I’m not sure about you but I count down the days to peach season each year. Something about these sweet, yet tart fruits just screams summertime. So at the first chance I get, I head over D’Amico’s Farm Stand in Closter, New Jersey and buy some fresh peaches. What I love about D’Amico’s is the fact that the owner of this 60-year family-run business, John D’Amico, only sources from small farms within a 200-mile radius of Closter. That means, most of his delicious, freshly picked fruits and vegetables come from south Jersey, which is at the heart of the Garden State. D’Amico’s has clingstone fruit until the summer reaches its apex of heat and then begins offering freestone. So, what’s the difference?
At first glance, there is no difference between a clingstone and freestone peach, both fuzzy and reddish-pink on the outside. On the inside, however, is where the difference lies. The best way to figure out if your peaches are clingstone or freestone is by slicing the peach down the middle and pulling it apart. If the pit falls out easily, it is freestone. If not, clingstone.
Clingstone peaches are those that when opened, the pit sticks to the pulpy flesh of the fruit. According to goodhousekeeping.com, these peaches are rarely sold in stores but are used mostly in canned fruit. Depending on the location of the peach farm, harvest season for clingstones can range from mid-May to early August. But use them as long as you can! Their large and juicy peach-ness can be used to make great jellies, jams, purees and fantastic summer dishes.
Freestone peaches, on the other hand, separate easily from the fruit. Although larger and less juicy in texture, they are still undeniably sweet. Again, depending on the grower, freestones can be harvested from mid-June to early October. Generally freestone peaches last later into the season than clingstone peaches. They are perfect for cooking because they slice easily and uniformly, making them well-suited to great pie recipes that will leave your guests’ mouths watering.
One of the best things about summer is the availability of fresh peaches. So whether you enjoy peaches in purees or in pies, these yummy fruits are the perfect means for sweetening up your summer.
The Mystic Cookbook, by Denise and Meadow Linn, mother and daughter, offers insight into the secret alchemy of food and provides intuitive recipes that celebrate the energy and healing powers of cuisine. This is not your “traditional” cookbook in the sense that it provides a series of recipes with anecdotes on their origins and photos of finished dishes. The beauty of this recently debuted book is that it explores the spiritual component of eating, infusing wisdom about food’s ability to heal the body, mind and psyche. Denise and Meadow Linn delve into health, nutrition and spiritual rituals, helping the reader understand how eating connects us intimately with nature and ourselves. If we follow the path properly, our relationship with food can bring about a spiritual awakening. By encompassing traditions from all over the world, the authors highlight how meal consumption around the world is seen as a potential gateway to mystical transformation and the food we eat is a powerful pathway to self-renewal. Slow food enthusiasts will rejoice at the message here. It’s all about slowing down, appreciating, acknowledging and enjoying food, sensuously, spiritually and consciously.
In an interview with the author, Meadow Linn describes how her adventures around the world impacted her relationship with food and consciousness. She explains that in graduate school she studied the history and sociology of eating in France and was fascinated by the European culture so unlike her own, a culture that put such an emphasis on not only what to eat, but also how to eat. “There’s a wonderful word in France—’conviviality’—that expresses the unique connection between food, friends, family, culture and community,” said Linn. She loves how the idea of food in France means so much more than simply nutrition and fuel. There’s an art to eating, and a benefit when care and mindfulness is as present as our piqued taste buds.
The authors point out Paul Rozin, a psychologist at University of Pennsylvania, found that Americans think more about the nutritional components of food and how they react in the bloodstream, while the French focus more on the celebration and experience of eating certain foods. Meadow highlights that, “Mindful eating can be a powerful way to open your consciousness and live more deliciously.” LIVE MORE DELICIOUSLY. I love that.
I asked Meadow how we could more easily connect with food and she provided suggestions. One way to eat mindfully is to spend time connecting with our food before eating it. An example Meadow gives is spending time looking at, even gazing into food prior to tasting it, even for as long as 30 seconds. She suggests examining a strawberry before eating it, inhaling its aroma and asking questions like: What does it look like? How does it smell? How does it feel in my hands, on my tongue, and when I chew it? What does it sound like when I bite into it? How does it taste? Sweet? Sour? A bit of both?
