Field to Feast: Poblanos, Two Ways

I’ve been spending entirely too much time sitting at my desk and not enough of it standing in the kitchen, which has resulted in a pretty impressive knot in my right shoulder. But the boys are great company, even if they’re weird (and occasionally smelly — eye-wateringly so). I look over to find them in the strangest positions, fast asleep:

Brothers | Minimally Invasive

Bless.

But I did manage to cook up a couple of recipes featuring poblanos last week. I absolutely adore these peppers from Bialas Farms because they have some character — not insipid or bland, but full of flavor with a peppery bite. The obvious place to begin was with poblanos with crema, something I make whenever I’ve stocked up on these peppers. The major players are onions, poblanos, crema and cheese, but this is a dish where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I couldn’t find crema this time, so I used heavy cream mixed with roughly an equal amount of full-fat sour cream, and it worked perfectly.

Poblanos in Crema | Minimally Invasive

I just never said it was pretty.

I love to serve it with homemade corn tortillas, but a good packaged variety would really cut down on the work involved. For me, making the tortillas is worth the effort, especially when it comes time for dessert and I smear a little honey butter on a still-warm tortilla and sprinkle it with a little salt. It’s heaven, I tell ya. I take the easy way out and use a cast iron tortilla press, but if you really want to get down and dirty, have at it with a rolling pin!

Both the poblanos with crema recipe and tortilla how-to are from Simply Recipes. I used Bob’s Red Mill masa harina this time and liked it just as much as the Maseca brand I’ve always used in the past. Bob’s is much easier to locate around here, so it probably will become my default brand for tortilla-making.

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The other obvious choice when you have a surfeit of poblanos is chiles rellenos, which always remind me of my mom. They were her favorite item at the local Tex-Mex joint when I was a kid (Anyone else miss the old Pancho’s on Veterans Boulevard?), though I didn’t understand the appeal of the dish at the time. I was more of a cheesy enchilada girl, you see. But now that I’m older, I get it. Problem is, I don’t want to go to the trouble of making an authentic version of it, both for the gut-busting cheese filling and for my fear of frying, even in miniscule amounts of oil.

So I healthed it up, with inspiration from Vegetarian Times.

Chiles Rellenos | Minimally Invasive

The most difficult part (IMHO) of making this is charring the poblanos and somehow removing the seeds and membranes without completely destroying the pepper. What worked best for me was charring them over open flames on my gas burners just until blackened; any longer over the flames and they turned too mushy to handle. After they rested in a covered bowl for five minutes or so, I used a paper towel to get rid of most of the blackened skin, then slit open one side of the pepper and carefully scooped out the membranes and seeds with a small spoon. If you have an easier way to go about it, please let me know in the comments, because I do plan to make this again someday.

Instead of a fully cheesy center, I stuffed the now-prepped poblanos (only four large ones, though I’d recommend going with six to use up all of the filling) with a mixture of onions, diced mushrooms and spinach sautéed together, then mixed with a can of rinsed black beans and about two ounces of shredded mild cheddar. Jack would work here, too, or any of your favorite melty cheeses. I think I seasoned it with some ground cumin along with salt & pepper, but it’s honestly a little tough to remember. (And I rarely write things down as I’m cooking.) I closed up the peppers with wooden toothpicks before dipping them in an egg wash (just one beaten egg), then in corn meal seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little chipotle chile powder. They baked at 425°F for 25 minutes.

For the sauce, I sautéed a chopped onion, minced garlic clove, some ground cumin and coriander seed, Mexican chile powder, and salt & pepper in a little olive oil until the onion was softened. I added a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes and a chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce and let it bubble away until the poblanos were about five minutes from being ready. At that point, I blended the sauce until it was completely smooth, then enjoyed the hell out of my lunch. Unfortunately, I only made four of these peppers, which Gil and I finished off in one sitting. If you make this, I’d certainly suggest doubling whatever recipe you use. It’s well worth it. You could change out the stuffing ingredients to use what you have on hand — corn, zucchini, rice, quinoa, etc. I love adaptable dishes!

