I share a long butcher block workstation at Spoon and Stable restaurant in Minneapolis with Alexandra Motz, Executive Pastry Chef. One of the first people to befriend me when I started my new job, Alex’s appearance is striking to say the least. With tattooed arms, stretched earlobes, a nose ring, and rainbow-colored hair, she is uniquely beautiful. Chef Alex is outgoing, strong and generous, and I look forward to seeing her every day. During our conversations working together, we discovered that we have a common history. From childhood until the age of 16, she came to Springfield with her mother, sculptor Demetra Saloutos, to exhibit at the Springfield Old Capitol Art Fair.
Chef Alex is an artist herself. On her Instagram page, she describes herself as a “candy maker // painter”. His paintings, like his pastry creations, are whimsical, colorful and eclectic. She says she became a pastry chef because of her artistic talent. “I find my creativity through the colors, especially in spring and summer with the variety of fruits and vegetables available.” Every day, I watch her with curiosity and fascination go from task to task, creating components for her desserts, which are assembled to order during dinner service in the dining room’s open kitchen. Small chocolate scribbles sprinkled with cocoa powder and wild rice puffed in hot oil will be part of his dessert entitled “Chocolate tart and cherry ganache, wild rice dragee and salted caramel ice cream”. She makes ice cream from beeswax to pair with powdered pink strawberries for her honey and cream cake. She pairs the spicy cinnamon horchata panna cotta with an angel food cake sprinkled with poppy seeds, cubes of honeydew melon, lemon granita and pink oxalis flowers. Each dish is a miniature edible sculpture.
I just watch her work out of the corner of my eye as I roll out my chopsticks and wonder where she came from with her crazy, delicious ideas. “I’ve always been an advocate for education, inspiration and sharing. We learn from trial and error as artists, but we don’t give up.” She is not afraid to take risks. “Shame and embarrassment is a pretty powerful learning tool.”
When I asked Chef Alex if she would agree to contribute a recipe for my Illinois weather column, I stressed that it should be accessible for home cooks. What she ended up offering surprised me with its simplicity: grilled peaches. She told me, “It was the most popular food at the 2018 Minnesota State Fair.” The Minnesota State Fair is big business. It is the country’s busiest state fair, setting a record of over 2 million visitors. Alex developed this recipe for his friends, Sharon and Kevin Hannigan, who own a business called Produce Exchange and have a food concession at the fair. The dish consisted of herb goat cheese, drizzled with honey, over a grilled Sweet Dream peach. It was so popular that the Hannigans, who started out with 40 pounds of goat cheese, ended up scrambling and had to roam the Twin Cities to buy all the goat cheese they could get their hands on … ” about a few hundred pounds. ”
This is a great use for peaches that are not ripe enough. The grill has the ability to elevate peaches into a mind-blowing dessert with nothing more than heat. The high heat of the grill brings out their juiciness and caramelizes the natural sugars found in the fruit.
Grilled peaches with goat cheese with herbs and a drizzle of honey
According to Chef Alex, Sweet Dream peaches are the best on the market! They are low in acidity, so they are sweeter than most peaches. “It’s juicy melting in your mouth!” If you can’t find Sweet Dream Peaches near you, that’s okay. Sweet peaches or sweet nectarines are good alternatives.
4 Sweet Dream peaches
Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit.
Finely chop the herbs and incorporate them into the goat cheese. Put aside.
Heat your grill.
Brush your grill grates with sunflower oil.
Place the peaches face down on the grill. The grates must be hot. This will create excellent grill marks on the peaches. The peaches should come off easily when charred well. If they don’t, it means they need more time to cook. It should take about 5-8 minutes. Flip the peaches over and cook at the back for another 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and serve in a bowl. Add a ball of goat cheese with herbs on top. Drizzle with honey. Serve hot.