Friday, July 16, 2010
Summer Night At The Sonoma Farmers' Market And A Santa Rosa Plum Crostata
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Place the pastry in the oven.
Bake it for 1 hour or until the crust gets a nice golden brown.
In Sonoma we're fortunate that there are so many wonderful things growing around us, sometimes in our own backyards.