Summer Fruit Crostata

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Good Catch”

The Set-up: Ina and T.R. are having seafood dinner at his new fishing shack.

The Menu: Parker’s Fish and Chips, Tartar Sauce, Chopped Pickles, Summer Fruit Crostata

0:53 – According to Ina, T.R. is in charge of catching the fish for their dinner but we all know that’s fairly unlikely.

1:07 – Ina is cooking most everything in advance, including the Summer Fruit Crostata.

2:30 – Pro Tip#1: Use unsalted butter so that you can control the amount of salt in a recipe.

3:11 – I can’t be the only one who has a hard time moderating the water in pie crust - it always seems to be too wet or too dry! Naturally, Ina’s is perfect.

4:26 – And now ladies and gents: T.R. looking impossibly dapper in a navy Lacoste polo and admitting that he maaaay have fudged the truth when it came to his fishing experience.

5:14 – We’re back with Ina to mix up the homemade Tartar Sauce and even though she’s using dill pickles she still manages to say “cornichon.” Love it.

6:29 – Next, the Chopped Pickles, essentially the same jarred pickles that went into the tartar sauce jazzed up in pretty slices with fresh minced dill fronds.

10:42 – The crust for the Summer Fruit Crostata has rested and chilled in the fridge and now Ina is rolling it out into a perfect circle. One day that will be me!

11:53 – Now the fruit – peaches, dark plums, and blueberries. Pro Tip #2: You can remove the skin from the peaches by blanching in hot water and shocking them in an ice water bath.

12:35 – Ina has somehow, with no swearing or effort, managed to slice the peaches and the plums right off the inner pit. For my own self-esteem I’m going to chalk that up to expert fruit selection and a little TV magic.

13:19 – Hahahaha. We’re treated to intermittent shots of T.R. faithfully, but fruitlessly casting and reeling from the dock. Poor guy.

14:50 – Thank goodness! We saw the fruit piled in the middle of the crostata dough, but for a second I thought we weren’t going to get a demo of the folding technique. How could I have though Ina would hold out on us?

19:18 – Onward to make the batter for the Parker’s Fish and Chips and Ina promises us that it will be crispy and light, not soggy. Preach girl!

20:36 – Ina compares this process to making pancakes in the morning and suggests that it can all be done in advance.

21:27 – It’s official: T.R. has not caught a fish (perhaps the lack of bait on that hook?) and makes an emergency trip to the seafood market. A much more sensible approach, if you ask me.

22:12 – One last prep task before heading over to T.R.’s: cutting big Idaho baking potatoes in wedges and sprinkling them with salt, rosemary and garlic. Yum!

25:05 – Ina arrives at the fishing shack with an adorable “Yoohoo! T.R.?” and immediately calls him out on ‘catching’ the fish at the Seafood Shop.

26:33 – He’s put to work portioning the fish while Ina puts the chips in the oven to roast.

27:24 – Since the potatoes take 30+ minutes to bake they have time for a glass of wine on the dock as the sun sets. Gorgeous.

28:41 – The fish goes from plate, to seasoned batter, to hot oil and back to a paper towel-lined plate in about 6 minutes. No dredging in flour though, which is surprising.

29:10 – Ina’s kicking this one old-school, roadside stand style with newspaper cones and little containers of pickles and tartar sauce. Crostata is consumed straight from the baking sheet.

Final Thoughts:
Fish and chips seem so much more approachable after watching Ina prep them so simply.

I sincerely would love to do a little dock-sitting if it could be arranged this summer.

T.R. is the consummate rascal and Ina is so classy that even jarred dill pickles aren’t beyond her reach.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
In my continued efforts to master pies and pie crust baking Summer Fruit Crostata was another opportunity to test my skills and learn from my mistakes. It was also a chance to emulate one of the more alluring Bon Appetit covers I’ve seen. No one should be surprised that even with the concerted effort I’ve been making I still have room for improvement in this department.

Stone Fruit: Am I the only one who is incredibly intimidated by the process of slicing and removing the pits from peaches, plums & nectarines? The last time I tried the fruit was nearly unrecognizable from the divots and bruises I inflicted just trying to get a few slices free. So. Frustrating.

Before I made the crostata I carefully studied these tips & videos from Mario Batali, Southern Living, The Kitchn, and Food52 and have a few of my own.

·      Serrated/utility knife – Stone fruits are like tomatoes, the skin is tougher than you think and the flesh is really delicate. A serrated knife makes a cleaner cut with minimal pressure that might damage the fruit. Slice as close to the pit as you can to make the slices easier to remove.

·      The SEAM!!! – All the articles mentioned this, but making that first cut along the seam is more essential to successfully twisting the two halves apart than I realized. We’ve all laughed about how peaches look like little bums, well the seam is the uh, crack of the bum and demarcates the two half sections of the fruit and corresponds to the ridge around the pit. Doing this alone will help you immensely.

·      Ripe Fruit – high risk, high reward. The riper the fruit the more easily the fruit is to de-pit, but also bruises more. I’d recommend a firm and persistent, but gentle approach, especially when twisting the two halves apart. Resist pressing your finger tips in too hard and grip more with the palm.

Sweet Dough: Most of the crusts I’ve made so far have involved very little or no sugar at all just flour, butter, water, and salt. This one called for a moderate amount of white sugar; a great compliment to the juicy fruit resulting in a dessert that hovered between sweet and fresh. Fantastic.

Patience: Alas, even though I know that keeping the dough cold is an essential part of the process stubbornness and a short window for baking had me rushing. Couple a lack of time with a hot afternoon and you have a recipe for sticky dough and a frustrating rolling experience. I managed to patch the crostata together, but ideally I’d take note of the sky high temperatures outside and remember to leave myself an extra 30 minutes for chilling time.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes indeed, but clear the counter so you have a place to roll the crust. For the pastry, I used a large bowl, pastry cutter, measuring cups & spoons (all reused later for the topping), a liquid measuring cup, and a rolling pin. For the fruit, I needed a separate medium bowl, serrated utility knife, and small cutting board.  (I skipped the orange zest and washed the peaches carefully so I didn’t have to take off the skin.) A baking sheet, plastic wrap and parchment paper round out the “kit.”

The Verdict:
I made Summer Fruit Crostata for friends as a post-dinner treat and based on the silence after the wedges were served, and the speed at which it was consumed this was a hit. This is a dessert that lets the fruit shine without a lot of extra business and when beautiful peaches, plums, and blueberries are in season you really don’t need to gussy them up with a ton of sugar and spices. A simple scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’re off to the races with a perfect slice of summer. Do make this crostata immediately.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith