Perhaps you've been hanging around the Piece of Cake kitchen long enough to learn about my Happy Place, the imaginary wonderland to which I tend to drift when things go awry, or even when things are going fantastically well. Its that daydream wherein I have a long, loud lunch with several of my culinary heroes, and we all get to chitchatting like old friends. It's glorious, basically. And at the head of the virtual table sits my personal Food Oprah, Lynne Rossetto Kasper. She's the host of The Splendid Table, a radio show that covers everything you could possibly want to know about food, cooking and baking. It is the Happy Place of many, I am sure.
And guys? Um, recently? I actually got to talk to LRK herself as I contributed a question to the call-in portion of the show. I tried not to die a little from the fabulousness of it all. I also somehow managed not to tell her about my restraining-order-level fandom and related crazy daydream. I know, I don't know EITHER.
But what we did talk about was terrific. As LRK is an expert on all things related to Italian cuisine, I wanted to get her suggestions for a few rustic Italian dessert recipes that I might try and share with you all. I've unleashed my panna cotta obsession on you a few times, and I wanted something in that same vein--something wholly delicious in its simplicity, the sort of thing I might pull together if I was a housewife in the Italian countryside (which, by the way, is also a daydream I have, but that is neither here nor there).
Faster than you could say "Culinary Psychic", Lynne pulled an idea out of the ether to meet my inquiry. I really don't know how she does it, people. She is so flippin' amazing that I would pretty much try any recipe she threw at me, even if it meant going against one of my strongest personal pastry beliefs and putting salad ingredients in my dessert. Like rosemary and extra virgin olive oil. Say what? I ruffled a bit at first, but dang if she wasn't right on. Every time, that LRK! Magic.
So the next day, I pulled together a lively fruit crostata with a few of the usual suspects--buttery pastry, tart apples, a dash of sugar. But! Per LRK's instructions, I upped the crazy with the addition of red grapes, a smattering of rosemary and a finishing drizzle of the sort of potent olive oil that someone gifts you for Christmas and you hang onto it for a special occasion. Because believe me, this crostata is indeed something special.
Now, I did riff a bit on her suggestions, but as any disciple of The Church of LRK can attest, this is something we are encouraged to do regularly. Not to mention that my choice to incorporate fresh rosemary into a frangipane (rather than just sprinkling it about) was downright delightful, so I feel good about going off the rails a bit here. It's what Lynne would want.
The nutty, ambrosial frangipane gives a bit of richness and offers a nice cushion for the fresh rosemary, muting it just a touch so you get all its lovely herbacious notes and a hint of woodsiness to elevate the fruit flavors (including the ones in the olive! oil!) without the pungent, almost soapy, quality that rosemary can often have.
And hello, baked grapes?! Why have I not been doing this my entire life? The grape flavor becomes so lush, so alive, it's like grapes on steroids. They taste the way I felt after talking to LRK. See, I told you I was nuts.
Herbed Fruit Crostata with Apples and Grapes
Inspired by and adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper
I've used a firm, tart apple here, but pears of any variety would also be wonderful.
For the fruit:
4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch-thick slices
1 cup red seedless grapes (halved if they're on the large side)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
For the rosemary frangipane:
4 ounces almond paste, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
For the crust:
1 10-inch pie crust (like half a batch of My Favorite Pie Crust), well-chilled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, toss together the apples, grapes, lemon juice and brown sugar. Set aside to let the flavors hang out for a while.
In the bowl of a food processor, place the almond paste, rosemary, sugar, flour and almond extract. Pulse until the mixture is well-blended and evenly textured. Add butter and process until well-mixed. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg. Process until the frangipane is perfectly smooth.
Lightly sprinkle a work surface and a rolling pin with flour, and roll the pie crust into a large, shaggy-edged circle, about 14 inches in diameter. Roll the crust onto your rolling pin to help you carefully transfer the crust to the parchment-lined sheet pan. Smear the crust with the frangipane, leaving about a 2-inch border right around the edges of the crust. Place the apple slices onto the crust, first in a single layer, and then tuck any slices that remain into the gaps. Be sure to pull the apples from any liquid that has pooled in the bottom of the bowl rather than dumping the whole lot atop the crust--you don't want to make the crust soggy. Artfully dot the grapes across the surface of the apples. Fold the edges of the crust up and over the fruit, leaving the center exposed.
Whisk together the melted butter and olive oil, and lightly brush the crust with it. Dribble any extra over the fruit. Bake the crostata until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling, about 1 hour. Let cool on the pan for five minutes before using the parchment to slide the crostata onto a wire rack to cool further. Just before serving, sprinkle the crostata with a, extra smattering of fresh rosemary and a tiny drizzle of olive oil. Serve just warm or at room temperature.