Every summer, I’m tortured by the juicy, fresh, succulent peaches, plums, and nectarines that start appearing in supermarkets and farmers markets. You see, I haven’t had a bite of fresh stone fruits in about 10 years now. I have what is known as oral allergy syndrome: because I have fairly severe seasonal allergies, particularly to birch trees, there’s a long list of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts that can set off an allergic reaction if I eat them. It happens to about 70% of people who have seasonal allergies, so if you experience this too, you’re not alone!
Thankfully, I’m not allergic to everything on that list, and even more thankfully, I’ve even been able to start eating some of those foods again as apparently the allergy has worn off over the years. But not stone fruits – peaches, plums, nectarines, and even cherries. It probably won’t kill me to eat them, because it’s not a true food allergy, it’s just a reaction to the proteins in the fruits that are very similar to the birch tree pollen I’m allergic to. It manifests as itching and stinging in my mouth and face, and it lasts about an hour or two. It’s just uncomfortable and disconcerting, and that’s why I avoid them.
The good news in all of this is that cooking the fruits changes the proteins enough that I have no reaction to them at all. So I’ve managed to have my peach, plum, and nectarine cravings fairly satisfied with cobblers, pies, and crisps.
One of my favorite ways to cook these fruits is in a rustic crostata, which is like an Italian free-form tart. This recipe works well with a variety of fruits – I often use it in the spring with fresh blueberries (and throughout the year with the freshly picked blueberries I’ve frozen for future use) – but fruits that can be sliced make for a particularly lovely presentation.
1 recipe sweet pie crust dough (I use Michael Ruhlman’s 3-2-1 ratio)
2 ½ cups plums, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup sugar (or less, depending on how ripe and sweet the plums are)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Cream and raw or sparkling sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently toss together the plums, flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Roll out pie dough into about a 12-inch circle and place on prepared baking sheet, trimming edges if they look too rough. Arrange plum slices in a rosette pattern on dough, leaving a two-inch border of dough all around. Fold dough edges over plums. Brush edges of dough with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until plums are soft and crust is nicely browned. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.