While I'm a big fan of the many books written by David Mas Masumoto about life on his farm (Epitaph for a Peach, Four Seasons in Five Senses), as well as the peaches and nectarines that are grown on the Masumoto Family Farm near Fresno, CA, I wasn't sure about his latest release: a cookbook he co-authored with his wife and daughter. An entire cookbook devoted just to peaches? Are there really enough peach recipes to make up a whole cookbook? Of course there are!
• Who wrote it: Marcy, Nikiko and David Mas Masumoto
• Who published it: Ten Speed Press
• Number of recipes: 50
• Recipes for right now: All of them, since we are entering into peach season. But a few notables are Summer Sangria; Prosciutto Wrapped Peaches; Peach Gazpacho; Mustard Peach Glazed Chicken; Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos; Peach Shortcake; Peach-Lemongrass Granita; Peach Chutney; Peach-Tomato Salsa.
• Other highlights: The story of the Masumoto Family Farm might be familiar, especially if you live in California or follow the Slow Food/organic food movement. This is a classic California tale, with the farm's Central Valley location and the family's periods of difficulty (such as when the Mosumoto family was banished to internment camps during WWII), but the story of a small farm that has flourished while growing difficult-to-ship but outrageously delicious organically-grown peaches and nectarines is one that every eater should celebrate. And this cookbook does just that.
Yes, there are recipes, but equally as interesting and important are the glimpses we get into life on the farm and the joys and struggles of growing a very perishable, but sweet and juicy, old-fashioned peach. The book is written by Mas Masumoto and his wife Marcy as well as their daughter Nikiko, who has recently joined her parents in running the farm. Scattered throughout the book are an excellent primer on peaches, notes about how to select and cook with them, spotlights on preferred varieties, stories about what it's like to be a farmer and work with peaches, thoughts on working with farm laborers, first time peach stories, observations of the land and the people who work it, and stories of birth and death and all the deliciousness in-between. As Mas Masumoto says in one of his essays:
Without stories, peaches become a commodity and consumers are attracted by their cheap prices. Gone are the words that help commit experience to memory. When we lack a language of taste, we lose one of the main ingredients for creating lasting meaning. If foods are not paired with stories, no one hears the farmer's voice and the farmer is dismissed.
Of course you will find classic recipes like peach pie and peach cobbler, bellinis, and peach melba ice cream. But you will also find many unusual takes on savory dishes such as Cold Peach Soup, Peach Bruschetta with an arugula pesto, a Caprese Salad made with peaches instead of tomatoes, Pickled Peaches, Summer Thai Shrimp and Noodle Salad, Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops and Grilled Peaches. There are many delicious and refreshing peach beverages as well.
Although I started out a skeptic, I am now convinced that this book will be in high rotation on my kitchen counter this summer. It's almost peach season after all and I'm going to seize every precious moment that I can!
• Who would enjoy this book? Well, peach lovers, of course, and those of us lucky to have access to an abundance of delicious, juicy peaches. But even if a good peach in an occasional treat, you may want to check this book out for its fascinating information on the making of a good peach and its pages and pages of unique and wonderful ways to look at and cook with them.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: The Perfect Peach by Marcy, Nikiko and David Mas Masumoto
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(Images: Dana Velden)