It’s peach season here in southern Ontario! Beautiful reddish-gold peaches are ripening on trees, ready to eat in all their juice-dripping freshness or – even better to my mind – to deepen their flavour through cooking.
August peach time means a few things to me: the advent of ‘harvest’, with its connotations of gathering in supplies of food to share with family and friends; the approach of cooler weather (hopefully); the upcoming return of my favourite season, autumn, and all that it brings (sweater days, log fires, changing leaves, pumpkins, Thanksgiving meals, and the delightful spookiness of Halloween).
Now the peaches are ripe…
… the grapes are growing heavy on the vines …
… the corn is getting tall and tasseled.
Here we’re blessed to live in a tender-fruit agricultural area, with over 1500 farms growing a luscious selection of bright fruits and vegetables – a special boon for those of us who are garden-challenged like myself. Roadside markets dot the country byways, another great reason to do some exploring in our regional back yard and enjoy milder sunny days in the fresh air while bringing back a splendid haul for our kitchens. I’m happy to support our local restaurants and take-out spots during this time, but there’s something soul-warming in cooking a great meal yourself and then enjoying it out on the patio (or balcony, or a picnic table in a local nature area).
These meals don’t need to be elaborate – in fact, the simplicity of putting together delicious food using a few quality ingredients is the epitome of a more relaxed, down-to-earth lifestyle that this pause in the global rat race is giving us a new chance to appreciate.
After a strenuous weekend adding a new privacy garden to our back yard (with evergreens and shrubs, the two categories of self-sufficient plants I’ve been able to grow successfully) and some new cushions for our patio furniture, my hubby and I chilled out on the patio enjoying the cooler evening air and eating uncomplicated summer food – grilled sausages with corn and tomato salad, and ham and asparagus pasta with Fontina cheese followed by fresh peach and cinnamon cake.
Peaches belong to the “tender fruit” category, a somewhat vague term that I’ve never been able to find a definition for other than that it means cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums – as opposed to “crisp” fruit (i.e. apples), grapes and berries.
We have a provincial tender-fruit board, ontariotenderfruit.ca, that even offers a variety of recipes for each of the different fruits, including peaches.
My primary choice of what to do with a handsome basket of peaches would be a golden peach pie, deep orange-pink pieces of caramelized fruit temptingly peeking out through the slits in the sugary top crust, but I’ve yet to find a gluten-free flour that will allow me to make a double crust.
There are plenty of alternatives, through, so I’ll give you the peach and cinnamon cake recipe I just tried out that worked beautifully with Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour as a straight 1-to-1 substitution. My only recommendation for the recipe, whose provenance unfortunately I’ve lost track of, is to add extra peaches to really enjoy their lush flavour!
As our summer winds down to cozier weather, enjoy the bounty that August brings amid some quiet time away from all the crazy news and frothing global debate. Simplicity and eating good food outdoors are great, low-cost antidotes that we can all use right now.
Fresh Peach Cake
(recipe origin lost) makes one 9” sq cake
¼ lb unsalted butter, room temp
1½ cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs, room temp (not having read this properly beforehand, I ended up successfully using 3 smaller-sized large eggs)
1 cup sour cream, room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose or gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt (I used fine Himalayan sea salt)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 lg ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (look for ‘free-stone’ peaches, which have flesh that separates easily from the pit)
½ cup chopped pecans (worked well with walnuts since I’d run out of pecans)
Preheat the oven to 350oF. Grease a 9” square baking pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for three to five minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla. Mix until the batter is smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined.
In a small bowl mix the remaining sugar and the cinnamon.
Spread half of the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the cinnamon sugar. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the rest of the peaches on top of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar. Scatter the chopped nuts on the very top.
Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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