And poblanos. I really, truly adore them.

Field to Feast: Homemade Tomato Paste

Happy Friday, everyone! Has this week felt terribly long to you? Maybe you just want to put your feet up this weekend, relax and enjoy some sun, and who could blame you if you do? But if you’re looking for a project, something that sounds impressive yet requires minimal effort — the best kind of project for lazy summer weekends — here’s a great one: homemade tomato paste. You may be wondering exactly why you should bother when little cans of the stuff are already so very, very cheap and so very, very convenient, but you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that homemade is so much better than canned that it’s like a completely different animal. Or fruit. (You know what I mean. Don’t make me turn this car around.) It has a bright, zingy, concentrated (duh) tomato flavor without any of that tinny aftertaste we’ve all grown accustomed to after years of eating the canned variety. It’s a treat anytime you use it, but in midwinter when hot sun and bountiful produce couldn’t be farther away, it’s damn near a revelation.

But before you start, fortify yourself with a light salad because the kitchen will get hot while the paste is cooking and you won’t want to spend much time in there. And while you’re up to your elbows in tomatoes anyway, why not make them into your meal? I reworked the Roman Summer Salad with more of an emphasis on fresh tomatoes while they’re as perfect as possible. I started with a base layer of assorted, sliced tomatoes from Bialas Farms and drizzled them with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Sliced Tomatoes | Minimally Invasive

Then I mashed together some anchovies and garlic in a mortar and pestle to make a paste. I scattered the paste across the tomatoes along with chopped capers, black olives, basil, parsley and goat’s milk ricotta, and devoured half the salad in one sitting.

Roman Salad Reprise | Minimally Invasive

But let’s get moving; you’re here for tomato paste! It’s a time-consuming process, but really very easy. You cook the tomatoes briefly, use a food mill to get rid of skins and seeds, then leave a sheet pan filled with the tomato purée in the oven until the water has evaporated and you’re left with a pan of brick-red loveliness. Just freeze the cooled paste in a thin layer in a Ziploc bag until you need a hit of summer.

I used bacon fat on the sheet pans instead of olive oil to give my tomato paste a smokey flavor, but it really isn’t necessary, just indulgent.

Tomato Paste | Minimally Invasive

I hope to get at least a couple more batches of paste put up for the winter. Rationing my one bag from last summer got me through April, but I’d like to put away enough this year to keep me going until next year’s tomatoes are in market.

Get the recipe for homemade tomato paste at Saveur. And have a great weekend!

Field to Feast: Tomatoes & Zucchini

After a full week of eating tomatoes everyday, I needed a little break to let my poor mouth heal. Sorry about that. The few tomatoes I hadn’t used by the end of the week weren’t going to last much longer, so I turned them into tomato water. Which of course you’ve heard of because everyone’s making it, but with good reason: It’s addictive. Imagine the purest tomato essence in liquid form, perfectly delicious on its own, but also strong enough to stand up to, say, vodka. If I were able to get fresh horseradish anytime other than Passover, you’d better believe I’d be drinking Bloodies with infused vodka right now.

Generally, recipes suggest straining blended tomatoes through a cheesecloth or t-shirt-lined colander (without pressing on solids so the liquid stays clear), but I really hate dealing with the soaked cloth, so I tried something different. Behold, the Chemex strainer!

Chemex Tomato Water | Minimally Invasive

My husband, as previously discussed, is a huge coffee snob. Brewing coffee is the only thing he does in the kitchen, but he does it exceptionally well with the help of his Chemex. Sometime last year, he decided to try out the pourover filter to get more of the coffee oils in us and to keep all of that filter paper out of the landfill. It worked so well that I figured it couldn’t hurt to try with tomatoes. You can see in the picture that it did let a small amount of pulp through, but the clear tomato water was easily poured out, leaving the pulp behind in the Chemex. The size of the filter doesn’t allow you to make the tomato water in one go, but I’d certainly recommend this method if you don’t mind doing it in multiple batches.

The gazpacho was inspired by the knockout meal we had at Bent Restaurant during May’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which we’ve attended since 2009, save for one year. It’s the only comics festival I truly love, partly because of the airy feeling of the natural light-infused reference library, but mostly because I’m interested in a greater proportion of the artists there than at other festivals. (I discovered Nina Bunjevac‘s exquisite Heartless this year, nearly vomited with laughter over Lisa Hanawalt‘s My Dirty Dumb Eyes, met Michael Kupperman, whose work I’ve loved for years, and briefly hung out with Jaime Hernandez, who needs no introduction from the likes of me. And that’s just off the top of my head. So I encourage you to look into the 2014 show, and if you want to read a much smarter take on this year’s TCAF than I’m capable of writing, check out Tom Spurgeon’s thoughts on the subject.)

But back to food. Our past few trips to Toronto have involved dining at one or another of Susur Lee’s restaurants, but Bent might be my favorite yet. Everything served was fresh and exciting, with flavor combinations I hadn’t really experienced before. It’s impossible to apply the label “best” to a single item in the bento box Gil and I shared, but the one my thoughts return to most often is the oyster shooter, which I suspected was tomato water-based. Because I needed to know how Chef Lee works his magic, I ordered his two-volume memoir/cookbook and immediately looked up the dish. And yes, tomato water was the base! Yay for my working tongue! Newly inspired, I worked up a little gazpacho for lunch today.

Tomato Water Gazpacho inspired by/adapted from Chef Susur Lee

Mustard oil is only sold for external use in the US; evidently it makes a great massage oil. I found my bottle at Kalustyan’s, but any well-stocked Indian or Bangladeshi grocery should have the oil; it just won’t be shelved with the rest of the foodstuff. This is a good basic soup, but feel free to play with ingredients. I’m not a big fan of onion in my gazpacho, but thinly sliced green onion or diced shallot would play well here, as would celery, other colors of bell pepper, or even more tomatoes. Because you never can have too much of a good thing.

1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cucumber, finely diced
1-2 hot chile peppers, finely diced
1 yellow summer squash, finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
1 1/2 cups tomato water
2 tablespoons mustard oil
Salt, to taste
Sherry vinegar, to taste

For four appetizer servings, put one to two tablespoons of each of the diced vegetables (perhaps less of the hot pepper if you don’t want it too spicy) into four small bowls. Whisk together tomato water and mustard oil and pour over vegetables. Add salt and sherry vinegar to individual servings to taste.

 

This is the Pie You’re Looking For…

I’m pretty sure blueberries employ some kind of Jedi mind trick on me when I see them at the market. They coo as I pass, suggesting, “Strawberries are not the fruit you’re looking for; you will buy blueberries instead. We are better for you and more delicious.” How else to explain coming home with THREE QUARTS of them last weekend when I rarely eat fresh blueberries? It makes no sense, but I’ve come to terms with my inability to resist them if I wander in their vicinity. Do you have this problem, too? Ah well, it gave me some new items for my portfolio and today’s dessert, so I’m not complaining.

Without a plan and far too many berries (and nectarines, as it turned out) languishing in the refrigerator, I decided that pie would be a good idea. Yeah, I know. Pie/the bane of my existence/the very reason I hate baking. But I’m determined to make a go of pie for fear I’ll forfeit my Mennonite card forever if I don’t. I’m not sure what made me attempt a lattice-top version when I have trouble with a standard crust, but I sought instructions at Simply Recipes and it seemed doable, even ::gasp:: easy. And I was very pleased with the results! The lattice top is impressive and disguises flaws well; you love this pie and didn’t notice that I over-floured the edges.

Blueberries aren’t the only ones who can use Jedi mind trick. Hmph.

