My dear friend, Alyse Sobel, and her husband, Tal, stopped by for lunch on their way to Napa via Santa Barbara. This was one of those joyous days that I had blocked out for a few months not having any idea what we would do. The point was to be together. So I blocked out both lunch and dinner. We weren't sure if we'd go out to lunch or meet in SB for dinner. She just came off of an enormous job and I had a nutty week myself. So we thought we'd see how we both felt that morning and play the day by ear. Again, point being that we just wanted to visit and see each other.
So I woke up this morning feeling like my cough was much better and headed to the Farmer's Market. I had no idea what I was going to cook. I wanted the market to inspire me. The greatest thing about cooking for a friend is there are no expectations. I could have said I was too tired and we could have gone out. I could have just made scrambled eggs and toast. There was no pressure because she was there to see me and not the food, so the entire process was a shear joy. In California we are lucky to have outdoor Farmer's Markets all year round, but the end of June and beginning of July is when Farmer's markets are overflowing with some of my favorite produce of the year: corn, tomatoes, peaches apricots, plums, peas, it is wonderful! If I miss on of the two Farmer's markets in Ventura, I can always head to Carpinteria or Thousand Oaks or Santa Barbara. (I will say that the Tuesday Farmer's Market in Santa Barbara is probably one of the most extraordinary in the entire country and almost worth planning your trip around.) But I was at my small farmer's market in Ventura this morning. I have a large tall wicker basket on wheels. I'll have to take a picture of it so you can see it. My grandmother had one and it took forever for me to find one like it and then Ann Hutchison found one for me on-line. EVERYONE at the Farmer's market asks where I got it or comments on how great it is (I should sell them!) Here is a link of one that is similar to mine: http://www.victoriantradingco.com/store/catalogimages/5e/i345.html
The first thing I do at the Farmer's Market is walk up and down all the aisles figuring out what I want to do. Then I try to buy the heavier things first to put on the bottom of the basket. I went by Dave Palmer's stand (my personal grower who will grow any vegetable I need for events, but most significantly the heirloom tomatoes! He also grows fava beans, squash, haricot vert, swiss chard, beets, fennel...all sorts of great stuff. I'll send you pictures of the Avocado and Citrus Ranch he manages.) Dave gave me an extra box to prop on top of my basket so I could put the herbs and tomatoes and more delicate things in there.
The plums looked fabulous so I decided to make a plum tart for dessert. I also was going to make the corn, bacon and roasted heirloom tomato salad (originally for Max and Day that we called succotash - secret ingredient mint!) but when I talked to Alyse on the phone she said the only two things in the world that Tal doesn't eat are tomatoes and cucumbers. Jason doesn't care for those either. So I decide to roast the tomatoes separately for Alyse and I who love them. I still cut the corn from the cob and tossed in in the hot pan with crisp bacon. The corn was SO FRESH! I bought Oyster mushrooms that we had sauteed on the side. Then I bought more shell peas. Turns out Alyse LOVES peas and pea soup. (I've been on a fresh pea soup kick ever since Melinda Perrin mentioned having some in Houston. Quickest thing to make ever and it is equally as good with frozen peas as it is with the fresh ones. Mint yet again being the secret ingredient. I'll send a whole separate e-mail about fresh Pea Soup because it turned out my grandfather made it at Bray's and my grandmother was so happy when I made the soup for her. Plus, it is super healthy since my version doesn't have or need cream.) I bought peaches and apricots (but they paled in comparison to the Gerawans.) I bought fresh mixed greens for a salad with nasturtium flowers in the mix too. I thought they would be a nice base for the lamb salad. I also bought FABULOUS Fingerling Potatoes that I roughly chopped up and cooked in a hot pan with olive oil and kosher salt. They were delicious (the only thing that could have made them better would have been caviar and creme fraiche, but that is more in my clients' budgets and not mine.)
Then I quickly swung by Trader Joe's and picked up some lamb and that great French Rye Bread (Pain Pascal Organic Demi Miche) they have as well as some arugula and milk.
Then I went home to get started on the plum tart. I didn't have a recipe and I figured I'd just make it like any other fruit tart: pie crust, fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and pinch of salt. Then I decided that since I put ginger in my plum sauce that I would put some ground ginger and cinnamon in there. Then dotted the tops with butter.
I'm not quite sure how other chefs/cooks quarter the plums so perfectly, but my plums wanted to stay glued to their pit. So I used a pairing knife to cut them in four and them literally had to carve them off the pit. So the point here is PERFECTION DOESN'T MATTER and you can see from the pictures above that they looked beautifully quartered once they cooked down. So don't worry about the way you slice them or carve them off of the pit.
This will just be a general recipe. I'll give you an accurate recipe for the crust and then just tell you what else I put in it. (I didn't have any apricot jam for the glaze at the end so I just used Jill's homemade Rainier Cherry Jam, which worked just as well.) Also, before I give you the plum tart recipe I'll tell you that I also made the eggs in ramekins that I made up for Max and Day. I believe I already gave you the recipe, but they are super easy and GREAT for a crowd because you can make them all at once. (Basically in a ramekin put: cooked strips of bacon, two pieces of arugula [or spinach], one egg, a little cheddar cheese, tablespoon of heavy cream or half and half, sprinkle of salt. You could rub the ramekin with butter before you put everything in, but I forgot to this time and they were still good. Then put them on a sheet tray and bake them in a 375 oven until they are done. Never timed it. You'll be able to tell. Cook it as short or as long as you like your egg done. Jason and Tal each ate two and Alyse and I each had one. You could probably make up to 30 or 60 at a time. The only thing limiting you is the number of ramekins you own and I think they are only 99 cents or $1.99 at World Imports)
Now back to the Plum Tart. Here is the recipe for the dough (Pate Brisee) that I've been using from Gourmet for ages. You'll need to make two because you'll need a batch and a half for this tart.