Summer Fruit Crostata

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Good Catch”

The Set-up: Ina and T.R. are having seafood dinner at his new fishing shack.

The Menu: Parker’s Fish and Chips, Tartar Sauce, Chopped Pickles, Summer Fruit Crostata

0:53 – According to Ina, T.R. is in charge of catching the fish for their dinner but we all know that’s fairly unlikely.

1:07 – Ina is cooking most everything in advance, including the Summer Fruit Crostata.

2:30 – Pro Tip#1: Use unsalted butter so that you can control the amount of salt in a recipe.

3:11 – I can’t be the only one who has a hard time moderating the water in pie crust - it always seems to be too wet or too dry! Naturally, Ina’s is perfect.

4:26 – And now ladies and gents: T.R. looking impossibly dapper in a navy Lacoste polo and admitting that he maaaay have fudged the truth when it came to his fishing experience.

5:14 – We’re back with Ina to mix up the homemade Tartar Sauce and even though she’s using dill pickles she still manages to say “cornichon.” Love it.

6:29 – Next, the Chopped Pickles, essentially the same jarred pickles that went into the tartar sauce jazzed up in pretty slices with fresh minced dill fronds.

10:42 – The crust for the Summer Fruit Crostata has rested and chilled in the fridge and now Ina is rolling it out into a perfect circle. One day that will be me!

11:53 – Now the fruit – peaches, dark plums, and blueberries. Pro Tip #2: You can remove the skin from the peaches by blanching in hot water and shocking them in an ice water bath.

12:35 – Ina has somehow, with no swearing or effort, managed to slice the peaches and the plums right off the inner pit. For my own self-esteem I’m going to chalk that up to expert fruit selection and a little TV magic.

13:19 – Hahahaha. We’re treated to intermittent shots of T.R. faithfully, but fruitlessly casting and reeling from the dock. Poor guy.

14:50 – Thank goodness! We saw the fruit piled in the middle of the crostata dough, but for a second I thought we weren’t going to get a demo of the folding technique. How could I have though Ina would hold out on us?

19:18 – Onward to make the batter for the Parker’s Fish and Chips and Ina promises us that it will be crispy and light, not soggy. Preach girl!

20:36 – Ina compares this process to making pancakes in the morning and suggests that it can all be done in advance.

21:27 – It’s official: T.R. has not caught a fish (perhaps the lack of bait on that hook?) and makes an emergency trip to the seafood market. A much more sensible approach, if you ask me.

22:12 – One last prep task before heading over to T.R.’s: cutting big Idaho baking potatoes in wedges and sprinkling them with salt, rosemary and garlic. Yum!

25:05 – Ina arrives at the fishing shack with an adorable “Yoohoo! T.R.?” and immediately calls him out on ‘catching’ the fish at the Seafood Shop.

26:33 – He’s put to work portioning the fish while Ina puts the chips in the oven to roast.

27:24 – Since the potatoes take 30+ minutes to bake they have time for a glass of wine on the dock as the sun sets. Gorgeous.

28:41 – The fish goes from plate, to seasoned batter, to hot oil and back to a paper towel-lined plate in about 6 minutes. No dredging in flour though, which is surprising.

29:10 – Ina’s kicking this one old-school, roadside stand style with newspaper cones and little containers of pickles and tartar sauce. Crostata is consumed straight from the baking sheet.

Final Thoughts:
Fish and chips seem so much more approachable after watching Ina prep them so simply.

I sincerely would love to do a little dock-sitting if it could be arranged this summer.

T.R. is the consummate rascal and Ina is so classy that even jarred dill pickles aren’t beyond her reach.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
In my continued efforts to master pies and pie crust baking Summer Fruit Crostata was another opportunity to test my skills and learn from my mistakes. It was also a chance to emulate one of the more alluring Bon Appetit covers I’ve seen. No one should be surprised that even with the concerted effort I’ve been making I still have room for improvement in this department.

Stone Fruit: Am I the only one who is incredibly intimidated by the process of slicing and removing the pits from peaches, plums & nectarines? The last time I tried the fruit was nearly unrecognizable from the divots and bruises I inflicted just trying to get a few slices free. So. Frustrating.

