As she writes in “It Takes A Market,” her essay for Cassoulet, Elizabeth Crane found a community for her young family when she began selling peaches at the Aerie, a farm stand run by a farmer named Fitz Kelly. The Aerie set up at the Green Street farmer’s market, and then moved to the new Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market when it opened in 1993. Liz and Fitz sold peaches (and nectarines, and apricots) there for years, though now he sells his peaches closer to his Central Valley farm, and she’s moved on to managing the Noe Valley Farmer’s Market.
We hoped to have some kind of book event at the Ferry Plaza once Cassoulet came out, and Liz lined it up for us last winter, when a sunny spring day and a finished book both seemed like rather a dream.
It all came together under a brilliant blue sky and the white tents of the CUESA kitchen yesterday, with Liz and Phyllis Grant doing the cooking, and Lisa and I happy to serve as their sous chefs. Phyllis found the slimmest stalks of asparagus and compared different varieties of potatoes; Liz, with fewer ingredients to buy, enjoyed mini-reunions with farmers she hadn’t seen in years, exclaiming about how impossibly grown up all their children have become. We then returned to the CUESA kitchen and hustled to peel potatoes, slice asparagus, cook 3 dozen eggs and help Liz bake her two pans of jam cookies before the demo began.
Phyllis made her potato and asparagus salad with creme fraiche and poached eggs, just as you find it in the book; since it’s too early in the season for the peach crisp recipe Liz offers in the book, she made jam cookies, and we’re happy to share that recipe here. They were both total pros, able to both cook and describe what they were doing — and why — plus field questions from Lisa, me, and our audience, while producing beautiful, delicious food.
I make so much apricot, pluot and peach jam between April and August that I spend the rest of the year giving it away. Even when I am successful at clearing my pantry by Christmas, I am nevertheless confronted with the challenge of using up the jars of jam that didn’t seal properly, and the jars and jars of marmalade and other goodies made by my jamming friends. For that, there is my trusty brown sugar / oatmeal shortbread jam cookie, or this jam crostata with nuts.
Oven to 350
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temp (that’s a stick and a half. No one said this would be a low-fat cookie.)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract (go the extra mile and get the organic stuff. The supermarket brand almond extract has a really funky aftertaste.)
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup jam (apricot is especially nice. So is raspberry with a little liqueur stirred in. I have also used marmalade to great acclaim. If you have odds and ends of different jams, stir them up and use the mix. It’s really difficult to make a mistake here.)
¼ cup sliced almonds (you can use the “slivered” kind, but I like the taste of almond skins so I slice my own. You could also use “sliced” almonds, which look fancy but in my experience can get burnt before the cookie is done.)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add vanilla, almond and salt. On low speed, mix in the flour. Yes, it will be crumbly.
With the half-cup measure you used for your sugar, scoop out a half cup of dough and smoosh it onto a small plate. Put the plate in the freezer (trust me, this sounds fussy but it really is necessary).
Pat the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (fitted with a parchment circle if you have one). Flour your fingers if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to you.
Spread the jam over the dough, leaving a circle of uncovered dough around the edge.
Take the reserved dough out of the freezer. It should now have more snap than the stuff you just pressed into the pan. Break it up and scatter the bits over the jam. Then add the almonds over the top:
Bake 45 minutes until golden. Cool slightly, remove pan rim and slide cookie onto a cooling rack.
This makes 12 generous slices, but I can get 16-20 out of it when I’m being careful. Excellent with a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.