Thursday, April 8, 2010

a beginning in the garden

They say that nothing worth having comes easily. Or something like that. I spent the blistering hot day with my son, hauling 60 pound bags of stones and mulch from Home Depot to my little backyard for some much needed landscaping. The only way to get to the yard is through the house. 15 bags of stones, 6 bags of mulch, much sweat and aching muscles resulted in this:
It may not look like much to you but, I am so proud! I don't really have much of a green thumb, just a very green heart and that passion translates into a willingness to put some muscle into the task of taming my garden. I have ordered some plants including heirloom tomato seedlings from farmer Pam, MD at Hook Mountain Growers which will go into the ground in a few weeks.

Generally I like to keep my cooking simple, but there are certain recipes well worth the extra steps. One that comes to mind is a goat cheese galette that my uptown sister loves to make, including the one she presented to our buffet table this Easter. She got the recipe from cookbook writer and chef Joanne Weir. It is ridiculously good. Swoon worthy in fact. Not the quickest thing to make, as it requires four cheeses and a pastry from scratch. But the time is well spent on this rich, satisfying treat. Enjoy!
Rustic in appearance and insanely loaded with flavor.

Goat Cheese and Green Onion Galette-by Joanne Weir
A galette is a fancy way of saying “a thin pie.” This one has a crunchy dough, rich with butter, that is a perfect casing for creamy ricotta, crème fraîche, mozzarella, fresh green onions, and Parmigiano. You’ll see why this has been one of my all-time favorites for years. 

These are my sister's notes on the recipe:
I do the pastry in the food processor. Form it into a disk and chill before rolling.  I also experimented this time with the vodka secret that America's Test Kitchen recommends, adding vodka to the pie dough so you can work with a wetter dough, and then the extra liquid alcohol evaporate out.  I ended up using 4 T water and 2 T vodka, which made a dough that was very easy to work with.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled in the freezer for 1 hour
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 bunches green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
5 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 cup coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the flour in a bowl and chill in the freezer for 1 hour. Place the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt on a cold work surface. With a pastry scraper, cut the frozen butter into the flour until half of the butter clumps are the size of peas and the rest are a little larger. Make a well in the center and add half of the ice water. Push together with your fingertips and set aside any dough that holds together. Add the rest of the water and repeat. Form the mixture into a rough ball.

Alternately, this can be made by judiciously pulsing the ingredients in a food processor, using the same technique, until half is the size of peas and the other half a little larger. Pour the mixture out onto your work surface and add the water as above. Do not add it into the food processor. Form the mixture into a rough ball. Or this can be made in an electric mixer using the same technique.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 14-inch circle and trim the edges. Place on a large baking sheet and refrigerate.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Mix together the green onions, goat cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, crème fraîche, and Parmigiano. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Spread the cheese mixture over the pastry, leaving a 21/2-inch border around the edge uncovered. Fold the uncovered edge of the pastry over the cheese, pleating it to make it fit. The filling will be exposed in the center of the galette.

Bake the galette in the oven until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then slide the galette off the pan and onto a serving plate. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Don't know how you do it, Deb. But you always seem to provide the perfect recipe at the perfect time. Next Friday I will be going to a friend's son's Communion. Guess what I will be bringing to the celebration afterwards? While the recipe does sound a little time consuming, it does seem pretty straight forward. Interesting tip about the vodka. Never heard of that before.

Definitely a wine from the Loire Valley in France seems entirely appropriate here. For simplicity sake, you can get a basic Sancerre or Pouilly Fume (both made from Sauvignon Blanc). Or, you can do what I would do - veer off the beaten path of wine and be a little experimental. Also located in the Loire Valley region are two great appellations called Saumur, and Saumur Champigny.

The reds are light and fruity and come from Saumur Champigny. A wine from this appellation, made from Cabernet Franc, is a great match for this goat cheese galette. In the Saumur appellation, the wines are typically light, crisp and lively with bright acidity. They must be at least 80% Chenin Blanc, the remainder being Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Both these reds and whites are terrific with goat cheese. The red can even be served slightly chilled, perfect for a warm Spring day!

Saumur Champigny is a favorite bistro wine in Paris, thought it is not very well known here in the U.S. One producer whom I am very fond of is Domaine Lavigne. It is a family-run operation and they are serious about their wine-making.  Their Saumur and Saumur Champigny are two of my favorite warm-weather wines, and they are very affordable at $14.99 and $16.99 respectively. Try to find the Saumur and taste the pear, peach, lemon flavors for yourself! I'm sure you'll agree it's a great choice for the galette!


  1. You have such a beautiful little zen garden! It's already gorgeous! Your seedling are happily growing in the greenhouse :)

    Cook trick with the vodka. Will in work with a gluten-free version?!

  2. Thank you! I am really looking forward to spending time out back in the warm weather.

    Not sure about the vodka trick with gluten free pastry, but I would not be afraid to try it. I'm thinking it should work.


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