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Peach season has just begun

July 13, 2018

Last Saturday was a perfect day at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market - cool temperatures, low humidity, jaunty breezes and the welcome sight of Bennett Orchards' red tent. For the second week in a row, they were selling both blueberries and peaches. We may only have another week of berries, but peach season has just begun with the arrival of a clingstone variety, GaLa.

We brought home a bag brimming with peaches sporting reddish highlights over golden-yellow skin. Thanks to the careful staff managing the array of buckets at Bennett's tent, we had an ideal mix of ready-to-eat and ready-to-ripen peaches. In addition to its roomy handle, the bag also had clear instructions on how to take care of our new purchases.

In bright orange text was a key piece of advice: "Do Not Refrigerate!" These peaches (unlike the rock-hard specimens at the supermarket) are tree-ripened and picked at just the right moment. After eating the first two perfectly ripe peaches directly over the kitchen sink, we closed the bag around a few and spread out the remaining ones in a cool spot on the counter. The peaches in the bag were soft by breakfast the next day, and the ones on the counter were ready for dessert after dinner.

Since typical peach recipes seem to focus on pies and crumbles, we tried something a little different: peach crepes. Instead of a flour-only batter, I used a mixture of flour and cornmeal for some texture interest. And, since I was out of milk, I substituted drinkable yogurt, a risky move that turned out fine. The peaches were thinly sliced, which was a tad tricky since the flesh was tightly attached to the pit. To maintain the absolute freshest peach presence, the slices were simply macerated in some sugar and lemon juice, not simmered into a sugary mess. I also added almond extract to replace the standard vanilla flavoring.

To round out your repertoire of peach dishes, I've included a recipe for the crepes in the photo. For additional crunch, you can add sliced almonds either to the batter or to the sliced peach mixture. To make peach leather (also called fruit roll-ups), purée peaches and honey in the blender, then bake until firm. Don't worry if the edges are crisp right out of the oven, they'll soften.

Since peaches are a quintessential summer fruit, what could be more appropriate than a frozen peach popsicle? We've added adult ingredients with just an ounce each of vodka and cointreau. Don't try to add more alcohol to this recipe or your popsicles won't freeze (which may not be a problem if you'd prefer to eat the slushy mess from a bowl).

Now that you have suggestions for breakfast, a portable snack and happy hour, I've also included a one-skillet meal with boneless chicken breasts simmered in a peach, tomato and Balsamic sauce. Be sure to trim the boneless breasts into similar-sized pieces so they cook evenly; sometimes I'll slice mine in half horizontally if they're too thick.

Finally, if you've bought too many peaches and you want to save them for a future baking project, you can easily freeze them. On the Bennett Orchards website (www.bennettorchards.com), you can find two different ways to freeze peaches, either in simple syrup or treated with ascorbic acid. Or, you can just make more peach popsicles.

Peach Crepes

3 ripe peaches 
1 T lemon juice 
1 t almond extract 
1 T sugar (optional) 
1/3 C flour 
1/3 C cornmeal 
1 T sugar 
1/4 t salt 
2/3 C drinkable yogurt* 
2 eggs, lightly beaten 
3 T melted butter 
confectioners sugar 

Wash and pit the peaches. Cut into thin slices and combine in a bowl with lemon juice, almond extract and sugar (if using); set aside. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Add yogurt, eggs and melted butter; whisk together until smooth. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low. Pour 1/4 C batter evenly into the heated skillet, tilting to cover the entire pan. Cook until edges look dry and start to curl slightly. Turn over crepe and cook until golden. Transfer cooked crepe to a sheet of parchment or waxed paper and repeat with remaining batter. To serve, arrange peach slices along the center of the crepe and fold over sides to create a triangle; drizzle with accumulated peach juices and sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Yield: 6 crepes *Note: Stoneyfield yogurt wild berry smoothie works well.

Peach Fruit Leather

4 ripe peaches 
1 T honey 

Preheat oven to 225 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Wash and pit the peaches. Cut into chunks and place in the bowl of a blender with the honey. Purée until the mixture is smooth. Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake until dry and no longer sticky to the touch, between 3 and 4 hours. Allow to cool completely in the pan. Using scissors or a pizza cutter, trim into 1-inch wide lengths. Leaving the fruit leather on the paper, roll up and store in an airtight container.

Peach Popsicles

2 ripe peaches 
8 strawberries 
2 C orange juice 
2 T vodka 
2 T Cointreau 

Wash and pit the peaches; cut into slices. Hull and slice the strawberries. Combine peaches, strawberries, orange juice, vodka and Cointreau in the bowl of a blender. Purée until smooth; skim off and discard the foam that forms on top. Fill ice-pop molds almost to the top, leaving room for the mixture to expand as it freezes. Place filled molds in the freezer for one hour. Insert the sticks and freeze for an additional 12 hours.

Chicken & Peach Skillet

2 T olive oil 
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
salt & pepper 
1 sliced onion 
3 T Balsamic vinegar 
2 C sliced peaches 
1 1/2 C diced tomatoes 
2 T sliced basil leaves 

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium. Pat dry and season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place chicken in the skillet in a single layer. Cook until lightly browned on each side, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Add onion to skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with Balsamic vinegar, scraping up any browned bits. Add peaches and tomatoes; sauté for about 3 minutes. Return chicken to the pan, cover and simmer until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Garnish with basil to serve.