by Fresh and Frugal
Oh dear sweet butter. You are lovely tucked into a roasted piece of acorn squash, or gingerly folded with honey to top (American) fluffy biscuits. Some people use you to slick a pan for heating their vegetables and oh, you know how to make veggies so tasty. You make desserts eighty times better than they ought to be, and eighty times more addicting. You could appear in nearly any dish, and I would eagerly snarf it down.
But, my love, I must confess: sometimes you’re just too much. Or rather, people just demand too much of you. While working my way through high school and undergrad careers, I remember one face always keeping my mom’s company in the kitchen: Ina Garten. I think many of the things I’ve learned from my mom about cooking (for a little while) came from the Barefoot Contessa’s not-so-secret stash of recipes. By no fault of my mother’s, I thought everything called for a little butter. Well Ina, as much as I do adore almost every one of your recipes, I might pull out my hair if I read one more that calls for more than a stick of butter, unless I’m churning it myself.
The next order of business: pluots. There was an epic sale on them at the market, and I’ll readily admit, I hoarded the little guys into my hand basket. No, honestly. When I say hoard, I mean it. There were maybe 8 in there before I thought, “dear God, what am I going to do with 8 of these things?” but taking them back out of my basket never once crossed my mind. A pluot. Doesn’t that sound exotic? People look at you a little funny when you say it, until you explain that it’s what happens when a plum plant and apricot plant love one another very much. The skin is so firm and yet translucent, almost reminiscent of a dinosaur egg (which, by the way, I have not seen anywhere this summer, but adore). The flesh inside is a brilliant, striking, livid red which is rather difficult to photograph well. And the smell… It’s soft and sweet, almost like a plum. This fruit is, I suppose, how I would define a cool afternoon on the porch, just watching the (long, uncut) grass wave.
Like all good stone fruit, I had to try to turn it into some baked good, and I stumbled across the Barefoot Contessa’s plum tart recipe. Not to sound pompous, but I took one look at it and started changing things immediately. More nuts in the crust, less butter, a little less brown sugar, add salt and cinnamon and… Well, why don’t I just give you the recipe? I’ve left it at work (silly me), so here is what I came up with, to the best of my remembrance. I’ll edit it if I’ve made any mistakes when I remember to bring home the recipe, I promise!
2 c flour
1 c finely chopped walnuts
1 to 1.5 cold, chopped sticks of butter (depending on how much you like the stuff; I used 1)
1/2 to 3/4 c light brown sugar (depending on how sweet or tart your pluots are. Mine were very tart but I like that, and added 1/2 c)
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat to 400.
Mix the flour, brown sugar, walnuts, salt, and cinnamon. Next, add the chopped butter and mix (by hand is best, for some reason) until the stuff has come to a crumbly consistency.
No need to grease the pan, just pour in 4/5 of the nutty mixture and press into the pan with your fingers, working from the outside inward (at least, that works for me).
Quarter and de-stone all those lovely pluots if you haven’t already, and plae them on top of the pressed crust, skin side down. The fun part of making tarts and pies like this, with lovely fresh fruit, is in the decoration: I put mine in concentric circles, like pecans on the top of a pecan pie.
Crumble the last of the nutty mixture/crust stuff on the top of the fruit, and bake for 30-40 minutes.