Below the Mason-Dixon Line in the late 1800s, it was desirable for a woman to be considered a “Southern Belle” or “Georgia Peach.” A kind lady who was polite to everyone she met and never raised her voice lest she be accused of being a tomboy. While the requirements became more relaxed during World War II, ladies were still expected to act like, well, ladies. Growing up in the South during the late 1970s, I can attest to the fact that “unlady-like” behavior (climbing trees, rolling down dirt heaps, catching frogs) was still frowned upon. And, while I have never been afraid to get my hands dirty (which worked out well since we lived on a farm,) I am probably what most of my Southern brethren would consider a “peach" (many with obvious sarcasm.)
However, my tolerance for dirt does not extend to my living space. I do not like big fat muddy boot prints all over my house. Men really have no patience or sensitivity for all things frilly and their concept of cleanliness does not quite jive with my own. So perhaps you can imagine my dismay to have contractors working in the house this week. It should be noted that all of these contractors are absolutely top-notch and I realize that some mess and disruption is inevitable.
Nonetheless, my senses were assaulted by less-than-pleasant smells (weird chemical odors, cigarette smoke and something musty that I hope wasn’t sweat,) loud noises (hammering, banging, pounding and the ever-present, too-loud radio half-tuned to a country station), piles of materials far and wide, wheelbarrows, drop cloths, and gritty, grime everywhere. To quote Cusco (of Disney fame) they “threw off my groove.” I dislike the feeling that I can’t be myself in my own home. Like George Carlin often said, “we like our own stuff and want to keep our stuff safe and keep others away from our stuff, don't we?”
Once everyone left (and the floors had been vacuumed,) I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet scent of peaches. Dom had found gorgeous peaches at DeKalb Farmer’s Market that had been ripening on the counter and I knew at that moment that a salad of ripe peaches, fresh mozzarella and basil would be just the treat to reward myself for my patience and tolerance. Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef Cookbook, this salad (with its torn peaches and cheese ripped into bit-sized shreds) seemed oddly appropriate after a torturous day of refurbishments. Jamie's recipe includes a few thin slices of prosciutto or Iberico ham (again shredded into strips), but I think I will go without any manly embellishments this evening.
2 ripe (freestone when available) peaches, pitted, torn into wedges
½ cup fresh mozzarella cheese (splurge on the good stuff), ripped into pieces
2 cups fresh arugula (or mache, or water cress)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Dried red pepper flakes (optional but really tasty)
Fresh basil leaves
Tear peaches into bite-sized pieces, capturing all juices! Whisk peach and lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper together. Toss the salad with half the dressing and add more only as needed so as not to drown the salad greens. Drain the fresh mozzarella and tear into chunks. Arrange the peach wedges and ripped mozzarella on top of the dressed greens. Top with basil leaves and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to taste.
Denise and Dom Romeo are local food bloggers who enjoy spending time together doing what they love best: cooking and entertaining! Follow their food adventures on the award winning blog; We Like To Cook! at www.welike2cook.com.