Now that my crust is semi-presentable, I really have to work on getting my fruit fillings right. It seems they’re either too juicy or too firm; I’ve never hit that sweet spot, which I think will come with experience. For this pie, I used the Cup4Cup crust recipe from this post, but rejiggered the filling a tiny bit. Because ground almonds worked so well as a juice-absorbing layer in my strawberry galette, I thought they’d be pretty successful here, too. I used about 1/4 cup of almond flour and it added a nice flavor, but my nectarines were freakishly juicy and overwhelmed the best efforts of the almonds. I’ll try double that next time if conditions seem the same. I’m sure I’ll have another blueberry situation before summer’s over, after all.

Gluten-Free Blueberry-Nectarine Pie | Minimally Invasive

Field to Feast: More Carrots

We have Dorie Greenspan to thank for this recipe dish idea. See, as I was flipping through her brilliant cookbook Around My French Table, the recipe that opens the salads chapter caught my eye. It was so minimal as to be more of a suggestion than a recipe, so I decided it must be perfect. It’s nothing more than avocado halves with lemon juice, pistachio oil to fill and fleur de sel. You know my obsession with avocados, so it shouldn’t be too shocking to learn that I tried it within the day, fell head over heels and have indulged with abandon since then. While it’s well worth investing in a bottle of pistachio oil for this one use alone, I have another for you. It hit me when I was faced with another bunch of carrots and no desire to make more soup, that pistachios could just be the perfect answer again.

The carrot preparation is slightly more involved than the that of the avocados, but still easy enough to serve in well under an hour. All you have to do is to toss whole carrots (well-scrubbed and peeled, if you like) with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast them in a single layer at 400° F for about 30 minutes — more time for larger carrots, less for smaller ones. You want to roast them until they’re tender enough to offer little resistance to a knife. Fresh out of the oven, drizzle the carrots with pistachio oil and toss them around on the baking sheet to coat them well, then sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Transfer the carrots to a serving platter and top with ground pistachios and finishing salt, and you’re done. Perfection.

Pistachio Carrot | Minimally Invasive

Field to Feast: Carrots

Every Saturday morning at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market, Kasha and I have essentially the same conversation:

“So, what should we post about this week?”
“I don’t know, what would you like to do?”
“Hmmm, let me think.”

The sides change, but that’s pretty much how it goes every week. So I can honestly say that I just strolled around until I saw a pile of gorgeous carrots and knew I’d found our topic. Sometimes it isn’t about having a great recipe ready to go (though sometimes it is), but about inspiration and beauty.

As I’ve been doing for about a month now, I chopped off the carrot tops and put them in a vase on the table to serve as a makeshift centerpiece. The only time I ever cook with carrot greens is when I use them in a gumbo z’herbes, so this is a good way to use what I buy and decorate at the same time. And I just love the Sideshow Bob look of them.

Carrot greens on display | Minimally Invasive

I jotted down a few ideas for carrot recipes over the weekend, but nothing came of it until today, when I felt like gazpacho. I love spicy, savory carrot dishes and since it’s just a small step from Spain to Morocco, I added some Moroccan influences to my soup with harissa-spiked oil, preserved lemon and chopped cilantro. Many gazpacho recipes call for bread to lend the correct texture, but this was out for me from the very beginning for obvious reasons, so I substituted almond flour instead. It’s appropriate with the other flavors and so many classic gazpacho recipes use almonds that it seemed like the solution was always there, staring me in the face.

Moroccan-Inspired Carrot Gazpacho | Minimally Invasive

Instead of building the recipe from the ground-up, I based this gazpacho on a Martha Rose Shulman recipe from The New York Times, but changed it around quite a bit to suit my purposes. The harissa oil starts out very spicy, but mellows as the soup sits in the refrigerator, so don’t be too scared if you taste it right away and your tongue turns inside-out. Of course, I can’t guarantee it won’t turn blazingly hot after it sits overnight, but promise to let you know if it does.

Update: The flavors blended beautifully after an overnight stay in the refrigerator, but the gazpacho isn’t spicy at all. I’ll probably stir in a bit of the reserved paste to add a little heat. If you want it spicier without the added texture from the paste (which isn’t very smooth), just double the harissa recipe.

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This morning I woke up with an idea to offer free shipping on everything in my Etsy shop until 6pm ET tomorrow. (This offer ends 8/7/13, if you’re reading this post sometime in the future.)  I opened the shop a few months ago, but haven’t really pushed it beyond sticking a link in the top navigation of this blog and hoping you’d notice. So take a look around and let me know what you think. 8×10 is the standard offering, but I’m happy to go larger or smaller or to print photos from the blog that you like but don’t see in the shop. Just send me an email and we’ll work something out! (To get free standard shipping in the US only, apply code FREESHIPSUMMER in the cart at checkout.)

Moroccan-Inspired Carrot Gazpacho adapted from Martha Rose Shulman/The New York Times

1 1/2 oz. sliced onion
3/4 pound cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped,  about 3/4 lb.
2 sticks celery, coarsely chopped
2 large red bell peppers, coarsely chopped, about 3/4 lb.
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons harissa oil, recipe follows
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
1/4 cup finely ground almond flour
Salt to taste
1 cup ice water
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Put the onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside for 5 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Drain and rinse.

2. Working in 2 batches, blend all of the ingredients except cilantro in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill for a couple of hours before serving. Garnish each portion with chopped cilantro (and if you’re brave, a little of the leftover harissa paste) before eating.

Harissa Oil
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until garlic and spices are fragrant. Set aside to cool. Once cool, strain oil through fine mesh strainer into a cup, pushing on solids to release as much oil as possible. You should have two tablespoons of oil. Grind solids to a paste in a small food processor or in a mortar and pestle and reserve for another recipe.

Field to Feast: Basil

As some of you know, I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with my kitchen for years. The minuscule corner butterfly sink, the cooktop with only two functional burners, and the narrow wall ovens that only operated one at a time were excellent clues that it was designed by someone who didn’t do much cooking. Since the cooktop and wall ovens were 25 years old, it wasn’t much of a shock when the ovens gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. In fact, I did a happy dance and promptly ordered the range I’d had my eye on! Unfortunately, one of the igniters clicks constantly when the stove is plugged in, so I’ve been lighting it manually until a service technician can make it out here next week. Not a big deal, and lord knows I don’t want to bake in the summer, so I’m ok with it for a few more days. Details to come if I’m pleased with the service (more so if I’m not). We’re working toward a full renovation in the future, so my kitchen looks a hot mess right now and will for some time to come, but it’s mostly functional now!

This is all to say that I’ve been doing a lot of grilling this week while things are getting settled in the kitchen. For this week’s Field to Feast basil post, I went with a classic summertime dish — grilled eggplant and tomato slices topped with basil pesto. Instead of traditional pesto, I worked on a to-be vegan version that had a savory element to it even without the Parmesan. Nutritional yeast is a popular cheese alternative, but I’m not a big fan of the flavor, so I went the miso route again. Since some pesto recipes call for adding a little butter for richness, I added the leftover roasted garlic-miso butter from last weekend to puréed basil, ground pine nuts, olive oil and salt to enrich it. There’s no recipe because I just tasted as I went along until I was pleased with the results. Now obviously, butter nixes the vegan objective, but it’s easily made vegan by using Earth Balance or something similar in place of the butter. The richness of the pesto offset the acidity of the tomatoes beautifully and with the roasted garlic, it was delicate enough not to overpower anything. Not too bad for cooking in a fraction of a kitchen!

Kasha turned out a beautiful pesto this week using chevre from Edgwick Farm tossed with fresh corn pasta. Brilliant idea and her photos are TDF!

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A few weeks ago, Bialas Farms had an open house, so we got to see where all of these glorious vegetables originate. Groups of us took tractor rides to get up close with the black dirt and do a little harvesting of our own. I just wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from the day with you below. Have a great weekend and be sure to share any spectacular dishes you create with me; I’d love to hear about them!

