Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Peaches + Pleasure
I have been thinking a lot about pleasure lately, and how it is connected to food. Sure, we eat because we have to. But we also eat because it tastes good. This is especially true in summertime, when the produce is popping and the colors at the market stun with their rainbow hues.
But a cold summer in San Francisco has taught me a lot about how food pleasure is intimately tied to our other senses. It's been cold here. My sweaters and jeans are lined up on my closet shelf, and there's always a scarf in my handbag. Last week I found myself eating tomato soup and grilled cheese on a Monday in July. I've never been a fan of exceedingly hot temperatures, but the injustice of a wintery meal on what should be a warm summer night was too much.
The next day I visited the farmer's market stand and bought pounds of peaches, white corn, a huge bunch of basil and a bag of arugula. I would bring summer to San Francisco with a meal that screamed hot days and equally warm nights. We would eat salad for dinner, even if we had to freeze doing it.
I felt a little guilty as I sliced peaches and tore basil leaves on a cold, gray night. It was almost as if I had paid to have extravagant treats shipped from warm corners of the world, not purchased produce from just a few miles away.
But as it all came together: peaches, corn, basil, arugula, bacon, feta, onions and rich balsamic and olive oil, I got more and more excited. The peaches were juicy, and the corn slipped off the cob. It was summer, somewhere, and we were going to feast.
I don't know how to describe the sound that left my date's mouth when he took a bite of the salad. Let's just say it was indecent -- the sort that got M.F.K. Fisher sent away from the table as a very young girl.
It reminded me that sometimes we should eat what we want to eat -- tomato soup and grilled cheddar cheese -- and sometimes we should eat something delicious and extravagant no matter what the cost and inconvenience.
Eating peaches, basil, and corn hardly seems revolutionary, but on that night, it was. It was cold outside, wintery gray with a brisk breeze. The food brought indescribable, decadent and summery pleasure.
This is what food and cooking (and being human) is all about, I think. And it's how I want to eat and live every day: like I deserve to really enjoy the food I put in my body.
I found the recipe for this savory peach salad at Pithy and Cleaver, one of my favorite sites. I only made a few decadent tweaks:
1/2 small sweet onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (the best you've got, it's worth it)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/4 lemon
3 ears of corn, shucked
3 peaches (large)
small bunch arugula
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
4 strips of bacon
3/4 cup cubed feta
salt and pepper
Slice the onion in quarters and cut into very delicate rings. Place in a small bowl. Add vinegars, olive oil, and lemon juice to the onion bowl, stir and let sit while you prepare the salad, stirring occasionally. Cut corn kernels off the cob into a large salad bowl. Cut peaches in one-inch squares and add to salad bowl. Wash arugula well and add, along with basil leaves. Cook bacon until crisp and crumble or dice. Add bacon and feta to the salad, then the onions and their liquid. Toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Perfect for 2-3 as a main dish, or more as a side.
Notes: Use the best ingredients possible: farmer's market produce and great balsamic. It makes a difference.
I didn't use all the dressing and found it kept in the fridge nicely and was perfect for a salad redux the next night.
I upped the bacon and cheese. Decadent, I know, but that was the point.