Peaches. Ahhh.

Freestone peaches are in! No more wrenching out the pit on the clingstones (and half the peach with it). Few things are better than a ripe peach – the perfume, the juicy flesh. I like peaches that aren’t too sweet, but still have a little twang to them. Peaches, like many fruits, are becoming sweeter because that’s what the public’s soda-soaked taste buds want. But you can still get some that have that balance of sweet and a little tart.

Now, I can indulge in one of my favorite summer lunches: Sliced ripe peaches, chunks of fresh mozzarella and shreds of prosciutto, all resting on a little bit of salad greens and sprinkled lightly with olive oil and lemon juice. I’m a Southern girl, and can’t resist the sweet-salty. And it’s like dessert and lunch all in one bowl.

Time to make peach jam soon, very soon.

Better BBQ through technology

Good barbecue requires all-night tending, a secret stash of wood and an old pitmaster who would chew off his own leg rather than reveal his secrets, right? Not when you break out the geeks. In IEEE Spectrum, a technology magazine, the entertaining Geek Life column details scientific efforts to build a better barbecue pit. A Texas engineer has patented an “inverted flame firebox” cooker that places the flame above the meat and, he says, prevents blackening.

But the geek barbecue prize goes to an IT guy who hooked up a conventional charcoal smoker to the same kind of system that electric utilities use to manage power plants and transmission lines. He wired a laptop to a PC fan that sits inside the smoker, which allows him to automatically control the temperature. No staying up all night during barbecue contests for this guy. Read the article here.

My beloved geeky husband alerted me to this article, although it’s looking like this site needs to be on my regular reading list. It reminds me of the time he and another techy friend plotted a temperature graph (at regular five-minute intervals, as I recall) of our turkey fryer. I’m still not sure why.

Food news roundup

Corn. Butter beans. Squash. Tomatoes. No more to say, except see great recipes at The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) here.

If there’s a farmers market just down the street from the office, it makes dinner easy and good, says Kathleen Purvis at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. Read more here.

Blueberry recipes abound in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, including one that combines two things I love: blueberries and sugar cake. Watch out, thighs. It’s all here.

Grass-fed beef is lower in fat, which can make it tricky to cook on the grill. The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) offers tips for making grass-fed burgers for the grill. Read about it here.

The Chicago Tribune contends that one can eat well while camping. There’s even what appears to be a glass of white wine in the photo. Since my idea of camping is staying in a hotel with no TV, I find that hard to believe. See for yourself if the heat has gotten to them here.

If you grill it, they will eat

Charcoal smoke is in my blood. As a kid, my father and I, in coats and gloves, basted ribs with barbecue sauce on the grill in January. I have often thought that I would eat anything – anything – if it were cooked over hot coals.

I put the theory to the test last weekend.

The vegetables are beginning to pour into the farmers market, and I wanted to make an entree using grilled vegetables, with an Italian touch. It needed some protein. Left to myself, I would have layered some fresh mozzarella between the grilled vegetables, but that wouldn’t fly with the dairy-allergic husband.

Well, I thought, there is that white stuff in a block that I like about as much as wet chalk: Tofu. People have tried to convince me for years that my hatred of the bean curd Jell-O is unreasonable. It is not. Vegetarians have told me that it has no flavor on its own and just picks up what you put on it. Wrong. It does have a flavor – one resembling wet weeds. The only recipe up to now in which I’ve liked tofu was a chocolate pie made with the silken variety, although making it almost burned up my blender.

But I considered extra-firm tofu. Would grilling cover its many sins? The answer, to quote a wise copy editor friend: It didn’t suck absolutely. It wasn’t fresh mozzarella, but it wasn’t hideous. Grilling added smoke to the flavor and firmed up the texture (one of my issues). Here’s what I did.

Two eggplant, three yellow pattypan squash, a small red onion and a weird variety of green squash I got from the CSA, cut in about 1/2-inch slices. No need to peel the eggplant unless you’re swimming in extra time and have nothing else to do. Rubbed with plenty of olive oil. Griledl until brown on each side. I used a perforated grill pan to prevent slices from falling through the grate. I put them in a low oven to keep warm. While the vegetables cooked, I made a sauce. I thought I was grabbing a bag of homemade tomato sauce from my freezer, but it turned out to be frozen cherry tomatoes. No matter. I boiled them down with garlic, marjoram and lots of fresh basil until they thickened. After the vegetables, extra-firm tofu in 1/2-inch slices, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with marjoram and garlic powder. I grilled them until they didn’t look like tofu anymore, but perhaps oddly shaped chicken breast. Layered it up, poured over the sauce. Nice, even with the four-letter food included.