A cookbook showcasing the luscious flavor of peaches in 50 sweet and savory dishes, drawing on the life stories and experiences of America's foremost peach farming family, the Masumotos of California's central valley.
Enjoy the luscious versatility of summer’s finest fruit with fifty sweet and savory dishes.
The Masumoto family’s amazing heirloom peaches—which are available for a few weeks each year at the best produce markets and top restaurants in the country—are widely considered the best peaches in the world. Their debut cookbook gathers the family’s favorite recipes, from classics like Hearty Peach Cobbler, Peach Chutney, and Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos to inspired combinations such as Prosciutto-Wrapped Peaches, Caprese with Peaches, Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops and Grilled Peaches, and Stuffed French Toast. And the pristine flavor of a just-picked summer peach can be enjoyed year-round with the easy-to-follow instructions for drying, canning, freezing, or jamming the best of the harvest.
With rich recipe and location photographs fresh from the orchard, this beautiful cookbook paints an intricate portrait of an organic farm that has been in the family for four generations. Accompanied by eloquent essays that evoke the soul of family farming and the nuances of a life filled with peaches, The Perfect Peach is for anyone who longs to savor the flavor of a pristinely ripe peach.
Makes one 9-inch square cobbler; serves 6-9
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Have ready a 9-inch square baking dish.
To make the filling, in a large bowl, combine the peaches, tapioca, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and salt, using the larger amount of sugar if your peaches aren’t very sweet. Mix gently with a large spoon to combine the ingredients evenly. Pour the filling into the baking dish and set aside.
To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the oats, granulated sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Sift together the flour and baking powder, add to the oat mixture, and whisk to combine. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Add the cream and buttermilk and mix with a fork just until evenly moistened.
Drop 1/4 cup clumps of the topping on top of the peach filling, distributing them evenly. Sprinkle the clumps with the turbinado sugar.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the topping is golden and is baked all the way through (it should sound hollow when tapped with a spoon) and the peaches are bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. The filling will set as the cobbler cools. Serve at room temperature.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pork and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until browned. Transfer the pork to a slow cooker.
Add the cumin, onion, and garlic to the same skillet off the heat and warm, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Pour the water into the skillet to loosen any spices or browned bits stuck to the pan bottom. Pour the contents of the skillet over the meat.
Add the chile(s), oregano, salt, beer, and peaches to the slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. The meat is done when it easily falls apart with the gentle tug of a fork. Carefully shred the meat with two forks. Discard the juices, onions, and peaches or cool and store in the refrigerator for pork soup stock or other use.
To assemble each taco, layer 2 tortillas on top of each other and place about 1/4 cup of the meat in a mound on the tortillas, extending it across the middle. Add a little cabbage, a scoop of salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve warm.
“This is a very special book, not just because it’s about peaches and the surprising things you can do with them, but because it’s also about growing peaches, the farming life, and, most uniquely, because it’s composed by a family. While reading The Perfect Peach, I couldn’t help but wish that every fruit and vegetable had champions like the Masumoto family, for surely each one deserves it. I look forward to that day.”
—Deborah Madison, author of Vegetable Literacy and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
“I have one word for the writing, photography, essays, and topic of this book: luscious. The Masumoto family has produced a glorious paean to the fruit they raise along with delightful ideas about what to do with an abundance of this heavenly fruit: sangria, salsa, pizza, and, of course, shortcake. I can’t wait for summer.”
—Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of What to Eat
“Congratulations to Mas and family for putting together a long overdue tribute to the delicious peach! I can’t wait to test out the tantalizing recipes in their wonderful new book.”
—Ag Kawamura, farmer and former California Secretary of Agriculture
“From Shaking Beef with Peaches to Peach Lemongrass Granita, The Perfect Peach collects an abundance of compelling recipes. But as a native son of Georgia who worked his first summer job at a peach packing plant, what really appealed to me were the Masumuto family tributes to all things sweet and fuzzy, and the interstitial essays that supply the real locomotion for this book of cookery advice and agricultural rumination.”
—John T. Edge, coeditor, The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
DAVID MAS MASUMOTO is an organic peach and grape farmer, the author of numerous books, and a member of the National Council on the Arts. He is currently a columnist for the Fresno Bee, and has written for the New York Times magazine, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times. Mas’s first book, Epitaph for a Peach, won the 1995 Julia Child Cookbook Award for Literary Food Writing and was a finalist for the 1996 James Beard Foundation Food Writing Award. He owns and operates Masumoto Family Farm with his wife, Marcy, and daughter, Nikiko.
MARCY MASUMOTO, co-owner of Masumoto Family Farm, is responsible for the selection of peach varieties, develops recipes and peach products, and is actively involved with management and seasonal fieldwork.
NIKIKO MASUMOTO grew up slurping the nectar of overripe organic peaches on the Masumoto Family Farm and has never missed a harvest. She received her Master of Arts in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin. She works full-time on the family farm as a farm apprentice and artist.
Learn to Love a Peach / By Nikiko
We are in love with peaches. But we are not the first people to see a connection between peaches and matters of the heart. The metaphoric linkages have been made in popular culture (my generation might think of “Peaches & Cream” by 112, and baby boomers like my parents remember Peaches & Herb singing “Reunited and it feels so good”). Many of these references are amusing, but when it comes to living, working, and cooking on our farm, we actually try to live an earnest version of peach love.
This peach love, and consequently this book, is not really about perfection—or rather it is, but it’s a different kind of perfect: a perfect dressed in hand-me-down clothes that pass from generation to generation. Maybe there is no preexisting perfect peach. Instead, maybe a peach becomes perfect when it reminds us of the deep connections that are already present when we eat one. Maybe a perfect peach wakes us up through our senses to listen, appreciate, and champion the ways in which we are interdependent as farmers, workers, cooks, and eaters. It’s this perfection-in-process that I seek.
Every harvest, I envision the path of each peach as it leaves the farm, travels, and eventually goes home in someone’s grocery bag or rests on a plate at a restaurant. Maybe it’s yours? When that peach touches your lips and nourishes your body, I hope you feel love. Not a plastic-perfect or one-night-stand love. I want you to feel a deep reverence for the food that binds us with one another and the earth. I want you to hunger for our stories. I want you to help make all people in our food system equal partners. I want you to love us, too.
On our farm, we Masumotos do not love lightly, and it’s not always pretty. We experience heartbreak, anger, infatuation, frustration, stillness, loss, and euphoria with our peaches, recipes, and orchard work. Farming is a struggle just as much as it is fulfilling (there is no beginning and no end), and our story is only part of the interdependent world of how we feed ourselves. We hope you can taste all of that in every bite.
A strong sense of place anchors this book. We grow peaches in the Central Valley of California. The geography of this place frames who we are, how we farm, and what we eat. Social histories of immigrants, resilience, neighbors, and hard work make up the soil of our farm and stories. We have worked to make these dynamics visible in the flavors and breadth of the recipes we’ve included. Just as the lives of farmers and farmworkers must be embraced in our dream of a sustainable food system, so too must the culture of the people in our valley be part of our concept of terroir. This is by no means a comprehensive peach book. We offer what we know now, from our lives in Del Rey, California, and hope that the journey of growth continues as we meet on the page, in the kitchen, at the table.
Just to be clear, we Masumotos have an agenda: we want more people to love peaches. This book is part of our ongoing attempt to share our love with a wider audience. We want to empower everyone to cook and eat peaches. You will find recipes, essays, snippets of stories, and kitchen tips woven throughout this book. We think of it as a literary cookbook. Our desire is that you will savor reading it in two ways. We hope that you enjoy our recipes and that they contribute to wonderful shared meals and your own creations in your home kitchen. We also hope that you enjoy parts of this book like a novel—a way to learn about farming from the voices of people who actually work the earth and to understand more about the realities we live while growing peaches. To learn more about the Masumoto Family Farm, visit www.masumoto.com.Join us in our love and lust for peaches!
Peach and Nectarine Salsa
makes 3 cups
I know summer has arrived when I try to find things to eat with fresh fruit salsa for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This salsa screams “It’s summer!” loud and clear. Our family enjoys it in egg burritos or atop grilled or broiled chicken breasts, salmon fillets, salmon burgers, or fish. —Marcy
1 large or 2 medium peaches with give,
peeled, halved, pitted, and diced
2 nectarines, pitted and diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, diced (yellow or green
onions may be substituted)
1 small-medium jalapeño chile, seeded
and finely diced
Juice of 1 lime (1 to 2 tablespoons)
Chili powder, for seasoning
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a bowl, combine the peach(es), nectarines, cilantro, bell pepper, onion, and chile. Drizzle with the lime juice and season lightly with the chili powder, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately with your favorite dish.
variation: To turn this salsa into a salad, add diced avocado, cucumber, jicama, mango, and/or papaya and serve on a bed of lettuce.
Cook’s Note: Be careful when working with jalapeño chiles, as they contain compounds that can burn your skin. You may want to wear rubber gloves (or slip plastic bags over your hands) when working with the cut chiles to avoid burning your fingers. Also make sure you do not touch your eyes, nose, or other sensitive areas when handling chiles.
(I once accidentally put in my contact lenses with jalapeño-laced fingers and my eyes burned for hours!)