Despite the Bay Area’s mellow year round weather, nothing can sustain the all too fleeting presence of perfectly ripe peaches and plums at our local farmers’ markets during the summer. Around this time of year, you can always find me at the farmers’ market cradling a bag of peaches under one arm and impatiently winding my way through the throngs of people so I can get my charges safely home.
I didn’t always love peaches this much. As a child, we used to play stone fruit roulette at the supermarket produce section. You never knew whether the fruit you bought would be juicy and bursting with flavor or bland and mealy. The odds were stacked against us and more often than not, we lost our money to the house. As a result, I disliked peaches until one summer in my teens when my family took a road trip to Ventura County.
After an afternoon of running through the waves, we were driving back through Oxnard when my mom spotted a truck on the side of the road functioning as a make shift fruit shack and ordered my dad to pull over. The truck was piled with boxes and boxes of white peaches and my parents proceeded to buy a couple of cases. My mom started tearing into them as soon as the car doors slammed shut, biting into a peach and reminiscing about her own childhood of climbing trees and pilfering fruit from the neighbors’ yard. She handed me a peach and I might have rolled my eyes at the them except white peaches were a rare sight in Orange County those days and my curiosity got the better of me. One bite and I was hooked before I even had the chance to wipe away the juice that dribbled down my chin.
Unlike most grocery store fruit which are picked before they are ripe and trucked to the stores from miles away, most farmers’ market produce are picked at the optimal time and sent out to market right away. That’s why I have a rule to only spend my hard earned money at the farmer’s market, where my odds of winning the fruit roulette are staggeringly high.
Usually I like my fruit unadorned but today while at the Oakland Farmers’ Market, one of the women at Cowgirl Creamery mentioned that a friend of hers had served fresh peaches on toast, with a layer of Panir cheese, fig jam, and basil. Their Panir cheese is a type of Indian cheese made with cream, yogurt, and kosher salt. At first I was skeptical, thinking that the Panir would be firm and taste similar to tofu like the paneer I am familiar with in Indian dishes, but they assured me that it was softer and was spreadable. The peach canapé they described sounded delicious so I decided to try a variation on it with some peaches and plums I bought at Twin Girls Farm stand.
What you’ll need:
thin slices of good bread: a country batard or a baguette are good options.
ripe peaches and plums
honey (you can use fig jam too)
Cowgirl Creamery’s Panir cheese, though I think cottage cheese would work as well
The preparation is ridiculously easy. I toasted the slices of bread and sliced the peaches and plums. The fruit was ripe but was still relatively firm so it didn’t turn to mush. I spread a layer of the panir on the toast and added fruit. Then I placed some strips of basil on top and finished with a drizzle of honey.
I also experimented with thyme leaves and thyme flowers as well raspberries in lieu of peaches. The thyme was good but the berries weren’t suited to this preparation because they were slightly tart. I think if I had macerated them in some sugar or if I added more honey it would have worked.
The canapé made for a refreshing afternoon snack after the hard work I put in cheering for Uruguay in the World Cup game. The Panir was creamy with a hint of salt so it brought out the sweetness of the fruit wonderfully. The basil added an interesting end note to the bite and almost brought it to the savory side of the taste spectrum. I love the mix of sweet and savory but if that’s not for you, then leave out the herb. But this is definitely worth a try and couldn’t be simpler to make.