There are literally hundreds of farmers markets in the greater Los Angeles area, but only four are active on Mondays—which was the day we planned to buy all the fresh fruit for this delicious summer dessert. There are forty-three on Thursdays and thirty-four on Wednesdays, but yes, only four set up shop on Mondays. Though our pickings were slim, we managed to find a small one just ten miles away called the Helen Albert Certified Farmers Market which carried everything we were seeking to complete our colorful creation. Sarah Phillips, the founder of Ugly Produce is Beautiful, recently asked if we’d like to contribute an article for her website, which is how the inspiration for this recipe began. Remember those ugly apple roses we made a few months ago, the ones that taste just like homemade apple pie? Those tasty treats were also a contribution for her site, and we are happy to be sharing another, since we support the simple message: Don’t be afraid to buy produce that doesn’t look “perfect”. A carrot may have an extra leg, or an apple may have a small blemish, but they taste exactly the same. They’re still usable and should be baked into a pie or blended into a smoothie instead of being wasted and thrown away. This vibrant dish is a perfect example of how you can take something ugly and turn it into something quite beautiful… and quite delicious!
In addition to being the title of a wonderful pixar movie, Ratatouille is a traditional French delicacy, prepared by layering sliced tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, squash, and bell peppers in a baking dish lined with a rich garlic-infused tomato sauce. Our friend Christine recently made a stunning version for her blog and ever since we have been wanting to try it out. Leave it to the Husbands to turn this savory French classic into a simply satisfying summer sweet treat. And indeed it is: say bonjour to Ratafruitie! Here, slices of fresh kiwi, juicy nectarines, tangy mangoes, plump strawberries, ripe cantaloupe, and purple plums rest on silky clouds of vanilla pastry cream and a crunchy graham cracker crust. Similar to a fruit tart, but with a gorgeous layered design, this refreshing dessert is going to steal the show at your next summer celebration.
The prep for ratafruitie is fun and easy. The smooth vanilla cream is simply made in one pan, and the three-ingredient graham cracker crust bakes in just five minutes. And you don’t have to use the exact same fruits we did: feel free to pick your favorite flavors, and arrange the slices in whatever creative pattern you would like. Got some amazing homegrown peaches? Throw them in! Don’t like melon? Leave it out! No matter what you decide, it is bound to be fresh, delicious, and gorgeous. Especially when it begins with ugly produce.
serves 6 to 8
For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons corn starch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (142g, from about 9 whole crackers, or one sleeve)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the fruit:
2 to 3 kiwi fruit, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 to 2 nectarines, halved, seed removed, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 to 3 mangoes, peeled, side “steaks” removed and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 pint of strawberries, stem removed and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 cantaloupe, halved, seeded, skin removed, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 to 3 plums, halved, seed removed, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
For garnish, if desired:
1/2 a nectarine, cut into a rose shape (see note)
jelly of your choice (see note)
Make the pastry cream:
In a small pan, stir together the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and the salt over medium-high heat until simmering.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar until smooth. Add the corn starch and whisk until completely smooth.
Once the half-and-half mixture is simmering, take a ladle full of the hot liquid and slowly drizzle it into the bowl with the egg yolks as you whisk vigorously. Repeat with another ladle. Then pour the contents of the bowl into the simmering saucepan, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and stir for another 30 seconds until thickened and bubbly, then remove from heat and quickly add the cubed butter and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth and evenly blended. Let cool slightly, then transfer the pastry cream to a heatproof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly on the surface of the cream, preventing a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter and stir until evenly combined. Transfer to a 10-inch oven-safe skillet (or baking dish), and press the crumbs firmly into the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the sides, creating a crust. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, then cool completely.
Assemble the dish:
Spread the pastry cream evenly over the cooled graham cracker crust. Decide on which order you want to layer your fruit, then begin placing the fruit slices in a repeating pattern around the edge of the skillet, packing them in snugly. Once the outer circle is complete, start a second row closer to the center of the pan. Once that row is complete, there will still be some space in the middle. You can fill it with another small row of fruit slices, or you can make a nectarine rose (see note).
Place a few tablespoons of jelly in a heatproof bowl, then microwave it in short bursts until the jelly is liquified (alternatively, you can do this on the stove in a small pan). Brush the fruit lightly with the glaze until shiny. Garnish with mint leaves if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and enjoy!
— Brushing the fruit with melted jelly will give it a beautiful glossy shine. Pick any flavor you like, but be sure to buy jelly (which is clear and made from fruit juice) and not jam (which has bits of fruit in it).
— To make a nectarine rose, cut the fruit in half and remove the seed. Place one half flat-side-down on a large cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, slice it into thin 1/16-inch slices, keeping the slices together as you cut. Slowly slide the slices across each other, fanning them out until they make a long line of overlapping slices. Starting at one end, gently roll the slices up until they form a spiral rose shape. Here’s a helpful a video tutorial.