IN CELEBRATION OF THE GLORIOUS HONEYBEE, THIS GRILLED PEACHES DISH PACKS A ONE-TWO, SWEET-AND-SPICY PUNCH
BY CHEF DAVID BURKE
Earlier this year a friend helped me setup two beehives in a sunny corner on my Atlantic Highlands property. It’s the coolest thing. They are incredible creatures, complex and smart. When I think of the number of times I dumped a gallon of honey into a marinade or sauce, I never really under-stood how honey was made. The work these bees do to make honey is mind boggling. I always say that no one works harder than chefs. You know, I think we’ve met our match! I love learning about how things are made. I know how to raise cattle for beef and how to make goat cheese. Knowing how honey is made adds another layer of knowledge. It’s similar toother cooking fundamentals like butter, salt, or oil. There’s so much work that goes into an ingredient. We take a lot for granted. Honeybees are the only insect that work for us, and a honeybee literally works itself to death. Its wings stroke 11,400 times per minute. That’s what makes their distinctive buzzing sound. To make just one pound of honey, the bees in a colony must visit two million flowers and fly over55,000 miles. That beats my air miles! Without bees to pollinate our plants, we would starve. Without pollination there would be no fruits or vegetables. Pollinators are critical to our food chain.
Rich Bushey, a master beekeeper and owner of Oak Hills Farm in Holmdel, helped me establish the two colonies and is teaching me how to care for my two hives. We sell Oak Hills Farm honey at my Dixie Lee Bakery. The bees don’t require much, just a safe place for their hives and flowers. But I do have to check on the hives to make sure they are healthy and see how they are producing. I’m happy to report I will be harvesting my first batch of honey soon. Now I look down from my balcony at the hives and smile. I wonder how they’re doing, and I start thinking about what I’m going to do with the honey. I’ll flavor some, use some as gifts, use it to cook with, and add it to drinks. Consuming local honey is also said to be good for allergies.
Long before I had hives, I appreciated honey as a natural sweetener, and I used it in several dishes. Here’s one recipe I use in the summer months when Jersey peaches are ripe and the salad greens come straight from Garden State farms. The secret to this salad dressing is mustard oil, commonly used in Indian cuisine. It has a pungent wasabi-like kick, which elevates the sweetness of the peaches. At home I grill all kinds of fruits on my XO grill. Grilling peaches is super easy. They are delicious served alongside meats, poultry, or seafood. They are the perfect complement to salads or served with ice cream for dessert.
1 cup olive oil
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard oil (Yandilla Mustard
Seed Oil is available on Amazon or in
Indian Food Stores)
¼ cup tarragon vinegar
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons local honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and pepper
Split peaches in half, remove the pit, and place cut-side
down on a lightly oiled grill at medium heat. Cook undisturbed until grill marks appear, about 4-5 minutes. Flip over and grill until the peaches are soft and charred, about an-other 4-5 minutes. Slice them into thick slices and spread on top of a bed of fresh greens. You can add other ingredients too, like thinly sliced red onion and chunks of goat cheese, or even home-made croutons for a crunchy texture. Combine the olive oils and mustard oil in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the tarragon and sherry vinegars. Add the honey, mustard, pepper, and salt and whisk vigorously for about two minutes or until mixture is emulsified. Drizzle over the greens and peaches. David Burke and Judith Choate David Burke’s New American Classics (Alfred E. Knopf, New York 2006