Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Night At The Sonoma Farmers' Market And A Santa Rosa Plum Crostata

  I must have been a farmer in a previous life. For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by growing things that can be eaten.  I can't fully explain the magic of that for a city kid, but to actually see the stuff that comes out of the cans or the freezer case actually hanging from plants or pushing up out of the ground used to blow my mind.
I grew up in the city of San Francisco, The Sunset District in the last remaining area of native urban sand dunes in the city. My street consisted of the characteristic San Francisco row houses and then.....The Sahara. For a kid it was endless fun but I was more interested in the three scrawny fruit trees we had in our back yard. Apple, cherry and Bosc pear.
  I was the only one who seemed to be interested in them and I picked and cooked anything I could get off of them. In foggy San Francisco it wasn't much.
  When I moved to Santa Monica I had a strawberry guava tree, neighbors would give me their loquats for chutney and there was also a gigantic Meyer lemon tree  that kept the neighborhood supplied, until we discovered it was so gigantic because it was drinking directly out of the bottom of the swimming pool.
   Here in Sonoma, many things grow wild. There are olives and cactus pears, pomegranates and figs and lemons, and loquats and blackberries, and grapes and plum trees.
    Our place is covered in blackberry vines and every summer I battle the deer for dibs. Until a few months ago I thought that was all we had. Then we cleared brush as part of Sonomas' fire safe program and what did we find underneath it all? Two plum trees, a Santa Rosa plum and a Cherry Plum. I was over the moon.
   I couldn't wait to pick the fruit and do something with it. Chutney? Jam? What to make? The Cherry Plums weren't ripe yet, and  weren't enough plums on the Santa Rosa tree to make any chutneys or jams, so I settled on a crostata. I decided to bake one for our local gathering at Tuesdays' Sonoma Farmers' Market.
  I'd picked about 2 pounds of small plums off my tree, just the exact amount I figured I'd need. In fact, just the exact amount that I could get off the tree.
  I love making crostata because they always look so homey and rustic, and they always take a great picture.
   Making the crostata is a two step process. The crust can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge overnight, as long as it's taken out about 30 minutes before it's rolled out. If you make the crust the same day you're baking, just make sure it chills for at least an hour. Here's what to do.
    The Crust
 In a bowl mix together:
  1 and 1/2 cups of all flour
  2 Tbs of sugar
  1/2 tsp of salt
  1 tsp of lemon peel
  Add in 1 stick of unsalted butter cut into small pieces.
Blend it in well, so the flour has a nice mealy texture.
   Pour in 1/4 cup of whipping cream, and mix the dough together with a fork.

You may need to add more whipping cream, don't worry about it I always do.

When the dough is thoroughly moist, scoop it into a ball.

Flatten it out and wrap it in plastic, then tuck it into the fridge to rest.

   While the dough rests it's time to make The Filling.
   In a bowl blend about 1 and 1/2 to 2 lbs of small Santa Rosa Plums cut into slices.
 1 Tbs of flour plus an additional 2 tsp of flour
5 Tbs of sugar (Note: Santa Rosa plums are tart. I like to keep some of the tang. If you like your tarts sweeter, add a bit more sugar. If you are serving this with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, don't put too much sugar in the crostata).
  2 tsps of lemon juice
1 tsp of lemon zest
1 Tbs of unsalted butter cut into tiny pieces.
Mix it all together.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Put the dough out on a cookie sheet covered with a piece of floured parchment paper. Roll the pastry out into a round.

Place the plum mixture in the center of the pastry.
Fold the edges of the pasty dough around the plum mixture leaving the center open.
Brush the rim of the pastry with whipping cream and sprinkle it with sugar.

Place the pastry in the oven.

Bake it for 1 hour or until the crust gets a nice golden brown.
I took my crostata and a jar of homemade creme fraiche down to the Farmers' Market.

   I cut the crostata into slices and served it with the creme fraiche.
The thing that made me happiest about this whole thing was being able to pick the plums off our own tree and make them into something for everyone to enjoy.
 Including me. As you can see from the background there's one lonely piece left. It didn't go home alone.
 In Sonoma we're fortunate that there are so many wonderful things growing around us, sometimes in our own backyards.


  1. Kathy, this looks like such a lovely treat. I am new to your blog and have spent some time this morning browsing through your earlier posts. I'm so glad I did. I really enjoyed my visit and will be back often to see what else you have been cooking. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  2. Kathy Kathy Kathy... You make me weep for my fruit trees. I lived in San Jose for 3 years where we had an asian pear tree, a lemon tree, a cherry tree, a plum tree. The neighbor had a persimmon tree. I canned for days. I wanna come home.

  3. What an absolutely beautiful post! This crostata looks incrediblae Kathy. It's the perfect dish for a warm summer evening!

  4. I'm completely jealous! I miss having fruit trees, where you can do just as you have with your plums. This is a beautiful way to show off what one can do with hand picked produce :D

  5. Gorgeous crostata, Kathy! I've got a bunch of plums in the fridge at home, and I think I've just figured out what I'm going to do with them. :)
    We have two peach trees and a nectarine in our yard, but the squirrels always seem to beat me to the fruit. They like to leave the half-eaten peaches by the back door to taunt me. Sigh.

  6. You are fortunate, love all the fresh foods you get, but cherries are my favorite in the summer not big on plums but this looks sensational. I love that crust, I make something similar same dough but indivdual turnovers...I love them! will have to try it this way so much easier love the instructions great job on this Kathy!

  7. @pegasuslegend,
    I adore cherries..they're my very favorite. I just got some Rainiers this morning for 1.99 a pound! Score!

  8. @Isabelle,
    I hear you! It's constant battle between me and the deer as to who gets what. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a Disney movie.

  9. @janis,
    when you come out here come over to Sonoma one day if you get a chance.I know you're going to be busy however. ;)

  10. This looks amazing and I love the photo's you took. I have blackberries I'm constantly trying to take my yard back from. Them and the black bears that used to eat them before my house was built. When I do get to pick some however there is an certainly gratification that what you made started just outside the kitchen door on a vine.

  11. Seeing a dessert recipe after a long time. Lovely rustic Crostata. I would gladly take that last lonely piece.

  12. Looks wonderful,I bet everyone enjoyed this fresh treat:)

  13. We love crostata and your plum crostata looks soooo delicious. Can't wait to try the recipe. Thanks Kathy!

  14. How lucky to have all those fruit trees. Lucky lucky!

  15. Kathy,

    You are such a good writer. I loved reading your story and about life in Sonoma.

    You are so fortunate to be surrounded by a garden of food that you can pick on a daily basis and create wonderful treats like your plum crostada. I could actually taste it from your description and the creme fraiche made it perfect.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, photos and recipe.

  16. You are so lucky! I want to move to Sonoma! Seriously.

  17. I'm with you on the crostata. It could well be my favorite form of pie. It's free-form shape and roughness fit best with the whole idea of gardening, picking your own fruit, etc. Yours is beautiful and looks so moist and delicious.

  18. Beautiful! A perfect way to showcase summer fruit!

  19. Wow this is adorable! I love the lemon zest in it. I must try this when plums are in season.

  20. wow, this is amazing! the crostata looks beautiful! i like my desserts a little tart sometimes, too, usually with granny smith apples. i wish i could chop down some shrubs and find a fruit tree - that would be awesome! ;)

  21. There's no doubt that butter in pastry makes it twice as Delicious. The plums out a beautiful color.

  22. A beautiful summertime dessert and you just inspired me to make one for this week.



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