Greenhouse | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms | Minimally Invasive

Rear view | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms cornfield | Minimally Invasive

Doris | Minimally Invasive

Pallets | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms storage | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms board | Minimally Invasive

Bialas Farms Market | Minimally Invasive

Field to Feast: Red Komatsuna

Red komatsuna is perhaps my favorite leafy green of Spring. This spinach-mustard hybrid is delicious with a mildly peppery bite and pretty versatile, too — good cooked down with garlic and red pepper flakes, sturdy enough for a stir fry, and truly excellent in a salad. In fact, most mornings I eat a “breakfast salad” with a base of finely chopped red komatsuna (including stems) topped with cubed avocado and cherry tomatoes with chipotle chili powder, lime juice, a spritz of fish sauce and one of my homemade flavored salts sprinkled over. It’s a great way to start the morning.

But red komatsuna plays so well with other salad greens, it’d be a shame to keep them apart. It adds such a pleasant crunch and depth of flavor to any green salad, I freely add it whenever I have some on hand. The salad above made use of the contents of my fridge, but experiment and throw together a free-form salad of your own.

I thought a tangy buttermilk dressing would complement this salad, but buttermilk dressings alone can be a little watery. To beef it up a bit, I added half of an avocado and was pretty pleased with the results. It’s substantial, but also light enough on the tongue to douse your salad liberally with it if that’s your thing.

Coincidentally, Kasha posted a recipe this week for an amazing dill and garlic scape dip with buttermilk at The FarmGirl Cooks. Be sure to check it out, and ogle her gorgeous photos!

Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup ripe avocado, cubed
1/8 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon each chopped dill, chives, thyme
big pinch salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a few grinds of black pepper

Add all ingredients to a blender jar and process to combine. Alternately, use an immersion blender in a quart-sized mason jar — my preferred method, as it makes storage and cleanup that much simpler. The dressing is fine to use right away, but really benefits from an overnight stay in the refrigerator.

Field to Feast: Strawberries & Rhubarb, Part II

As much as I love strawberries, I’ll admit that bringing home four pints at one time might have been overkill. Strawberries have such a short shelf life that you have to do something with them pretty quickly or you’ll find your very own science experiment growing in the refrigerator within days. Which is to say we were swimming in desserts last week. In addition to the galette I posted yesterday, I made a crisp (this time with rhubarb!) to use up a good portion of my bounty. We really tore through these desserts, not from fear of spoilage, but just because we couldn’t help ourselves.

And really, who doesn’t love a crisp? I’ve been trying to perfect a gluten-free version for the past few months, but the all-purpose flour blends weren’t working for me at all. Even after cutting back on the butter, they still oozed into a big sugary mass over the fruit instead of, well, crisping nicely on top. Since I’ve had such good luck with almond flour recently, I thought it might be worth a try here. To compensate for the extra fat from the almonds, I halved the butter from my regular crisp topping. And without patting myself too enthusiastically on the back (it’s just a crisp, after all), I want to tell you that this was really, really good. Gil rarely compliments my cooking, but he was over the moon with this one from the first bite, so I’d say it was a win-win —  a gluten-free dessert that’s marginally healthier than the original (if you don’t count the sugar) and delicious.

Gluten-Free Crisp Recipe at Minimally Invasive

I may have to reconsider my status as a non-baker if this lucky dessert streak keeps going!

Hah, who am I kidding? You know I’ll always prefer imprecise, improvisational “cooking” over baking.

Unripe Strawberry at Minimally Invasive

Learn about growing strawberries and check out the delicious Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce at The FarmGirl Cooks!

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

I used finely-ground almond flour in this recipe, but I think it would be okay to substitute flour with a coarser grind here, like Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour. Of course, I haven’t tested it so it’s just speculation, but if you try it, please let me know what you think. Also, if your berries are very sweet, you’ll need to cut back on the sugar in the fruit base. The strawberries I used here were moderately sweet, but I know they’ll be even more sugary in the weeks to come. 

Fruit Base

3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (Discard any leaves and trim stringy layers from thick stalks.)
3 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch kosher salt

Topping

1/2 cup finely-ground almond flour, packed
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix rhubarb and strawberries with sugar. Macerate 10 minutes, then mix well with almond extract, optional balsamic vinegar, cornstarch and salt, and let sit for an additional 20 minutes.

