My new love summer fling happened quite by accident… or maybe out of urgent necessity. My catering company – A TASTE Experience http://www.atasteexperience.com – was hosting a private dinner and one course included fresh white nectarines. I love nectarines. Summer, for me, does not officially start until I have had a perfectly ripe, juicy, and fragrant nectarine. They are one of the few fruits that I usually eat raw – out of hand or in salads. Heat destroys the delicate aroma and taste of nectarines. Some years, the crop does disappoint… and, even worse, the markets disappoint. The nectarines I purchased for the dinner were mealy… mushy… as if someone froze the fruit during their transport from trees to market. I could not serve them. With less than an hour from service, I sent out for more nectarines… and my catering assistant, not finding nectarines, brought me back peaches. I rinsed the fruit; cut a slice to taste; and I swear I heard a harpsichord.
The peaches tasted incredible!
I have never cared for fresh peaches because of the fuzz that covers them. I could not get around that cottony, dry, fuzzy texture on my tongue – especially since there was often a smooth-skinned nectarine waiting in the bin alongside the peaches. Years have come and gone and I have ignored seasons and seasons of fresh peaches. I am reliant on frozen peach slices for daiquiris, pies, smoothies, sorbets, and cobblers… and I had been okay with that – until now! The sweet, slightly acidity tang of the fresh fruit greatly outweighed the fuzz. I am not even sure if I felt the fuzz on my tongue that day. But I do remember the flavor. I remember how the flavor offset the richness of the crispy pork that it accompanied. I also remember thinking how I was now having a summer fling with fresh peaches.
I have been eating fresh peaches much like nectarines all summer – fresh, in salads, and occassionally on top of a bowl of cereal; shying away from heat and over processing. Somehow, the thought of baking them escaped me until just this past weekend. I knew their flavor would hold up better under heat than nectarines because I remember my Great-Grandma Alberta’s fresh peach preserves inside flaky fried pastry dough; I remember my Great-Grandma Emma’s peach cobbler. Some friends were coming for Sunday dinner and, while perusing the farmer’s market, I planned a peach and blueberry crostata for dessert. A crostata is a free-form rustic tart.
My Recipe: PEACH BLUBERRY & ALMOND CROSTATA serves 6
1 ¼ c all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
¼ c sliced almonds, optional
1 t kosher salt
2 – 3 T ice cold water
3 med fresh, ripe peaches, stone removed and cut into 8 wedges
¾ c blueberry compote
1 t fresh lemon zest
¼ c granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped out
1 egg, lightly beaten
In a food processor, combine the flour, kosher salt, vanilla bean seeds, and sliced almonds; pulse until the almonds are chopped; add chilled diced butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse beach sand with some bigger pieces of butter visible, approximately 10 seconds; slowly drizzle in iced water while pulsing until mixture looks like damp coarse beach sand, approximately 20 seconds; turn dough out onto a clean and lightly floured surface; quickly form into a ball; wrap in plastic; chill in the refrigerator for a hour
NOTE: You may not need all of the ice water; so do not add it all at once. You are just trying to dampen the flour to help the dough come together. You do not want to make batter and you do not want to over mix the dough.
Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
In a mixing bowl combine: peach slices, lemon zest, granulated sugar, and cornstarch; toss well until all peach is coated
After dough has chilled; roll it out on a lightly floured surface, parchment is ideal to assist in moving tart to a baking sheet after form: move the dough around to get a round shape; transfer the rolled out dough to a low rimmed baking sheet
Pour blueberry fruit compote in the middle of the dough; leaving a 2” border; pour peaches on the top of the compote, mounding the peaches in center of the tart
Fold border over edge of fruit; pleating all around the tart, press down gently to seal
Combine the beaten egg with a tablespoon of water to create an egg wash; brush the top of the dough with the egg wash; sprinkle with sugar
You do not need blueberry compote to make this crostata. I had some on hand and I did not want it to go to waste. You can easily substitute one cup of fresh blueberries or even blackberries and increase the sugar to 1/2 cup. The almonds in the crust are optional; leave them out or use another nut; sprinkle some on the outside of the crust as well, if you so desire. Once you master the method, which is super easy, you can exchange the fruit each season and get great results. You can even get fancy… and incorporate sweetened ricotta cheese into the filling or frangipane. Or, combine fresh tomatoes, herbs, and goat cheese to make a savory crostata.
Or… since they are only round for a limited time… and this season they are absolutely incredible… and since the opportunity to have a fling is about seizing the moment and enjoying the ride…. make a simple peach crostata.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!