Friday, July 06, 2007

Quest For Peaches

Yesterday, I headed out in search of Good Peaches to use in my ginger peach trifle. I headed to the Giant in Plumsteadville, which of the supermarkets around here tends to offer the best produce. They had peaches, and I did my best to pick some good ones, but cutting them up last night, it seemed they... Just Wouldn't Do. An odd combination of under-ripe around the pit and over-ripe and mealy at the skin. I chopped them up and put them in a bowl overnight, and this morning I had a bowl of unusable peaches.


So I headed out again today, setting my sites on the nearest Whole Foods Market.

Alpha in San Diego was the man who turned me onto Whole Foods. And who better? Alpha worked as a meat cutter in the original Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas. According to Alpha, it was such a great place to work. People who worked there were encouraged to make the most of their jobs, and interaction with the customers--without necessarily trying to sell them something--was encouraged. Alpha worked on Friday nights, when supermarkets are pretty dead. He decided to help the time pass by starting a program he called Meat Department True Confessions. He would get on the PA and announce that for the next half an hour, he would be hearing true confessions in the Meat Department. At the end of a half an hour, the person who had the most Shocking confession would get a free cut of the meat of their choice. Then he would sit back and wait as one-by-one, Whole Foods Market shoppers would approach and confess to him. Each time this happened, he'd get back on the PA and announce, "Shocking! Shocking!!! But is it shocking enough?" When the half hour was up, he'd decide who had the most shocking confession and award the person their meat, at no time divulging just what that person or anyone else had confessed. Adultery, of course, was the most common confession, but only the most creative--with my mother-in-law!!!--merited the meat.

While visiting Alpha a few years ago, we stopped by the Whole Foods in San Diego in search of a nice watermelon. There followed a graduate seminar in watermelon for me and Alpha courtesy of the produce guys at Whole Foods Market. We learned everything about how watermelons are grown and harvested and, most important, how to pick a good one. The watermelon we walked out with was one of the best watermelons I've ever had in my life.

So I headed over to Whole Foods Market south of Montgomeryville to find me some good peaches.

Oh man.

Whole Foods Market so rocks.

I found some great peaches, and was about to pay for them and head for home when I saw the olive bar.

Hmmm... I bet they have pitted french green olives (of course they did). My favorite olives. I used to eat them by the fistful when I did my weekly grocery shopping at Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. And from the olive bar, I could see the fish department.


I decided to splurge on dinner. I got myself two dozen cherry stone clams ("throw in six extra in case some don't survive the trip home," said the helpful Whole Foods fishmonger), some salmon sausage with jalapeños, and some shrimp for my dad. My dad loves shrimp. So much that perhaps I'll be able to trick him into eating shrimp prepared a way he'll doubtless be dubious of: my vietnames-inspired cucumber shrimp salad. The recipe for which I will now divulge.

First, skin and seed two medium sized cucumbers. (You can get the seeds out pretty easy with a teaspoon.) Cut them in half lengthwise, and slice them so they're in little crescent moon shapes.

In a big bowl, start with some sesame oil or flax seed oil or canola oil or peanut oil or whatever. About as much as you'd use if you were making salad dressing, 'cause that's what you're doing. To this, add the juice from two limes and a little bit of honey. Then, combine the zest from the limes, some basil, cilantro, and peppermint, chopped fine. Add just a smidgen of rice wine vinegar, and combine it all really good. (Shaking it up in a bottle works well.) Pour over the cucumbers and set aside so the flavors marry and marinate the cucumbers.

Now for the shrimp. Have the shrimp peeled and de-veined. Put them in a bowl and add some of that there oil you were using, and then add tons and tons and tons of Tabasco sauce. Lots of it. So the shrimp are more or less sitting in a pool of Tabasco Sauce.

I cook the shrimp on the grill, but you can do it in a hot (500°) oven, too. I put the shrimp in the Tabasco sauce in an aluminum pie plate and put it on the grill, close the lid, and give it a minute or two, checking it often. Remember, it doesn't take too long at all for shrimp to cook, and you don't want to overcook them or else you can just take them and throw them right in the garbage cause that's where they belong. 'Kay? When they're cooked, fish them out of the Tabasco and add them to the cucumbers. Mix lightly, but not too much.

The idea is to have these fiery hot shrimp in this cool, green, flavorful salad. It's sooooooooo good. Great summertime appetizer for folks to enjoy while you grill the steaks.

But anyway, I've got some peaches to slice up. I'm debating whether or not to skin the peaches. I love peaches for the skins, but I believe I've heard tell of some poor benighted folks who don't like peaches because of the skins, and I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on the sublime delights of my ginger-peach-vanilla trifle because of a little peach skin. On the other hand, skinning peaches is a huge pain in the ass.

So we'll see.

No comments: