Recipe: Wild Plum and Pear Tart

Written by

Word of the day: plumdom.

Dough fat of the day: olive oil.

Writer and NPR alum Frank Browning explains all below.

Keep reading for his Wild Plum and Pear Tart recipe, and click here to enter YOUR delicious pie (or pies) in the 4th Annual Good Food Pie Contest on Saturday, September 8th at LACMA. The deadline is this Monday, so enter enter enter!

Where I live in France in the “little chateaux” country along a tributary of the grand Loire River called “Le Loir,” wild things are everywhere.  In our yard is a wild pear tree that every August rains downs little pear nuggets a touch smaller than Seckel pears but bitter to the tooth when eaten raw.  Alongside the narrow roadway there is a hedge row of wild bluish plums–and across the field from there are even more tiny wild plums the French call “prunelles” about the size of olives that don’t ripen until October after the first frost.  As it happened we were invited to dinner at the home of a fine ceramicist last weekend where he’d made a cake using pear butter simmered with fresh ground cardamom seeds.  Sublime.  Hmm, I thought.  Why not marry our small astringent summer pears simmered with cardamom as a base for the wild plums?  One of the problems with making plum tarts is that they often express too much juice, but the thickened pear compote just might absorb the excess.  And so it did.  But I did cheat just a bit: not everything was wild fruit.  At the center I placed two halved oblong Quetch plums, which over here are regarded as the royalty of plum-dom.
One last thing I learned from our Swiss neighbors down the hill.  In making a standard pie pastry, cut the butter in half and make up the difference with  . . . olive oil.  It not only cuts the cholesterol, but it makes a lighter pastry with no olive oil taste.