BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Around the World in 80 Plates: Florence, Italy

33 Comments

Talk about a wild ride- After gradually traveling towards warmer, more exotic destinations, the next logical stop was certainly not the one we made. In fact, my expectations couldn’t have been further from Florence, Italy, but that is precisely our destination this week! Back to Europe we go, to a cuisine that most Americans are not only well acquainted with, but can practically call their own. Rather than the heavy pastas and red sauces commonly thought of as generic “Italian food,” however, Tuscan cooking has a distinctly different flair. Harkening back to peasant cooking, there’s no room for fancy flourishes or haute gourmet dishes here. With great difficulty, I reigned in my plated dessert impulses, swearing up and down to keep this inspired recipe as simple as possible. Something without a half-dozen components, crazy ingredients, or labor-intensive preparations; No funny stuff allowed. Conjuring up faded memories of the graceful architecture and warm, gentle sunshine from my last visit nearly a decade ago, I could distinctly recall that the clean, bright, and unfussy flavors of the food itself was what made it so good.

Thrilled by the challenge, it was nonetheless a struggle. It would be so good with a sauce! What about a crunchy crumb topping? Oh, these should be individual, deconstructed presentations! Though enticingly aromatic fresh out of the oven, it just seemed so plain, so boring. The ideas kept flowing, tempting with different ways to dress it up should all else fail. But with one bite, those thoughts evaporated like the steam wafting from each warm slice. Simple was perfect.

Strawberries and tomatoes, though seemingly an odd couple, bring out the best in each other for both sweet and savory preparations. Just as comfortable together in a salad as this free-form pie, the savory, gently acidic bite of the tomatoes serves to accentuate the sweetness of the berries. Just like a pinch of salt can make any dessert pop, the combination of these apparently discordant tastes, in the right balance, creates a more complex and satisfying dish overall. Focused on featuring these key players and nothing else, I further intensified their basic flavors by first roasting them, concentrating their inherent sweetness and tartness, before baking the bright red jam into a flaky, sugar-sprinkled crust.

“Rustic” is one of my least favorite words in the English language, applied to everything from house decor to clothing, but especially food. One might be tempted to describe the humble galette as such, but first consider all of the love and care that goes into each pastry. They may not be fancy, but every single element is keenly attended to, making sure they taste their absolute best. Simple shouldn’t mean plain, dull, or forgettable. Especially when this unusual dessert is topped with finely shredded basil for the ultimate herbaceous finishing touch, it’s hard to top it- Except with a single scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, perhaps.

Will the chefs also keep it simple when they visit Florence, Italy? Tune in to Bravo this coming Wednesday at 10/9c to find out!

Roasted Strawberry-Tomato Galette

Basic Single Pie Crust, Chilled
Vegan “Egg” Wash
Turbinado Sugar

Filling:

1 Pound Fresh Strawberries, Hulled and Halved
10 Ounces Whole Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
1 Vanilla Bean, Split and Seeds Scraped
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper

4 – 6 Leaves Fresh Basil, Fine Chiffonade (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and pull out an 11 x 7-inch rectangular baking dish.

Toss together all of the ingredients for the filling, saving the vanilla bean pods for another application. (Best use: Make some vanilla sugar!) Spread the sugared fruits out inside your baking dish, making sure that everything is in one even layer. Bake for 60 – 65 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. After about 20 minutes, the mixture will become very juicy- Don’t panic, this is a good thing! Continue cooking until the excess liquid thickens, becoming syrupy, and the fruit is fairly jam-like in consistency. Cool completely before proceeding.

To complete the galette, roll out the unbaked pie crust on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about an 1/8th of an inch in thickness, as round as you can possibly make it. Don’t fret if it’s a bit misshapen; that will only add to the charm. Transfer the flat circle of crust to a silpat- or parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and pile your jammy roasted strawberries and tomatoes in the center. Spread the filling out evenly in the middle, leaving a border of about 2 inches clean. Fold over the sides to contain the filling, and lightly brush the exposed crust with you “egg” wash of choice. Sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbly. Don’t fret if some of the juices spill out of the sides, as there will still be plenty within. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before topping with a light touch of fresh basil, if desired, and serve immediately while still warm.

Printable Recipe

For participating in this competition, Bravo has compensated me for my time, but all recipes and opinions are solely my own.

Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

33 thoughts on “Around the World in 80 Plates: Florence, Italy

  1. Hannah this is spectacular and or so simple. I have never thought of combining tomatoes and strawberries, but heck…they are technically both fruit and the thought of the flavor combination makes my mouth water.

