OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for peach frangipane cake.
By the time you read this, the dangerous heat wave will have mercifully passed, but that doesn’t mean we should stop eating tomato-mayo sandwiches, cold soba and raw fruit. It’s summer! When we have local watermelons so juicy and sweet they’re worth catching fever ‘n’ ague for (shout-out to Little House on the Prairie) it’s not hard to look on the bright side. And the peaches right now? Unlike the fictional Mackinaw peaches loved by Kramer, the real deal is ripe for more than two weeks (but it still feels too short!). The fuzz on a peach can make them kind of awkward to eat out of hand, but it isn’t there to perturb fruit lovers — peach fuzz has another biological purpose. Do you know what it is? Read on to find out!
Vegan seafood, sockeye sustainability, food award finalists and good things in gardens and markets
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
Faux fish? Go fish
Singapore-based researchers presented their new 3D-printed vegan seafood products at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco this week. Watch the unsettling yet oddly mesmerizing video of the printer at work.
Northwest authors win IACP nod
The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) announced its 2023 awards finalists — congrats to University of Washington geology professor David R. Montgomery and Seattle-based biologist Anne Biklé on their book “What Your Food Ate: How to Restore Our Land and Reclaim Our Health.” (J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who lives in Seattle as well, is also a finalist for what will be his zillionth much-deserved book award.)
Bon Appetit gets roasted
Bon Appetit Magazine came under fire recently for publishing an article titled “If You Only Buy Farmed Salmon, It’s Time to Try Sockeye;” critics took to the comments section on Instagram to lambast the magazine’s promotion of sockeye — a Pacific Northwest salmon species — as sustainable. (The article’s title has since been changed to focus more on cooking.) Though NOAA Fisheries considers sockeye a generally sustainable seafood option, two evolutionarily significant units of the fish are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act. The fish also seem to be shrinking in size — listen to a conversation about it between OPB’s Paul Marshall and science writer Miranda Weiss.
In the “Superabundant” garden this week
After the recent heat wave, it’s a miracle that there’s anything besides scorched earth in the garden this week, but the deep soaks we gave the soil every morning seem to have staved off the sunburn — the cucumbers, summer squash and Pineapple tomatoes are THRIVING. We finally yanked the sweet peas (not before saving the seeds for next year’s bouquets) and collected the lovage seed for adding to homemade Bloody Mary mix and our take on Old Bay seasoning (we call it New Bae). We harvested the last of the peaches and put up tons of spiced peach jam (plus baked a few cobblers and the frangipane cake for this week’s recipe).
Good things in markets
The Rainier cherries may be on their way out — grab some while you can! — but peaches are still in their prime. The Sweet Sue Too variety that Baird Family Orchards grows are as big as your head without sacrificing a single molecule of flavor. It is high melon season! Look for ultra-sweet watermelons at Walchli Farms in Hermiston (the largest melon grower in the Pacific Northwest) and exquisite Charentais cantaloupe from Gathering Together Farm in Philomath. Blackberries are still at their peak, in alleys and in markets. Green (and purple and yellow) pole beans are crisp and sweet as ever, and we finally have sweet local corn fresh for the shucking. Look for fat eggplants, heirloom zucchini and Italian peppers like Jimmy Nardello for grilling and marinating in herby oil and pomegranate molasses, and stash them in the fridge for sandwiches in the next heat wave.
Recipe: Peach frangipane cake
If you thought the aroma of a peach couldn’t be more intoxicating, just wait until you smell peaches surrounded by sweet, buttery almond cream as they bake into a chewy, amaretti-like cake. The Redhaven peaches in the “Superabundant” garden have skin that slips away like a silk stocking without needing a plunge in boiling water, but to remove the skin from other varieties, cut a small X in the bottom of the peach, dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then transfer them directly to an ice water bath. The skins should cooperate in coming away from the flesh. Though the fuzz on the peach can make the fruit somewhat unpleasant to bite into, like the trichomes on succulents like panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) and old man cactus (Cephalocereus senilis) the fine hairs are there to reduce moisture loss. Serves 8-12.
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar, divided
3 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup fine almond meal
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2-3 large peaches, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
Vanilla ice cream for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and paper a 10″ springform pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs one at a time until the mix is light and creamy and then add the almond extract.
- In another bowl, whisk together the almond meal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Beat the dry mixture into the butter mixture until just combined.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the sliced peaches on top as artfully or as lazily as you see fit. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top.
- Bake until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (a little peach juice is ok, but you don’t want raw batter), about 50-55 minutes.
- Resist the temptation to motorboat the hot cake, no. matter how good it smells; slide a knife around the edge before removing the springform, then cool for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream.