August 20, 2010

Strawberry and Rhubarb Galette

a little fresh garnish adds a nice touch

I am writing this post with extreme jubilation.  Or perhaps it's just the after effects of pure relief.  I had an intensely nightmarish occurrence happen to me last week.  My computer crashed.  Upon updating the software on my laptop, only after I was prompted to, the only activity I could get out of it was a blank, white screen.  After doing a little research, I quickly learned that this screen has been maliciously dubbed "the white screen of death."  My heart sank.  My stomach dropped.  I was suddenly unable to swallow past the lump in my throat.  And a single tear ran down my cheek (followed shortly by an unstoppable river).  All of my photos, music, recipes and meticulously crafted spreadsheets (oh yeah, in case you didn't know, I'm OCD- it's unofficially diagnosed, but painfully apparent- I like to think of it as "super-duper-organized").  Basically my whole life was digitally saved and compressed onto this one, tiny little laptop.

concentric circles of strawberries

I suddenly felt like Carrie Bradshaw.  Everyone started asking me if I had "backed-up." To which I would reply with a snarl.  Backing-up had never occurred to me, even though I had seen that particular episode where Carrie's computer crashes and she loses everything she had ever written.  How could I be so naive?  So before I had the chance to take my laptop into the Apple store and receive it's official sentence, I mourned the death that I was certain had befell my computer.  This is the point where my dad, mom, and brother would all tell me I was over reacting.  That I was being a drama queen (like I've never heard that before, ha).  I didn't care.  I felt I had the right to act irrational, because for all I knew my computer was dead and all my memories and work were buried among the intangible space along with it.  

how good does that crust look

I needed to take my mind off the loss.  I needed something to distract me from the harrowing thoughts of what was to become of my computer.  Ahh, yes.  A tart of some kind. The only suitable option for this sort of occasion, because nothing calms the nerves quite like a flaky pie crust does.  I had been itching to make a free form tart anyways, so this seemed like as good a time as any.  I rushed to the grocery store, grabbed what I am certain was the last of the season's rhubarb, and headed home to bake the tension out of me.  I wasn't in the mood to plan or be painstakingly precise, so I threw together a fruit filling concoction, tweaking here and there upon tasting, and placed it in the oven.  The result was surprisingly good, especially considering my state of mind and this spontaneous style of baking that I am unaccustomed to.  The galette did help to alleviate the stress of the evening and I even managed to get some sleep that night.  Perhaps, it even served as a little good luck charm, because, despite the "white screen of death," the Apple geniuses were able to recover all of my files.  So maybe I did over react just a tad, sobbing at what would now be a non-loss of all my photos, music, recipes, and meticulously crafted spreadsheets.  But I learned a valuable lesson.  You better believe I bought myself an external hard drive that day, and now I know to make a habit of backing-up.  In fact, I think I might go do that right now.

love at first bite

Strawberry and Rhubarb Galette 
by Karlie Kiser

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 medium lemon, zested
1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp ice water, plus more if needed

2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb, about 1/2 pound
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp dark brown sugar, divided
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, divided
pinch of salt
3 tbsp cornstarch, divided
2 tbsp uncooked, quick cooking tapioca, ground fine in  a spice mill, divided
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp chopped mint
about 6 tbsp toasted, sliced almonds
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
2 tbsp turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar)
1 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces

Topping (optional):
4 oz crème fraîche
1 tbsp granulated sugar

1. For crust: combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a food processor (or large mixing bowl).  Add butter and pulse (or rub in with fingers if using traditional method) to combine until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

2. Add the egg yolk and ice water (1 tbsp at a time) and pulse (or again, work into the mixture with your hands) just until combined.  (Do not let the dough form a ball in the food processor, pulse just until the mixture comes together.)  There should be enough moisture in the dough so that it binds together without being too wet or sticky.  If it's still crumbly, add a little more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time.

3. Pour the dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface and bring together forming a ball.  Pat into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least one hour.

4. After the dough is sufficiently chilled, separate into four equal portions.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a circle, about 1/4-inch thick.  Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper, place dough circles on top, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. In the meantime, combine the rhubarb, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt, 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon ground tapioca in a medium mixing bowl.  Set aside and let stand for 30 minutes.

6. In another mixing bowl, combine the strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, mint, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon ground tapioca.  Set aside and let stand for 10-15 minutes.  Pre-heat oven to 350º F.