GMOs are an area of concern for the authors and the fact that seeds are being patented as intellectual property. They support loving our food no matter where it comes from, adding “Fear, judgment and guilt are not great seasonings.”
The authors’ over-arching message? Love what you eat. Eat what you love.
For a refreshing and healthy summer grilled fish accompaniment, the Mango Salsa is one of my favorite recipes from The Mystic Cookbook. This flavorful recipe includes chilies, tomatoes, onions and fruit juice to create a salty, spicy and sweet mixture that will awaken your taste buds and mind. We have posted the recipe from The Mystic Cookbook below, with the permission of Hay House Publishing. The authors write that this dish and its specific ingredients will open the gateway into a deeper understanding of your own mysteries. They recommend it be served with a fish or shrimp tacos. The orange mango flesh is thought by the authors to stimulate the second chakra which activates pleasure, creativity and joy. My experience with this recipe concurs. I felt happy just looking at the firm, juicy orange flesh, smelling its summery aroma and tasting its vibrant sweetness. I found slowing down during preparation and eating really made a difference in how fully I could embrace the flavors of this and the other dishes I enjoyed it. Slowing down and eating more mindfully does indeed create a more robust experience that is more positive all around for the senses and spirit.
2 cups diced mango (from 1 or 2 mangoes)
2 cups diced Roma tomatoes, seeds removed (from about 5 tomatoes)
1 cup diced white onion (from 1/2 large onion)
3/4 cup finely diced cilantro (from one bunch)
1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, and then minced (optional)
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
1 tsp. sea salt
When all the local farm stands are stocked with big baskets of berries and my garden’s bushes are weighed down with plump juicy berries, I can’t resist baking with them. I love the way blackberries cook up and hold their shape, with their sweet/tart taste.
Summer’s heat requires simple recipes that yield delicious results without too much effort. Galettes are just the ticket for hot summer afternoons when blackberries beg to be baked with minimal fuss. This rustic version of a pie involves rolled out dough with a mound of slightly sweetened fruit heaped in the center and a sturdy crust folded around it to encase its perimeter. Here’s a delightful recipe for Blackberry Galette from Kathleen King, the founder of Tate’s Bake Shop located in the Hamptons and author of the recipe book, Baking For Friends. The cookbook includes over 120 simple and scrumptious recipes that lend themselves perfectly to baking in all four seasons.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1/3-cup fine yellow cornmeal (not coarse cornmeal or polenta)
1Ž4 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold salted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh blackberries
3 tablespoons sugar
1-tablespoon cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
1-tablespoon sugar for sprinkling (optional)
1. To make the dough: In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt. Work in the butter with a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small pea-sized pieces of butter. In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk and water. Add to the flour mixture and stir gently with a fork until the mixture is moist enough to hold together.
2. Gather the dough into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled but not hard, at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, but let it stand for 15 minutes before rolling out. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month.)
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough out into a 10-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough in half, and then reopen on the prepared baking sheet. The dough cracks easily, but just press it back together if it does, and don’t worry, as the look of this dessert is very rustic.
5. For the filling: Sprinkle the 1-teaspoon flour over the dough leaving a 2-inch border all around. Spread the berries over the floured section of the dough. Sprinkle them with the sugar and dot with the butter. Fold the uncovered dough up over fruit, pleating it as necessary. If the dough cracks, not to worry—just seal the tears. If you wish, brush the edges of the dough with a pastry brush dipped in water and sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.
6. Bake until the crust starts to brown a bit and the fruit bubbles, about 40 minutes. Let the galette cool on the baking sheet. Transfer the galette to a serving platter with a wide spatula or pick up the baking mat and slide it off onto the platter. Serve room temp or warm with freshly whipped cream or your favorite vanilla alongside.
Ever notice how eating cheesy processed snacks like Cheetos or Doritos leave your fingers and mouth a different color and create intense cravings for bag after bag of the salty, addictive crunchy contents? That’s exactly the experience that gave Stanley Rak, a New Jersey businessman, the impetus to look at the ingredient list on the bag and scratch his head over several unpronounceable names. Rak noticed his grandson’s demeanor, temperament and behavior change within 10 minutes of consuming the snack – and not for the better. Taking the ingredient list to task, Rak began what would become an all-consuming obsession with identifying what exactly is in our food. Within a matter of months he founded www.Foodfacts.com, a comprehensive online resource that has cultivated a huge following amongst consumers, nutritionists, pediatricians, health professionals and others who want to find out what’s really in our food.
Foodfacts.com has a Health Score which uses a “unique, patent-pending algorithm that combines traditional measures of nutrition facts along with quality of ingredients, while excluding any personal bias or prejudice.” The website says manufacturers have no input on the score, taste is not considered and scores are not compared between products, creating a simple, easy-to-understand tool to help consumers navigate the often confusing world of ingredient lists and nutritional labels. Brands, food products and ingredients are easily searched through the website’s A-Z filters, providing at-a-glance letter ratings (A and B are best) and breaking down the ratings as well into nutrients, class 1 allergens, other allergens and controversial items.
Foodfacts is focused on proper nutrition through watching calories, sodium and fat and also takes into account ingredient quality. For example, a sugar-free, fruit-flavored hard candy may only have ten calories apiece, but it is loaded with dangerous artificial colors, controversial sugar substitutes, unpronounceable additives and no vitamins or minerals. It gets an F on the Foodfacts site. Compare that with a 100 calorie organic chocolate bar with a hefty 14 grams of fat per serving, which gets a C rating because it doesn’t contain controversial ingredients.
The good news? While kids and adults are equally craving and addicted to foods and beverages, from formula, snacks, candies, juices and sodas, there’s hope for those who want to eat smarter and healthier. Removing processed, mass-produced foods from the pantry and fridge need not be costly or traumatic. Foodfacts BABY Nutrition, Allergen and Score Guide makes it easy to wisely choose from a range of baby-toddler products in multiple categories, while offering sage advice on controversial ingredients, understanding nutrients and how to incorporate the most nutritious foods into the adult, pregnant mom and baby diet. From switching to semi-solids for babies to common sense advice for moms, this non-preachy how-to book is a must-have tool for people with a thirst for understanding what’s really in their food. Within three weeks of eliminating unhealthy foods from a child or adult diet, multiple health benefits are evident. The reason? Addictions are believed to subside in this time frame, cleansing the body of chemicals which trigger mood, behavior, cravings and other downsides of unhealthy eating.
“The United States is far behind countries in Europe and other parts of the world in terms of transparency in the food industry and providing a full accounting of ingredients on labels,” Rak said. “What’s more, the U.S. doesn’t have rules about the use of chemicals that are known to be highly dangerous at worse and extremely addicting at best. Our excessive use of food dyes, allergens, artificial flavors and sugars, whether in the guise of high fructose corn syrup or other forms, has created a nation of kids that are inclined towards obesity, hyperactivity, sugar addiction and unhealthy adult years. When we use sugar-laden formulas in infancy and artificially flavored baby foods in later months, we are setting the stage for a host of behavioral and health problems that will impact them and their families socially, academically and financially.”
Rak’s short list of problem ingredients includes:
1. Artificial Dyes – These harmful chemicals have been shown to cause hyperactivity in children. In fact, products made with these dyes in the UK are required to carry warning labels!
2. Natural Flavors – This common ingredient is actually a label meant to hide long lists of “natural” chemicals that add flavor – and sometimes hidden allergens or controversial ingredients.
3. Sugars and “carbohydrates” – whether termed evaporated cane sugar, corn syrup or simply listed as “carbohydrates,” sugars have an immediate addicting quality that create the desire for more consumption.
4. Hydrogenated Oils – these oils contain trans fat, even if the manufacturer has manipulated a product’s serving size to appear trans fat free!
5. Hidden sources of MSG – names like “yeast extract,” “hydrolyzed protein” and “natural flavors” are all ways (but not the only ways!) that manufacturers slip MSG into their products, enhancing the taste but giving some consumers side effects such as headaches.
Foodfacts Baby Nutrition, Allergen & Score Guide is available through www.foodfacts.com.