There’s something about summer that makes me yearn to pull out all the stops with the food I make and serve. However, unlike the heavy and sometimes complicated holiday cooking and baking that can feel overwhelming during the winter months, summertime foods are so bright and beautiful, they need little adornment to be at their absolute best and most delicious. For example, a platter of multicolored heirloom tomatoes, fresh from the garden or farmers’ market, need little more than to be sliced, sprinkled with salt, and served with olive oil and crusty bread to be considered a heady, sumptuous feast. I feel the same way about summer desserts, which I love to use as a canvas to feature the sweetest, juiciest fruits I can get my hands on.
This Summer Fruit Tart with Vanilla Custard was inspired by a plate of white nectarines and plums that were ripening in my kitchen. One morning, I went in to make a cup of tea and was greeted by the heady perfume of perfectly-ripe stone fruits, which told me that they needed to be used quickly, before their ripeness could descend into rottenness. Though I’m a fruit-lover in every season, my partner, unfortunately, is not, and I knew that between the two of us, there was no way we’d be able to eat our way through all this fruit before it was too late. Having been in this position before (I confess, seasonal produce is a shopping weakness!), I knew that I could resort to making a pint of two of impromptu jam, but I wanted something different. More specifically, I wanted a cool custard tart with a firm, shortbread-like crust, all topped with a glorious swirl of my favorite fruits. So I did a quick inventory of the ingredients I had on hand, scribbled down some ideas, and retreated to the kitchen to experiment.
I’m pleased to tell you that this tart is exactly what I was hoping for: a crisp, nutty gluten-free crust made with oats and pecans; a silky vanilla custard that reminds me of the pies from my Midwestern childhood, yet is totally vegan and cruelty-free; and, of course, the sweet, beautiful fruit that inspired it all. Though the recipe may look complicated, I assure you that it comes together with minimal effort and fuss, especially if you make the crust and custard in advance. Let this tart serve as a backdrop to your favorite summer fruits, and serve it forth to your family and friends as a tribute to this season of glorious abundance.