7. Remove the dough rounds from the fridge.  Working one at a time, sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted almonds on center of dough round, leaving a 1-inch border.  Place a mound of rhubarb (about 2 spoonfuls) in the center of crust.  Layer strawberry slices in an overlapping circle around the mound of rhubarb, making sure to leave the 1-inch border of dough.  Repeat on remaining dough rounds.  You should have strawberries left over.  Reserve for later use. 

8. Beat the egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water together to make an egg wash.  Brush the border of each dough round with egg wash.  Bring the edge of crust over onto the filling, leaving the fruit exposed in the center.  Gently fold and crimp the dough to seal any cracks.  Repeat on each galette. 

9. With the remaining strawberry slices, evenly divide and layer on top of other exposed strawberries on each galette.  Combine any strawberry and rhubarb juice remaining at bottom of mixing bowls.  Evenly distribute juices among each galette, spooning onto the center of each.  Chill in fridge for 15 minutes.

10. Brush the edges of each crust with remaining egg wash.  Sprinkle each crust with about 1/2 tablespoon turbinado sugar.  Dot each galette with the small pieces of butter.  Place the galettes (still on baking sheet) on the center rack of oven and bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Let cool to room temperature and, if desired, serve with crème fraîche sweetened with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Enjoy!

Makes 4 mini galettes, about 5-inches in diameter 

*This recipe might have a lot of steps and sound complicated, but I promise you it is easy, breezy!  I just wanted the recipe to be as detailed as possible so as to avoid any confusion for novice bakers. 

August 7, 2010

A Tribute to New York City Part 2

Lady Liberty

It’s during this time of year that I start to miss New York the most.  The idea of cooler weather with a slightly salty breeze coming off the Hudson River sounds much more appealing than the extreme temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in Texas.  Seriously, I’m melting as we speak.  When I used to complain about the cold winters (which I do not miss, not one bit.) in New York, people would tell me, “Just wait.  Our summers are brutally hot.”  I’d laugh inside.  Because, really, you’re going to tell me New York summers are more blistering than the ones we have in Texas?  Ha. Ha. HA.  However, there are things about New York that I miss besides the milder temperatures, though most of them are associated with summer time.  I loved the fact that during warmer weather, the city would just come alive- to a completely different level.  On almost any day of the week you could find some kind of outdoor event to while away the hours, whether it be at a regularly scheduled flea market or an outdoor celebration like the Mermaid Parade (celebrating the beginning of summer out on Coney Island).

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Couldn't resist this gorgeous flower at the BBG

It was around mid-summer during my year spent living in New York that I had made the decision to move back to Texas.  I also made the decision right then and there to do as many “New Yorky” things as possible.  I had a blast checking things off my list.  I made a trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Jones Beach out on Long Island, Coney Island, several museums, and the New York Aquarium.

The Wonder Wheel and Coney Island

The funny thing is, that with the exception of the beaches, I could do all those other things right here in Dallas.  For whatever reason, I never bother to here.  Two things I can’t do in Dallas, however, and desperately wish I could, is attend Broadway shows and spend the day at Central Park.

Strawberry Fields in Central Park

Bow Bridge in Central Park

I had a deep love affair with Central Park.  I was in awe of the beauty of that place during all seasons.  Whether it was watching the leaves fall while strolling down The Mall, gazing out upon the blanket of snow from Bow Bridge, welcoming the first spring rain while relaxing in Strawberry Fields, or enjoying a picnic among the sea of people in the Great Lawn.  (I actually took my mom along for one of those picnics when she came to visit.  I made a pretty spectacular spread, if I don’t say so myself, of grilled vegetable panzanella, spicy apricot and molasses glazed shrimp, watermelon, feta and arugula salad, and chocolate espresso caramel bars- now my most requested item.)

On top of the MET

Inside the MET with my favorite artist, Van Gogh

While there is an endless amount of activities and places to visit in New York, there are probably twice as many restaurants.  Of course, there are the classics and the critically acclaimed that stand out from the bunch, too many of which I didn’t have the time or money to enjoy, but there is one restaurant in New York that I could probably call my favorite (or at least mark it as a tie with my other favorite restaurant located here in Dallas): The Spotted Pig.  I only had the opportunity to eat a meal here once, but that was enough to solidify its place in my heart.  The wait for a table is always extreme, but there is a reason for that.  The food is unreal.  It’s a gastro-pub offering a fusion of traditional British fare and Italian cuisine.  The pork belly was succulent.  The shoestring fries, crisped to perfection.  But nothing, nothing, could ever be as decadently delicious as the plump, pillowy, perfection that is their gnudi.   Gnudi, which is literally translated to “naked”, are pasta-like ricotta dumplings that have been shed of their pasta “clothing.”  The ricotta bursts through its thin exterior and immediately changes your world.  They are a revelation.  Trust me, once you eat gnudi, you will never want run-of-the-mill ravioli ever again.

