There is absolutely no reason why kosher food and desserts have to be anything less than what everyone else is eating. Share with me your baking and cooking sucesses, challenges, and disasters. I will share my recipes, shabbat and holiday menu planning and my love of food.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Tart Spangled Banner

This summer, my husband Andy had to travel to Geneva, Brussels, and London for work and invited me to tag along as all the kids were away. Who was I to say no as I imagined myself eating me way through each city. That turned out to be pretty close to the reality.

Within one hour of landing in Geneva, our friends and hosts, Scott and Clarisse, took us to the Divonne market just over the border in France, one of the few places to buy food on a Sunday. Remember blue laws? I went from stall to stall, tasting olives, seeing raspberries the size of walnuts, eggplants and tomatoes of every color, and witnessing the summer bounty of French farms.

The highlight was when the vendor of sun dried tomatoes, trying to get me to taste one, called out “mademoiselle”. I love France.

I volunteered to bake dessert for our July 4th dinner, I was so excited to bake with the glorious fruit I found at the market.  I decided on my summer fruit galette, an open-faced tart that is super easy. I chose white nectarines, the nuclear raspberries, peaches and fraise des bois. Fraise des bois are those wild strawberries they love in Europe. Although I think I see the same kind growing in the woods in Rock Creek Park near my house, they seemed safer to eat if some French guy was selling them.

As there was no need to make them dairy-free, I substituted lovely French butter for the dairy-free margarine I usually use. The dough was a little drier than with margarine, but still worked. I made the mistake of doubling the recipe in the food processor. This recipe ALWAYS comes out better if I make one batch at a time – it avoids overmixing.

Clarisse could not find her rolling pin. As I have done time and time again, a wine bottle is a GREAT substitute.  I followed one my “Ten Commandments of Kosher Baking” and shaved off some baking time to prevent burning. I actually took off about ten minutes. European ovens are tiny – think four shoeboxes – and I even had to lower the temperature towards the end because the heat in that small oven was very concentrated. As always, you have to keep an eye on your baked goods as they bake!

We sat down on the terrace to eat with a view of the alps, with a group of Americans and one Australian and discussed the translations of national anthems around the world. Some are pretty violent actually.  We ate a delicious dinner of cod gremolata which I invented on the spot using lemon zest, garlic, and huge Italian parsley leaves, rubbed on the fish and then grilled on foil on the grill, pan sautéed potatoes, grilled vegetables and of course, coleslaw.

The highlight was the tarts, which were served with vanilla ice cream – a real treat for a kosher girl. As we fell asleep that night, happy, full and listening to the frogs from the organic pool, I thought about my tarts and the joy of celebrating the 4th among friends outside the U.S.

We used to live in Geneva and it is always a little unsettling seeing a glimpse of the life that might have been. We are happy with our choice to live in the U.S. For one, you cannot beat the Jewish life in America. Though I always love the slowness of life in Europe, the emphasis on family and free time rather than work, I find I am naturally more comfortable around that American frontier mentality, the belief that you should always move forward, improve yourself, learn something new, and work towards a goal. Life seems to stand still in Geneva. I always have shpilkes (Yiddish for ants in the pants).

Summer Fruit Galette

serves 8
Store covered in plastic in the refrigerator for up to four days.

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter or cold parve margarine, frozen for at least 30 minutes
and cut into 6 pieces
1 large egg, separated
3 tablespoons ice water, divided

3 cups fresh fruit: fraise des bois, berries, or nectarines, plums, peaches or apricots cut into ½-inch pieces
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar, to sprinkle on top of galette

To make the dough: Place the flour, salt, and butter or margarine into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 10 times or cut the butter or margarine into the flour and salt by hand using two knives or a pastry cutter.  Add the egg yolk (reserve the white) and 1 tablespoon of the ice water. Pulse
5 times or mix gently by hand. Add another tablespoon of the ice water and pulse another 5 times or mix again. Add the last tablespoon of water, a little at a time, pulsing or lightly mixing the dough for 10 to 15 seconds until it looks like clumps of couscous; the dough does not have to come completely together. Gather the dough into a ball.

Take a large piece of plastic wrap and sprinkle some flour on top. Place the dough on the floured plastic, wrap the plastic around it, and then flatten. Place the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 425ºF and place a rack on the lowest shelf of your oven.

Take a large piece of parchment and sprinkle it with some flour. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place it on top of the parchment. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and then place a second piece of parchment on top. Roll out the dough until it is about 12 to 13 inches wide, trying your best to keep the shape round. Peel back the top parchment and sprinkle some more flour once or twice while you are rolling.

To make the filling: Place the fruit in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle on top of the fruit and mix gently. 
Place the fruit in the center of the dough circle and spread it outward, leaving a 2 to 3-inch border on the outside. Take one small section of the dough border, about 2 inches, and fold it over the fruit, leaving the fruit-filled center open. Pick up another 2-inch section of the border and repeat, pressing one section into the next to seal it, so you end up with dough pleats.

Beat the reserved egg white and brush all over the dough. Sprinkle with the teaspoon of sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Move the galette to a middle rack in the oven and bake another 10 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes.