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