Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everything is Just Peachy when Thomas Keller and Bobby Flay Join the Picnic!

Now that the sun has finally decided to make an appearance, sending May Grey, June Gloom and Summer Bummer (when the condition extends into July) on their dreary way, Coronado Island is just Peachy! Fuzzy, ripe, juicy peaches have rolled into the Farmers' Markets and stores, just in time for our Concert in the Park culinary group to tackle Challenge Peaches this past Sunday.

After coming across Keller's Marcona Almond Butter recipe in my Ad Hoc at Home, and incorporating it into Food & Wine's Fettuccine with Spicy Almond Pesto for the Daring Cooks' July Challenge, I noticed Keller's beautiful photograph of Endive and Arugula Salad, with Peaches and Marcona Almonds. It had "summer" written all over it, and I was anxious to showcase some of my coveted Marcona almonds and fresh peaches for Challenge Peaches!  My styling isn't at the level of Ad Hoc's food stylist, but I just love the colors and flavors in this salad...

The only time-consuming part of this salad is making the peach puree.  You'll question if it's worth the effort, when the vinaigrette only requires two tablespoons. Put those thoughts to rest, because you will have no problem using the remaining puree.  Keep reading and you'll see!

Endive and Arugula Salad, with Peaches and Marcona Almonds
Slightly adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home
Serves 6

3 heads white Belgian endive
3 heads red Belgian endive** 
2 tablespoons Peach puree (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds (about 5) medium-size ripe freestone peaches
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 1/2 oz. arugula (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup salted, roasted Marcona almonds

**I couldn't find red endive, so I used 2 heads Treviso Radicchio. I made the salad again the next night, and used baby green and red romaine, green endive, and arugula. I think any combination of red and green lettuce would be wonderful.

Keller explains how to cut and clean Belgian endive. Trim about 1/2 inch from the bottom and the outer leaves will fall away. Continue trimming a little at a time, in the same fashion, until all the leaves neatly release themselves. Put the leaves in a bowl of cold water to crisp and refresh for about 5 minutes, drain, and whirl in a salad spinner.

In a medium bowl, stir together the two tablespoons of peach puree, shallot, parsley, and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.

Cut the peaches in half and discard the pits. Place each peach half cut-side down on a cutting board and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Finely dice the smaller, less attractive slices to make 1/4 cup and add those diced pieces to the dressing. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Toss the endive with half the dressing to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the chives. Toss the arugula and peaches with a little of the dressing.

Arrange the salad on a serving platter, layering the endive with the peaches and arugula. Sprinkle the almonds over the top and drizzle the salad with a little more vinaigrette.

Peach Puree
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 pounds ripe peaches
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Peel the peaches with a pairing knife. Halve, pit and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Puree in a blender until smooth and then strain through a fine mesh basket strainer.

Combine peach puree, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large saucepan. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and bring the puree to a simmer over medium heat. Keep at a simmer, skimming the foam that forms on the top, until the puree reaches 215-220 degrees F. Remove from heat, pour into a canning jar or other storage container, cover and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to a month.

For my next dish, I was inspired by Williams-Sonoma's Jalapeno-Peach Pork Tenderloins (thanks, mom, for finding the recipe!). I did not want to use WS's bottled Jalapeno-Peach Barbecue Sauce, although I'm sure it's quite tasty. We are a cooking group, and homemade sauces are expected! I've always wanted to try Bobby Flay's Mesa Barbecue Sauce recipe, and figured I could enhance it for our theme with some of that extra Peach Puree. Yes, I do have moments of brilliance from time to time.

Mesa Barbecue Sauce (enhanced with Peach Puree)
Slightly adapted from Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill: With More Than 125 Bold New Recipes

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
8 plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons dark molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoons pasilla chile powder
1 tablespoon paprika
[1 cup peach puree] optional

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth.   Pour into a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature. Sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mesa Chile-Peach Sauce

I marinated the pork tenderloin in some of the Mesa Barbecue Sauce for about an hour.  I grilled the tenderloin over medium-high heat, covered, until the internal temperature reached 145 degrees F, approximately 15-20 minutes, turning intermittently and basting with additional sauce.  I allowed the tenderloins to rest about 10 minutes before slicing.

For dessert, I whipped up some Mini Pavlovas, topped with John's homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, and more of that fabulous Peach Puree spooned over the top!

Now that I've taken up way too much time and space talking about my peachy dishes, let us now drool over the rest of our peach-inspired picnic!

As usual, the adult beverages were plentiful, with John's White Peach Sangria, Jim and Carmen's Peach Margaritas, Jack and Sandra's Peach Tea, and an old Dutch recipe from Sandra's great grandmother, called Advocaat.

Alec & Nina shared Artisan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, made with Ciabbata bread from Bread & Cie, Spring Hill jack cheese, double-cream brie, and Grilled Peaches with Caramel Rum Sauce.

Nina said she brushed the slices of ciabbata with the rum sauce, placed a slice of jack on one side, a slice of brie on the other, and a slice of grilled peach in between. She placed the sandwiches on a pan, that had been brushed lightly with canola oil, and baked the sandwiches in 300 degree oven for 5 minutes on each side.  She sprinkled the sandwiches with salt and served them on a bed of wild rocket and shaved jicama, which had been lightly tossed with seasoned rice vinegar and olive oil.

Our lovely Sandra cooked up a storm with her Roast Pork Loin and Peach Conserve, with roasted asparagus and potatoes.  Nice peaches!

Carmen presented a refreshing Peach Gazpacho with Crab Salad, inspired by Chef Jason Franey's recipe.

And here we have Carmen's Peaches and Cream Cake, inspired by this Nova Scotia Blueberry Cream Cake

No photo, unfortunately, but we enjoyed meeting Lavio and Barbara, and sampling Barbara's Grilled Peaches with Ricotta, ginger and almonds.

Our week, and evening, was made extra-special with a visit from my Aunt Gwen, who traveled all the way from the island of Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands!  Me, Mom & Gwen...

When Thomas Keller autographed my copy of Ad Hoc at Home at his book signing event a few months ago, he wrote, "It's all about family."  It was very special reconnecting with part of my family...



Carmen said...

Darn! How did I miss Alex and Nina's sandwiches? The drink table must have slowed me down ...

Liz said...

Here in the Texas Hill Country, we have some of the best peaches I've ever tasted, so you've inspired me to take them to a higher level! By the way, I'm still looking for the perfect homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. do you have John's posted anywhere? I'd love to give it a try! :)

bunkycooks said...

I am always amazed at the dishes you prepare for your days in the park! I know I would love all the peach dishes and we get such amazing peaches here from South Carolina and Georgia. I will definitely have to try a few of these!

Gwen said...

Greetings from wet windy Rarotonga,
Thank you for an enjoyable evening -- was amazed at what could be done with peaches and all so yummy. I admire your dedication to the preparation and presentation of food, and then all the work to transport it all to the park. Feel blessed to have met you and John and connected with Carolyn. Love, Auntie Gwen