Last week, my friend Abra Berens shared a photo of a salad she had recently made with pickled peaches. I was not only smitten, I became immediately hungry. I had been planning on a salad for this week with some kind of fruit, and I have always loved a good pickled fruit, but then later in the week a friend gave me a bag of peaches from her bumper-crop-producing tree, and the rest is history.

For years I have been inspired by Abra’s close-to-the-farm, straightforward yet bold approach to flavor. I highly recommend her most recent book, Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds and Legumes. I’m sure many of the recipes I have shared here have been influenced by her in some way. This is one of the most beautiful things about cooking — like a language, it shifts, changes and grows over time, mostly because of the people around us. The way I cook today is a direct result of my Italian heritage, French training and the chefs, farmers and friends who have shared with me their knowledge and experiences. Each of them have come into my life with their own history of learning and life, and so the lineage grows on. Sometimes it looks a lot like learning, and sometimes it looks like simply sharing a meal.

These days, my cooking is inspired by the high-desert landscape and by food that is easy to make, easy to share and easy to serve. When I use the word “easy,” what I’m really leaning toward is beauty. The beauty of a fire-roasted green chile; the beauty of a ripe peach shared with a friend; the beauty of colors, shapes and textures of ingredients meeting on a plate with the purpose of celebrating one another. At this stage of my cooking life, this is what feels good and warm.

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Use the leftover pickling liquid infused with green chile and peaches for a vinaigrette or in cocktails.

Marianne Sundquist is a chef and writer who in 2020 co-founded Stokli, an online general store. Find her on Instagram @chefmariannesundquist and email her at marianne@stokli.com.

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