What makes you feel rich? Ok, well, money would work for us all; I know. But for each of us there’s a little something or a big something (maybe more than one) that creates enough comfort in our heart to make us sigh and feel as though we need nothing more at all. Could be that once in a blue moon moment when all the wash is done and folded or perhaps after the fall garden cleanup is completed and the tulip bulbs are planted. A night after a long work project ends successfully. Close friends coming to stay for a few days. The day your afghan (or toychest) is finished, washed, and mailed. A night alone with your favorite movie of all time. (Mine is: “It Happened One Night.” That or “Michael.”) A lunchtime when the whole family is together. Might also be a full freezer. Walking a 5K; you’ll note that doesn’t say run. A case of canned tomatoes stored away for winter spaghetti sauce. For me, it’s also when there’s a slow cooker full of lusciousness bubbling all day long, promising an all-you-can-eat dinner and giving me a free day. (Hello, sleazy novel!) I feel even richer if I’ve time to bake a little something to go alongside that happy pot of goodness. A bread, simple or not, made especially to go with one particular meal. That’s really rich. This week’s jalapeño-studded peach cornmeal muffins are just such a bread. Even more so as they’re not your typical muffin. With their sweet-savory profile, they’re kind of on the special side despite their easy preparation and basically simple nature. If you’re on your toes, they’re made and baked and on the table in under 45 minutes, including preheating the oven — a must for big, round-domed muffins.
Today, in Colorado Springs, we have a high of 68 degrees F (20 C) with (praise God) rain. It’s by no means the end of summer, but is for sure the harbinger of fall. Our jeans and fleeces never get put away as they do in Chicago or Minneapolis because we never know if we’ll have that bizarre August snow or just the run of the mill welcome and chilly summer evening when we sip a little stronger something out at the fire pit watching the stars. (Remember watching the stars?)
This time of the year, we’re so happy with our Palisades peaches, Rocky Ford cantelope and watermelon, Pueblo or Hatch chiles, jalapeños, home grown tomatoes, fresh herbs, and Olathe sweet corn that sometimes we celebrate our soon-to-end warm weather by making dinner out of just those ingredients. A few additions like salt and pepper, arugula, Sherry vinegar, goat or mozzarella cheese, and maybe a little oil make the meal just what it ought to be. One night there’s a version starring ruby red watermelon and the next day it’s Halloween-orange cantelope instead; sometimes a berry of some sort gets thrown in. I call it, “The Ever-Changing Salad,” not because it must change, but only because by nature, it just does. And we’re so glad of that.
For those of us who live in Colorado –and lots of other places, too — late summer is indeed a special time because…peaches. Palisades peaches (mostly known as Colorado peaches in other states) are some of the best examples of this gorgeous juicy fruit anywhere. Our peaches are only a bit smaller than their California cousins and perhaps a tad more tender than their Georgia sisters, and that’s what makes them oh-so-special. There is, to me, the tiniest edge of lemon in our local fruit; the acid helps make them even more pleasing. They are, as you’d guess, best eaten out of hand but when you’re flush with peaches (oh, please, God, let that happen to me), there are a few other ways to enjoy them! Pies, cobblers, salsa, cheesecake, and ice cream come to mind–but there’s also one of Alyce’s newest favorites...Peach Scones. Why shouldn’t Palisades peaches make an appearance in breakfast, brunch, and tea-time pastries?
A few weeks ago, my friend Jeanne’s niece, Julianne and her family, came to visit Colorado from Florida. Why didn’t we come for a cookout? wondered Jeanne. We have a long-standing tradition of eating my cheesecake sometime around husband Dave’s birthday and the 4th of July, so it only made sense to offer to bring it. Jeanne was thrilled, but allowed that as Julianne followed a gluten-free diet, would I make some GF cookies, too? Of course I would.
It came without warning. All of a sudden it was the end of June. It was nearly the 4th of July. Dave and I were both off by about a week and had no idea why. This man’s birthday is July 3 and yesterday he said to me, when I asked about a birthday dinner reservation, “What? Is my birthday this weekend??” Why, yes it is!
In the meantime, I’d been working on a risotto post for the blog. Having a fun old time making the risotto, finding the dishes, taking the photos, writing the text and recipe and so on. Except I had nothing for the immediate holiday. Necessity is the mother of disaster sometimes, but hopefully not here. (Watch this space for the risotto love coming up next week or maybe even the week after.)
If you live in Colorado, the weather is often the topic of conversation. Like now. The rest of the country is looking forward to a warm Labor Day holiday weekend and, while we in Colorado are sort of doing the same, we also have our eyes stuck on the forecast for Monday night and Tuesday:
If you live in Colorado, you know from peaches, which are grown way out west on the western slope–almost in Utah if you check the map. Every year about this time, your friends in other states begin to mention, “Hey, I bought Colorado peaches in the store the other day!” You look in your store and you find California peaches and begin to think we’re exporting all our best produce. It happens. (I’ll give you that there are also great peaches from Georgia, Washington state, Michigan, and even California. I just live in Colorado.)
My good friend, next-door neighbor, and sometime cooking student, Mike (below), knows that if you really don’t want to make pie dough, it’s fine with me that you use purchased refrigerator case pie dough (not frozen). I’d love for you to bake pie however it happens. Hopefully next time –or sometime–you’ll try to make dough; practice definitely improves the product. Take it from me.
My friend Sara brought me figs the other day. A little giftie–much appreciated. Not much better to give a woman like me. Since it wasn’t time for figgy pudding, I opted to eat them fresh as they’re pretty rare in Colorado.
Cobblers are often thought to take the place of pies--if you don’t know how or don’t want to bake a pie. I beg to differ. Cobblers, along with crisps, buckles, fools, and pandowdies, etc., are their very own lovely desserts…or breakfasts. True, they’re a bit quicker or easier to both make and bake as they have only one layer of some sort of crust, but they differ in many other ways. (Fools have no crust at all!) For me, the filling of a cobbler, in particular, isn’t nearly as sweet and surely isn’t as caloric as that of a pie with two crusts. Instead of pie pastry or pâte brisée, there is–for cobbler– a soft, billowy-pillowy biscuit topping with a crunchy edge that merely sets off the great big bite of fruit. And, while others might disagree, I’d typically only make a cobbler when the fruit was at its peak. Mid-winter apple cobbler might be the exception. Yes, it’s hot to bake right now and yes, it’s perfectly luscious, too.