I am the farthest thing from a pastry chef.
Baking cakes, pies or cookies is not my thing. I'll eat them, even attempt to prepare them. But the skill does not come easy. The structure and precision drive me a little nuts and every attempt always resulted in disasters. From an early age it was clear that I’d never be a cake decorator or a pie contest winner. Yet, for some reason, people often ask me to bake my “specialty” cake. Where do people get this idea that all chefs can do that frosting-related craft? I stopped trying to answer that a while ago.
And in my business I better have a dessert repertoire or I am in serious trouble. Thus, I’ve become quite handy at putting dessert on the table.
How do I manage? There is certainly the “thinking out-side the box” part, but also the thrill of making the grand finale of a meal a memorable experience that inspires a fresh-dessert approach in me.
So, rather than dwelling on all the desserts I cannot (or won’t) do, I put all of my focus on the desserts I CAN (and want to) do. I love fresh fruit, fresh herbs, chocolate, cheeses, and honey. My initiative was to develop simple ways of bringing some of these elements together organically. Thus I made “Grilled Peaches, Chevre & Honey.”
I arrived home from String Town Groceries with a case of fresh Missouri Peaches. Soon after, peaches in smoothies and salads became old fast. Time for something new. But what? The juicy peaches are too extraordinary to cook down with tons of sugar, so I knew I wouldn’t be making preserves. I wanted to maintain and share their freshness.
Then, it came to me, and inspired by the memory of a Green Papaya and Fresh Mozzarella “Caprese” dessert I had made a few years back, I combined the peaches with a bit of Kalona White Cheddar Cheese, a drizzle of honey and a few basil leaves. Delicious. The tart and sweetness of the peach, blended with the sharp cheese and the smooth honey came together divinely.
But, I knew it was missing something. I can’t quite recall how I considered grilling the peach as it all happened so fast. Before I knew it I was standing over the grill and the peach’s skin was chard and the juices tasted like caramel. And, to improve on a good thing, I added Triple Creek's chevre (a bit more tangy), and marvelous suddenly lacked meaning.
“Grilled Peaches, Chevre & Honey”
6 Missouri Peaches, halved, pit removed
½ cup Elbert’s Honey (or your favorite local one)
10-12 basil leaves, ripped by hand a few times
6oz Triple Creek Goat Cheese
1. Heat your grill until very hot. Clean the grill top well and brush with a little bit of vegetable oil.
2. Place the peaches pit-side down and grill for about 1 minute. Flip peaches to the skin side and grill for another minute or so until all sides have grill marks. The marks will be uneven and light brownish. Remove from the grill and onto a platter, pit-side up.
3. Scoop about an ounce of cheese on the peaches.
4. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with basil.
5. Try to not eat them all!
Since then, I’ve found many similar online entries. People have used ricotta, mozzarella and fontina. What makes this dish extraordinary is regional significance. Feeling inspired by seasonal products that surround you, can make the biggest difference in how you approach a task. In my case, dessert. This dish is a celebration of all things local. It is simple, delicious and different.
Until next time!
"Your biggest break can come from never quitting. Being at the right place at the right time can only happen when you keep moving toward the next opportunity."