    You have inspired me…I think lunch today will be a simple salad of sliced grape tomatoes, strawberries, a chiffonade of basil and some balsamic splashed on top!

  2. Wow Hannah, These look amazing. Can’t wait to give this a try! I’ve had strawberries on my mind these past few days.. Do any of your books have a strawberry shortcake recipe? I’m at the office and I can’t seem to remember…

  3. How very lovely. Thanks for sharing this unique recipe.

  4. Wow, what a beautiful tart! and such an interesting combination of summer produce! It looks delicious–as always:) thanks for sharing!

  5. Long ago I once had an awesome salad with greenish tomatoes, strawberries and olive oil (in the Basque Country), so the combination of tomato & strawberry doesn’t seem odd to me at all.

    “a cuisine that most Americans are not only well acquainted with, but can practically call their own” — if I’m honest I have to say that this statement makes me a bit uncomfortable, and I’m only from a neighbouring country of Italy…

    • I only meant that there are so many Italian-American immigrants that the cuisine has adapted and fused into our typical dietary preferences. It’s not “foreign food” here, whereas other cuisines might be more easily viewed as such. That’s not to say that our versions are close to anything authentic, of course…

  6. I can’t even imagine what this would taste like…which of course makes me want to try it. I just picked strawberries last week and have been antsy to go again ever since.

  7. Strawberries and tomatoes is such a unique and delicious looking combination – once more you amaze me my friend :D

    Cheers
    CCU

  8. An inspired combination but Florence is an inspiring place after all! Your tart is now on my “must do” summer dessert list when the good strawberry season intersects the good tomato season. I’m loving your 80 Plates series.

  9. Would an incredibly sweet tomato be the best choice, or something a little more tart for contrast? The farmer’s market here in Boulder is blessed with an incredible array of choices. Thanks for such an intriguing post!

  10. I really don’t like the word rustic either…way too overused. Besides somehow even the most “rustic” of desserts end up looking seriously gourmet. LIke this. I’m in love.

  11. Oh my goodness! Looks amazing!!

  12. Inspirational cooking! Great photography too!

  13. Oooh nice and adventuros there love!

  14. Oh Florence! My heart hurts! Because of my stupid toe, I spent a quiet 10 days pottering around Florence in 2010, exploring it carefully and with awe. Loved it. And I did the stereotypical dessert-lover way of eating there – endless gelato, multiple times a day. So many places had vegan gelato!! And then all the true-fruit-tasting sorbets, and oh! The coffee granita I had after seeing David!

    But, of course, a tart would have been very appreciated too. ;)

  15. I love galettes and find that they’re under-represented on food blogs. So far, I’ve only tried sweet ones, but I’ve got a couple of savory versions on my to-cook list.

  16. Okay Hannah, I’m taking off my “But I can’t bake!!” hat, and I’m going to make this- it looks too good not to try!

  17. I need to try it! And you’re right, Italian cuisine is all about being simple and using just a few ingredients! I just have no idea how strawberries and tomatoes together will taste but I’ll try this recipe and give it to my Italian family-in-law :)

  18. Gorgeous tart. Tomato and strawberry is different, but it looks like it works!

  19. It is the first time that I’ve seen strawberries and tomatoes…after a few seconds I am like “Why not? After all tomato is a fruit!” This galette looks great, simple and so tasty…I already printed. As always wonderful pictures Hannah.
    Have a great week ahead :)

  20. I love the flavor combination there! I would never have thought about it, but as soon as tomatoes come up in my garden, I will be making this

  21. This is so gorgeous, and makes me homesick for Florence! When I lived there, I would spend at least 10 minutes per day, oggling all of the beautiful baked goods in the bakery by my house. They had ridiculously pretty galettes (“rustic” does not do it justice), which I only tried once (usually I was buying focaccia). Great recipe- I am so inspired!

  22. I never would have thought to combined tomatoes and strawberries, this looks divine!

  23. I have to admit, I don’t think I would have ever thought to pair strawberries and tomatoes together, but I’d give your galette a bite or two!

  24. You have really kept to the true simplicity of Tuscan cuisine. Less ingredients all with big flavor results. Guess where I am now?

  25. I never thought of mixing tomatoes and strawberries. Now, I’m really eager to try this! I’m going to top it with yogurt. Hopefully the taste would be amazing.

  26. yuck, sorry……sounds terrible…don’t like the combination of ingredients….

  27. This looks gorgeous (and delicious)!

  28. Pingback: Got tomatoes? Here’s what to do… – Down-Home South Jersey

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