Recipe: Italian Plum Tart with Rosemary and Fennel
My attitude about my blog changes when I’m working on a book. Since a blog is basically a donation, when I’m collecting recipes for a book, in this case a food memoir, giving them away seems counterproductive. But a food blog, in my opinion, needs recipes. I always prefer blogs with more recipes and less food gossip. Gossip is harsh and boring; recipes are voluptuous. Lately I’ve been solving my blogging problem two ways. The first and best way has been by posting excerpts from my essay book. You seem to be enjoying these stories of my emerging cooking self. The second and not so great way is by putting up fewer recipes, which also means posting fewer blogs. So if you’ve noticed longer stretches between postings, that’s the reason why. It’s a dilemma, but I’ve come up with a solution. I’m going back to walking the streets of Manhattan and will be posting observations of Italian goings-on around town, which means posts about new restaurants, wine, cheese, and olive oil shops, more product reviews, feasts, and food trucks. It does seem like a new Italian restaurant or caffè opens up every week. It’s a mystery how they survive, and of course many of them don’t. But the good ones generally do very well, because, no surprise here, everyone loves Italian food.
I stopped posting restaurant reviews a few years ago, because I realized I had no interest in being a critic. After years spent cooking in restaurant kitchens myself, I know how excruciatingly hard it is. As a result, I now feel that if I have something bad to say, I’d rather say nothing. Such a good-hearted girl am I. So you won’t get dish from me, but what you will get are great recommendations. So I’ll start posting these again soon. And I’m looking forward to doing so, since working the city not only keeps me and you up to date on the Italian food scene but it gets me out of the house, something not so easy to do when I’m working on a book. So hopefully we’ll all be happy.
I know I said I wasn’t going to post as many recipes, but this one I couldn’t resist sharing with you. I love the little dark purple pointy Italian plums I’m finding at my Greenmarket right now. They’re good for open-face tarts, since they hold their shape and don’t give off a ton of juice, making the crust soggy. I’ve left this tart quite plain, no custard, no nuts, no eggs, just plums and the beautiful and quite haunting combination or rosemary and fennel. It’s great for breakfast.
Italian Plum Tart with Rosemary and Fennel
For the pastry:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
A large pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons cold white wine, possibly a touch more
12 to 15 Italian purple plums, cut in half lengthwise and pitted
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
4 sprigs rosemary, the leaves chopped, plus a few whole sprigs for garnish
Pour the flour into a food processor. Add the salt, sugar, and ground fennel seed, and give it a few quick pulses to blend everything. Add the butter, and pulse a few times to break it up. Add the white wine, and pulse a few more times until the butter is about the size of lentils and the dough is moist but hasn’t come together in a ball. Pinch a bit of the dough. If it holds together, it’s ready. If it’s still dry, add another little drizzle of wine, and pulse once or twice more. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, and press it together into a ball. Give it a few quick kneads until it comes together relatively neatly. Wrap the dough in plastic, and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the cut plums in a big bowl, and toss them well with the sugar, fennel, and rosemary. Do this right before you plan to roll out the dough. If the plums sit too long in the sugar, they’ll make the sugar dissolve and create a lot of liquid, which you don’t want in your tart.
Take the dough from the refrigerator, lightly flour a work surface, and roll it out to an approximately 13-inch shaggy oval. Trim the edges to make it smooth and more or less uniform (if you have a 12-inch oval platter you can trace around that, but the handmade rustico look is very appealing, so don’t worry about it too much). Butter a sheet pan, and place the dough oval on it. Take all the trimmings, and roll them out into a long rope. Wet the edges of the oval, and fashion the dough rope along this perimeter. Pinch down on it, forming a pretty border (see my photo for a design suggestion), making sure it sticks well to the oval base. Place the plums, cut side up, inside the pastry oval in a slightly overlapping arrangement. Scoop up any extra sugar and seasonings left in the bowl, and fill the insides of the plums with it.
Bake until the tart is golden and the plums have softened, about 35 minutes. Garnish with the rosemary sprigs. Let cool about ½ hour before serving.