Savory Peach, Tomato and Ricotta Crostata
Yield: 4 servings
Here is a savory crusted delight that can only be made in the height of summer when fresh, local and flavorful stone fruit and tomatoes are available. Find a local source for peaches in your region (or order via www.melissas.com or www.masumoto.com,) making sure they are ripe and fragrant (and stored at room temperature so as not to blunt their perfume) and you’re on your way to a simple rustic centerpiece for an alfresco summer lunch or as part of a supper buffet. Taking fruit in a savory direction, this buttery open-faced crostata or tart with its rosemary-scented crust features a simple filling of ricotta zinged by a bit of grated lemon zest. The whole thing is then topped with fresh peaches and tomatoes and baked at high heat. Once it’s out of the oven and just before serving you might want to shower it with some crisped prosciutto and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano to add just the right edge of salt to the finished construction. A thin thread of reduced Balsamic vinegar would add just the right punctuation to the dish.
You can make the pastry dough a day in advance, roll it out into a sheet, refrigerate and cover it and then cut it the next day when you are ready to assemble and bake the crostatas.
The crostatas are good hot just out of the oven, but equally good warm, at room temperature, or even cold, depending on your schedule and mood. Serve them with a simple arugula salad lightly dressed with a mixture of fruity olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice using the ratio of 4 parts oil to 1 part lemon juice.
For the Rosemary short dough:
6 ounces (12 T.) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch-sized chunks
4 egg yolks from large eggs
12 ounces (approximately 2-2/3 c.) all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary sprigs (discard the stems)
1 ounce ice water
In the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment or using a food processor outfitted with the the steel knife blade, process the butter until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally during the mixing. Add the egg yolks and mix briefly to blend.
Combine the flour, salt and rosemary in a bowl. Add this mixture to the butter and egg yolks. Mix lightly just to combine. Add the ice water and continue processing until the mixture becomes a rough, shaggy dough. Remove from the bowl onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and compress into a rough disc measuring about 1-1/2 inches thick. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until well chilled.
When ready to roll out the dough, remove from the refrigerator, pound it briefly with a rolling pin to make it malleable and then using the rolling pin, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch. Cut the dough into four circles, each measuring about 6 inches in diameter. Place the four dough circles in a single layer onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Gather up the dough that remains on the lightly floured work surface (do not overhandle it to avoid toughening the dough) and roll it again to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch. Then cut four more 6-inch circles from this sheet of dough. Place these in a single layer onto another parchment-lined baking sheet. You now should have eight circles of dough, each measuring about 6 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes or so) and then remove from the refrigerator to assemble the tarts as follows.
Make an egg wash:
Separate 1 large egg, discarding the white. Using a fork or small whisk, mix the yolk with just enough cold water (start with 1/2 teaspoon) to make a paintable consistency. The mixture should be the thickness of tempera paint. Set aside.
To make the borders for the crostatas, center a cookie cutter measuring 5 inches in diameter onto each of the four 6″ rounds of dough and make four borders which will each be 1″ wide (reserve what has been cut out for another use; I like to bake these centers of dough alongside the crostatas for about 10 minutes or until they are golden brown, and serve as an accompaniment to icy gazpacho).
Brush the edge of each of the four remaining and intact circles lightly with the egg wash. (Reserve the remaining egg wash to use on the crostatas just before baking them, as noted below.) Carefully pick up one of the 1″ wide rings of dough and place it onto one of the rounds of dough, pressing lightly to secure the border onto the dough. Repeat the process with the remaining three rings. You may store the assembled crostata bases, refrigerated and covered, for up to 1 day in advance of baking.
If you are ready to bake the crostatas now, preheat the oven to 400 ° F.
Assemble the ingredients for the filling and topping as follows:
8 ounce ricotta (part skim works well here; if you prefer you can use whole milk ricotta or even a super-rich version which has some cream added to it)
1/3 t. salt
Zest of 1 small lemon, finely grated
Combine the ricotta, salt and lemon zest in a bowl and set aside.
To finish the crostata:
2 medium-sized ripe peaches, peeled (or not, as desired)
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, cored
Black pepper, to taste
Slice the peaches into wedges measuring about 1/3″ to 1/2″ on their outside edge. Repeat with the tomatoes.
Divide the ricotta filling evenly among the four crostatas, spreading to the edge of, but not over, the border. Arrange the peaches and tomatoes decoratively on the ricotta, as you desire.
Brush the exposed edges of the dough with the reserved egg wash and bake on an oven rack set approximately halfway up from the bottom of the oven, for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Just before serving, grind the black pepper over the crostatas as desired.
Crisped shards of prosciutto
1/2 c. Balsamic vinegar cooked in a heavy sauce pan until slightly thickened–watch it carefully; it burns easily; add a bit of water to it if becomes too thick to drizzle
To make the crisped prosciutto, lay the thin slices of prosciutto onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake in a 400 ° F. oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until slightly browned; it will crisp up as it cools.
Just before serving, scatter the prosciutto over the crostata and then shave or grate the cheese over the prosciutto. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar over the crostata and then serve immediately.