Three Cheese Pesto Tomato Galette

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File this three cheese pesto tomato galette under: Thing I forgot to tell you about but for no good reason because it’s one of the best things I’ve made.

It all started a few weeks ago when I got a generous delivery of tomatoes. They took up half my counter and I stared at them for a few minutes wondering what to do with them. I used most of them to make tomato soup but I reserved a few for this three cheese, pesto, tomato galette.

This galette gets a big boost from fresh herbs, which I happened to have in my fridge from when I made tomato soup. Sprinkle some fresh rosemary and/or thyme on top and your galette with get extra flavor. Plus, the herbs complement the cheese and tomatoes.

If you’re not a fan of pesto, you could sub in another kind of sauce. But I’m a big fan of the pesto, goat cheese, mozzarella, ricotta combo. The cheeses are all kind of mild by themselves, but together, they enhance the tomatoes, balance the pesto, and manage to bring all the ingredients into a cohesive galette.

A tip for prepping tomatoes: Try to get as much extra juice out of them as possible. You can do this by placing the tomato slices on a wire rack on top of paper towels or a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkling them with salt, and letting them sit for a while. Doing this prevents your galette crust from becoming soggy or the topping from becoming too runny as the galette bakes.

My favorite part about this dish is the crust. I improvised on a recipe I made a couple years ago for a sweet strawberry galette, and now I want to use it in everything. It has whole wheat flour, which makes the dough slightly more tangy and less sweet, but it also has a little sugar to balance out the salt. It’s a good backdrop for anything you want to put on top of it.

I ate about half this galette in one sitting and then I forced myself to save the rest for meals the next day. You could probably eat it all at once, especially if you’re hungry, but I’d urge you to wait if you can. The flavors settle overnight and the galette is even better on day two.

Here’s a song to get you started on your tomato galette journey.

Three Cheese Pesto Tomato Galette

Ingredients

for the crust:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 – 3/4 cup ice cold water

for the galette:
3 orange or yellow tomatoes, thinly sliced
salt
basil pesto, homemade or store bought
goat cheese, Mozzarella cheese, and whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 shallot, thinly sliced
handful of fresh rosemary, leaves removed
olive oil

Directions

Start by making the galette dough. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse in the cold butter until pea-sized pieces of dough formed. Do not overmix. Add the ice cold water slowly until the dough starts to come together into a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.

Slice the tomatoes and place them on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet or paper towels. Sprinkle them with salt and allow them to sit for 30 minutes (or more) while you roll out the dough for the galette crust.

Flour a large work surface. Remove your dough from the fridge and roll it out until it’s 16 inches in diameter. When it’s the right size, carefully remove it from the work surface and place it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread some basil pesto on the galette dough, leaving about 3 inches empty around the sides. You want a generous amount but not too much, because then the bottom crust will be soggy. Place dollops of ricotta on top of the pesto, and then arrange the tomato slices on top. Sprinkle goat cheese and Mozzarella cheese on top of the tomatoes, then sprinkle sliced shallot and rosemary leaves on top. Fold the edges of the crust in. Brush the crust with olive oil.

Bake the galette in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown and the cheese is slightly browned and bubbling. Remove the galette from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

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Rigatoni with Morels and Peas

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Last week, my friend Tony from Tony’s Family Farms texted me while I was out running errands and asked me if I wanted a free delivery of morels. I never say no to free produce deliveries and I especially don’t say no to morels, so I rushed home to meet him at my apartment.

I ended up taking a bag full of morels, which for those of you who don’t know are mushrooms from California and the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes they grow in Missouri during the spring but the crop is hit or miss depending on the weather. For the past two years, Tony told me, the morel crop in Missouri has been subpar.

This causes a lot of local chefs and restaurants to turn to morels from the West Coast. The morels happened to pop up early this year so many restaurants debuted their morel dishes early. You can read more about it in one of my recent stories for St. Louis Magazine.

