"What is more mortifying than to feel that you have missed the plum for want of courage to shake the tree?"
–Logan Pearsall Smith
When I first started shopping at farmers markets for the restaurant, I was almost always met with the same warning: “Watch out for Maria. She’s a spitfire.” Maria is a short filipino lady, around five feet tall with dark skin and long black hair. Sometimes she’d let her hair flow freely all the way down to her waist while wearing a knitted beret, and other days she would weave it into a loose braid with stray strands sticking out here and there. Her face was wrinkled and somewhat leathery, but her brown eyes always twinkled in the most mischievous way, as if she came to the market specifically with a plan to somehow play a practical joke on you. You either loved and looked forward to seeing her at farmers or did your best to avoid eye contact. It was always equal parts impressive and comical seeing her lug 50 pound crates of whatever she was selling, from baby bok choi to vermilion colored cara cara oranges, while still maintaining her sometimes hot pink nail polish as she scrambled to get her display ready before the whistle blew. Her table would be somewhat precariously overflowing with sweet potatoes, ginger and various aliums, and fruit sitting on tupperware lids, with signs and prices handwritten on scraps of cardboard.
I always made a point to stop by her stall first, to take as many of her sweet italian peppers as I could before anyone else could get to them. We were going through them alarmingly quick, charring them until they were blackened and smoky before tossing them with heirloom tomatoes, herbs, vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil. They had this fantastic ombre shade depending on the time of summer, ranging from a pale jade chartreuse to a rich, thick, blood red. “Aye yai yai mijo,” she would joke. “You’re taking all of my sweet italians!” Other days once she saw me park she’d utter “How much are you going to rob me today? Don’t you be stealing all of my bags mijo; you trying to start some trouble?!” I always admired how blunt and unswerving she appeared, and very quickly learned first hand how she got her reputation as a bonafide, spitfiring dragon.
She always sneaked in some sort of gift before I left her stall every week- a basket of plums, some tangerines, or one of those cara cara oranges when they were in season. “See you next week mijo,” she’d say, preoccupied with helping another customer. I always made a point to take a bite before starting the car – I liked popping an entire plum into my mouth (they were of the smaller variety; the size of an unshelled walnut) and spitting the pit back into the basket. Her stone fruit was always excellent, whether it be those plums, slightly chewy but still juicy apricots, or ferociously sweet white and yellow nectarines.
Despite my infatuation for stewed fruit, homey oatmeal crisps, and frangipane tarts with cherries baked in, it would be a bit of a crime to cook any of Maria’s stone fruit. Fruit tarts with vanilla pastry cream never go out of style, but I think this is a good variant and homage to what is incredible produce. Panna cotta is still wonderfully creamy without any of that goopy, thickened texture of custard, and it’s flavor is a milky, blank canvas to play with. I don't care if it's overused, but rosemary, with its woodsy, pine needle scent is a magical herb, and permeates cream like the finest cologne, while almond praline adds a desirable crunch.
Note: The tart pictured is in fact a gluten free variant for a celiac friend - I’ve included recipes for both the normal dough using all purpose flour as well as the gluten free version.
Rosemary & stone fruit Panna Cotta Tart
Via an amalgamation of sources, including Hummingbird High & David Lebovitz
MAKES 1 9-INCH TART
For the tart crust
9 tablespoons butter, cubed
4 ½ tablespoons water
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
7.75 ounces of all purpose flour
Gluten free version -
7.75 ounces gluten free flour blend
For the panna cotta filling
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3 sprigs rosemary
⅓ cup honey
A pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of water
1 package of gelatin
for the almond praline
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup of sliced almonds
Stone fruit - cherries, nectarines, plums, apricots, whatever you have in season
Mise en place: tart dough
Preheat oven to 410 degrees.
Place the butter, water, oil, sugar, and salt in a pyrex or oven proof bowl. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, until the mixture starts to bubble and brown. Remove from the oven, and dump in all of the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a ball of dough. (For the gluten free version, sub a gluten free flour blend and add one beaten egg). Once the dough is cool enough to touch, use the back of your hand to flatten out the dough onto your tart pan, using your finger tips to mold the dough up into the corners and sides of the pan. Use a fork to poke holes in the crust, and bake for 15 minutes at 410 degrees until lightly golden. Allow to cool completely before filling.
Mise en place: panna cotta filling
In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, honey, rosemary, and salt. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, and once it begins bubbling on the edges take it off the heat and cover; let steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the three tablespoons of water in a bowl. Allow to bloom for about 3-4 minutes. Stir it into the warm cream mixture until it’s dissolved (there should still be enough residual heat for that to happen). Allow the mixture to cool until room temperature along with the tart crust. Pour into the cooled crust, and allow to set up in the refrigerator, a minimum of 3 hours.
Mise en place: almond praline
In a small saucepan, mix the sugar and water together just barely into a wet sludge. Cook on high heat, swirling the pan occasionally until it forms an amber caramel (never stir with a utensil). This shouldn’t take long – about 5-6 minutes, maybe even less. Quickly fold in the sliced almonds, and spread onto parchment paper into the thinnest layer possible. Allow to cool and keep in an airtight container until ready to use
Once the panna cotta is set, arrange cut stone fruit on top along with shards of the almond praline. Keep stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve, although be aware the praline will begin to get tacky once it’s out of it’s air tight container.