Typically “peaches” and “melba” and “ginger” don’t belong together in one recipe title because melba indicates peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla cream of some sort (in other words: no ginger anywhere there) — said dessert named for the famous late 19th-early 20th century opera singer, Australian Dame Nellie Melba. Perhaps you don’t care one way or another. Or, on the other hand, you might remember her from DOWNTON ABBEY days if you were both a Downton and an opera fan:
On Sunday, U.S. Downton Abbey fans were served a double dose of divas — one from the present and one from the distant past. Viewers may have recognized Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the creamy-voiced soprano whose radiant beauty graced the world’s top opera houses from the 1970s through ’90s. But far fewer probably know about Dame Nellie Melba, the Australian-born superstar Te Kanawa portrayed in the episode. Even some opera buffs may have forgotten Melba. But in her day she was colossal, an artist who dominated European and American music for a period, one so adored that Melba toast and Peach Melba were created in her name by famed chef Auguste Escoffier.
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.
As the bittersweet arrival of the last of the northwest blueberries coincideswith the happy coming of the first glorious Colorado peaches, the two together feel exactly like a match made in heaven in my kitchen on a beautiful cool morning. With just a smidge over 5 cups of beginning-to-pucker and wilt Oregon blueberries in the fridge, I had not quite enough for a 9-inch pie. A case of peaches sat wafting their keen aroma from the mudroom, so I followed my nose out there and snagged a couple of not-too-ripe beauties to peel and slice for the bottom of the pie, filling that empty extra inch of space. The buttery sweetness from the berry mixture on top would provide plenty of juicy goodness for the still somewhat tangy peaches. Making something with peaches that aren’t quite ripe or up-to-snuff? Add a pinch of ground mace to increase their flavor.
The Colorado growing season is short, but mighty. We make up for the reduced length with the best and sweetest Olathe (pronounced: o-LAY-tha) sweet corn and toothsome, sticky-dripping Western Slope Palisade peaches. (Visit Colorado wine country, too, if you go to pick peaches.) Somewhere in there the Rocky Ford cantaloupes also ripen, the Pueblo green chiles are roasted on street corners–going into myriad pots of pork green chile or into the freezer for scrambled eggs at Christmas and Super Bowl snacks. (We eat a lot of New Mexican Hatch chiles, too, which come in somewhat milder versions.) If you’re really lucky, you even know someone who fly fishes and will bring back trout we smoke to last all winter long. (More on those last three another post.)
By the way, the Olathe Corn growers and the Palisade Peach producers each sponsor local festivals every summer and they’re coming right up: