Sweet Tomato Galette

Sweet Tomato Galette

Sweet Tomato Galette

Here come the tomatoes. And we’d better be ready. They will appear at the table in all their savory guises– or all alone, by themselves, because that’s usually all that’s needed.

summer tomatoes

summer tomatoes

But here’s a sweet twist on tomatoes. I offered up something similar in culinary school for a student contest. Made it to finalist. But now many years later I think I’ve perfected it even more. It’s a surprising taste. Sugar and Tomatoes. A taste you’ll cherish from now on.

I start with 2 medium tomatoes, sliced about a 1/4″ thick into half-moons. Lay them out in a colander and salt them well. Let them release some of their juices for about 1/2 hour.

salted tomato slices

salted tomato slices

Then I make my favorite tart pastry recipe. (See below.) Roll it out into an informal circle.

rolled pastry dough

rolled pastry dough

Then move it to a parchment or silpat-lined pan.

pastry dough

pastry dough

Drizzle a light layer of honey.

drizzle honey

drizzle honey

And start laying out the tomato slices in a circular pattern.

layer tomatoes

layer tomatoes

Filling in the center. Then sprinkling with sugar. I used Demerara sugar and white sugar, but use your favorite-tasting sugar.

Demerara sugar

Demerara sugar

Fold in the edges of the dough. Brush with an egg wash…

brush with egg wash

brush with egg wash

Sprinkle more sugar over the dough. Here I’ve also added some sparkling finishing sugar.

ready to bake

ready to bake

You need a good amount of sugar. That’s what makes the tomato flavor pop in this not-usual direction. Bake for about 35 minutes in a 375 degree oven until golden. Let it sit a bit before slicing. Sometimes juices accumulate in a puddle around the tomatoes when you first take it out, but then absorb into the galette as it cools for a few minutes.

baked tomato galette

baked tomato galette

Add to the sweet-savory combo by tearing a few basil leaves on top. The flavors do an unusual dance on your taste buds, then relax long enough for you to say: “Can I have another slice?”

tomato galette

sweet tomato galette

Sweet Tomato Galette

2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” half-moons

salt for sprinkling

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons Demerara sugar, divided

3 tablespoons white sugar, divided

2 tablespoons sparkling finishing sugar

1 egg for egg wash

5-6 basil leaves, torn

For the pastry dough:

1.5 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)

1/4 cup cold white wine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the pastry: Add the flour, sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of food processor. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly with small pea-sized pieces. Add wine. Pulse until mixture comes together as a dough. Turn dough out onto a work surface and press together into a thick disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour.

Meanwhile, salt the tomato slices and let drain in colander for about 1/2 hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll it out into an informal circle on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/8” thick. Move to a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan. Drizzle honey evenly over surface.

Place tomato slices in an overlapping circle, leaving about a 2-inch border of dough. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar, and white sugar. Fold in edges of the dough, overlapping. Brush dough with egg wash. Sprinkle more of both sugars over dough and the sparkling finishing sugar.

Bake for about 35 minutes until golden. When cooled, sprinkle with basil leaves.

Make My Galette Mini

mini fruit galettes

mini fruit galettes

I’m a galette lover. They are oh, so, splendidly free-form. Roll out your pastry dough into a rough circle, or oval, or oblong, or isosceles triangle (remember those?)–almost any shape works. Place your filling roughly in the center and fold over the dough borders. Bake. Tastes as wonderful as any pie you worked at fitting into a pan. Actually. It may even taste better. It’s non-conformist nature adds a taste of the wild.

Me and my love of the itty-bitty, took a galette a step further and made mini-galettes. Individual serving galettes. This takes a bit more time (as anything in many small shapes will) but I LOVE the results.

rolling dough for mini-galettes in my class

rolling dough for mini-galettes in my class

getting galettes ready to bake

getting galettes ready to bake

We make them in my classes and the thrill mounts as the little darlings of a pie come together.

Ready to bake mini-galettes

Ready to bake mini-galettes

Choose your fruit filling to go with the season. Peaches would be lovely now. Or berries and cherries. We’ve baked them with pears and apples, apricots and plums, blackberries and strawberries. ALL GOOD. Add a spoonful of whipped cream or ice cream to your own little fresh-baked galette and relax in the galette glow.

Mini-Galettes 

For the crust:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

pinch salt

10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

1/3 cup cold white wine

For the filling:

2-3 peaches or pears

1/3 cup walnuts, broken into small pieces

1/3 cup dried cranberries or blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons flour

1 egg, beaten in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until butter is broken up but not totally blended— still some small chunks. Add the wine, process until a dough forms in a clump. Take dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape into a thick disk, wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

For the filling: Peel the pears, cut into quarters, cut each quarter in half width-wise, and cut each piece into small chunks. In a mixing bowl stir together the pears, nuts, cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

Make the galettes: Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a large circle or oblong, about 1/8” thick. Cut 6-inch circles of dough. Roll up scraps and cut out more circles. In the center of each circle, leaving a 1-inch border, place 2-3 tablespoons of filling. Fold over the border edges like a galette, making folds and flattening slightly. Brush dough with egg wash. Bake for about 30 minutes until the dough is golden, and filling is bubbling.

mini fruit galettes

mini fruit galettes

Cookbook Collection from the 1950’s

Metropolitan Cookbook

Metropolitan Cookbook

I’m sure you all have a shelf, many shelves, entire rooms of cookbooks. Isn’t it funny how we can never really say: “Okay, I have enough cookbooks. I don’t need to look at another one again.”

Of course, we can’t say that. Our cooking-brains, food-fingers, food-appetites, food-curiosity kicks in and there is always another cookbook that jumps into our arms.

I also like the practice of raiding the library shelf to see if there are cookbooks I’d like to own. First borrow them. Then decide. Or steal that one recipe that grabs my attention, bring back the book, and then I’m done. With no money spent.

Still…I have to admit. Owning is better. Full colorful shelves are better. Having these friends to hang around with at home indefinitely (with no due dates to return) is better.

So today I’d like to share with you some of my most obscure favorites. To start, these books I never cook from. I just LOVE the books. They’re old and years ago I found them in dusty baskets in used book stores at the foot of giant shelves piled with cookbooks. But these are soft-covered, perfect-bound, and more like thick pamphlets. I discovered that some books were published as a series. Here’s one from a series…

French Cookbook

French Cookbook

The illustration alone is totally enchanting! When I found the first one in this series I was ever-after on the lookout for more of the same. I now have 6 of them: French, Italian, Scandinavian, Creole, New England, and Hungarian.  Inside are brief classic recipes I’ve yet to try. I get so caught up just LOOKING at the books. They were published between 1954 and 1956 by the Culinary Arts Institute in Chicago.

Another couple of favs were put out by the Ford Motor company in 1954 and 1956: The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Favorite Eating Places (2 volumes).  Each book is a collection of favorite recipes from restaurants all over the USA. (They only measure 5.5 inches by 7.) With each restaurant they include a wonderful illustration. A different style for each entry. The books are divided by parts of the country: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, etc. It’s fun to find out if these restaurants still exist. I imagine it was Ford Motor Company’s way to get people on the road!

Ford Treasury of Famous Recipes from Famous Eating Places

Ford Treasury of Famous Recipes from Famous Eating Places

Nelson House & The Bird and Bottle Inn

Nelson House & The Bird and Bottle Inn

Second Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Favorite Restaurants

Second Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Favorite Restaurants

Gruber's and The Keys

Gruber’s and The Keys

I usually don’t haunt old book stores the way I used to. It was an obsession at one point in time. But now that my shelves are stacked with these wonders. I can sit back and dive into  any of these jewels and be entertained for an entire afternoon. Recipes are long-lasting. And just reading them is pure pleasure. Maybe it’s time to pick out a few to try. When I do, I’ll let you know about the standouts. Stay tuned!

Hungarian Cookbook

Hungarian Cookbook

Scandinavian Cookbook

Scandinavian Cookbook

New England Cookbook

New England Cookbook

Creole Cookbook

Creole Cookbook

Italian Cookbook

Italian Cookbook

 

Smoky Grilled Baba Ghanouj

smoky baba ghanouj

smoky baba ghanouj

This is a magic dish. Years ago when I first ever tasted baba ghanouj it seemed like another-planet food. My taste buds in confusion asked: What is that? It’s creamy, but it’s a bit slippery. It’s color is not describable. And the flavor…the flavor is all its very own. Like nothing else. Like eating ancient-foreign-vegetable-garden concentrate. The whole garden. Earth and all.

I used to be intimidated to make it. But now that I’m not, I feel like I’ve got a secret. Making it is  surprisingly easy. Exotic flavor at your fingertips. And the aroma sticks to your fingertips long after you’ve consumed the dish. That’s a good thing. You don’t want it to be over.

It’s all eggplant. And garlic. And tahini. And olive oil. And seasonings. But it is mostly and basically and really just eggplant.

I used mini-eggplants this time. They have packages of mini-eggplants (about a dozen in the pack=about a pound and a quarter) at my favorite local international market, K & S. I don’t see them anywhere else.

mini eggplants

mini eggplants

But it’s just as easy to use normal-sized eggplants…process is the same.

