Admittedly, the title’s context does not bespeak the spirit of the season—
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
(Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2)
—What I had in mind was actually Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which weaves the allusion throughout the text on some summery June morning. “(June had drawn out every leaf on the trees. […] Arlington Street and Piccadilly seemed to chafe the very air in the Park and lift its leaves hotly, brilliantly, on waves of that divine vitality which Clarissa loved. To dance, to ride, she had adored all that.)”
While the details don’t exactly match up—it’s been quite a rainy Massachusetts July—I’d say we can’t really complain. For the summer is upon us, and the farmer’s markets are abloom with color. Peaches, plums, zucchini, fresh herbs of all sorts—we find ourselves in great abundance. There’s nowhere quite like the Valley, is there?
Geoff and I bought a cute little Weber grill off Craigslist, and have been regaling ourselves ever since with burgers, bratwurst, sweet corn and grilled Vidalia onions. And after that? A dessert, of course, with lightly poached summer fruits and softly whipped cream. These two recipes below are variations on the same theme, one grilled and one poached. Now, I assure you that they’re tried and true—but, as Lamar Burton suggestively winks on “Reading Rainbow,” you don’t have to take my word for it.
2 c water
1 c sugar
1 vanilla bean (or vanilla extract)
1 sprig of thyme
8 oz mascarpone at room temperature
3 tbl powdered sugar
Cut fruits in half and spoon out the pit.
In a saucepan on medium heat, combine water, sugar, vanilla bean (or ½ to 1 tsp vanilla) and thyme. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add enough fruit to the pan to have a single layer floating at the top. You will have to poach in batches. Apricots will take 4-5 minutes. Plums will take 8-9 minutes. You want to be able to pierce the fruit with a pairing knife with little resistance. The already poached fruit can wait in a baking dish flesh side down, while you finish the rest. When all the fruit has been cooked, pour enough liquid to cover half way. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled. Reserve the vanilla bean, if using.
Place the mascarpone in a bowl with the powdered sugar. Split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds (or add ½ to 1 tsp vanilla extract.) Combine with a whisk. Serve both types of stone fruit with a dollop of the vanilla mascarpone and a little of the poaching liquid poured over top.
Grilled Peaches with Thyme and Vanilla Sugar:
Cut peaches (or plums, or necatrines) in half and spoon out the pit. Spoon a bit of sugar in their centers and sprinkle with fresh thyme. Place them cut side down on the grill, and cook until fruit is tender and grill-marked. Serve with a dollop of sweetened, vanilla-laced whipped cream, mascarpone, yogurt or ricotta—although they will probably be sweet enough already.
(And if you’re eating outdoors, mind the slugs!)