh prawns, and crisp fried octopus tentacles that tasted like lobster.” —Earnest Hemingway on sangria fare in Spain in the posthumous That Dangerous Summer (Scribner’s).
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU. Would you eat at a restaurant that bans cell phones? Comments to: Nibbles@BoulderWeekly.com.