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Feeling peachy

Farmer-authors tout fruit’s use beyond desserts

When peaches are your passion, peach recipes help keep that love burning.

David Mas Masumoto, America’s most famous peach farmer and advocate, and his family have piled up many ways to enjoy their precious crop. Wife Marcy and daughter Nikiko Masumoto share his pride and devotion to peaches. Together, they preserved their farm-to-fork wisdom in an equally delectable first cookbook.

“The Perfect Peach” (Ten Speed Press, $22) – a compilation of decades of recipes and asides – recently came out.

“Marcy and Nikiko did a fantastic job on the recipes,” Mas said. “I got to add my 20 little essays to add the back story.

“Our goal is to show the connection between farming, family and food,” said Mas, the award-winning author of such books as “Epitaph for a Peach,” “Harvest Son” and “Wisdom of the Last Farmer.” “In most cookbooks, that’s not obvious. ... They’re written from a chef’s viewpoint. We offer a perception you can’t find unless you actually work the land.

“We want (readers) to develop a relationship with peaches and the people who grow them – that’s our message.”

Added Marcy, “We wanted to show peaches’ diversity. You can do so many things with peaches – and there’s so many things to know.”

“Working together was awesome – 99 percent of the time,” said Nikiko, 27, with a laugh. “This was an extension of what we do all the time together. It’s who we are; our temperaments are always combined.”

With a master’s degree in performance art in public practice, Nikiko returned to the Fresno, Calif., area to carry on the family tradition and farm peaches.

“This is my destiny,” she said.

The search for the perfect peach is never-ending, she added.

Marcy gets credit for the cookbook’s wealth of peach-dessert recipes. “I’m a traditionalist,” she said. “I’m a pie person. I love peach pie.”

She offered her old-fashioned peach pie, including her tips for perfection. It’s all about balancing the thickener – she prefers tapioca or flour – with the juice, then giving the finished pie enough time to set up before serving.

Nikiko spearheaded many of the nontraditional peach recipes such as Shaking Beef, a stir-fried Asian-Californian fusion beef salad inspired by family friend Mai Pham of Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacramento, Calif.

“I love the savory dishes,” Nikiko said. “So often peaches are paired with pork, but they can go with beef, too.

“We spent two years consciously working on recipes,” she added. “I’ve been recooking them lately (with the new crop of peaches), and I just made the peach gazpacho. It is so good – I love it!”

Higher-acid yellow peaches work better in such savory dishes as peach bruschetta, Nikiko noted. The acidity adds to the flavor.

Gazpacho is a good dish for overripe peaches, too, she said. “You can use real juicy peaches for the gazpacho; those gushers that are so ripe, they’re dripping with loveliness.”

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