Before I made the crostata I carefully studied these tips & videos from Mario Batali, Southern Living, The Kitchn, and Food52 and have a few of my own.

·      Serrated/utility knife – Stone fruits are like tomatoes, the skin is tougher than you think and the flesh is really delicate. A serrated knife makes a cleaner cut with minimal pressure that might damage the fruit. Slice as close to the pit as you can to make the slices easier to remove.

·      The SEAM!!! – All the articles mentioned this, but making that first cut along the seam is more essential to successfully twisting the two halves apart than I realized. We’ve all laughed about how peaches look like little bums, well the seam is the uh, crack of the bum and demarcates the two half sections of the fruit and corresponds to the ridge around the pit. Doing this alone will help you immensely.

·      Ripe Fruit – high risk, high reward. The riper the fruit the more easily the fruit is to de-pit, but also bruises more. I’d recommend a firm and persistent, but gentle approach, especially when twisting the two halves apart. Resist pressing your finger tips in too hard and grip more with the palm.

Sweet Dough: Most of the crusts I’ve made so far have involved very little or no sugar at all just flour, butter, water, and salt. This one called for a moderate amount of white sugar; a great compliment to the juicy fruit resulting in a dessert that hovered between sweet and fresh. Fantastic.

Patience: Alas, even though I know that keeping the dough cold is an essential part of the process stubbornness and a short window for baking had me rushing. Couple a lack of time with a hot afternoon and you have a recipe for sticky dough and a frustrating rolling experience. I managed to patch the crostata together, but ideally I’d take note of the sky high temperatures outside and remember to leave myself an extra 30 minutes for chilling time.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes indeed, but clear the counter so you have a place to roll the crust. For the pastry, I used a large bowl, pastry cutter, measuring cups & spoons (all reused later for the topping), a liquid measuring cup, and a rolling pin. For the fruit, I needed a separate medium bowl, serrated utility knife, and small cutting board.  (I skipped the orange zest and washed the peaches carefully so I didn’t have to take off the skin.) A baking sheet, plastic wrap and parchment paper round out the “kit.”

The Verdict:
I made Summer Fruit Crostata for friends as a post-dinner treat and based on the silence after the wedges were served, and the speed at which it was consumed this was a hit. This is a dessert that lets the fruit shine without a lot of extra business and when beautiful peaches, plums, and blueberries are in season you really don’t need to gussy them up with a ton of sugar and spices. A simple scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’re off to the races with a perfect slice of summer. Do make this crostata immediately.

Summer Fruit Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Fruit Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette | Image: Laura Messersmith

The snow is still deep in Central Park, but winter seems to be easing its grip on the city; the banks along the street are beginning to recede leaving a trail of gritty treasure behind. Which means (if we’re lucky!) that spring is on its way and it’s time to get as many of the the cold weather recipes I’ve been thinking of out of my system – including this Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette.

This recipe for a gratin written by Kimberley Hasselbrink was my introduction to the combination of butternut squash, Gruyere and toasted hazelnuts and quickly became a favorite. The rich nutty flavor of the cheese emphasized by the hazelnuts and paired with the deep roasted flavor of the caramelized onions and butternut squash is amazing.

I’ve been focused on improving my pie crust game in 2015 and combining this filling with a whole wheat crust seemed like a match made in heaven. I love the toasty flavor of the whole wheat, and the rustic appearance of a galette (or crostata if you prefer) fits beautifully with this earthy, but elegant dish.

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette | Image: Laura Messersmith

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette (serves: 4-6 people)

Pastry Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup very cold water

Filling Ingredients:
2 pounds butternut squash
1 cup (1 medium) yellow onion
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts (or 1/8 cup chopped)
1/4 pound Gruyere, grated
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Pastry Instructions:
Dice the cold unsalted butter into small cubes and measure the water. Replace both in the refrigerator while you set up and measure the remaining ingredients. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade place the whole wheat flour and kosher salt. Pulse a few times to mix.

Add the diced, cold butter to the food processor and toss gently in the flour to coat. Watch your fingers! Replace the cover and pulse about 10-15 times until the butter is the size of peas and evenly distributed in the flour.

