Peaches and Cream

It is true: the Evanston farmer’s market is my first favorite, and my consistent Saturday morning destination.  It is, however, only available on Saturday mornings, meaning that if I get a midweek market craving I’m out of luck.  Enter the Lincoln Park farmer’s market, situated in a completely different part of the city, across the street from the zoo and underneath a thick canopy of trees.  It’s a considerable trek to get there, and my first impressions of it on a visit last summer weren’t that stellar (small but poorly laid out and sprawling, somewhat snooty), but the Lincoln Park market is open on Wednesday mornings as well as Saturdays.  Last Wednesday at 8 when I suddenly felt a desperate need for fresh fruit, I knew where to go.

I dragged Teacherman out of bed and across town to the lake, then south to the zoo and our ultimate aim: the market.   I was pleasantly surprised at the changes I found–there were many more vendors, much greater variety of produce, and friendliness all around, even though a storm squall had just moved through and everything was soaking wet. After my usual speed-scan of the entire market (Fresh-cut sprouts! Handmade tomato sauce! Cheese more expensive [but more worthwhile] than a new pair of shoes!), I found what I was looking for: a stand with the freshest, most unctuous stone fruit imaginable. There were cherries so complex and intense in their balance of sweetness and tart that they could almost have been dried, plums nearly black on the outside but translucently golden within, and peaches of such astonishing sweetness and depth of flavor that we almost passed them by because they were too perfect.

We were planning to be out of town that weekend, so we couldn’t buy as much fruit as we wanted.  We reluctantly refrained from buying the plums (not to mention some transcendent blueberries and raspberries), but splurged on the cherries and the peaches.  The cherries we ate immediately upon returning home, but the peaches we froze.

I’m a bit of a heretic when it comes to freezing stone fruits–I don’t peel them or cook them in sugar syrup or whatnot.  I just sliced the peaches off the stones, plunked the slices on a parchment-lined tray and slid the tray in the freezer.  Ten hours later I peeled the slices off the tray, put them in a freezer bag and threw them in the deep-freeze.

 Friday morning we rose early for our trip out of town.  We were reeling at the early hour, slightly cranky and very hungry.  The best breakfast for such an occasion?  Perfect peach smoothies.  I let the frozen peach slices sit for a few short minutes at room temperature, then blitzed them to ice crystals in the food processor.  I added Greek yogurt, a mere whisper of vanilla, and tasted to see how much simple syrup to add. Absolutely nothing was needed.   The sweetness of the peaches saturated the creaminess of the dairy, the tang of the yogurt cut the intensity of the fruit and the retained peach peel added a glorious color and an oh-so-slightly bitter background note, making a thick, complex, and absolutely moreish smoothie.  I piled the mixture at least 3 inches high above the rim of our glasses and we dug in.  Twenty minutes later we were perfectly fortified for the 5-hour road trip ahead, and already planning new ways to use peaches.

Tomorrow it is Wednesday again.  This time I may have to buy some plums. 

Published in: on July 24, 2007 at 7:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

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