We have been traveling. Each summer our family returns to Europe, where we spend time living and working from abroad. This year we moved around quite a bit, so while I have been posting regularly to TasteFood, it’s been on the fly, with less time for reflection than I prefer. We exchanged homes with a Danish family and called Copenhagen home for a month, just like the old days when we lived there. We visited Prague, Munich and Salzburg. Our return to the U.S. was via Iceland where we took full advantage of our layover and stayed a few days, exploring lava fields, geysers, waterfalls and hot springs. The journey continued on to New England, where we enjoyed a few days on Martha’s Vineyard with good friends before heading north to our present and final destination, visiting family on the coast of Maine. As our trip nears its end, we are winding down and relaxing in a house perched on the rocky coast. I look forward to returning to my kitchen and desktop computer, and sifting through the many impressions of our travels.
At this moment, it’s mid-afternoon. Dinner is a several hours away, and I have time to myself. There is a wide view of sparkling sea with windjammers and schooners navigating the craggy islands from the living room window. Some family members are climbing on the rocks, exploring the tidal pools below me. Others have departed for the nearby town, where, this weekend, the population has quadrupled in honor of its annual Lobster Festival. And I am at the computer, enjoying the luxury of the view and the presence of family – with the peace of an empty house. I am thinking of my next blog post and what to cook. It’s making me hungry.
Earlier today, I was at the farm stand purchasing with my eyes and my appetite. I bought inky blue Maine blueberries, headily perfumed strawberries, and a brown bag filled with ripe purple plums. Tonight we are eating lobster for dinner, which we will pick up from the local fisherman at the wharf. And I am going to make a dessert. Blueberries are obvious to use, but they are not my daughter’s favorite, and this weekend we are celebrating her birthday. The strawberries are too luscious to do anything with, except eat straight as they are. So, I will use the plums and make a crostata: a homey dessert to conclude the meal and the end of our journey.
Spiced Plum Crostata
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound unsalted butter, chilled, cut in pieces
2-3 tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
8 large plums, halved, pitted and sliced
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
Prepare the pastry:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and work into flour with fingertips until the dough resembles coarse meal. Add enough water to bind the dough. Form dough into a ball and flatten into a disk; wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.
Prepare the crostata:
Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss plums in a bowl with 4 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon; set aside.
Roll out dough into a 12 inch circle. Sprinkle 1 tablepoon sugar and 1 tablespoon flour in center of dough, leaving a 2 inch border. Mound plums over sugar and flour, reserving any juices that have collected in the bowl. Sprinkle plums with 1 tablespoon sugar. Fold border of dough up and around the plums. Bake in oven until crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes; remove.
Pour reserved juices from the plums into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced to syrup consistency, 3-4 minutes. Brush plums with syrup.
Serve crostata warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.