Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Fennel, apple and parsnip galette with pesto and ricotta


I do not want to over-hype this recipe because I can envision many things going wrong but there are also so many things about this recipe that impressed me. The lightness and simplicity of the crust, the way the vegetable flavours all softened and intermingled upon baking and the way the pesto ricotta added a subtle but savory and tasty base to the vegetables. That this was embarrassingly easy to throw together is an added bonus. This will take you about 2 hours to make, from start to finish, but most of that time is spent waiting. 

Like many of my recipes, this one essentially designed itself. All of the ingredients were leftovers from something else. I spent several days heavily contemplating how I was going to put this together and read about 20 different galette and roasted vegetable recipes to come to the final product. I made my choices carefully but was still worried about the flavors of all of the ingredients coming together. In the end I think they did come together extremely well. 

The crust came from Alice Waters' In the Green Kitchen. It is a very very simple recipe. The way Alice describes the recipe made it extremely easy to make based on touch rather than using specific ingredient amounts. I also made a very quick pesto which I stirred into some leftover ricotta with parmesan and layered this at the base of the galette. I thinly sliced parsnips, fennel, yellow onion and apple. The apple was a last second decision. I had no idea if I was using the right kind of apple. I didnt know if the sweetness of the apple would be too much. I also worried that the parsnip would not soften enough and that the fennel would be too strong. It turns out that I could not even taste the apple, the parsnip was soft and mild and the fennel also mellowed out and was beautifully soft.


Some notes for cooking. I always, always, always cook with a stone in my oven. This helps to prevent burning the bottom of my dishes. Second, I assemble many dishes with the intention of cooking them right on the stone i.e. breads, pizzas, scones. Usually I will start cooking on a baking sheet but heavily flour the sheet so I can slide the bread off of the pan after a few (or several) minutes. Lastly, I think my oven is slightly hotter than it should be. I cooked this galette at 400F but because my oven is so hot, I should have lowered the temperature slightly. It might also be because I use the stone that my temperature should be lower...Just be careful when following my temperatures, check on the galette often, if you think it is cooking too fast, turn down the heat. You want to make sure you can cook this for at least 40 minutes so the vegetables have enough time to soften.


Fennel, apple and parsnip galette with pesto and ricotta
Fall seasonal: Zucchini, fennel and parsnip
Serves 2 - 4
 
The pesto recipe below makes more than is actually needed (~ 2 tbsp) so you can cut the quantities down significantly. However, I always like to have pesto on hand for pastas, pizzas and sandwich spreads. Just layer a bit of oil on top of the pesto and store in the fridge for a week or so. I add spinach to my pesto recipe to cut down on the volume of basil needed while keeping the pesto bright green. You can omit the spinach and use more basil.

Ingredients
Dough
1 cup flour
1/2 cup of 1/4" loose cubes of salted butter
1/4 cup ice cold water
Beaten egg for glazing

Pesto
1/2 cup spinach (loosely packed)
1 1/2 cups basil leaves (loosely packed)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp water
sea salt

Stuffing
3/4 cup ricotta, drained
2 tbsp pesto
1/4 cup parmesan
2 parsnips, thinly sliced
1/2 zucchini, sliced
1/2 cup sliced fennel
1/2 of a small apple thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves (passed through garlic press or minced)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt

Directions
1 - Start by placing 1 cup of flour into a large bowl. Have 1/2 cup of chopped cool butter at your side. 
2 - Gently stir half of the butter into the flour and use your finger tips to squish the butter into small bits within the flour. Keep squishing and tossing with your fingers until the dough becomes crumbly and roughly textured. 
3 - Next, add the rest of the butter and squish the cubes in quickly with your fingers until butter pieces are reduced to about half of their original size. 
4 - Gradually stir in cold water with a fork until the dough starts to clump and holds together when squeezed into your palm. You may not need all of the water. 
5 - Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, squish into a disk and put in fridge for 45 minutes. 
6 - Take out and rest the dough on counter for 15 minutes before using and set oven to 375F or 400F.
7 - Meanwhile, make the pesto by mixing the pesto ingredients in a food processor. Taste before adding salt, adding 1/4 tsp or so if you desire it to be saltier. Alternatively you can use a store bought pesto.
8 - Mix about 2 tbsp of the pesto into 3/4 cups ricotta (drained) and about 1/4 cup parmesan.
9 - Slice all of the vegetables if you have not already. Toss the vegetables in extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and minced garlic.
10 - After the waiting time for the dough is up, roll out the round into a large ~12" circle, or until the dough is the thickness of a pie crust, on a generously floured surface. Transfer to floured baking sheet.
11 - Spread ricotta mixture on the crust, leaving an inch and a half of dough edge uncovered. Layer the vegetables on top of the ricotta however you like.
12 - Fold up the edges of the dough around the vegetable as seen in the pictures.
13 - Sprinkle some parmesan on top and brush the crust with the beaten egg (only a little bit of the egg is required).
14 - Place the baking sheet with galette in the oven. If using a stone, let the galette cook about 15 minutes then slide off of the baking sheet onto the stone. If you are worried about wrecking the galette, just leave it on the sheet. Check on the galette after 20 minutes. If the dough is already becoming deep brown, turn down the heat to 350 or 300 and cook for 40 minutes total.
15 - Remove galette from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

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