Friday was a miserable day.  It was rainy.  It was grey.  It was freezing cold…in every building I entered.   The combination of all three made me crave soup.   I was nudged a little in that direction thanks to the foodie stylings of S and E, and as we all know, I can eat soup any time of year. With my former home of South Louisiana at the fore front of my mind this past week, it seemed like the only solution would be a warm, rich gumbo.

Now, I am very much a born and bred Californian, so I was not born with that gene Louisiana people are born with…You know the one where you can make a perfect roux.  My friend KK swears by the two beer method of roux making.  It seems so flawless when she does it, however, I am never able to replicate it.  Some swear the color of the roux should be like peanut butter, while other advocate a more chocolate syrup colored roux.  So tonight, after deciding I wanted to fall more on the chocolate end of the roux color spectrum, I found myself wondering, should it be milk chocolate or dark chocolate syrup?!?!?

Enter glass number one of beer.  I decided, I would follow KK’s method and whatever it looked like after a second beer was the color I was going to embrace as my roux.  So with the oil and the flour in my dutch oven, I stood there with a beer in one hand and a whisk in the other, just hoping it would turn out ok.

Two beers and I successfully made a chocolately colored roux.  As usual KK was right and with my “Trinity” (chopped celery, onions, and green pepper…an essential in almost every South Louisiana recipe) ready to go, I felt more certain that this gumbo would work.

I say work because my first attempt at gumbo about 3 years ago was just plain sad.  I tried a oyster and shrimp gumbo and when it was done, it was more like burned flour and over cooked oyster soup.  I vowed that I would wait before I attempted it again.  So before making tonight’s rendition of gumbo, I looked over five different recipes, three from Jr. League cookbooks, including Talk About Good, Susan Spicer’s fabulous book, and finally a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website from Dookie Chase.  In particular, I loved Susan Spicer’s suggestion to put the chicken bones in my store bought stock to deepen the flavor.  I thought it was fabulous.

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

4 pounds bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
1/8 Tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
salt and pepper to taste
8 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
1 Cup Oil
1 Cup Flour
2 Medium Onions, diced
2 Green Peppers, diced
4 Celery Stalks, diced
6 cloves of Garlic, minced
12 oz. Pork Andouille, sliced into quarters length-wise, then chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
12 oz. Turkey Andouille, sliced into quarters length-wise, then chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tsp. Pimenton de la Vera (Spanish Paprika)
5 Springs of Fresh Thyme
1/8 Tsp. Cayenne
1/4 Cup Parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. Filé powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the chicken out in a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Roast in the oven until the chicken reaches 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove the meat from the bones. Set the chicken meat to the side and add the bones to your stock pot. Bring the stock to a boil and allow it to boil for a few mintues, then reduce to a simmer while you work on your roux.

**Before you go any further prep all your ingredients. The best way to stop the roux at right time is to pour in the veggies, so it is best to have then prepped and in bowls near the stove.**

The Roux
In at least a 7 quart dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and the flour, stirring constantly. I prefer to use a whisk (a flat whisk works best), but others I know like to use a wooden spoon, either will work, but make sure you keep it moving. You do not want to burn the flour, but if you do, just start from the beginning. No worries. Keep stirring until the roux reaches a chocolate syrup color (or you finish two beers).

Reduce the heat to low and add the onions, celery, green peppers, and garlic. Cook the mixture for 4 minutes. Combine the chicken and sausage. At this point everything will look like a brown mess. Add the paprika, cayenne, and thyme to the pot and stir to combine. Finally discard the chicken bones and add the stock a ladle-full at a time. Increase the heat to medium again, and while stirring constantly, bring the gumbo to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 45 minutes. This is usually just enough time to make some rice to go with your gumbo. I like long grain brown rice.

Remove the dutch oven from heat and add salt and pepper. If you will eat all your gumbo tonight, add the parsley and filé powder. I have read that while filé powder will thicken a gumbo, it can also make it stringy. Since H and I planned to eat this over the course of the week, I sprinkled a little on top of each portion.

To serve, add about a 1/2 cup of rice to the bowl, then ladle the gumbo over it. Make sure you have hot sauce on the table, and if you are feeling indulgent, I like to eat my gumbo with a fresh sweet corn muffin with garlic butter.

Summer Corn

Summer Corn

This chowder isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it is definitely a winner in the kitchen. The recipe comes from a little book called 50 Chowders by Jasper White, and it could be overlooked given that the book is full of the most wonderful sounding soups and chowders. It’s the kind of recipe that you run across that easily could have come from your mother. My mom never made corn chowder when I was growing up, but this is exactly the kind of thing we would have had when summer was sinking into fall.

This is the perfect time of year for this chowder. It combines the last of the summer corn with the warmth and comfort of a fall soup. If this dish were clothing it would be that light sweater you put on during late summer evenings when you can feel the cool air of fall creeping into the night. This chowder is simultaneously a farewell to summer and a welcome to autumn.

This chowder is sure to become one of those recipes that we make for years to come. It’s very flavorful and comforting. The spice is just right and the ratio of stock to cream lends to a rich chowder but not overly so. The chowder also keeps well overnight and makes for a perfect lunch the next day.

If you head to your farmers’ market this weekend and come home with the last few ears of summer corn, I hope you try this. Maybe it will become one of your favorites, too.

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder
Excerpted from 50 Chowders by Jasper White

3 medium ears of fresh yellow or bicolor corn
4 oz bacon, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion (7 to 8 oz), cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 large red bell pepper (6 to 8 oz), cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 pound Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 cups chicken stock or broth
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 cup heavy cream
For Garnish
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or thinly sliced scallions

1. Husk the corn. Carefully remove most of the silk by hand and then rub the ears with a towel to finish the job. Cut the kernels from the cobs and place in a bowl. You should have about 2 cups. Using the back of your knife, scrape down the cobs and add the milkly substance that oozes out to the corn kernels.
2. Heat a 3 to 4 quart heavy pot over low heat and add the diced bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp and golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.
3. Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin, and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onion and pepper are tender but not browned.
4. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, and stock, turn up the heat, cover, and boil vigoursly for about 10 minutes. Some of the potatoes will have broken up, but most should retain their shape. Use the back of your spoon to smash a bit of the corn and potatoes against the side of the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and season the chowder with salt and pepper.
5. Stir the cornstarch mixture and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let is sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.
6. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat, don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the chopped chives.

So the farmers’ markets around Nashville are exploding with tomatoes. Every time I take a stroll through the market, all I find are tomatoes encroaching on all the other produce. They are pushing the peaches to the side, making the peas inconsequential, and shouldering aside the squash. And as I am faced with these displays of lycopenean bloat, I’m faced with with one hard, irrefutable fact. I hate tomatoes.

Well, let me qualify that. I hate raw tomatoes. Cooked tomatoes, whether they be in marinara sauce, pasta or even ketchup are another story. Cooked tomatoes don’t have that weird slimy texture that, in my mind, has always doomed the raw, ripe fruit. Cooked tomatoes are also the titular ingredient in that most perfect of soups: tomato soup.

I’ll admit it – I love Campbell’s tomato soup. There is usually a can in my cupboard that can be pulled down and made in five minutes when I need a comforting bowl of the stuff. But I also love the the non-canned variety – and I’ve made it at home before. It’s just that my tomato soup cravings usually come on a rainy, cold day in late fall – and I have to end up using canned tomatoes rather than fresh, ripe summer tomatoes. This year though, I was determined to correct this and make use of the current torrent of tomatoes.

I found a basic recipe from a cookbook appropriately titled The Soup Bible. I added in a few more tomatoes than the recipe suggested and cut down a bit on the broth. I also used a free hand with the spices as well – doubling the garlic, adding in a dash of hot red pepper flakes, and using copious amounts of black pepper. What came out was as smooth as Campbell’s soup, but with freshness of taste that just can not be replicated in a can. I’m tempted to buy bushels of tomatoes over the next few weeks, before the season inevitably comes to an end, and fill my freezer with enough tomato soup to last me through the dreariest of winter days. It’s almost enough to make me reconsider my loathing of the raw fruit – almost, but not quite!

