Peachy Keen

At lunchtime on Thursday afternoon, I was sitting alone at a table at Hammontree’s, tapping my foot impatiently and wondering why my husband was 15 minutes late for our lunch date. He eventually breezed in, raving about a fruit and vegetable stand he’d stopped at on his way to meet me. “They had peaches from Clarksville!” he exclaimed, “and sweet corn, too!” He’d impulsively bought some of both, along with a few yellow squash, without a clue as to what he’d do with any of it (he leaves those sorts of details up to me.) That night we had some delicious pan-fried squash and onions with dinner, but I was still unsure about what to do with the peaches and corn.

The fruit stand my husband visited was Jim Robinson’s produce stand on the corner of Joyce and Crossover in north Fayetteville. Jim owns Robinson Farm, which has one produce stand in Springdale and one in Fayetteville. He sells almost exclusively Arkansas produce – a few items are shipped in from out of state, but only because Jim’s customers request them. He’s open until 6:00pm every day except Wednesdays and Sundays, and he’s got some of the most delicious Arkansas peaches your piggy bank can buy. Oh, and he’s a super friendly and knowledgeable gentleman, to boot.

Robinson Farm produce stand

With a basketful of peaches and a few ears of corn, I consulted my mental recipe Rolodex for ideas on what to make – my keywords were summery, fresh and, of course, tasty. I nixed the too-obvious peach pie idea, overthrew the too-conspicuous corn on the cob idea, and came up with an unconventional alternative: grilled peach and corn salsa. I quartered several peaches, shucked two ears of corn and threw them on the grill, caramelizing the sugars and imparting a deep, smoky flavor. After allowing them to cool and chopping them finely, I added creamy avocado, minced hot pepper, pungent red onion, a handful of cilantro and a simple dressing of lime juice and honey to the mix – if you want to make the salsa extra spicy, add a few liberal pinches of cayenne. While the flavors mingled, I got to work on salsa’s obligatory sidekick: tortilla chips.

Want to one-up your Tostitos-worshiping friend? Try your hand at homemade tortilla chips. When we were in Mexico last month, one of the many culinary highlights was the Mexican tortilla chips. Chips south of the border are thicker, crispier, tastier and definitely fresher than the thin, weak, overly-salted and bland version we serve here in the States. It seemed that their secret lies in simply deep frying white corn tortillas – sounds like a no-brainer, but try it for yourself and you’ll immediately notice the difference between freshly fried tortillas and the wimpy, tasteless things you buy here at the store. These chips aren’t merely a salsa applicator – a method of getting salsa from the bowl to your face – but a crunchy, toasty, flavorful treat that you won’t be able to put down, dip or no dip. Promise.

Delivering a smoky, sweet and tangy flavor, this grilled peach and corn salsa fuses sweet and savory in an unbelievably fresh mosaic of flavors. The addition of avocado adds a creamy element, while the cilantro and hot pepper add a bold bite. I even got to use my garden’s first Cherry Red Hot pepper of the season (which, unfortunately, was not nearly as tongue-searingly hot as I was expecting.) This salsa is great with chips, crackers or even vegetables, and can also serve as a fresh topping for grilled meats, like pork or chicken. Enjoy!

Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa with Homemade Tortilla Chips

Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa

3 medium peaches, pitted and quartered
2 ears of corn, shucked
2 small hot peppers (jalapeño, Serrano or anything similar, seeded, ribbed and minced)
1/4 c. red onion, minced
1/2 an avocado, chopped
2 Tbs. cilantro, minced
1 tsp. honey
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
(1/4 tsp. cayenne, optional)
Olive oil, for grilling

Homemade Tortilla Chips

1 package white corn tortillas (tortillas quartered)
3 cups canola oil
kosher salt

Light the grill and allow it to heat up. Drizzle the peach quarters and corn cobs with olive oil so they won’t stick to the grill. Grill the peaches and corn over medium heat, keeping a close eye on them to prevent burning. Once they’re finished, remove them from the grill and allow them to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, peel the peaches (the skin comes off very easily) and dice them finely. Cut the corn from the cob and combine the peaches and corn in a medium sized bowl. Halve the avocado, chop it and add it to the bowl. Halve, seed and rib the two hot peppers, mince finely and add to the bowl. Mince the red onion and cilantro and add to the mixture.

Combine the lime juice and honey in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Pour the lime and honey mixture over the peach mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper (and cayenne, if using), place in a tightly sealed container, and allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour.

In a Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat the canola oil to about 350°, using a candy thermometer. Add the tortillas to the hot oil in batches (small enough to prevent overlapping and sticking) and fry, turning once, until lightly browned. Quickly remove the chips from the oil and cool on wire racks. Salt the chips while they’re still hot. Keep the chips in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

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Laura Hobbs is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Laura is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.