I haven’t enjoyed a book like this in years. And it surprises me; it didn’t seem like the kind of book I would enjoy. I often passed it on a shelf and chalked it up to being like the Oprah book-club literature I have for so long steered clear of. I read my first Oprah book while plowing through two boxes of Kleenex. The second book cost me another two boxes of Kleenex and four Tylenol for the crying headache. Fool me twice Oprah.
But Under the Tuscan Sun is, to be frank, the next best thing to an Italian vacation. While reading I kept slapping my forehead and muttering, "Why didn't I read this when it came out?" And then I saw that it was published in 1997, the year I turned 17 and stopped reading in favor of dating an older, slightly scary boyfriend. But, I digress.
The only way Tuscany could be more real would be if I went there myself. Which I cannot. Which is why after finishing the book and sighing with a hint of depression (and simultaneously imagining my own little fantasy villa in Tuscany), I decided my longings were best put to use through baking. And what else? Frances Maye’s tart recipe.
I’ve got a thing for tarts, or any dessert that involves fruit. As much as I adore all food, the simple Italian fare that Frances describes in the book steals my heart.
So here is her recipe:
4 to 5 large peaches, sliced
¼ cup sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Pie Crust (I used 2)
I did a tiny derivation, mixing peaches and strawberries. I also left out the almonds b/c they make Matt’s tongue swell up in a really scary way. Another story for another day. I mixed the chopped fruit, sugar and cheese together (it was enough for two tarts) and then piled it in the centers of two pie crusts. I folded the crust over and placed them in the oven at 375 for 30 to 40 minutes (I really can’t remember now). Then I sprinkled some powdered sugar on top and added some spearmint from the herb garden, but those aren’t really necessary if you don’t want them.
The only thing I would do differently is brush some butter or egg white on the crust before putting it in the oven (to make it crispier). But it was really delicious. Frances didn’t steer me wrong, and neither did her fantastic book. I ate this tart while dreaming of green shuttered villas, nuns dressed in white, fresh fruit markets and ravioli. It was the best dessert (not to mention book vacation) I’ve had in a long time.