Though I love fall, I really try to hold on to summer for as long as possible, wearing summer clothes, eating summer foods, doing summer things, until fall settles in too completely to deny it any longer. This is the time of year I miss living at home most, both because the weather is so impossibly beautiful that nothing sounds better than being outside constantly and because it still feels like I’m supposed to be squeezing the last drops of summer from these days as school begins again. Two things make these especially difficult to fulfill: the first is being in an office all day and the second is not being in school any longer. So. Instead, I go home as often as I can, spend time outside whenever possible, keep doing the things I always look forward to at this time of year, no matter how old I get, and I cook.
Basil smells like home to me. The herb-sweet, mellow spiciness smells like so many meals and sitting in our backyard. If I add it to my pasta, a salad, or a sandwich, it goes in by the handful. But with increasing regularity, it even finds its way into my desserts. (If you’ve never had the basil ice cream at The Bent Spoon in Princeton, New Jersey, drop everything and go before it’s gone for the season…Seriously.) The flavor, both familiar and unexpected, is something new and welcome with a little sweetness added. The taste is soothing and bright in ice cream, fruit salads, and pies and tarts.
Here, not wanting to bother with a pans and extra steps, we added basil leaves to a fruit crostata—a free-form tart where the dough is rolled out and the edges are folded around whatever delicious filling you choose to pile in the center. It’s as simple as it is perfect.
We chose stone fruits because we love them, especially plums, nectarines, and apricots, and blackberries for the same reason. They also happen to be incredible with a little basil alongside. A recent trip to Homestead Farm, a place we’ve gone year in and year out without fail for fruits, vegetables, and our absolutely-never-ever-miss pumpkin picking and caramel apple eating trip every October (more on that soon), yielded tons of blackberries and though we came up with plenty of ways to use them, this was our favorite. These summer fruits will be gone soon enough, though. Catch the last of them while you still can. Apple picking, hot drinks, and fall feasts are waiting just around the corner. (And I WILL be happily jumping full force into all of these things once they arrive.)
But before we get there, here’s to a few last rounds of summer.
* * * *
Stone Fruit, Blackberry, & Basil Crostata
The great thing about a free-form tart is that you can make it any size you want (as long as it will fit on a sheet pan, or even a pizza stone, in your oven). While I’m not sure why you’d want to make a smaller tart and leave behind the possibility of leftovers, you certainly could scale this down if you’re cooking for fewer people and save the remaining dough for another pie or tart.
Either way, you’ll only need half the amount of dough that the Pâte Sucrée recipe below makes. (Even if you’re making a smaller crostata, you should still make 1/2 of the recipe. Trying scale the recipe down further often messes up the ratios of ingredients, even if you do the math exactly right.) I usually make the full recipe of the Pâte Sucrée and either wrap half of it well and toss in the fridge or, if I won’t use it in the next week, wrap it well, put it in a freezer bag, and put it in the freezer. It’s a great, great thing to realize you have pie dough already made when you’re in the mood for something sweet.
-for the dough-
-1/2 of the Pâte Sucrée recipe from our Cherry, Apricot, and Pistachio Tart, completed through the fridge-resting stage (if you’re making the whole recipe, divide dough into two disks and wrap separately before refrigerating)
-egg wash or milk to brush the border of the crostata (either 1 egg with a little milk in it or a tbs or so of milk, preferably whole)
-for the filling-
-8 or so large basil leaves, 4 of them finely chopped
-1 1/2 lbs of plums, nectarines, apricots, peaches, or other stone fruits (we like using two kinds), sliced into wedges
-1/2 pint or 8 oz of blackberries
-2 tbs of sugar
-1 tbs of all purpose flour
-1 lemon zested
-juice of 1/2 the zested lemon
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-pinch of salt
-about 1 tbs of butter
-sanding or raw sugar for sprinkling
*Preheat the oven to 375°F.
*Line either a rimless baking sheet or an upside-down baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Cut the parchment paper to fit without much overhang.
*Take your dough out of the fridge and unwrap it, setting it on a floured board and sprinkling the top with flour, as well.
*In a small bowl that won’t scratch, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and 4 finely chopped basil leaves. Mash together to make basil-lemon sugar. This will take maybe a minute or two. You’ll know it’s done when there are little pieces of green and yellow throughout. It will also smell delicious.
*In a larger bowl, mix the fruits with the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Add the basil-lemon sugar, salt, and flour. Mix thoroughly.
*Roll out your dough into roughly an 11 to 12 inch round circle. The circle definitely does not need to be perfect. Use the piece of parchment paper that you cut for your pan as a guide, but you’ll be folding the edges of the dough up over the fruit so it’s ok if it’s a little wider.
*Transfer the dough to the parchment paper on your baking sheet.
*Pour your fruit filling into the center of the dough, leaving about an inch and a half of a border.
*Lift the edges of the dough and fold over the filling or create a tart-like edging.
*Brush the border with your egg wash or milk.
*Dot the fruit with your tablespoon of butter and sprinkle raw or sanding sugar over the entire crostata, including the crust.
*Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the fruit juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown. If the crust starts browning too quickly, you can loosely cover it with strips of aluminum foil.
*Let the crostata cool at room temperature for a few minutes before carefully lifting it off the parchment with two large metal spatulas and setting it on a baking rack to cool.
Serve warm or at room temperature. We can’t resist adding a little ice cream…
I am not a baker but boy does it smell good in here today. Just put the crostata in the oven and it looks delicious. Thanks again for a wonderful seasonal treat.
Armyn! You’re the best! So glad to hear you tried the recipe. How’d it come out? -Lee