Lastly, slowly pour the ice water through the feed tube of the processor while pulsing the blade. As soon as the dough begins to pull together into a crumbly ball, stop pulsing the processor. Turn the pieces of dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to press into a single flat disc. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour until it becomes firm.

Filling Instructions:
Pre heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

While the dough chills, peel the butternut squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard (or keep if you want to toast them!) Slice both halves into semi-circles about 1/3 inch wide.

Place the butternut squash pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toss with the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, kosher salt and black pepper. Make sure the pieces are evenly coated and have space on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees F turning the pieces over halfway through.

Peel and slice the onions into thin rings or half-moons. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sauté pan over very low heat and cook the onions for 20-25 minutes until they soften and caramelize, stirring occasionally.

Toast the whole hazelnuts for 3-5 minutes in a small dry sauté pan. Keep a close watch on the nuts; shimmy the pan periodically to turn and prevent them from burning. Allow to cool and then very roughly chop to your taste. Grate or chop the gruyere.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees F.

To assemble, roll the chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and 7-8 inches in diameter. Place the dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and layer the gruyere, roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, toasted hazelnuts in the middle leaving a 1 – 1 ½ inch border. Sprinkle the layers with the fresh thyme leaves.

Fold a section of the dough border up to partially cover the filling and overlapping the extra to form pleats. Press the folds gently together and brush with the beaten egg.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the cooking time, until the crust is golden and the butternut squash is tender.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Inspired by and partially adapted from Butternut Squash Gratin by Kimberley Hasselbrink for Etsy.

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, with a little organization. For the pastry I used a 6 cup food processor (a large bowl and a pastry cutter, or even two butter knives will work too), a rolling pin, and measuring cups and spoons. For the filling and to finish the galette I used a large cutting board, chef’s knife, medium sauté pan, two baking sheets, a vegetable peeler, and wooden spatula. Parchment paper is also super helpful with clean up, or if you want to re-use a baking sheet.

The Verdict:
I’d like to pretend that I sat down very genteelly and had a piece of Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette with a beautiful salad and a glass of sauvignon blanc like a grown-up. But really midway through taking the photos for this post I couldn’t resist the warm toasty whole wheat pastry wrapped around the mellow squash and caramelized onions. So, there I was standing over the table with a wedge of galette in one hand and the camera in the other. If you were here when it came out of the oven you wouldn’t blame me – I hope! This reheats in the oven nicely, so if there happen to be leftovers you’ll still be able to enjoy them the next day.

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Butternut Squash & Gruyere Galette | Image: Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata

Pear Cranberry Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Training Day Dinner”

The Set-up: Ina and Chef Joe Realmuto have offered to help make dinner for the East Hampton volunteer firefighters.

The Menu: Grilled Bread with Prosciutto, TownLine BBQ Pork Ribs, Sandy’s Potato Salad, Pear and Cranberry Crostata

0:42 – Ina is starting us off with Pear and Cranberry Crostata which she chose because it’s served room temperature, can be easily transported and is “absolutely delicious.” Good call on all three.

1:36 – I kind of assumed that crostata was basically a flatter version of a pie, but I notice that Ina isn’t putting any spices in with the diced pears, just a little orange zest.

2:05 – Pastry time, this recipe is a little different than the one she recommended for pie – it’s butter only, no vegetable shortening – and seems a bit softer.

3:28 – A quick intro to the East Hampton Volunteer Fire Department (est. 1975), so we know why this dinner is so important.

4:41 – Back with Ina to make the topping for the crostata – cinnamon, butter, allspice, sugar – and I ask myself, “How bad could that be?”

5:52 – These look seriously delicious and I can tell already that this is the recipe I want to make.

6:39 – I’m watching Ina intently as she finishes the final assembly – especially the crust folding technique – I think this maybe where the magic happens.

7:57 – Of course she makes it look so simple, but there must be a trick, right? I’m noticing no egg wash either which seems standard for getting golden brown pastry…

10:14 – Ina has rolled up to the EHVFD in an emergency vehicle of her own – emergency dessert.

11:23 – We get a little overview of the preparations underway, buffet tables, grill assembly, and Ina’s partner in crime: Chef Joe Realmuto.

