WORDS & IMAGES: NICOLE STANTON
This week I felt my heart sink when I looked at the calendar. Summer days are getting shorter, August evenings will slowly chill into fall, and in a mountain town where the people migrate with the seasons, many of my near and dear will now be dear and far. To tend to my knotted gut, I’m committing myself to soaking up long days and warm friends as long as possible. The most beautiful way to do that, I’ve found, is cooking and eating together. Talking, listening to music, sipping cold wine, slicing crisp basil and hardy garlic cloves.
Last night, as a July sunset faded into an August evening, Will and I did just that. We splurged on a steak from a farm just down the road and paired it with our favorites: grilled peaches, and balsamic figs. Enjoy the recipes below, simple and made with a deep adoration for the pink August dusk.
This one is courtesy of my mother, and her kitchen full of savory smells and gratitude for family. She pairs her figs with pancetta and gorgonzola crumbles – a dang good addition.
8-10 ripe California Mission figs
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
1. Slice figs in half, while heating a small pan with a quarter sized puddle of olive oil.
2. Pour balsamic and honey into pan.
3. Add figs.
4. Cook figs with balsamic in low to medium heat, removing when figs are soft and balsamic reduction is thick and viscous.
Note: if adding pancetta and gorgonzola, fry pancetta separately and chop into small pieces. Add pancetta pieces and gorgonzola crumbles while figs are hot and on their serving plates.
GRILLED PEACH ARUGULA SALAD WITH MINT PESTO & MOZZARELLA
Serves 3 - 4
2 ripe but firm local peaches
1 cup packed with mint and basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
juice of ½ a lemon
red chili flakes
1. Heat your grill to medium heat, while slicing peaches into quarters.
2. Toss peaches with a bit of olive oil, balsamic, and salt.
3. Once on the grill, cook each side of the peach for 2-3 minutes, until some healthy grill marks form. These will taste syrupy and luscious. Allow peaches to cool to room temperature.
4. Fill a serving plate with arugula, and spread thick slices of mozzarella on the leaves, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic.
5. Start the pesto as the peaches cool and the bitter arugula soaks up the flavors of oil and vinegar. In a food processor combine mint/basil combo, ¼ cup olive oil, chopped garlic cloves, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red chili flakes. Pulse until smooth.
6. Assemble salad with grilled peach slices and dollops of pesto. Sprinkle with extra pine nuts, sea salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
Note: I used too much garlic the first round. I was so excited about the mint flavor with the peaches. Will loved the punch of garlic, but if you want the mint to come out, less lemon and less garlic.