There we would be, in front of a pile of fresh apricots at the market. "Apricots!! My favorite*!!" I would say, squirming in anticipation. My mom would select a handful, carefully choosing the best of the bunch. The flesh would be a magnificent orange color, soft and just barely fuzzy. There was enough give to the touch to know the stone pit was slightly loose, and you could tell by the smell alone that the inside would be juicy and sweet and perfectly ripe. She knew how to pick fruit, my mom did, and she was passing this important knowledge down to her daughter. "Try this," she'd say.
I'd wrinkle up my whole face and frown. "Mom! You know better!"
Mom would sigh and start picking through the pile again, this time looking for the ones that were hard as rocks. Still orange, so they tasted like an apricot, but with none of that sun-kissed lush sweetness so beloved by normal people. "It is hard to find the good ones," I'd say happily, falling in right beside her and reaching for an acidic little nugget. "Yes, it is," she'd agree. Eventually she'd just hand me the bag and move on to get lettuce for the guinea pigs**.
Ditto with the the nectarines. And the plums. Especially the plums. If I didn't hear a satisfying, apple-like crunch and feel my entire mouth pucker up when I bit into a piece of stone fruit, I was sorely disappointed On the other hand, eating a crispy, tart, nearly-but-not-actually ripe peach could (and still does) make my day, and I ate myself silly every summer.
The whole family eventually started to get into the swing of things. My little sister would run up to me with a pear, "Try this one! It feels like metal!" My mom waited almost eagerly for my stomach to sieze up from all of the acid (which it did, regularly) so she could say, "I told you so!" But my dad, god love him, actually ate that sour fruit right along with me.
He likes his tart, too.
Fresh Stone Fruit Tart
I made this with some gorgeous pluots I got at the farmers' market. The original recipe (from Ina Garten) used plums, and I bet subbing in peaches or nectarines would be fantastic, too. However you go on the fruit side of things, the tart part could not be easier. The dough forms a rich shortbread cookie crust and a delectable buttery topping at the same time, and the fruit in between is straight up summertime. This is a great way to use up that icky ripe, very flavorful, sweet fruit. Save the nice, crunchy sour fruit to eat while you're waiting for this to bake.
2 1/2 c., plus 2 Tbs., flour
1 c. finely chopped pecans
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, diced
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 lbs. plums, pluots, nectarines or apricots, sliced into small wedges
About 1/3 c. sugar, depending on the sweetness of your fruit
Splash of almond extract
Combine flour, pecans, and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and run for about 30 seconds to make sure ingredients are well blended and the nuts are finely chopped. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and vanilla, and process until ingredients come together and the mixture looks similar to cookie dough.
Pre heat oven to 375. Press 1 1/2 c. of the dough over the bottom and sides of a 9 inch tart pan with removable sides. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or place into the freezer for a few minutes.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the fruit with the sugar and almond extract. Allow to sit for 15 minutes or so. Working in concentric circles, arrange fruit in a pattern on the tart shell. Crumble the remaining dough on top.
Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325. Bake for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until topping is deep golden brown and you can see some of the fruit juices bubbling up from the tart.
Cool for a few minutes, then carefully remove sides from tart pan and place tart on a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. Amazing with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream***.
Click to print this recipe!
* My favorite at that specific moment in time. The day before I would have inhaled a couple of pounds of fresh cherries, swearing eternal allegiance, and five minutes after the apricot incident I'd go on and on about a particularly great batch of blueberries I'd found.
** Who are, pretty much, the opposite of picky. The lettuce could practically have rotted and they'd still be in ecstasy. She loved buying produce for the guinea pigs.
*** If you are feeling truly decadent, throw on some warm brown sugar butterscotch sauce, too. Why not? It's fruit. It's good for you. That's what my mom always told me.