Once I had morels, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and make a pasta dish with the mushrooms. I brainstormed for a while and then I settled on rigatoni with morels, peas, and cream sauce. The cream sauce pairs well with the morels, which are meaty but also surprisingly light with hollow interiors, and it complements the peas. I like rigatoni with a hearty sauce because it’s a pretty substantial noodle, so it can stand up to anything you throw on top of it.

A word to the wise about morels: They require A LOT of cleaning. I’m not talking about a couple light rinses in the sink. I’m talking about many rinses, some gentle scrubbing, and a taste test or two to make sure that you’ve cleaned them adequately. If you did a good job, they’ll be soft and chewy. If you didn’t, you’ll get some sand or dirt in your teeth.

If you’re lucky enough to get you hands on some morels this spring, definitely make this pasta. The peas and mushrooms remind me of spring, and the cream sauce and pasta is enough to keep me warm during the last days of winter and cooler days of the new season.

Here’s a song to get you started on your rigatoni with morels and peas journey.

Rigatoni with Morels and Peas

Ingredients

Extra-virgin olive oil
30 morel mushrooms, cleaned and gently dried
1 box of rigatoni pasta
4 ounces of unsalted butter
1 cup of blanched peas
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Coat the bottom of a large pan with olive oil. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until they’re tender and then season them with salt. Remove the pan from heat, pour the mushrooms into a bowl, and clean out the pan.

Heavily salt a pot of water over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook the rigatoni for about 14 minutes, or a couple minutes less than package directions. You want the noodles to be soft but not too soft. Drain and retain 1/2 cup pasta water.

Melt the butter in the cleaned pan over medium heat, then add the peas and the heavy cream. Add the drained noodles and some of the pasta water to make the sauce thicker. Increase the heat slightly, give the mixture a couple good stirs, and cook for two more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with lots of Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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Pasta with Broccoli and Bread Crumbs from ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’

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I made this pasta with broccoli and bread crumbs from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” a few weeks ago but I keep forgetting to tell you about it, not because it’s not memorable but probably because I’ve been cooking so much this month, it got lost in the shuffle.

I’ll never forget this pasta, though, because it’s one of the best I’ve made. I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating but I’m not. Usually when I try a pasta recipe that involves a bunch of steps, I end up with a finished product that’s a little underwhelming. The pasta is good, but it doesn’t always feel worth the effort.

The complete opposite is true with this pasta with broccoli and bread crumbs. I made it on a cold winter’s night in February and it took a while to finish, but once I tried a bowlful, I didn’t want to stop eating.

The recipe in “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” says that you can use a bunch of different kind of noodles but I’d recommend sticking with orecchiette. Orecchiette, which means “little ears” in Italian, is a good pasta shape for sauce-laden dishes. I like to think of them as little saucers that mop up whatever’s around them, so you get the most flavor in one bite.

This pasta gets a boost from homemade bread crumbs, which may seem superfluous but trust me, they’re not. They add some crunch and pair well with the Parmesan cheese and broccoli. If you want to save yourself a step, I guess you could toast some pre-ground bread crumbs with olive oil, but you’d miss out on the flavor and texture of the homemade ones.

I will say though that I made the full recipe for bread crumbs and then I had trouble using up the rest, so if you want you can halve Samin Nosrat’s bread crumb recipe.

My favorite part about this pasta besides the flavors is the fact that it stays good for days in the fridge. I think I ate it for a few days straight for lunch and I didn’t feel like I wanted to puke or throw it in the trash, which is the telltale sign of a bad leftover dish.

ANYWAY. Make this pasta as soon as possible. It’s a great late winter/early spring dish that you can save for lunch and dinner throughout the week.

Here’s a song to get you started on your broccoli pasta journey.

 

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Chocolate Tahini Banana Bread

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This chocolate tahini banana bread is a confluence of my favorite things. I love chocolate and banana, especially together, and I love tahini. Combine them all in one bread and it’s nothing short of magic.

I saw this recipe from Nigella Lawson a few weeks ago on Instagram and I bookmarked it for later. I was a little tahini’d out at the time because I’d just made vegan tahini enchiladas and flourless tahini brownies. Both were good but not excellent, so I decided to take a break from cooking with tahini until I found a worthy recipe.

This chocolate tahini banana bread is one of the best things I’ve baked in months. I am not exaggerating. It’s sweet but not too sweet, moist, and full of chocolate morsels and tahini, which balances the sweetness. It gets better by the day, too, which is a rare quality in bread.

Nigella says in her original recipe that it’s better to let the loaf sit a day after it bakes and then eat it. She admits that it sounds crazy and I have to say, I agreed with her at first. I didn’t want to wait a day to eat the bread; I wanted to cut into it as soon as it came out of the oven.

Instead, I waited overnight and I was rewarded. The chocolate, banana, and tahini flavors became even more pronounced after I left the bread tightly wrapped on the counter for half a day. I ate two slices for breakfast with coffee and I had to hold myself back from eating the whole loaf in one sitting.

If you’re looking for a way to use up leftover tahini, or you just love chocolate, banana, and tahini together, this is the recipe for you. It creates a loaf that lasts about a week tightly wrapped. You’ll want to eat the bread for breakfast, lunch, and maybe even dinner. I ate it nonstop for a few days and it was only on day four that I felt like I needed a refresher.

A word to the wise: The bread is best with dark chocolate chips. You can mix in some semisweet ones if that’s all you have. I ended up doing about 3/4 dark chocolate chips and some semisweet chocolate chips because I was running low on the former. The bread was still delicious but I liked the flavor of the dark chocolate chips better.

Here’s a song to get you started on your chocolate tahini banana bread journey.

 

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

I’m only sometimes into soul-baring posts on this blog, but today constitutes one of them. Yesterday I came home, opened my mailbox, and saw a brown envelope with my name artfully written on the front. I was excited because it was a letter from my friend Julicia that I thought was lost in the mail. Julicia and I had been texting about it because she sent the letter from Philly weeks ago, but for some reason, it hadn’t shown up yet. The envelope was filled with stickers, tea, and other small surprises.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I got the letter yesterday after a two-week delay. Yesterday was the first warmish day we’ve had in St. Louis in a while. It beckoned spring and new beginnings.

It was also the first day that I started feeling like myself again after a tumultuous winter. The past few months have been rough for me. I had a couple health problems, a breakup, a minor fender bender, and some tough realizations about my life. I was forced to confront some truths that I’d avoided for a while, which is never a fun thing to do.

The one thing I can say, though, is that I was never alone through this process. Even when I deliberately tried to block out others and stay alone in my suffering, the people I love always found a way in. Whether they’re old friends from the past, family members, or new friends, they’ve expressed concern or given thoughtful advice. I’ve been grateful for everyone’s support.

I’m not going to go into the details of Julicia’s letter because obviously, that should remain between me and her. But the letter reminded me of a very happy time in my life, when we were both English teachers in France and exploring a new country on our own.

It also encouraged me to accept where I am in life without judgment. Society often tells us where we should be at a certain age, or what we should accomplish by a predetermined point in time, but it’s so important to ignore these preconceptions. We have to set our own path, as difficult as that may be, and focus on what brings us joy and value. It’s a lifelong process but I think we can make an effort to do it everyday.

I feel very lucky to have friends who remind me of what truly matters in life, and who help lift me up when I’m feeling down. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and a little more optimistic about the future.

