My mom is sitting at the kitchen table, watching as I tear up rosemary leaves and scatter them on a pan of sliced peaches. I’m not sure what I’m doing … all I know is I want to make summer peaches fit for supper.
“Yeah,” I say, and laugh. “I hope this won’t be bad!”
My parents are visiting from Kansas City. They’ve been here about a week, and we’ve spent most of that time eating.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When I graduated from the University of Missouri and moved to Daytona Beach, I planned to stay in Florida for two years. Then I’d move back to Kansas City for another couple of years, head to a major metropolitan area and eventually return to my hometown full time — earning journalistic stripes along the way.
“Two years,” I remember telling my parents as they left me in the trailer I rented as a first apartment. “Two years.”
Two years turned into 18 spent tumbling around the Sunshine State. Now we’re 10 years in DC. So instead of living in the same city as my parents, I see them a couple of times a year when either they or we travel 1,000-some miles to spend time together.
They always take us to new and interesting places when we visit KC. But when they come here … I cook. I roast thick fillets of salmon. Barbecue multiple chickens. Boil up pounds of linguine with clams and sausages. Bake cupcakes, meringues and pies — all with my mom close at hand.
My mother is a careful, caring cook. She taught me how to navigate the kitchen when I was just a little girl. I remember standing on a chair creaming sugar and shortening for her famous chocolate chip cookies. I recall carefully stirring dry ingredients into the batter for her Preacher’s Chocolate Cake. She taught me how to fry a chicken, roast a turkey and make a mean meatloaf. In the process, she made me feel secure and loved and well cared for.
Now, I get to return the favor.
Tonight I have a couple of beautiful pork tenderloins that I want to stuff. At first, I consider stuffing the meat with peaches, but that seems a little too dicey with a horde of hungry family milling about. (Even I have limits when it comes to playing with my food.)
- Some fennel;
- Some bacon;
- Some onions and spinach.
I cook the bacon, then brown chopped fennel and onions in the leftover grease. I add garlic and some sage and rosemary from the garden, then fold in some panko breadcrumbs. After slicing the tenderloins down the center and opening them up, I spoon the stuffing on each one, then reclose the meat and tie it with string. This, I know, will be delicious after roasting at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.
But what about a side dish? Those peaches keep calling.
“I think I’ll make a side dish with these,” I tell my mom.
“Hmmmm,” she says.
I slice them, season them, drizzle them with some vinegar (“Vinegar on peaches?” Mom asks) and olive oil, then toss them in a shallow pan and stick them in the oven. Thirty minutes later they emerge fragrant, piquant, piney and sweet. They’re a perfect foil for the rich pork.
“These are so good,” my mom and dad say after we sit down to dinner.
“What are they?” my boys want to know.
:”Your mama cooked these peaches just for us,” Mom answers.
“It’s how I show her how much I love her,” I tell them.
They look a little confused, but I know it will pass. After all, they come from two generations of kitchen lovers, and I’m working hard to pass the passion on:
- 5 peaches
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
Peel the peaches and thickly slice them. (You should have 6-8 slices per peach.) Place them in a greased 8-X-8-inch casserole dish.
Mince the rosemary leaves or tear them with your fingers and sprinkle them on top of the peaches. Drizzle on some balsamic vinegar (1 to 2 teaspoons) and some olive oil (a tablespoon or so). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then mix with your hands and taste. “Peach” should be your dominant flavor, with hits of vinegar and oil. If you want a stronger taste of balsamic, add a bit more. Ditto the olive oil.
Place in a preheated, 325-degree oven. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.