Rise No 1 Souffle

By comparison, my favorite Dallas restaurant, which is much easier to get a table at, is rise nº 1.  It’s an adorable French restaurant specializing in soufflés.  They of course offer other French fare beyond soufflés, but why bother going if you’re not going to indulge in one of their many, many flavors like sun-dried tomato and pesto chèvre, truffle infused mushroom, or the Cajun crab and boursin cheese.  You must save room for a chocolate, strawberry, or praline soufflé to finish your meal, however.  All three are to die for.  On second thought, it’s probably better to go ahead and order all three.

My Williamsburg Bridge

Besides my beloved Central Park and The Spotted Pig, there is perhaps one last thing that I miss more than anything: my bridge (otherwise known as the Williamsburg Bridge).  I ran across it almost daily.  There was something so peaceful and serene about pounding my feet on the pavement as I looked out upon the East River and the Manhattan skyline, breathing in the crisp, salty air.  I loved being able to race toward the Lower East Side with Brooklyn behind me, only to turn around and experience it all over again.  It’s not quite the same running around my flat Plano, TX neighborhood anymore.  I’m always hoping to suddenly approach a vast metal structure that will carry me over a body of water of some kind.  Which, on a side note, up until I lived in New York I never knew how much I loved being around water.  Watching the sun glisten on the water’s surface never failed to make me smile, especially if I was lucky enough to catch a sunset while standing at the water’s edge. 

I spy... Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

It’s funny how memories tend to become more dear and precious as time goes on.  As my time spent in New York grows more and more distant, I grow even fonder of my experiences there.  My affection for sunsets, Central Park, and the Spotted Pig may be but mere, fading memories, but they’ll always hold a place in my heart.  And at least I can still have my gnudi, and eat it too.

(Gnudi recipe follows)

gnudi=pillowy perfection

Ricotta Gnudi with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter Sauce
Inspired by The Spotted Pig, adapted from The Paupered Chef

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (if possible, use sheep’s milk ricotta or, if you’re up to it, make your own ricotta)
1 cup grated grated Parmesan
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ cup all-purpose flour
4-5 cups semolina flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
about 24 sage leaves
¼ cup shredded Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
fresh black pepper to taste

1. Combine the ricotta, grated Parmesan, eggs, egg yolk and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl and whisk vigorously until the mixture is light and airy.

2. Gently fold in the ½ cup flour until it is combined with the ricotta mixture.  If the mixture seems too sticky at this point, add in 1 tablespoon more flour at a time.

3. In a large, shallow dish (but at least 2-inches deep), sprinkle ¼-inch semolina flour on the bottom.  Using a small cookie dough scoop, about an inch in diameter, scoop the ricotta mixture into small, round balls, using floured hands to shape if necessary, and arrange on top of the semolina, making sure not to touch each other or the sides of the dish.  After all the ricotta mixture is scooped, rolled, and arranged, cover the balls completely with the remaining semolina flour. The balls should be buried.  Transfer to the fridge and let sit for at least 12 hours, and up to 24.  *I found that resting the ricotta balls for 24 hours made a thicker “crust” than I would have liked. I would suggest a shorter resting period.

4. Carefully unearth the gnudi and set aside on a baking sheet.  The remaining semolina flour can be sifted and reserved for another future use.  Allow the gnudi to come to room temperature.

5. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Watch it carefully, and when the butter solids begin to brown and turn foamy, add the sage leaves.  Continue to cook until the butter turns a nutty brown color.  Be careful not to burn the butter, as it will turn bitter.

6. Once the water is boiling, carefully transfer the gnudi to the pot and cook until they float, about 2 minutes.  Avoid overcooking or the exterior will toughen.

7. Removing the gnudi with a slotted spoon to drain, transfer to the brown butter sauce and serve immediately.  Top with the shredded Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh black pepper.

Serves 4