Monday, April 23, 2012

Lessons from Lothlorien

I'm not sure if I gave the right impression in my last post.  About my family and food, that is.  Food was, and continues to be, very important in my family: most family parties center around food and the preparation of a meal.  My parents (and their spouses/significant others) are really excellent cooks, and care a great deal about eating well - in terms of both ingredients and nutrition.

We had a breakfast schedule growing up.  (Mondays and Fridays: oatmeal; Tuesdays and Thursdays: eggs; Wednesdays: cream of wheat).  And we would all sit down together.  It was fabulous; even now it is difficult for me to eat eggs on a Monday.

Food was important, and an important ritual for us.  But I think I learned to love food, and appreciate it for itself, for an art, for a sensual experience, when I moved into Lothlorien Co-op, in Berkeley.  At Loth, I learned to be much more aware of what and how I ate; I was already vegetarian, but I started to think about where my food came from, who produced it, and how it was grown or made.  Loth made you think about the politics of your food (in that semi-self-righteous way in which co-ops are well-practiced).  Which is good, for the most part.

Equally important, though, was the way Loth took sensual pleasure in food.   We had parties just to celebrate making outrageously delicious food, and, of course, eating it.  There is joy in food, and I think it is important to be able to feel that joy.  More lessons from Lothlorien will happen later, I am sure.

I think Berkeley, the city, shares much of this, particularly in places like the Gourmet Ghetto.  I took my gentleman to the Chez Panisse Cafe recently, in celebration of his postdoctoral position.  It was a rare and wonderful treat (read: never before), and for dessert, we had a Meyer Lemon and Pink Lady Galette.  Chez Panisse's came with a scoop of the finest vanilla ice cream (on par with Ici) - I had no opportunity to make ice cream, but if you do, go for it.  I've rambled enough - what follows is my attempt to recreate the recipe.  May you always take joy in your meals.

1 recipe Galette Dough (recipe follows)
Meyer Lemon curd (I used David Lebovitz's recipe)
2 Pink Lady apples
lemon water (4 cups water to a tablespoon of lemon juice)
coarse sugar (such as turbinado)

To Assemble:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F, and place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Prepare the apples:
    1. Wash the apples, cut into quarters, and remove the core.
    2. Slice the apples thinly (about a millimeter thick).
    3. Dip the apple slices into lemon water (it keeps them from browning) and set aside.
  3. Line a wide baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Roll the galette dough out to a 13- or 14-inch circle - try to keep the edges from getting too jaggedy.
  5. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan (it may hang over the edge a little - this is fine for now).
  6. Spread 1/3-1/2 cup of the lemon curd onto the dough, leaving a 1.5- to 2-inch border (the curd should cover the dough - no see-through spots - but how much beyond that is up to you.  If you love lemon curd, feel free to add a little extra.).
  7. Starting from the outside edge of the lemon curd, place apple slices in a spiral to the center.  A slice should overlap the slice that came before it, and the slices in the previous row.
  8. Fold the outer edge of the galette dough over the apples, pleating the dough as necessary.
  9. Brush the overlapping edge with water, and sprinkle coarse sugar over the crust and apples.
  10. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and feels crisp.
  11. Cool on a rack.  Serve, if at all possible, with a scoop of delicious vanilla ice cream.

Galette Dough:
From Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 Tbl granulated sugar
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter
3 Tbl ice water (or more as needed - I needed more)
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl, then put the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes (until cold).
  2. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes, then add to the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry cutter (my instrument of choice), two forks, or your fingers, just until the mixture is coarse and crumbly and the chunks of butter are slightly smaller than peas.
  3. Mix the water and lemon juice, then drizzle over the flour-butter mixture.  Toss with a fork to distribute the liquid.  The pastry should hold together if you squeeze it.  If not, add more water.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface, and dump the dough onto it.  Gather the dough and knead it just a few times (like, three) until it sticks together.  Handle it as little as possible, and if it is getting too warm, put it in the freezer for a few minutes.
  5. Flatten the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour (it will keep for up to three days if well-wrapped).  You can also freeze the dough at this point (up to three months) - I usually put the dough in an extra layer of plastic, however - and defrost it overnight in the fridge.

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