I got the grill started on medium high. And greased the grate with Pam. I used skewers for the little guys so they’re easier to handle.

skewered eggplant

skewered eggplant

I also poked each one with a knife a couple of times to allow any steam to escape (so they don’t pop with heat excitement!).

eggplant skewers on grill

eggplant skewers on grill

After about 10 minutes, I turned them over, and let them cook another 10 minutes or so. You can’t really overcook this much. You want the skins to get charred and the center soft.

charring the eggplant

charring the eggplant

Take them off the grill and let cool.

grilled eggplant with ingredients

grilled eggplant with ingredients

When they are cooled, cut them half…

cut cooked eggplant

cut cooked eggplant

Scrape out the flesh into the bowl of food processor and discard the skins.

eggplant ready to puree

eggplant ready to puree

Add a couple of tablespoons of tahini, juice of 1 lemon, healthy dashes of ground cumin, 2 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, salt & pepper to taste. Pulse until smooth. Taste to see if you need more anything. Sometimes salt. Sometimes more cumin. And then add a few healthy swirls of olive oil. Pulse smooth.

pureed baba ghanouj

pureed baba ghanouj

And it’s done! Traditional pita points are used for dipping. But we’re trying to not eat bread around here and instead we dipped raw, crunchy fennel.

baba ghanouj with fennel

baba ghanouj with fennel

It’s a very delicious combination. Celery and carrot sticks work great, too. I also had some crushed pistachios on hand (left over from the cannoli cake we made in class) and sprinkled them on top. And a light swirl of olive oil completes the dish.

Brings you a taste of foreign lands (Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Armenia). And is a typical part of a full spread of small tasty treats (meze). If you make it, let me know how it goes! (And how far the taste transported you.)

 

 

 

 

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

I’m not a cracker eater. I could go through a loaf of bread, but crackers usually leave me cold.

Not these.

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano cheesy. Buttery. Dappled with sun-dried tomato and rosemary.

The flavor makes you pop them one after the other. I often wonder if they might like a friend…like a dip or a spread or a salsa. But why mess up a good thing? The cracker all by itself, needs nothing else. Maybe a glass of wine. Or a cup of tea. Or a lemonade. Yes. It goes in all those directions. (Brandy, anyone?)

Softened butter, parmigiano, salt, pepper, aleppo with a hand mixer…

Butter, cheese, salt, pepper, aleppo

Butter, cheese, salt, pepper, aleppo

Add flour, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary…

flour, sun-dried tomato, rosemary

flour, sun-dried tomato, rosemary

then 1 egg…

add egg

…mix, then knead into dough ball and refrigerate in plastic for an hour…

dough

roll out…

IMG_5006

cut into strips…

IMG_5011

or circles…

IMG_5012

Bake for about 15 minutes at 350. Really. Try it. Let me know what you think!

IMG_5015

IMG_5009

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons), softened (room temperature)

1 1/4 cups grated parmigiano

healthy pinch of salt

pinch black pepper

pinch hot pepper

3/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon minced sun-dried tomato

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the butter, parmigiano, salt, pepper and hot pepper in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric beater, mix together the ingredients until combined. Add the flour, sun-dried tomato and rosemary. Mix till combined. Add the egg, mix until a dough forms. Knead dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a fluted wheel cut strips of about 3-inches and/or using a small round cutter (about 1-inch-1 1/2-inch) cut out small circles. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden. Let cool for about 1/2 hour before serving.

 

 

My Paintings of Italy

Venice View

Venice View

My new obsession. When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m at the dining room table with paint tubes sprawled, aluminum pans for palettes, a small blue plastic colander to hold up one end of my canvas on the table (maybe one of these days, an easel), and I paint.

Positano

Positano

I haven’t taken lessons. I just dive in. I choose a paint brush, play with blending colors, and start to work. A painting slowly emerges. Not perfect. But I like it anyway. It makes me smile. And I see the spirit of the place reflected back at me from the canvas.

Rome's Spanish Steps

Rome’s Spanish Steps

I’ve been around a lot of art in my life. My parents took me to museums when I was little. And I remember distinctly a series of large books at home, each with color plates of a master artist: Degas, Van Gogh, Lautrec, Renoir, Monet…I used to turn those pages for hours. Each painting imprinting in my mind.

My mom painted. I remember the small red hearts and designs on my white child-size furniture. And her canvas paintings of flowers I still have hanging on the wall. She painted a large freehand mural on our living room wall of arching willow trees. When we sold that house we were sure that’s what sold it.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

When I lived in NYC I used to haunt the Metropolitan (it was down the street from where I lived), paying 50 cents to get in (they always had a “suggested” admission, but you can pay what you like, so I could go often). And just wander, looking at paintings, old and modern, sculpture, mostly ancient. I loved the Whitney Museum of American Art. And MoMA. And the Guggenheim.

