Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Roast with the Most (flavor)

Summer is a time to break out the grill, sip cool drinks and lounge by the pool. Summer is also the time when I move up to Connecticut for two months to be with my fiance and family. This means it's also the time of year when my dietary habits experience an overhaul of normalcy as I attempt to cook food that both my fiance and I will eat. At home, cooking for one, I'm familiar with my routine of legumes and vegetables. In the Winter, it's braised or "soup-ified" turnips, carrots and other root vegetables and in Spring, I spring back to green veggies all the while using lentils and beans throughout (see All in One). However, when I head up to Connecticut, I make the switch to fruits and meat. While both diets are generally free of dairy and gluten, the latter one is more appealing to my fiance who is one of the pickiest eaters on Earth. And while feeding another is the ultimate act of love, switching up diets wreaks havoc on my culinary methodology. Every summer, I hit the store and buy a melange of pantry items like honey, vinegars, peppercorns and oils that will jive better with fruits and meats as opposed to veggies and legumes. I bid farewell to my rosemary, bay leaves and cumin (although I'm sure a serious cook could find use for these) and embrace my mint and flavored balsamics. This year, to add intensity to my struggle, I'm attempting to cook with ingredients native to the New England area (more on this later). However, not only does a rotation in my pantry larder occur, the methods I use to cook change as well.

I consume so few fruits that I was pressed to find a photo of one.

As stated before, summer is a time for grilling. While relatively new to this game, I'm excited to learn the ins and outs of grilling (I've even read Williams Sonoma holds a free class on the topic). To this extent, my fiance and I make a lot of kabobs due to the fact we love grilled anything: meat, fruits, you name it. Currently, peach and pork kabobs with a peach glaze are my specialty. However, with the increase of fruit in our diets, my options for how to prepare them seem to decrease. I've never been much a fan of fruit and have, as a result, not worked much with them. As is the case with kabobs, I prefer creating dishes that are an all-in-one endeavor. Fruit salsas and glazes which can be served alongside meats are great and I plan on making a lot of peach or even strawberry salsa this summer. However, with my new self-imposed restriction to local ingredients (olive oil may be switched to walnut and some spices may be thrown out the window) I'm looking to find unique ways to add flavor to fruits. Enter Feed Me Dearly, my new go to blog for all things food (she even has a section for picky eaters!). Looking through the site, I came across a recipe for roast stone fruit. The quick recipe called for stone fruits such as peaches and cherries to be tossed with sugar and Chinese five spice and roasted for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. So easy and such an obvious way to bring out the flavor of fruit! If roasting is a method for drawing flavor through heat, why should meat and veggies have all the fun? And if you need your fruit cool, make a sorbet for a post-dinner treat. Going along with my stab at recipes, I'd like to introduce my attempt at Roast Peach Salsa.

And what's a recipe without some slick tunes to accompany it's completion? Above, Jeff Buckley's haunting "Strange Fruit".

As peaches are grown widely in Connecticut, I tend to use them in marinades, glazes, salsas and sorbets during the summer. (Again, if you can get your hands on a Vitamix blender, it make these creations that much easier). Salsa, I find, satisfies both me and my fiance in it's "snacky" nature which allows us to eat as much or as little as we'd like and makes a great accompaniment to meat. Therefore, herein lies my recipe:

Roast Peach Salsa
serves 2
  • 6 ripe peaches, peeled and quartered, pits removed
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional) 
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats, toss peaches in honey and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.

2.  Place chopped shallots in bowl with 2 tbsp. vinegar and red pepper and allow them to "soften" for five minutes.

3. Place sweetened peaches in oven and let roast for 20 minutes.

4. With 5 minutes left, remove peaches from oven and toss in soften shallots with remaining vinegar. Place back in oven to roast for the remaining five minutes.

5. Remove peach mixture from the oven and let cool for several minutes. When peaches have reached a good temperature place mixture in food processor or blender (or even use a potato ricer) and mix until desired consistency is reached. 

6. Place in bowl and enjoy!

Other fruits which could be used for a salsa.

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