prosecco peach cream tart

The most perfect fruit has to be a perfect peach ~ Alice Waters

Last year, a February freeze  (the Valentine’s day massacre ) decimated the peach crop in the Northeast. And early this spring, another round of erratic weather did the same thing in Georgia and South Carolina. Those two states (along with California and New Jersey) are top peach growers in the United States. Events like that mean availability is a total wipeout. Which means there will be no peaches.

What would summer be without peaches — or tomatoes?! Certain foods define the fleeting moments of summer months, the way asparagus and ramps do in the spring and apples in the fall. Nature does what nature will, but missing out on sweet, luscious peaches seems like a tragedy. At least it does for me, but that’s based completely on my life priorities.

Sure, you can eat a piece of fruit grown elsewhere and shipped to market in a giant refrigerated truck — which I’m not knocking! Costco white nectarines are amazing right now — but there’s just nothing like eating fruit picked when it’s ripe. Never refrigerated, from tree, to hand, to mouth.

Peaches are in their prime right now, no matter where you find them. When you’re tired of devouring them over the kitchen sink, this tart is a simple way to make dessert out of one of summer’s treasures.  It’s completely no-bake,  with an almond-cookie crust, chilled cream cheese filling and refreshing wine-soaked peaches.

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almond cake with summer berries

I started off the summer testing a couple cake recipes, searching for “the one” — a simple, plain cake that tastes great all by itself, one that would also make a perfect companion to the various fruits that come and go all year long: citrus-rhubarb-berries-peaches-plums-cherries-apples-pears.

This cake was it. It’s the one to keep on your recipe list of basic essentials — just like a black t-shirt, it goes with everything.

Almonds pair well with many fruits, especially all the ones (like peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and even apples) they’re actually related to botanically. And fun fact: Stone fruit pits are the source of “bitter almond” flavor. They contain oils that are used to produce almond extract and flavorings, each kernel harboring a small amount of prussic acid a/k/a potassium cyanide. (Don’t worry, we’re talking trace amounts that are destroyed when heated during the manufacturing process).

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chocolate amaro cake

I wasn’t always a bitter person. But my interest in singling out that particular tastebud over other basic ones has grown from what was once adventurous curiosity to a bona fide obsession. It’s a big leap. I had a childhood love of sweets and soft drinks (hello mouthful of dental work), but now I crave the opposite, along with heated spice and saltiness.

And I’m not the only one. Unlike Italians, who have been cultivating and cooking bitter foods for centuries – think of radicchio, rapini, arugula, and dark-roasted coffee “corrected” with shots of Fernet-Branca – American palates are just now getting caught up with them. [Read more…]