Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Fruit of the Southwest Desert

Summary Mount Garfield (right) near Grand Junc...Image via Wikipedia Food deserts, disconcerting to city dwellers who care about equal shopping opportunity for all, mean an entirely different thing in the high desert of southwest Colorado. The combination of hot summer days and cool nights makes for monkey-good peaches and corn. I don't recommend combining the two, unless you're in the mood to freak out your children.

The towns that produce my favorite summer fruits and veggies are in southwest Colorado. Palisade, just outside of Grand Junction, is famous for peaches. A bit further south towards Montrose you'll find Olathe (pronounced o-LAY-tha), which produces wonderful sweet corn. Both towns are located in the valley of the Grand Mesa, the largest flattop mountain in the world. Temperatures reach into the triple digits under the hot midday sun, and drop into the 60s after dark, locking in all the sweetness you find in a good peach or ear of sweet corn.

I've spent a glorious month revisiting this beautiful part of the country, enjoying plain peaches and steamed corn on the cob, but also peach cobbler and beautiful corn salads. When I retreat to the great metropolis of Chicago I'll find solace in the fabulous (and fabulously expensive) corn salad at Trotter's to Go. Until I slingshot myself back to the city I'll be enjoying lots more produce from the high desert.

I made a peach cobbler using my basic cobbler recipe.

Peach Cobbler
Serves 6

Combine in a mixing bowl:
6-8 ripe peaches, sliced
1 T flour
2 t cinnamon sugar (or 1/4 t cinnamon and 1 1/2 t sugar
juice of half a lemon

Cobbler topping:
1 cup flour
2 T sugar
½ t baking soda
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
2 T butter, melted
½ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Transfer the fruit mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish. Those Pyrex ones are great for cobbler.

Next prepare the cobbler topping. Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add melted butter to buttermilk and stir to combine. Add to dry, mixing with a fork very gently until just combined. The dough will be sticky – don’t worry.

Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the fruit – try to space it out somewhat evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling up all around. Serve hot or warm.

Summer Corn Salad
Print recipe only here

Serves 4

3-4 ears of sweet corn, shucked and steamed 4-5 minutes
handful grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
3-4 leaves fresh basil, stacked, rolled together and thinly sliced
2 t cider vinegar
1 1/2 t good olive oil
pinch kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Boil water in a suitable pot to steam the corn. Shuck the ears while you wait. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Steam corn, then allow to cool to room temperature. I like to stop the cooking by submerging in icy water. Prepare yourself to make a bit of a mess as you trim off the kernels. Position an ear of corn upright on a cutting board and trim as close to the cob as you can. Add the kernels to the mixing bowl and toss well. Let sit about 10 minutes before serving, or reserve, covered, in the fridge.

No comments: