I catered a small dinner party last weekend. Some things I knew would turn out - a couple dressings and sauces were a shot in the dark, but I was certain they'd pass as edible. Summer produce makes this such an easy season to cook in because the produce needs little done to it. I know where to get the tomatoes I'm faithful to, even mediocre corn is passably sweet and crunchy, and a basic fruit dessert requires little fuss, as the juicy berries and stone fruits can hold their own.
I served a maple-slathered, grilled peach half with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and crumbled gingersnaps, an even easier adaptation of a treat recipe in our cookbook. It was the most basic dish I served and it was the one dish every single person cleared their bowl of (yes, I watch, who do you think is doing the dishes?). Granted, it was a small dessert, but it made me think, how often am I overcomplicating things?
Fast forward a few evenings, we had guests over here for a BBQ. A friend was talking about how a couple invited their family over for dinner and the hostess just ordered a pizza and made an easy green salad. She mentioned how much she respected that - how getting together, eating together, sharing good company and conversation is enough. I stood at the sink cleaning dishes after they left. I had made everything from scratch - dressings, marinades, a crumble, etc. I don't make complicated food, I don't know how to cook complicated things, but what I do does take me a lot of time and I spend even more time just thinking about the meal. Where is my tipping point between making food for people that is special, but still allows me to just enjoy the company? How to channel this effortless effort... I feel like I am narrating to and for myself here, bear with me, think Carrie Bradshaw Sex in the City monologues except we're talking about dinner. Our own heads, my own head, is a rabbit hole. I get down there by over thinking and over complicating when the answer is really up top at the proverbial pizza.
The peaches for this tart were leftover from that easy dessert I mentioned a minute ago. I didn't have a recipe in mind, I just didn't want to waste the peaches sitting on the counter on their peak day. I remembered a crust I wanted to try and layered from there. It's simple, a fantastic peach is what makes the whole tart, but it is a new favorite. You could merely change the fruit on top or try different nuts in the crust. Summer in all its glory. I can hear Hugh sneaking into the fridge, his fork clattering against the plate as we speak.
There is an Oscar Wilde quote, "The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." So applicable to cooking, to creating things, to feeding people... the act is often times less complicated than we make it. Here's to the simple things.
SUMMER PEACH TART // Makes one 12'' tart
crust recipe adapted from A House in the Hills
I know some of you will be looking for alternatives to powdered sugar here in the cream layer. It helps set the creme fraiche to not puddle everywhere, a liquid like maple or honey will not work. You could try coconut sugar if you are ok with a little grit, but I can't say I've tried it.
9 pitted dates
1 cup toasted pecan pieces
1 cup almond meal
2 tsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
dairy free option: coconut whipped cream
creme fraiche option:
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup powder sugar
1/4 cup muscavado sugar
3 large/4 small ripe peaches
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
toasted pecans, granola, turbinado etc. for garnish
For the crust, pulse all ingredients in the food processor until crumbly. When you pinch some between your fingers it should stick. Add a tiny splash of water if it needs help holding (this will depend on the freshness of your dates). Press the mixture into an even layer the bottom of a parchment lined, 9'' or 10'' springform pan.
Make your cream layer. Follow the directions for the the coconut whipped cream. Otherwise, whisk together the creme fraiche, powdered sugar, muscavado (or light brown sugar). It will be loose but should hold shape when spread over the crust, if it looks too loose, add another Tbsp. or two of powdered sugar. Spread the cream layer over the crust.
Halve and pit the peaches and slice them thin. Layer the peaches in concentric circles, starting against the outer edge and then starting again with another circle, inside that outer circle. Brush the top with lemon juice and garnish with chopped pecans, granola, turbinado or whatever you wish. Refrigerate for at least two hours to chill completely. Remove the ring of the springform pan and cut into slices.
Store covered in the fridge. Should be enjoyed within 3-4 days. The colder it is, the easier it will be to get clean slices, just fyi.