Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Nectarine Blackberry Crisp

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Wow, that’s a mouthful, but you have to admit it sounds good. I got the idea from the New York Times Cooking newsletter; Kim Severson was guest writing it for the day and she mentioned a trick she learned from our mutual friend Bill Addison who learned it from Nancy Silverton (how’s that for a game of telephone?). The trick is this: when making a cobbler or a crisp, brown some butter, scrape in the seeds from a vanilla bean and then stir the whole mixture in with the fruit. As far as ideas go, this is right up there with E = mc2. (How do you get the 2 up there? Where’s Einstein when you need him?)

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Casual Crostata

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If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know I tend to make a huge stink about pie dough. How I can’t roll it out, how I don’t have the magic touch (like Craig’s dad), how even after learning all of the rules–keep things cold, move the dough around as you roll it–it rarely works out for me.

Well, the other day I had a breakthrough. It went something like this: I saw ripe nectarines and plums from my CSA on the counter and realized they were just on the verge of becoming overripe. So I decided to whip up a crostata and I told myself not to think too much about it.

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How To Make A Summer Farmer’s Market Feast

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It’s August and you have no excuse: tomatoes and peaches are calling. Not the ones with little stickers on them at the supermarket, but the superior, positively bursting-with-summer ones you’ll find at your farmer’s market. “Ugh, but do I really have to go to a farmer’s market?” If that’s you, listen up: yes you do. And I’m going to walk you through it, tell you what to buy, in order to make an incredible Summer Farmer’s Market Feast for six. Are you ready? Let’s do it.

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Stone Fruit Salads

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This summer, if I were the sort of person who named their summers, might be called “The Summer of Stone Fruit.” That’s because, for a good part of it, I’d bring home lots of stone fruit (mostly peaches, but also nectarines and plums) from the West Hollywood Farmer’s Market. I’d put these stone fruits into a bowl on our kitchen counter and, inevitably, the stone fruit would get eaten. It was only last week that I decided that I could do more with stone fruit besides just eat it. Which is when I had the idea to use stone fruit in a salad.

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Nectarine Tart

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I am a nectarine tart and I am easy to make. I am adapted from Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking For Mr. Latte” (her recipe is for a peach tart) but, if you ask me, I’m much prettier than a peach tart. A peach tart would be a homogeneous glop of orangey yellow fruit; I, on the other hand, am a homogeneous glop of orangey yellow fruit with hints of red. Those hints of red make me magnificent.

The most shocking thing about me (besides my time served at Sing Sing) is how easy I am to make. Most tarts intimidate with the dough assembly, the refrigeration, the rolling it out, the getting it into the pan. Not so with me: to make a tart like me, all you do is dump a bunch of stuff into a tart pan (or, if you don’t have a tart pan, an 8 X 8 square pan will work too), stir it together, press it into the corners and cut off the excess. To be more specific: in the pan, stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (I’m made from olive oil and it makes my taste elusive!), 2 Tbs milk, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Pour the wet stuff over the dry stuff, mix gently with a fork, and when it comes together push it out so it comes to a height of about 3/4 inch (or, if using a tart pan, til it comes up the sides of the tart.)

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