In my daydreams, I am one of those women who effortlessly accessorize with only a scarf and red lipstick. Those women, I imagine, shop at farmer’s markets regularly, radiate unflappability, and are almost certainly European. In actuality, I am a frequently harried New Yorker wearing yesterday’s jeans-and-tee combo, clutching a sack lunch and cursing under my breath as I elbow my way through Times Square on my way to work.
Small wonder, then, that Monday, my sole day of rest, found me craving domestic tranquility, two words—not to mention concepts—that don’t coexist often enough in my day-to-day life.
I had been fully prepared to spend my day off lounging on the sofa, watching cooking shows, and reveling in idleness. But the lilies on my kitchen table (a post-performance gift from my friend C.) were perfuming the whole apartment with their heady fragrance and I found myself contemplating how the elegant women of my daydreams would spend their day off. Watching an all-day marathon of the Food Network? Doubtful.
I began cataloguing household tasks I could tackle that involved neither cleaning nor leaving the apartment. Gazing absentmindedly at a slightly overripe peach on the kitchen counter, I remembered a store-bought piecrust that was languishing in the freezer. While Stacey Kent cooed French chansons on the stereo, I improvised a summer peach and cherry crostata, which emerged golden and bubbling from the oven a mere 35 minutes later. Victory!
Store-bought piecrust notwithstanding (for the love of God, sometimes we just need a shortcut!), I was rather proud of my foray into elegant domesticity. Puttering in the kitchen was smoothing my frayed nerves quite nicely, and with lunchtime looming, I decided to embark on another culinary experiment.
With a little guidance from the great Mark Bittman, I made a daal-like lunch that will carry over quite nicely into tomorrow. (True, split green peas and yams simmered in a hodge-podge of spices and chicken stock isn’t exactly the most refined of repasts, but I did add a dollop of cinnamon-scented crème fraîche as a garnish.)
Much to my chagrin, I will likely never learn how to casually drape a scarf just so. Tomorrow will not find me bedecked in a fetching shade of red lipstick, leisurely perusing the stands at a farmer’s market. No, once again I’ll be elbowing my way through Times Square, suppressing expletives as I dodge tourists and traffic, sack lunch in hand. But tomorrow’s sack lunch will contain my daal-inspired creation and a piece of crostata, reminding me that a bit of domestic tranquility is within the grasp of even the most harried New Yorkers.
Summer Peach & Cherry Crostata
*1 slightly overripe peach, skin removed, halved, and sliced very thinly
*Several generous spoonfuls of cherry preserves
*9-inch store-bought piecrust, or if you’re feeling ambitious, one you’ve made yourself
*1 egg white, lightly beaten
*finely chopped toasted almonds mixed with coarse raw sugar, for sprinkling on the crostata for the last 5 minutes or so of baking (optional)
Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the piecrust into something resembling a larger circle. Don’t be too precise and don’t worry if there are wildly uneven edges.
Spread the center of the piecrust with a generous amount of cherry preserves, leaving a border of approx. 1 & 1/2 – 2 inches around the outer edge. Layer the peaches in the center atop the cherry preserves.
Fold the outer edge of the dough inward, making pleats as you go. This is not supposed to look fancy, which is a huge saving grace and takes the pressure off. Brush the dough with egg white. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the crostata is bubbly and golden-brown. Sprinkle the almond/sugar mixture on the crust for the last 5 minutes of baking for added crunch and sweetness.
It goes without saying that you could use fresh cherries, plums, nectarines, apricots, or just about any other fruit you can think of, as well as other flavors of jam, for endless variations on this very simple dessert. This summer crostata tastes even better the following afternoon, accompanied by a strong cup of stovetop espresso and optimism.