The first thing you notice when you pick up this book is that your fingers are immediately given the sensation of holding a peach. There is a soft, fuzzy, tactile quality to it; a book made with such care is really refreshing in our digital world. The entire book, recipes and photographs alike, speaks to a nostalgia for this sensory, old-world aesthetic. It creates an atmosphere you want to step into: a white linen tablecloth in a warm afternoon light, sun-dappled bowls of peaches, worn wooden tables with fresh-baked loaves of bread.
Diana Henry is an acclaimed food journalist and James Beard Award winner, and though she is from Northern Ireland, the recipes in this book take you on a culinary road trip around the Mediterranean from France, Italy and Spain to Istanbul and Morocco and further afield to San Francisco- and New York-inspired menus. She is drawn to the idea of a set menu that is perfectly balanced to tease you along and pique your appetite. “I don’t invite people over and then wonder what I’ll cook. I come up with a menu and then consider who would like to eat it.”
The recipes in “How to Eat a Peach” aren’t overly complicated, though they do appeal to an adventurous chef who would like to expand the possibilities of flavor. They are inspired geographically but arranged seasonally. Under the spring and summer sections, you’ll find a menu perfect for when it’s too hot to cook or one that is reminiscent of her Tuscan travels. Roast tomatoes, fennel and chickpeas with lemons and honey, or cherries in wine with cardamom cream and pistachio shortbread are some of her flavorful combinations. In the autumn, one menu includes duck with sweet-sour plums paired with pear, blackberry and hazelnut cake.
I’m inspired to attempt some of these delicious-sounding recipes, though in the end I feel the best way to eat a peach is still the simplest: pick a soft sun-ripened peach straight off the tree, or out of a basket at the local farmer’s market, and take a juicy, mouthwatering bite.
This review originally appeared in the Aspen Daily News on Thursday, August 16th, 2018.
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