A Peach of A Salad
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of biting into an heirloom peach grown by the Masumoto Family Farm just south of Fresno, you know how life-changing it can be.
And if you’ve ever read any of farmer David Mas Masumoto’s books about farming life, you know how deserving he is of the title,Â “poet of peaches.”
Now, the family that’s endeavored to grow the consummate peach has written the aptly named cookbook, “The Perfect Peach” (Ten Speed Press), of which I recently received a review copy. Included are stories and recipes by Mas, his wife Marcy, and daughter Nikiko, who has taken over the 80-acre organic farm, which has been owned for four generations.
Of course, a wonderful peach can be enjoyed just out of hand, eaten over the sink as the juice drips down your chin. But the Masumoto family has provided a wealth of recipes that make inventive use of over-ripe, gushy peaches (make a Peach-Rosemary Bellini) and firmer peaches in dishes such as “Peach Day Pickles” and “Shaking Beef with Peaches.” There are plenty of sweet treats, too, including “Peach-Date Bars” and “Blackberry-Peach Bread Pudding.”
For those who know the major sweet tooth that I have, you may be surprised to learn that the recipe I zeroed in on was a savory one. Yes, imagine that! But “Summer Thai Shrimp and Noodle Salad” (With Peaches) sounded like the perfect one-bowl meal to tuck into at this sunny time of year.
It reminds me of my favorite Vietnamese cold noodle bowl that gets drizzled with a dressing of fish sauce and lime juice.
Like that, this salad is all about crunchy texture, a plethora of fresh herbs and a harmony of flavors that hits every note.
Thin rice noodles are cooked, then tossed together with bean sprouts, red bell pepper, green onions, cilantro and Thai basil. I added a Japanese cucumber, cut into match sticks, and some home-grown shiso leaves.
A zesty dressing of brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, chili paste, sesame oil, garlic and ginger gets drizzled over everything. Sauteed shrimp get arranged over the top.
What really makes this dish are the peaches, of course. Thin slices of fresh peaches add just the right amount of sweetness to round out the acidity, saltiness and subtle spiciness of the addictive dressing.
Don’t blame me if this becomes your go-to meal of the season.
Summer Thai Shrimp Noodle Salad with Peaches
(Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish or 3 as a main course)
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons chili paste or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
For the salad:
4 ounces maifun (dried thin rice noodles)
2 cups bean sprouts or blanched snow peas
1/2 bell pepper (yellow, orange, red, or green), seeded and thinly sliced
3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn in half
1/2 cup fresh Asian basil or sweet basil leaves, torn inÂ half
3 fresh peaches with give, peeled, halved, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch t hick or cut into 1/2-inch cubes, or 2 cups diced canned or frozen peaches in the off-seaon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fish sauce and chili paste, for seasoning (optional)
Chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)
For the shrimp:
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 to 18 large (size 41-50 or bigger) shrimp, peeled
1 clove garlic, minced
To make the dressing: In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients, mixing well. (Alternately, combine all the ingredients in a jar, cap tightly, and shake vigorously to mix well.) Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.
To make the salad: Cook the noodles according to the package directions. They are ready when they are like al dente pasta, not dry in the middle and not mushy. (Yatta! brand calls for cooking the noodles in 4 cups of boiling water over medium heat for 4 minutes.) Drain the noodles in a colander, rinse with cold water, and drain again, shaking the colander to remove any excess water.
Transfer drained noodles to a large salad bowl, add the bean sprouts, bell pepper, onions, cilantro, and basil, reserving a little of the cilantro and/or basil for garnish. Add the peaches and dressing and toss gently with tongs. Season with salt and pepper, then taste and adjust with the fish sauce and chili paste.
To prepare the shrimp: Place a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp and garlic and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until done. The shrimp are ready when they turn a salmon-pink on the outside and the meat is white and no longer translucent gray.
Divide the salad among individual plates, distributing the peaches evenly. Arrange the shrimp on top of the salads and then drizzle the salads with any pan drippings. Garnish with the reserved cilantro and/or basil and the peanuts, and serve.
From “The Perfect Peach” by Marcy, Nikiko and David Mas Masumoto
More Peachy Goodness: Peach Blueberry Cake
And: Stone Fruit Tea Cake