i don't know about you, but when peaches start appearing in the produce section i do a happy dance. then i go on a smelling and squeezing/gentle-pressing frenzy. normally, the first few times i lift the fruit to my nose i quickly know it is too early to be enjoyed and walk away empty handed. there are other times i smell just enough peach aroma to be optimistic and (quite foolishly) hope that a little time in a paper bag will shorten the days. perfect peaches, however, are a fickle and fleeting thing. this year i am very guilty of buying-before-ready peaches and, as punishment, have been disappointed by my impatience. the fairly firm, slightly-peachy bites have been no match for the juice-dripping-down-my-face peaches of my past.
whilst in colorado, i tasted perfect peaches for the first time. the window for western slope peaches was mid-august to early september...or maybe it was just august (i would have to consult my peach expert helenbeth to be sure). either way, it was agonizing knowing they would be gone so soon. we would buy boxes of them from roadside fruit stand that was set up every year in the parking lot of the video store and gorge ourselves for the weeks they were available.
fastforward to oregon. the peaches came in waves for a few months. not quite the same, but still wonderful when they were perfectly ripe. i found a vendor at the farmer's market and would wait until she said they were ready...and then buy a box every week or two.
in my opinion, perfect peaches should never go in the oven. they should always be eaten fresh. so instead of peach cobbler, i would make a buttery crisp topping (my old, oat-based crisp topping floating in cyberspace here). since moving to california i decided i didn't want to eat oats in this dessert so now i only make a grain-free version. last summer i created a recipe that i love...perhaps a little too much. i can eat it straight out of the pan like a granola-starved maniac. ;)
paleo crisp topping
2 C unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 C sliced almonds
1 C walnut pieces*
1 C almond flour
1/2 C coconut sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/3 C butter or coconut oil
1 t vanilla
stir together dry ingredients. melt the butter/oil and add the vanilla. pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. spread in a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes. stir, then cook for 7-10 minutes more. if you prefer to use a large baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes, stir, then cook for 5-7 minutes more. allow to cool slightly before serving on fresh, diced peaches and top with whipped cream. you can eat it for breakfast if you use plain yogurt underneath and no whipped cream on top. ;)
this is also very delicious on top of fresh (still warm) chia seed "jam". just bring a bag or two of frozen fruit to a boil for 5-10 minutes, then stir in 1/3 C - 2/3 C chia seeds (depending on how much fruit you're using) and 1 t vanilla. you can sweeten with a little honey or maple syrup, but i have found most fruits don't need it. i love a combination of wild blueberries, raspberries, and dark cherries (smooshed with a potato masher before adding the chia seeds). wild blueberries and frozen peaches also work in a mid-february, i've-gotta-have-peach-crisp pinch.
*walnut pieces have disappeared from my normal grocery stores so i buy bulk walnut halves and pieces and chop them in my food processor. this makes them a little smaller than what i used to buy with a bit of walnut "meal" in the mix, but i like them. plus, doing it this way has saved me $2+/lb because i wait until they are on sale and then stock up.