I spent a lazy Labor Day weekend with my family this year. The “kids” trickled in to our parents’ house late Friday night. First my sister, brother-in-law and I…then my brother and his girlfriend. We caught up on each other’s lives as I made strawberry jam for breakfast the next morning, then tucked in for the night.
I was the first one to wake up the next morning, which is no small feat. If you “sleep in,” you can hear the happy noises of my family by 8AM–rolling toys, the shuffle of feet, and murmurs in the kitchen interspersed with the sizzle of bacon. It must have been around 6:30AM. I opened the sliding door and saw the sun just settling in to the sky and hear the birds chirping. A peaceful calm enveloped me as I padded over to the couch to curl up with the newest cookbook in my collection, “Baking with Julia.”
We spent most of our time on the deck watching my niece and nephew swim all day long (I swear they have gills!), and sometimes jumped in to join them. That weekend my four-year-old nephew broke the record for standing on the floating mat with over a minute. You should have seen how proud he looked! I, on the other hand, couldn’t even stand up on it long enough to start counting. My sister and I tried everything we could think of including folding the mat and holding on to the slide. It was a happy time, reminding me of when my sister and I came up with crazy pool games when we were kids.
Of course, a family gathering isn’t complete without the requisite food fest. This weekend my focus was to be the student. My cousin AJ and I made my sister’s world famous Tiramisu with her direction. She also showed me how to make Crispy Salt and Pepper Shrimp, and her Cilantro Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing. My mom shared a new method of grilling steak that she saw on TV, and my Aunt Kathleen made these ridiculously amazing baked peaches.
This dessert is perfect. It is delicious, easy, quick, healthy and impressive so I begged her to let me post it on the blog and share it at my Williams-Sonoma demo. I made a few tweaks from her version. My uncle and sister suggested adding liquor such as port to elevate the blueberry coulis. There are different kinds of port. The one most people are familiar with is tawny port, which is aged in oak barrels to create a rich dessert wine. It is golden-brown and has a sweet oaky flavor. However, the oakiness would overpower instead of support the blueberries so I used ruby port, which is bottle aged. Ruby port gave the coulis depth with its plum, currant, cherry and raisin notes.
I also thought it would be nice to literally spice up the peaches. First I tried cinnamon. Good, but it tasted a bit flat. I then tried Chinese Five Spice, which contains star anise and fennel seeds for a hint of licorice, Szechuan peppercorns for a tingly brightness, and cinnamon and cloves for warmth. The Five Spice was exactly what I was looking for. It brightened up the peaches as a counterpoint to the rich blueberry port coulis.
This is delicious with greek yogurt (my favorite brand is Fage). If you aren’t concerned about making it healthy, go ahead and use vanilla ice cream instead. Either way it is the perfect dessert for a lazy weekday night by yourself, or an equally lazy weekend gathering with family and friends.
Baked Peaches with Blueberry Port Coulis
3 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
3/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup ruby port
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup plain greek yogurt
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up, then lay our the peaches cut side up.
Sprinkle the Chinese Five Spice over each peach, then place 1/3 tablespoon butter in the center of each peach half. Drizzle the honey over the butter, dividing evenly among the peaches.
Bake for at least 15 – 25 minutes, until the peaches are soft when pierced with a fork.
Place a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and toss in all of the coulis ingredients except for the cornstarch. Bring the blueberry mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes while the peaches are baking.
In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 1 teaspoon water then mix it into the blueberry coulis. Bring the mixture back to a boil for a few seconds. You should see the sauce slightly thicken.
Place half a peach on a plate, and top with some greek yogurt. Finish off the dish by spooning on some of the blueberry port coulis on top of the yogurt.
Adapted from Kathleen Say