Combine almond flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sliced almonds and toss until evenly distributed.

Pour fruit into a 2-quart casserole dish or into individual oven-safe serving dishes. If using individual dishes, fill almost to the top with fruit base. Spoon the topping over the fruit. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

Field to Feast: Strawberries & Rhubarb, Part I

To be perfectly honest, rhubarb won’t make an appearance until the second post, but I hope you’ll forgive me, because today’s strawberry galette is a doozy on its own. And that was a surprise to me, because I usually find cooked strawberries a bit underwhelming on their own.

Galettes are one of my favorite desserts to make when spring rolls around because they’re incredibly easy and are supposed to look like crap RUSTIC, imperfection being a key selling point of this dessert! And honestly, I need no particular encouragement to make my baked goods look RUSTIC and HOMEY!

Gluten-Free Strawberry Galette at Minimally Invasive

See? RUSTIC! 

I’ve always been happy enough with the crust I use for galettes; it’s shot through with cornmeal, which gives it some heft and a really pleasing crunch that goes so, so well with whatever filling I’m using. This time around, I did swap out AP flour for Cup4Cup because I bake gluten-free now, but it worked perfectly.

My relationship with fruit fillings has always been a bit complicated. I like the individual berries to still have some form after baking — mushiness doesn’t do it for me — while tossing them with flour seems to muddle things on the visual and flavor fronts. I honestly didn’t think there was anything to be done about the flour because the juice that develops during baking has to go somewhere, but I was wrong to think there wasn’t another approach. Oh, so wrong. While looking around for some general amount of flour to use on the strawberries, I found a really interesting way around it; using ground almonds mixed with flour and sugar as a base layer, then topping it with sugared berries.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Galette at Minimally Invasive

You can see above how the berries still glisten with sugar (and with balsamic vinegar, one of my special additions that really adds some complexity to the dessert) before baking. I nibbled on so many of these before putting the galette in the oven that I’m surprised the pastry was still filled by the time it started baking.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Galette at Minimally Invasive

But the minimal amount of self-control I exhibited paid off with a dessert I’ll be making again and again while strawberries are still in market. The ground almond layer handled the juices like a champ and kept the strawberries looking and tasting exactly as they should, even after baking.

You can use any combination of berries you like in a galette, so if strawberries aren’t your thing, maybe blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or even cherries would be more to your liking. Or maybe rhubarb. Or later in the year, maybe try apple or pear…

Learn about growing strawberries and check out the delicious Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce at The FarmGirl Cooks!

Strawberry Galette adapted from Cooking Light and Laura Calder/Cooking Channel

The ground almond layer added a very subtle almond flavor, which I loved. If you want more of it, use the optional almond extract.

Pastry Crust
1 3/4 cups Cup4Cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup buttermilk
Turbinado sugar, for dusting

Filling
1/2 cup ground almonds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon Cup4Cup flour
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved if large
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional

To prepare pastry crust, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a food processor; pulse two times. Add butter to flour mixture; pulse 4 to 5 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add buttermilk through food chute; process just until dough forms a ball. Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; wrap tightly and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Unwrap dough and place on a sheet of parchment paper, dusting with flour if dough feels a little tacky to the touch. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll dough into a 15-inch circle. Carefully peel off top piece of parchment and slide dough with bottom sheet of parchment onto a baking sheet.

To prepare filling, whisk together almonds, Cup4Cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Spoon onto prepared pastry, leaving a 2-3-inch gap around the edges. Combine strawberries with 1 tablespoon of sugar, balsamic vinegar and optional almond extract, then spoon carefully onto the almond flour mixture.

Using a bench scraper, carefully fold edges of pastry up and over the strawberry filling. If you see any rips, pinch to seal. Lightly sprinkle edges of dough with turbinado sugar.

Bake at 350°F for 50 minutes to one hour, or until pastry is golden brown and strawberry juices are bubbling. Carefully slide galette still on parchment paper onto a rack. Cool to room temperature before serving.