It’s been peach season these past few weeks in New York. This is a marked improvement over Minnesota, where there was no peach season at all. I’ve found, though, that there is a difference between Southern and Northeastern conceptions of ripeness. In the South, when you walk by a peach vendor or into an orchard section that’s considered ready for picking, you’re overwhelmed by the scent of the fruit. It’s an enveloping cloud that never fails to leave me nearly drunk on it. Here, I lean over the tables at the Regional Market and sniff, and there’s almost nothing. The smell of vegetation and fruit, but not of peaches. It took five or so tables of this for me to learn that it wasn’t that these farmers were selling under-ripe fruit, but that the definitions were different. What they consider ripe, I consider nearly green. And what I consider ripe, they consider nearly rotten. So now I buy a bag, put the contents in a big bowl on my dining room table, and somewhere between four and seven days later, they reach the point that I consider ready. Not yet mushy, but heady. It’s a very narrow window before their decline begins.
And so it was that I had a bowl of peaches that ripened fully on the day of our opening potluck. I went home that afternoon and whipped up this clafoutis recipe from Margaret Roach, who describes it as a “universal solvent of fruit dessert.” It took all of 12 minutes to put together and throw in the oven, and I liked the results fairly well. Mine wasn’t picture-perfect, but not awful looking, either. It isn’t as sweet as most American desserts, which I liked. Instead, you get the softly cooked, intensified fruit set off against a nicely creamy, firm, and gently sweetened background. It was all gone in an hour or so at the potluck. I’ll definitely make it again, perhaps with cherries.