Peach Perfect: Renowned Fresno-area farmer releases cookbook

Los Angeles TimesJune 24, 2013 

When life hands you peaches, you make ... well, lots of different things, most of them delicious. But, if you're a member of David Mas Masumoto's family, one of those things is books.

The Fresno-area farmer's peaches have been featured by name on menus from Chez Panisse to Per Se. And he's even been able to persuade hundreds of fruit lovers to "adopt" some of his trees — they pay an upfront fee and then dedicate two weekends to harvesting the fruit.

Masumoto's eight books, mostly pondering the farmer's life, have been so well-received he was recently added to the National Council on the Arts.

Perhaps oddly, he's never written a cookbook. But now he has and like so much that is going on at the Masumoto farm these days, it's a family effort. Written by Masumoto, his wife, Marcy, and their daughter Nikiko, "The Perfect Peach" alternates between familiar Masumoto ruminations on the nature of growing great peaches and more practical thoughts on how to use them.

You get essays by Mas on things such as pruning and the many workers who have helped keep the farm running. And then Marcy and Nikiko chime in with advice on how to select perfect peaches and how to prepare them.

The recipes are a Masumoto mix as well. Some of them are traditional favorites, such as dried peaches or fruit salad. Others represent the more modern side of the valley: a Vietnamese-inspired shaking beef salad or pork tacos with peach salsa. You get your peach pie and you get your peach galette.

Like they say: When life hands you peaches ...


Peach gazpacho

Serves 6 to 8, makes about 6 cups

Ingredients:

6 soft to gushy peaches (about 2½ pounds), peeled, pitted, quartered

½ cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or golden balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ to ¾ cup water

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Bell pepper, avocado for garnish

Instructions:

In a food processor, combine peaches, cucumber, garlic, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and ½ cup water and pulse until coarsely pureed. Thin with the remaining ¼ cup water if needed. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Ladle into bowls, drizzle each serving with a little oil, and garnish with the bell pepper and avocado.


Old-fashioned peach pie

Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie; serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

Pastry: 3 cups unbleached all- purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

½ cup vegetable shortening (not margarine), chilled

6 to 7 tablespoons ice water

Filling: 6 cups fresh peaches (with a little give), pitted, peeled and sliced or partially thawed frozen peach slices

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup granulated sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, instant tapioca or tapioca flour

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes

1 tablespoon heavy cream or half-and-half (optional)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (optional)

Instructions:

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt, mixing well. Distribute the butter and shortening over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, work in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and work it into the flour mixture with your hands until it is moist enough to hold together and you can shape it into a ball. Do not overwork the dough or the pastry will be tough. Divide the dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten each ball into a disk 1 to 1½ inches thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

When you are ready to assemble the pie, dust your work surface with flour. Unwrap the larger disk, place on the floured surface and roll out into a round at least 13 inches in diameter and ‹ inch thick. Transfer the round to a 9-inch pie pan, gently fitting it into the bottom and sides. Trim the edge of the pastry to leave a 1-inch overhang around the rim of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the peaches in a large bowl. Drizzle them with the lemon juice and stir gently to coat evenly. If your peaches are especially juicy, drain off the excess juice and use the larger amount of flour. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit and toss gently to coat the peaches evenly. Set the peaches aside.

Pour the filling into the pastry-lined pie pan. Distribute the cubes of salted butter evenly over the filling. Roll out the second pastry disk the same way into a round at least 11 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick.

Gently lay the round over the filled pastry, then trim the edge to match the overhang of the bottom layer. Fold the overhang either over itself or under itself to create an edge, sealing the edge securely and fluting it for an attractive appearance.

Brush the top crust with the cream, then sprinkle it with the turbinado sugar. Cut at least 6 large slits in the top crust to allow the steam to vent during baking. Cover the edges with foil or a crust protector if needed to prevent overbrowning.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the sheet on the lower rack of the oven to catch drips as the pie bakes. Place the pie on the center rack above the sheet and bake 50 to 60 minutes.

Check the crust after 40 minutes. If the edges are not the same color as the exposed top of the crust, remove the edge cover. When the filling is bubbling and the crust is evenly browned, the pie is ready.

Let the pie cool completely (this will take at least 2 to 3 hours) on a wire rack before serving, then cut into wedges to serve.

This and the bruschetta and gazpacho recipes are from "The Perfect Peach," by David Mas, Marcy and Nikiko Masumoto (Ten Speed Press, $22).


Peach bruschetta

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

Pesto: 1 clove garlic; ¼ cup walnuts; ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil; 1½ cups arugula; salt, pepper

Bruschetta: 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the bread

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 baguette, cut into 3/8-inch slices

1 or 2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 soft small peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, in wedges ¼-inch thick

Shaved Parmesan, for garnish

Coarse salt

Instructions:

Combine the garlic and walnuts in a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the oil and arugula, and continue to pulse until the mixture is evenly moist and spreadable. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and rosemary. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is soft. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare a medium-hot fire in a gas or charcoal grill. When the fire is ready, paint each bread slice on both sides with oil.

Arrange the bread on the grill rack and toast, turning once, for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

When the bread slices are ready, let them cool enough to handle, then rub the smashed garlic cloves on both sides of each slice. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the pesto on one side of each bread slice. (You will need only ½ cup pesto; cover and store any remaining pesto in the refrigerator for another use.)

Top each slice with some of the caramelized onion, 1 or 2 peach slices and a sprinkle of salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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