Guggenheim Museum - my very first painting

Guggenheim Museum – my very first painting

When I lived in Rome I took art and architectural history classes. Professors had us meet them right at the site of, say, a Palladio building, or up into the rafters of a church to see the ceiling frescoes.

Then I started writing for museums. Audio tour scripts. And worked with curators from art museums all over the country. We discussed the content to be translated into short audio messages for each painting of an exhibition. How to look at it, what to see, composition, color palette, details of the artist’s life and historical context.

Umbrian Hill Town

Umbrian Hill Town

My once-husband, Peter Selgin, is a painter. I watched him paint. And I saw how he turned reality into art and didn’t worry about creating exact representations (although he could do that if he wanted). But poetic ones.

Grand Canal

Grand Canal

There has been a quiet tug inside me for a long while to paint. I have often wanted to give it a go. But told myself to wait…that it would be a good thing to do when I’m 90… when I might have some free time! But last year I let the tug inside sneak out and I gave it try. I had never held a brush in my hand but I’m so glad I picked one up. The hours I spend on painting are completely free, completely poetic hours. The kind of hours we must all find ways to live.

 

Favorite Venice Restaurants

Venice

Venice

Wow. Why am I always surprised by wonderful Venice? Each returning visit becomes a new revelation. The city without cars and trucks, with, instead, blue-lagoony canals and narrow walking lanes with quaint bridges, and architecture that charms with every glance. There’s a reason why travelers flock here. It’s enchanting. And the Venetians know the paradise they own. I just led a wonderful group of cooks to Venice where we cooked together and dined out to our heart’s content (very contented!). With every Venice stay I become completely re-enchanted.

The cuisine of Venice is filled with specific specialties. Lots of fish, seafood, shellfish: seppie, scallops, crab, shrimp, scampi, vongole, mussels, octopus, rombo, branzino, orata… And other classics like fegato alla Veneziana (liver), carpaccio, polenta, artichokes, sardines in soar (sweet/sour), and the bellini.

Many many (many) restaurants are wonderful.  But I have a few favorites, particularly in the neighborhood of Dorsoduro where I usually stay.

Taverna San Trovaso is always reliable with a varied menu of delicious. The ambience hugs you with warmth and character and the staff, sometimes aloof, can always be coaxed to smile and join in with your enthusiasm.

San Trovaso staff

San Trovaso staff

Favs here: spaghetti alle vongole….

spaghetti alle vongole

spaghetti alle vongole at San Trovaso

fegato alla Veneziana…

fegato alla veneziana

fegato alla veneziana at San Trovaso

pizza….

Fran with pizza

Fran with pizza at Taverna San Trovaso

our lunch break from shopping

our lunch break from shopping

Not far from here, still in Dorsoduro is a small trattoria called Ai Cugnai ( “at the in-laws”). We had dinner in their back room which doubles as a terrace when the retractable ceiling is open. It was a breezy, almost rainy night so the ceiling was closed, which added to the coziness. Favorite dishes are their baby octopus salad “moscardini” …

"moscardini"

“moscardini” at Ai Cugnai

the beef carpaccio…

carpaccio

carpaccio at Ai Cugnai

and the mixed seafood pasta…

mixed seafood pasta

mixed seafood pasta at Ai Cugnai

Ai Cugnai house wine

Ai Cugnai house wine

Still in Dorsoduro is a small restaurant that really feels like someone’s home cooking. Quattro Feri is on a small street off of Campo San Barnaba. We had their stellar spaghetti with scampi…

spaghetti with scampi

spaghetti with scampi at Quattro Feri

Also some great spaghetti alle vongole here. And do not leave without having dessert. Here’s their apricot jam crostata…

crostata marmelatta

crostata marmellatta at Quattro Feri

We strayed from Dorsoduro for our other favorite La Zucca in the Santa Croce sestiere. Every Venice stay must include a visit to La Zucca. Their specialty is inventive vegetarian dishes but they do not shy away from meat. I went for the pork Marsala…

pork marsala at La Zucca

pork Marsala at La Zucca

We all skipped around the menu…each dish perfect…

braised fennel at La Zucca

braised fennel at La Zucca

asparagus at La Zucca

asparagus at La Zucca

vegetable lasagna at La Zucca

vegetable lasagna at La Zucca

tagliatelle w duck ragu at La Zucca

tagliatelle w duck ragu at La Zucca

La Zucca

La Zucca

Exciting food in Venice. The more I know it, the more I love it. And the more I learn to cook it at home. An infinite excitement!

cooking in Venice

cooking fava beans in Venice