Fresh Tomato Soup

Adapted from The Soup Bible

Ingredients:

2 1/2 to 3 pounds very ripe tomatoes

2 T. Olive oil

1 Onion, chopped

2 Garlic cloves, crushed

2 T. Sherry Vinegar

2 T. Tomato Paste

1 T. Cornstarch

1 Bay leaf

2 cups, Vegetable or chicken stock

Dash of Crushed red pepper

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup Creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)

Basil Leaves for garnish

Directions:

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and pulp to a strainer set over a bowl. Press down on the pulp until all the liquid has been released. Set aside the liquid.

Heat the olive oil in a pan, and add the onion, garlic, sherry vinegar, tomato paste, and tomato halves. Stir and then cover the pan and cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. When done, process the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth and then pass through a sieve to remove pieces of skin. Return to pan.

Mix the cornstarch with the reserved tomato pulp liquid, then stir into the hot soup, along with the bay leaf and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, seasoning with the red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir in the sour cream (you can skip this step if you don’t like creamy tomato soup) and garnish with basil leaves. Serve hot.

So it should come as no surprise that I love homemade pizza. What’s not to love? It’s easy, it tastes good, and it tends to impress anyone who doesn’t make homemade pizza themselves. And while I love the ‘classic’ pizza combination of red sauce, mozzarella and Italian sausage, when I’m in the mood for something special, nothing beats a smoked salmon and brie pizza.

There’s nothing too labor intensive about this recipe. The only thing you need to make ahead is the pizza dough – and really, any recipe for pizza dough will work. Heck, if you’re not in the mood to wait the hour and a half to make homemade pizza dough you can check with your local grocery store to see if the bakery sells uncooked pizza dough. It’s an easy time saver that I have been known to use.

The cut-up brie is easy enough to prep. When I make this recipe I always throw the brie in the freezer for 15 minutes before I cut the rind off. The sub-zero temperature firms up the cheese and makes it much easier to cut into small pieces. I don’t have any trick to make the salmon easier to cut up – in fact, depending on the smoked salmon you use it may be easier to tear into little pieces rather than cutting it. As with everything in this easy recipe, use what works best for you.

The rest of the process is pretty self explanatory. Because the brie and smoked salmon are rather delicate – at least at high temperatures – you need to blind bake the pizza crust without any toppings. Once the crust is almost brown, you pull it from the oven and quickly scatter the cheese, salmon and onions over the top. Another few minutes in the oven melts everything together. What comes out is a wonderful combination of a pizza and a Sunday morning lox bagel. I would advise anyone making this to cut the pizza slices small, since the dish can be very rich. But even in a small slice the wonderfulness of homemade pizza makes it all worthwhile – and you never know who it might impress.

Smoked Salmon and Brie Pizza

Adapted from New Pizza by James McNair

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough

Vegetable or olive oil for brushing crust and drizzling over toppings

1 pound of brie cheese, rind discarded and cut into small pieces

12 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon cut into small pieces

1/2 cup minced sweet onion ( I used green onions)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (My oven smokes at that temperature – so I used 450 and it turned out fine). Brush pizza screen or pan with oil. Stretch out the pizza dough and place on the screen or pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then brush with oil.

Put the crust in the oven and bake until the crust just begins to brown (around 5-7 minutes). Remove the pan from the oven and top the crust with the cheese, followed by the salmon and onion. Drizzle evenly with oil. Return to the oven and bake until the crust is golden (around 5-7 minutes longer).

Remove the pizza from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.

It’s funny how a simple lunch time conversation can lead you down a cooking rabbit hole. J and I were having lunch a few weeks ago and we were remembering a simply sublime cornmeal and lemon curd cookie that is made by Marché, one of our favorite East Nashville lunch places. That led us towards contemplating lemon curd, and considering that our planned-for Kitchen Confit Peach Week was on the horizon, we wondered if it was possible to make peach curd. A few simple web searches later and I discovered that apparently a few brave souls had tried peach curd. With the idea stuck in my head I knew I needed to try it – what I was going to do with it once I made it, I was wasn’t quite sure. But I knew eventually I would come up with something.

The recipe I found for peach curd was pretty basic: egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, butter and peach puree. The recipe also called for rosewater. Rosewater is a traditional Middle Eastern ingredient, made from rose petals and distilled water. Now at this point, rosewater did not reside in my cupboards, but I was determined to fix that. I must say, rosewater was surprisingly hard to find from more commercial gourmet sources – Williams Sonoma did not carry it (they suggested driving to Atlanta to find it!) and it was absent from the Whole Foods shelves. Not about to despair, I dropped into the International Market at the Nashville Farmers Market. They carried several varieties of rosewater and I grabbed the one in the prettiest bottle (it was also the cheapest!).

With rosewater in hand, I was ready to begin the curd. I combined the yolks, sugar, peach puree, lemon juice and rosewater. I placed this mixture over a pot of simmering water and I whisked. And whisked. And whisked. You’re supposed to do this until thickened and the mixture did thicken. I just wasn’t sure how much it should thicken. In retrospect, I should have whisked a few more minutes, since after beating in the butter and straining, the curd was a bit runny. I had hoped that the curd would thicken more as it chilled – and it did, a bit – but not as much as I would have liked. But the curd would serve for my purposes… it had become a peach tart.

From this point on, I was kind of winging it. I made a sweet tart dough and blind baked it. Once it was cool I poured in the peach curd. I knew I needed to top the the peach curd with more peaches, but I wasn’t sure if they should be raw or cooked. In the end I decided to poach the peaches in a mixture of sugar, water, brandy and lemon rind. After twenty minutes in this syrup, I took the peaches out, sliced them and then attempted to arrange them in a circular patten on top of the peach curd. And in the end this haphazard dessert was delicious – a bit messy, since the peach curd really should have been a bit thicker – but delicious all the same. Thank goodness for foodie lunch conversations and cooking rabbit holes!

Peach Curd and Poached Peach Tart

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Peach Curd

Recipe from epicurean.com

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

2/3 c. sugar

1 c. fresh peach puree

Lemon juice to taste, about 1 T.

1/2 t. rosewater to taste, about 1 T.

6 T. butter

Directions:

Beat the yolks, sugar, peach puree, lemon juice, and rosewater. Put mixture over summering water and whisk constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, a little at a time. Strain well and and chill.

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Sweet Tart Dough

Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Ingredients;

11/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 stick plus 1 T. (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Directions:

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before filling with the peach curd. Refrigerate.

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Poached Peaches

2 c. water

1 1/2 c . sugar

1 c. brandy

Rind of 1 lemon – peeled in thick strips

2-3 peaches – halved and pitted

Bring all the ingredients except the peaches to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the peaches. Add the peaches and simmer for 20 -25 minutes or until tender. Remove from the syrup and slide the peaches out of their skins. Once cool slice the peaces lengthwise and arrange the slices in a circular pattern on top of the peach curd. Chill. To serve, remove the tart from the tart pan and slice.

South Carolina Peaches

It’s summertime in the South and how have I not written about the peaches? I live minutes from South Carolina, which means peaches are everywhere. Peaches constantly line our kitchen counter, and they are usually eaten standing up over the sink so as not to make a mess with all their drippy and delightful juiciness. They’re so good as is that I can never bring myself to cook with them. This is true of most fruit. Why mess with a good thing, I ponder? But as it is Peach Week here at Kitchen Confit, I needed to find a recipe fantastic enough for which to sacrifice a peach.

I love Frank Stitt

We have waxed poetic about how much we love Frank Stitt here at Kitchen Confit. And for good reason. If you haven’t been to Birmingham, Alabama to eat at one of his amazing restaurants then put it on your list of things to do. S and I briefly lived in Birmingham last summer and for six short weeks we ate at one of Chef Stitt’s restaurants as often as possible. Since we’ve left Birmingham, I’ve often turned to Frank Stitt’s cookbook.  Unlike some celebrity chef cookbooks the recipes do work and they are completely unintimidating. I’ve cooked quite a bit from it and have never been anything but pleased with the results.

Peach Crostada

Back to peach week. I’ve already admitted that I don’t really swoon over all things chocolate, so I might as well admit that I don’t really like cake either. I love to bake cakes but I usually find them far too sweet and rich for my liking. Pie is a different story. I quite like pie, but I’m that girl who eats the filling and leaves the pastry. Or at least I used to be that girl. I made the peach crostada thinking the whole time that I probably wasn’t going to love it, but gosh was I wrong.

Warm and Bubbly

I don’t know what I loved the most. The crust was so flavorful and buttery. The peaches retained their lovely peachiness and the crostada was very moist.  It was a snap to make, and thank goodness the dough recipe made enough for two crostadas, as we will definitely be having this again very soon. There I was standing in the kitchen far too late to be eating pie and questioning why I had ever refused to baked with the fresh fruit of summer. The crostada wasn’t a waste of a blushing peach but rather a celebration of their wonderful flavor.

Peach Crostada

Peach Crostada
Excerpted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

For the Dough
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and sliced into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon heavy cream for egg wash
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar for topping

To prepare the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas, about 15 times. With the processor running, add the ice water and process for about 10 seconds; stop the processor before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper, divide the dough in half, and shape into two disks. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; if it has been frozen, defrost the dough for 30 minutes at room temperature.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Roll one disk of dough into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet. (Reserve the second disk of dough for another use.)
To prepare the filling, combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. Blend in butter with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Place the peaches in the center of the dough circle on the baking sheet and top with the butter-sugar mixture. Begin draping the edges up and over, forming about 3 pleats. Crimp the pleats and press down to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack.

Last week, E, S, and I talked about the lack of peaches on our blog.  How could we live in the South and not have yet posted anything about peaches?!  So in honor of the peach, we decided to declare this week, Kitchen Confit Peach Week. In my mind, eating a sweet juicy peach is one of the glories of summer.  Then there is the intoxicating peach smell.  It really is hard to imagine anything better. Rarely do I think of a peach as anything but a sweet treat at the end of a summer meal.  So when we all decided to find a peach dish to make for Peach Week, I decided to seek out something savory.  That’s when I found a recipe for Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches in the July Bon Appetit.  It sounds like it would be a little sweet, a little spicy, and all around delcious.

The sauce was a mix of peanut butter, sugar, nectar, Chili sauce, rice vinegar, and soy sauce…really when you combine these ingredients does it get any better. Salty and Sweet.  The only thing I thought it might need was a little extra chili sauce, a thought I was glad I had. Everything was easily grilled and tasted good.  However, it just is not going to look good on a plate.  As a grilled summer salad, it was quite delicious and refreshing. I will say, the grilled bok choy was probably my favorite part of this entire meal.  I know I should be praising the peach, but I think I am just a tried and true Peach as dessert type eater.  If I do decide to try this recipe again, I think I will add a little more acid to the sauce…maybe a little fish sauce.  Also, while the heat came through in the bok choy and on the shrimp, it was barey noticable on the peaches.  Anyone ever have that happen?

Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches
Adapted from Bon Appetit from July 2008 Serves 4

Sauce
6 Tbsp Smooth Natural Peanut Butter
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar (I only had light brown sugar on had, but Bon Appetit recommends Dark Brown Sugar)
3 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Hot Chili Sauce like sriracha
5 Tbsp Peach Nectar

3 Peaches, each cut into 6 wedges
16 raw large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 head Baby Bok Choy, halved lengthwise
4 Bamboo Skewers, soaked in water

Fire up your grill!

Combine the ingredients for the sauce and mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Skewer the Shrimp on bamboo skewers. Brush the peaches, bok choy, and shrimp first with nectar then with a little of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

We grilled each item individually, so first the peaches, then the bok choy, and finally the shrimp. The peaches should be charred, shrimp just opaque, and the bok choy tender.

Once removed from the grill, arrange the bok choy, peaches, and shrimp on a platter and drizzle with a little more sauce. Serve with remaining sauce.