Now that I have a bit more experience — and now that I've come to love NYC greenmarkets, which turned 30 the same week I did — I tend to buy whatever looks good, and then find a recipe. Doubtlessly seasonal eating is preferable, and at this point I know which ingredients to always keep on hand (good Parmigiano-Reggiano, for example) to make a meal out of my purchases.
The only problem with this approach is that I have trouble remembering, when I shop, that I may not have any time or any need for the stuff later. This is why I ended up making a plum tart over the weekend that the entire Tiny Banquet Committee is still eating rather than cleaning my apartment.
I really wasn't planning on cooking much and there were plenty of provisions to use up at home, so I went to the Union Square greenmarket intending to buy only herbs. I bought bundles of oregano, spearmint and savory — plus some puntarelle, a leafy green I'd never tried — and with rare discipline, I did not leave the market with enough produce to feed my whole block.
I then stopped at Whole Foods for dried pasta for a recipe I want to try later this week . . . and could not leave without a box of adorable little New York State sugar plums.
So, we were going to have dessert.
This recipe had been on my mind for a while (in spite of its corny name) because I had almond paste that needed to be used up, but I didn't have puff pastry. I ate one of the plums and it was wonderfully tart, so a sweetened pastry dough would be best. I settled on the recipe for pasta frolla, a sweet Italian pie dough, from Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia. It only takes a few minutes to make in the food processor and I was pleased with the results.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar [I used an organic sugar with big, crunchy crystals, similar to demerara sugar]
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, or lard, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor until blended; then add the butter and pulse until the mixture has the texture of fine cornmeal. [If this texture eludes you, it's much better to leave the dough slightly under-worked rather than over-process it]. With the machine running, add the eggs. Process until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute.
Remove the dough and knead until smooth. [As you can see in the photo, I like to do this on a sheet of wax paper, in a futile effort to keep my kitchen clean].
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until needed. [If less than thirty minutes, I think you can leave it out on the counter with no harm].
The recipe yields enough dough for a 9-inch pie with a lattice top; I didn't want to bother with the lattice so I lopped off one-third of the dough, wrapped it well in plastic wrap and a freezer bag, and froze it. The recipe says it will keep up to three days in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer.
It's counter-intuitive, but I find that baking often takes a lot less time and effort than other, supposedly-simple kitchen tasks. I'm pretty sure I spent less time making the tart than I did washing and chopping herbs and greens and prepping other ingredients for the fritatta I made later that day.
While the dough chilled, I sliced and pitted the plums, and snipped some lavender from Tiny Banquet Farm (i.e., the fire escape).
I rolled out the crust, grated 100 grams of almond paste onto it, arranged the plums on top (cut-side up), and sprinkled them with 2 tablespoons of sugar and about 1 tablespoon of chopped lavender.
I baked the tart for about an hour at 375° F. Whoever has my round metal tart pan at their house should feel free to leave a comment thusly indicating their intention to return it soon, please! The Emile Henry dish is prettier but after using it twice now I think it significantly increases the baking time.
While the tart was baking I wanted to make some sort of salad with the one summer squash I had. I'd been meaning to try this Mario Batali recipe for a while, and it was easy enough to scale down the recipe to 1/4 of the original:
Zucchine Marinate (Marinated Zucchini in the Style of Naples)
1 medium zucchini or summer squash
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced [I used a small red onion instead, because I have a lot of them rolling around in my kitchen]
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves [I used slightly less fresh oregano]
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Wash and dry the zucchini. Cut lengthwise into slices 1/3-inch thick. Place the zucchini slices in a colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to drain for 2 hours. [I let my squash drain for only 20-30 minutes and the finished salad was not watery, but if making the original recipe — which calls for 1 1/2 pounds zucchini — I'd try to be patient and follow Mario's instructions].
Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Place the drained zucchini slices in the pan and cook gently until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side, being careful not to burn the slices. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil over high heat. Add a pinch of pepper flakes and a pinch of salt.
Place the zucchini slices flat in a shallow bowl, with the garlic [or onion] slices and the herbs scattered throughout. Pour the vinegar over the zucchini slices and let marinate, covered, for at least 24 hours before serving.
To be continued later today!