12:45 – Ina heads upstairs to cook with Sandy, mastermind of Sandy’s Potato Salad, and Ina is put to work chopping hard boiled eggs.

13:16 – Sandy tells Ina that this is an old fashioned Southern recipe from her family tradition and I believe it – any mayonnaise based salad that also calls for pickle relish has got to be straight off the picnic table.

14:35 – Ina and Sandy have a heart to heart about how cooking is only kind of a science, since even the same ingredients vary in flavor. True story, sometimes you do everything the same and it just turns out differently!

15:28 – Taste test time and Ina approves of this “really old fashioned potato salad.”

20:34 – We’re outside at the giant grills set up for Chef Realmuto’s ribs which start with a dry rub of paprika, salt, sugar, ground mustard, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. Mike is a huge barbecue aficionado I wonder if he would approve of this recipe?

21:53 – Step Two of the process involves a “Texas mop”, a term I’ve never heard before, and it looks like a miniature version of a rope mop used for floors, except this one is used to baste the ribs every half hour.

22:15 – A little research tells me that “Texas mop” could also be referring to the basting sauce itself.

23:47 – Joe apparently made these ribs in a smoker at his restaurant and is just using the grill to re-heat. I’m relieved to hear that my fellow Yankees haven’t confused “grilling” with “barbecue.”

26:36 – Over to Ina who is making Grilled Bread with Prosciutto as an appetizer while Joe sets up giant platters of ribs.

27:50 – Yum. Ina is used smoked mozzarella on top of the prosciutto – I love smoked cheeses. My stomach is growling.

28:21 – Training is over and the buffet table is laden with all sorts of salads including Sandy’s Potato Salad, of course.

29:32 – The crostata is served and the cooking team celebrates with a round of high-fives!

Pear Cranberry Crostata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Final Thoughts:
I Googled “crostata” and “galette” - turns out they’re the same thing in different languages (Italian and French.) Cue the “The More You Know” star…

I feel like crostatas might really be my jam. #sorrynotsorry in advance for the influx of crostata recipes I’ll be posting.

I love how involved Ina is with her local community – I swear she’s always volunteering or donating her time.

Lessons Learned:
Dough – I’m trying to reach some level of comfort with pie crust and after my last attempt with Deep Dish Apple Pie where the dough was too dry I was hyperaware of adding enough water. I think I actually overdid it since the result was pretty sticky, but it seemed a little more forgiving once a fair amount of additional flour was incorporated during the rolling out process. I noticed that because the dough was a little soft that my crostata edges were prone to falling down, but I have confidence that one of these days I’ll get it right!

Fruit – The original recipe called for “big chunks” of pear, but the ones I was had were a little under-ripe and since I was making mini versions I cut them a little smaller. This ended up being just perfect – the fruit was definitely cooked, but still firm pieces. I’d love to try this recipe again with fresh cranberries since the dried ones ended up a little dark and I don’t know how much of the flavor came through. I also forgot the orange zest, but it didn’t seem to matter much.

Assembly – I cut this recipe in half and then made three mini crostatas instead of one medium sized one. All the proportions still worked perfectly and as I was finishing the assembly process I decided to brush them with egg wash and sprinkle a little turbinado sugar – all good choices that I’d recommend!

Pear Cranberry Crostata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, assuming you have a medium sized food processor. I also used a large cutting board, chef’s knife, vegetable (in this case fruit) peeler, rolling pin, dry & liquid measuring cups, measuring spoons, a baking sheet, and a medium bowl. I needed a small bowl and a pastry brush for the egg wash; plastic wrap and parchment paper rounded out the “kit.”

The Verdict:
I put these mini Pear and Cranberry Crostatas out as a mid-afternoon snack for some friends and when it was time to go there was just one lonely quarter leftover. Shockingly, it took zero convincing to get someone to help out with that last piece. I personally love the sweetness of the pears with the tart cranberries and how the crust gets beautifully crisp; which means these can be eaten “politely” with a fork or just picked right up like a slice of pizza. I also have full leave from Mike to make these anytime. Color me a crostata convert.

Pear Cranberry Crostata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith