Belinda Smith-Sullivan’s love affair with peaches began long ago during childhood summers at her grandparents’ farm in Charleston, Miss.
But the love was rekindled when she moved to Edgefield County, in the heart of South Carolina’s peach country — and about two hours’ south of Charlotte, N.C.
“I had been experimenting with peaches ever since moving to South Carolina in 2002,” she said in a recent telephone interview.
The more she cooked with peaches, she more she saw the need for a cookbook devoted to them. “I was looking for a cookbook on peaches and there wasn’t one,” she said.
But now there is, and Smith-Sullivan wrote it. “Just Peachy” (Gibbs Smith, $21.99) is Smith-Sullivan’s first cookbook and she’ll be in Winston-Salem to promote it this weekend at Bookmarks Festival of Books.
Smith-Sullivan had retired from a career as a global training manager for Coca-Cola when she decided to check off a big item on her bucket list. “My husband had to give me the nudge,” she said. “He said, ‘Ever since I met you, you told me your were going to go to culinary school. Why don’t you do it?’”
With the Charlotte campus of Johnson & Wales University just a couple of hours away from her South Carolina home, she decided to go back to school.
After completing the culinary program at Johnson & Wales, she was a personal chef for a couple of years. Then she created a line of spice blends called Chef Belinda Spices, which she still sells at ChefBelindaSpices.com.
“But I really went to culinary school because I wanted to write cookbooks,” Smith-Sullivan said.
She acknowledges that culinary school does not necessarily provide the education needed to write cookbooks, but it seems to have worked out for her.
Smith-Sullivan said she spent seven years developing recipes, writing the book and finding a publisher. “Just Peachy” was released this May.
Peaches, she found, are very versatile, making them equally at home in savory and sweet dishes. They also are great in drinks — alcoholic and otherwise.
The book includes interesting peach facts, a guide to canning and freezing, and a list of festivals across the United States and Canada. (North Carolina has two festivals: the Knotts Island Peach Festival in June on Knotts Island and the North Carolina Peach Festival in July in Candor.)
Peach facts include:
- Peaches are known as “the fruit of calmness,” because they are said to reduce anxiety.
- There are over 300 peach varieties in the United States and over 2,000 in the world.
- The only difference between a peach and a nectarine is that a peach has fuzz and a nectarine doesn’t.
The recipe chapters begin with Breads & Breakfasts, which includes cast-iron peach cornbread, spinach-peach omelet and buttermilk peach waffles. Appetizers include mascarpone prosciutto peach crostini and peach guacamole. There’s peach-tomato gazpacho and peach-pistachio chicken salad.
Among the main dishes are blackened cod tacos with peach salsa, peach-bourbon roasted chicken, herb-crusted peach mustard pork tenderloin and spicy oven ribs with peach barbecue sauce. “People are going nuts over that peach barbecue sauce,” Smith-Sullivan said.
She has recipes for old-fashioned peach pie as well as slump, buckle, buckle, tart, crumble and cobbler — some with peaches alone, and some in combination with other fruits.
Other desserts include chocolate-peach souffle, peach-amaretto ice cream, peach-thyme poundcake, peach upside-down cake and peach-coconut cake. The latter was inspired by her mother’s coconut cake.
“Coconut cake was my mother’s favorite cake. She made it once a year on her birthday,” Smith-Sullivan said. “She made it with pineapple, but I make it with peaches. This is my tribute to her.”
Though her mother has passed away, Smith-Sullivan said, she still carries on the tradition of making the cake once a year.
The book also includes such sauces and condiments as peach-mango sauce and peach-orange marmalade and such beverages as sparkling peach-blueberry lemonade, homemade peach brandy and peach margarita.
Smith-Sullivan said she hopes the book opens people up to the many possibilities of peaches. “We have this wonderful fruit, and there are so many things you can do with it,” she said. “I just want people to enjoy them as much as I do.”
But, she said, “My favorite thing to do with them is just eat them. And I can never eat just one.”