Sunday, May 10, 2009
food shopping/eating in the sun
My friend Janet goes food shopping. At the food store. I used to think that she was so strange, to talk about the grocery store in such a way. The grocery stores of my childhood sell so much more than food–pharmaceuticals, shampoo, dog toys, bank accounts. You can outfit almost your whole life at these stores. And I never shopped in Wal Mart. These stores are the Krogers, the Publixes, the A&Ps, the Whole Foods–the stores for everyone. Grocery stores.
And then I moved to Portland. I learned that you could buy your vegetables from one place, your beans from another, and your meat from still another. It takes longer, and you have to walk farther, but shopping changes. It becomes a scavenger hunt, a quest for the best. It is fun.
It is food shopping.
My favorite food store is the Eastmoreland Market. A few blocks from my house, it is both my last minute, I need flour to bake this cake I already started place, and my 3 in the afternoon, wandering the aisles looking for dinner inspiration place. They stock super local produce, cure their own bacon, and make delicious sandwiches. They import delicious fancy treats from Italy and Spain to hide in my pantry for a particularly cold and rainy day. They sell the best chocolate (raw, 82%, smooth, not sweet, with just the right amount of bitterness). They are tiny, they are family owned, and they are expensive. I usually don’t mind spending the extra two dollars though, to support the owners, and to support myself. Shopping there makes me unfathomably happy.
Earlier this week, I had to defend my senior thesis in front of four of my professors. At Reed, it is tradition that seniors “bribe” their orals board with food, drinks, and gimmicks. Since my thesis was partially about the South, I made pecan pralines (more on the fate of these later) and galettes–one with peaches, and one, just because it was in season, with rhubarb. Of course I made extra dough.
In a celebration of the completion of my thesis, I went to the Market for treats in which to fill the extra dough. Spring has finally come to Portland, and the produce section, across the back wall of the store, was overflowing with green. Spring lettuce, asparagus, and artichokes. Beautiful. I bought some of everything that tasted good (they encourage sampling!), Manchego, and a chocolate bar for later. Walking home, I crafted the galettes in my head…
I spent my afternoon working on these, rolling the dough, caramelizing the onions, standing by the oven savoring the changing smells wafting through the kitchen. Avery came over later and we ate them on my deck, in the much-needed sunshine, with a red-leaf salad.
The first galette – asparagus, blanched and then lined up in rows, sprinkled with sun-dried tomatoes (dry-packed, never in oil!) and the last of my Parmigiano-Reggiano – fell a little flat. I think it needed something creamier; maybe a goat cheese would have been better. It certainly was beautiful though.
The second galette was heaven. I used the cornmeal paté brisée, and filled it with the tiniest golden fingerling potatoes, sliced thinly into rounds, the Manchego layered into the potatoes, and covered with caramelized onions (a mixture of a Walla Walla sweet, a cipollini, and a baby red). Right after it came out of the oven, I scattered on a bunch of gardencress (a newly-discovered delight; Andrew said that it tasted like mushrooms, I found it to be a developed peppery mustard) and let it wilt. I don’t know if I’ve ever made something more delicious. At one creamy and flaky, sweet and bitter, with a whiff of sharpness from the cheese, made even better when eaten outside, with your hands.
½ recipe cornmeal paté brisée (from Martha Stewart)
About 1 ½ cups assorted onions, sliced into very thin half-moons
A large handful fingerling potatoes
About ¼ cup Manchego cheese, grated (mine was young, aged only about 3 months, so it was still somewhat soft)
About ½ to ¾ cup gardencress, or maybe arugula, or another strong-flavored green, washed
Freshly ground black pepper
Caramelize the onions slowly over a low flame. This should take around an hour. You want them to be sweet and turning golden brown, but certainly not burnt. Stir every once in awhile to make sure they don’t burn or stick. I cooked them in olive oil, but they would certainly be delicious in butter as well. I never know the best time to salt the onions, so I gave them a generous pinch about halfway through cooking.
While the onions are cooking, wash and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. I wish I had a mandoline, but I don’t yet (this would make a nice graduation present, hint hint), so I made do with a sharp knife. Salt generously and set aside.
Wash the gardencress, and discard any wilted or brown leaves.
Flour a clean countertop and roll out the crust dough (this should have been sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours chilling, if you’re making it the day-of, but you can make it ahead up to a couple days, as long as its well-wrapped). Since the galette is free-form, the crust can be any shape you want, but make sure that it is nice and thin, somewhere between 1/8- and ¼-inch. Carefully move to a parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on the fragility of the dough, I either fold it in half (if it is nice and strong), and pick it up gently to move it, or I roll it up on the rolling pin, and then unroll it onto the pan (this works better than folding if the dough is especially delicate). Cover the crust and refrigerate until the ingredients are ready.
Heat the oven to about 375°.
Once the onions are cooked, pat the potatoes dry with paper towels, and season them with pepper. Arrange the potatoes on the crust, leaving about an inch of crust on all sides. I did this in two layers, alternating with the cheese, but you should arrange them in whatever way makes you the most excited. Top the potatoes with the onions. I made enough for a generous mound. Gently fold the crust edges up over the potatoes and onions, folding and pressing with your fingers to seal when necessary. This is supposed to look rustic, so don’t worry about uniformity.
Bake the galette for about 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and all of the insides are bubbling and golden. The onions on top will get crispy, but this is a good thing. Once it is done, move the pan to a cooling rack and immediately top with the gardencress. Let cool to room temperature before cutting into four pieces. Eat with your hands while sitting outside.