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Favorite Summer Dessert: Fresh Fruit Tart


Image ©2011 Christopher Halloran Photography

My Aunt Stewart was a born hostess. She made entertaining seem effortless — a trait she passed along to her children. My siblings and I have fond memories of her huge holiday shindigs where she welcomed with open arms every friend and family member who happened to be in town.

She had a quick wit, a deep, throaty laugh, and a classic, honeyed Southern drawl. She took a genuine interest in people and had a knack for making them feel unique and loved.

Heartbreakingly, she succumbed to cancer on New Year’s Eve 1997, just one day after her 64th birthday.

I adored her, and miss her still.

Me and my Aunt Stewart, circa 1989.  Hence my ‘Talking Heads’ jacket.

One of my most prized possessions is a book she gave me: The Words Worth Eating Cookbook by Jacquelyn G. Legg. Published in 1987, the cookbook is a compilation of recipe cards Ms. Legg created for the beloved (and sadly, now gone) Virginia-based Ukrop’s supermarket chain.

Like all truly great cookbooks, my copy of Words Worth Eating displays the ravages of its usefulness. The back cover has long since gone AWOL, and nearly every page is dog-eared and scarred by food splotches and grease stains.

I can’t open it without thinking of my aunt, and I’m grateful to have this frequent reminder.

Image ©2011 Christopher Halloran Photography

The cookbook also contains the recipe for one of my favorite desserts: Fresh Fruit Tart. It’s perfect for summer when most fruits are at their peak, but I’ve also made it in the dead of winter. No one complains.

As Ms. Legg comments: “Easy and spectacular! You won’t have any leftovers.”

I love how the simple, buttery, shortbread-y crust complements the creamy filling and the sweet-tart fruit. It’s quick to put together — a mixer helps but isn’t essential, and the most time-consuming part is arranging the fruit on top.

I’ve been making this recipe for more than 20 years now and I know it by heart. But for some reason I still open my cookbook to page 246 every time.

Over the years I’ve changed it up a bit so I included amounts from the original in parenthesis next to my version.

Image ©2011 Christopher Halloran Photography

Recipe: Fresh Fruit Tart

(Adapted from The Words Worth Eating Cookbook by Jacquelyn G. Legg (c)1987)

½ c. butter, melted (original recipe calls for ¾ c. butter but it seems greasy to me)
1 ½ cups flour
3 T. sugar

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (original recipe calls for 11 oz. but I prefer the higher fruit-to-filling ratio. I also usually substitute lower-fat Neufchâtel with great results.)
5 T. sugar (original recipe calls for 7, but I reduce due to using less cream cheese)
1 ½ t. vanilla
1 T. fresh lemon juice (not included in original recipe)

Topping (choose 3-4 from list):
1 pint strawberries, washed and thinly sliced
2 kiwi, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pint blueberries, washed
1 c. seedless grapes, washed and cut in half
2-3 peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small can mandarin oranges (not called for in original recipe but so pretty!)


Crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 if using a dark pizza pan). Combine butter, flour and sugar; mix well. Use fingers or the back of a wooden spoon to spread on a 12-inch pizza pan (or form a 12-inch circle on a larger pan). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool.

Filling: Blend softened cream cheese (or Neufchâtel), sugar, vanilla and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Spread over cooled crust to within ½-inch of edge.

Topping: Arrange fruit over cheese layer. (Tip: A quick Google search of “fruit tart” or “fruit pizza” images yields lots of creative inspiration for arranging the fruit.) The original recipe also calls for a glaze made by heating ½ c. apple jelly or orange marmalade mixed with 1 T. water, then pouring it over the fruit when cool. I’ve never used it.

Serves: 10-12 (original says 12-14 but I’m highly suspicious.)


Jacquelyn Legg concludes the cookbook’s introduction page with this quote:

“Use these recipes with love to entertain those in whose company life is most enjoyable.”

Come to think of it, that sounds just like my Aunt Stewart.

Image ©2011 Christopher Halloran Photography

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/23 8:45 AM

    Jennifer –

    I have the same exact book and i suspect it’s as dog-eared as the one you have in your possession. Never made this tart, but may have to. Definitely got a smile after reading the above… not to mention a look at our lovely 80’s style! :)

  2. 07/23 12:55 PM

    Molly Ringwald called looking for her long lost twin sister. :)

  3. Jennifer permalink*
    07/23 7:13 PM

    Hold on to that book, Lisa — apparently it’s quite a collector’s item nowadays. I still make your blue-ribbon ginger cookies every December. You’re my baking idol! :-)

  4. Jennifer permalink*
    07/23 7:15 PM

    @pbauthor — I hope she doesn’t want her jacket back. Or her socks. :-)

  5. 07/24 8:10 AM

    Glad I was lucky enough to enjoy your beautiful July 4th version. Loved it.

  6. 07/25 7:56 PM

    So you make your fruit pizza on an actual pizza stone? Is that my take-away? (Because I don’t want the jacket OR the socks!) (PS: those zip-up stilettos I admired so much came today. I’m in heaven! Or.. five inches closer!)

  7. Jennifer permalink*
    07/25 9:00 PM

    @Kim — Loved sharing it with you — as always. :-)
    @Marti — Good eye! Actually, my pizza pan is larger than 12″ (15″ maybe?) so I free-formed the circle (resulting in the uneven edges), baked it in my non-stick pizza pan and transferred it to the pizza stone to serve. I need to come up with some kind of flat platter or a more attractive 12″ pizza pan… Glad you love the shoes!

    • 07/26 11:51 AM

      Looks really amazing right where it is, but I was excited because I recently acquired one of those and haven’t used it yet…. That looks so good!

  8. 03/09 8:38 AM

    wow!! this looks delicious!! mmm I want it!!
    thanks for your skirt suggestion!

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