Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gift Times Two


I love to wrap presents. There is something so satisfying about cutting the paper, folding it crisply, and securing it--and the contents underneath--with a criss-cross of ribbon. At Christmastime, I used to get a little out of control. The dining room table would be covered in my Supplies: magazines for collage, recycled ribbons and papers, tape, scissors, stamps, ink pads, hole puncher, colored pens, scraps everywhere--you get the picture. Now that two little ones share our space and time, I have scaled back the operation considerably. Still, in its simplest form, a well wrapped present is, to me, a thing of beauty. It's a gift times two.



I think I love to bake for the same reason. Baked goods are unfailingly handsome. They are golden. Sometimes they come punctuated with a splash of fruity color. Some are crimped, or scored, or fluted, or frosted. They come in pleasing shapes. Sometimes they crackle on top (like those molasses cookies I'm trying very hard to not make until fall). They are beautiful to behold and good to eat. Two pleasures in one.

So when Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted recently about her zucchini galette, I was, well, smitten. I had to be a part of something as gorgeous as the creation in her photos. I wanted to eat it, but more than that, I wanted to make it. And I wanted it to be waiting on the counter when Steve came home. I knew he would like it, and I wanted to give it to him--to us--for dinner.


I would not have undertaken this recipe if the process were complicated. It is simple, but it is not a quick supper. It is best made when you have time to enjoy the vivid rounds of zucchini, the smooth dough, and the process of building it, step by step. I have mentioned before that I am not handy with a rolling pin, but this dough made me feel like an Italian grandmother. (Please, call me Nonna from now on.) And for a present-wrapper like me, it was heaven folding up the edges and brushing them with the egg wash, which I knew would transform my pale dough into a golden beauty upon departure from the oven. A gift going in, and a gift coming out.


A recipe can be a gift, too. In a way, I think that's what food bloggers are really up to. It goes something like this: Take a dish, wrap it in pictures and writing, and pass it on. Here is something for you. I tried to make it as pretty as I could. Hope you like it.

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Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
Adapted only very slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Instead of the sour cream called for in the original recipe, I used full-fat yogurt because that was what we had on hand. To approximate the texture of sour cream, I drained the yogurt over paper towels set atop a sieve. I only did this for about an hour, but ideally you would give it several hours. Other adaptations I made were to increase the amounts of cheese to make it a bit heartier, and to top the galette with mint instead of basil, again simply because of what we had in the fridge. Next time, I might intersperse strips of prosciutto with the zucchini, and I'm thinking sun-dried tomatoes would be a nice addition as well.

CRUST
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for thirty minutes
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, cut into pieces and chilled again
1/4 cup sour cream or drained whole milk yogurt
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

FILLING
1 large or 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp slivered mint and/or basil leaves

EGG WASH
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water

Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the mixture and cut in with a fork, two knives, or a pastry blender until the largest chunks are pea-sized. Stir together the wet ingredients, and stir these into the butter/flour mixture until large clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball, being careful not to overmix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (more is fine).

Lay out the zucchini rounds on several layers of paper towel, and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for thirty minutes, and then pat dry. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and garlic. In a separate bowl, combine the cheeses, and mix in one teaspoon of the garlic/oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface, and roll out the dough to make a 12-inch disk. Transfer the rolled out dough to the baking sheet. (For a smooth transfer, you may want to try folding the dough into thirds, then moving and unwrapping it.) With a spoon, spread the cheese mixture on top of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Lay the zucchini on top, using a swirl pattern if you want to be fancy. Drizzle the remaining oil on top of the zucchini. Then, fold the edges of the dough over top of the zucchini, creating a border. Combine the egg yolk and water, and brush that on top of the crust.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. It's done when the crust is golden brown, the zucchini begins to wither, and the filling puffs up a bit. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the mint and/or basil. After five minutes, slide the galette onto a cutting board or plate. It's good right away but also tasty at room temperature. The longer you let it sit, the more you can admire it!

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