Summer has begun. At least in my book. On May 29th, shortly before noon, some 400 students left the school building for the last time this school year. And somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, as students were filed onto fading yellow buses, Alice Cooper began to sing. This was a big event, some 540 days in the making.
Three years ago, I stepped into a middle school classroom for the first time. My hands trembled slightly as I wrote my name on the board. My voice, on the edge of a quaver, was affectedly deep. But the students did not laugh. They didn’t make me to feel like an amateur. Instead, they showed me that I shouldn’t be afraid of them. They showed me, in their own quiet way, that what they really wanted was someone to listen to them, someone to care for them, someone who could (if it were possible) understand them. I knew then that we had a lot in common. I could go on and on in this melodramatic tone. I could pour another glass of wine, keep writing about all the lives I’ve impacted, and just cry it out in front of my computer screen–but I won’t do that to you. What I will tell you, instead, is that this stage of my life has come to an end (at least for now). This Fall, I will not step back into the classroom. Instead, I will fly over the great-wide Atlantic ocean, and I will make my home in Aix-en-Provence, France for 10 months with my wife. That’s right: I’ll be taking this blog on the road. I’m sure that the kitchen in our new place will be small and perhaps not as useful as what we have now, but we’ll make it work. In searching for an apartment in Aix, I have learned that an oven is a kind of luxury and that most kitchens outfitted with one are termed “une cuisine Americaine.” But whatever the case and whatever the state of our petite cuisine, you can expect lots of delicious recipes and photography. And you can also expect that I’ll be putting to use the abundant and myriad produce that Southern France has to offer.
But until then, we’ll be spending the summer here in the South, where the weather has warmed and the peaches have sweetened. Recently, here in Tennessee, it seems like every little produce stand is exuberantly extolling the virtues of their peaches. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I swooped up a few and put them to good use. Since we last spoke, I’ve been using coriander seeds quite a lot in my kitchen. I love them for the aromatic and fruity perfume they give to other ingredients. And recently, it was pure serendipity when I happened to be eating some homemade pickles(laced with coriander seeds) and spread a bit of peach jam onto a piece of toast. The lingering perfume from the coriander seeds mixed with the bright sweetness of the peaches and I knew that these two ingredients would make a perfect marriage. After some tinkering, I came up with this most refreshing summer salad–the kind of thing that would be delicious on a warm evening, paired with a well-balanced witbier.
Grilled Peach Salad with Feta and Coriander (serves 2)
2 large, very ripe peaches
2 oz good sheep’s milk feta
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
About 2 tsps local honey
Good olive oil
black pepper, to taste
Begin by heating a lightly greased pan on medium-high heat. Meanwhile, slice the peaches in half and remove the pit, doing your best to preserve their shape. Once halved, place the peaches (flesh-side down) into the very hot pan. Let the peaches cook until they become charred on the outside. Once well-charred, place the peaches on a plate and put them into the freezer to cool. As the peaches cool, warm the 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a pan just until the sugar dissolves. Add to this the coriander seeds and the sherry vinegar. Place this in a small bowl in the freezer to quickly cool.
When the peaches are very cool (but not frozen), remove them from the freezer and cut them into thirds. Arrange them on a large plate, charred-side up. Drizzle the peaches with honey, dress them lightly with the sherry sugar mixture and dot each peach with a few coriander seeds. Arrange the crumbled feta in small pockets surrounding the peaches, drizzle the peaches with olive oil, and season them with a little black pepper. Summer is served.