Julicia, Rachel, Allison, Lyz, Lyndsey, Natalie, Mollie, Eli, Lillie, Kaitlyn, LeAnn, Anna, Stephanie, Tanya, Julia, Linda, Janet, Lynn, Mike, Melissa, Chelsea: Thank you for being you and for rallying around me when I needed it most. I guess this has turned into a mostly friend appreciation post, but I’m okay with that.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

Samin Nosrat is publishing a new cookbook and I can’t wait. Nosrat, who is best known for her previous cookbook, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” and Netflix series by the same name, can do no wrong in my book. Her recipes give you the why behind cooking, instead of just the how, and always create beautiful and delicious dishes. Read more about Nosrat’s forthcoming cookbook in this Grub Street story.

If you’re in St. Louis and you haven’t been to the symphony, I’d highly suggest changing that soon. I hadn’t been in a few years and when I went last Sunday, it reminded me of how much I love it. The interiors are beautiful and they orchestra is so talented. Find out more about the symphony and view the concert calendar on their website.

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This is my favorite McSweeney’s article in a while. I saw it and I laughed out loud at my desk at work. I think we could all find scenarios where channeling Lady Gaga’s guttural howl in “A Star Is Born” is appropriate. Check out the full McSweeney’s piece.

I’m visiting New Orleans for the first time this fall and I’ve already started to do research. I really enjoyed this Afar story with tips from local chef and James Beard Award-winner Justin Devillier on where to eat and drink in the city. I already have a long list but if you have any recommendations, please send them my way. Check out this Afar piece for the Chef Devillier’s recommendations.

The orange ricotta bundt cake is one of the best things I’ve had at Pint Size Bakery, and I don’t say that lightly. I stopped by the South City bakery yesterday on my way home from running errands and spent a few minutes devouring it with a cup of tea. Stop by the bakery if you’re in or around St. Louis.

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I’m a big fan of Eater’s new travel guide. It gives restaurant and food recommendations for cities across the world. I was particularly impressed with their coverage of North America, because they didn’t just stick to big cities like New York or LA. Read the full guide on Eater’s website.

Nigella Lawson’s recipes never disappoint. I just made Lawson’s recipe for chocolate tahini banana bread and it’s one of the best things I’ve made in months. I’ve been eating it nonstop since it came out of the oven. Stay tuned for the recipe on my blog later this week!

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I came across this story about traditional Turkish breakfast and I got really into it. Apparently, only one dairy shop in Istanbul prepares kaymak, a rich buttery cream and a typical Turkish breakfast item, the traditional way. I’d like to try it someday, even if an only semi-traditional form is available. Read more about kaymak in this Afar piece.

One of my favorite features every year is NYT Magazine‘s music spread. This year I especially enjoyed this interactive feature, “The Top 25 Songs That Matter Right Now.” Even though some of the songs admittedly don’t matter to me, a lot of them do. I liked reading more about Kacey Musgraves and other artists who are changing the current music scene. Check out the full feature from NYT Magazine.

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to make this roast chicken for one soon. I made my first roast chicken late last year and now, I’m on the hunt for an even easier recipe that produces similar, if not better, results. This recipe from Food52 seems to fit the bill.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Butter

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Lemon ricotta pancakes are a decadent breakfast that I reserve for special occasions. Over the weekend, the occasion was that I was sick of the snow and I wanted to do anything and everything to distract myself.

These pancakes are light, citrusy, slightly sweet, and fluffy. They’re delicious on their own but in this case, they get a boost from strawberry butter that I bought last week at Larder and Cupboard, one of my favorite specialty food stores in St. Louis. The butter is made from frozen summer berries and it’s like a little reminder of warmer times.

A word to the wise: Don’t use low-fat milk or ricotta in this recipe. I was tempted to do so because I had a whole container of skim milk that was about to expire, but instead I used a little whole milk that I had leftover from previous recipes. The whole milk and cheese will improve the flavor of the pancakes.

Also, feel free to add more lemon zest to the recipe if you want even more citrus flavor. I used about a tablespoon in this recipe but you could definitely use more if you want a more intense lemon flavor.

Here’s a song that reminds me of these pancakes.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Butter

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (214 g) all-purpose flour
3 1/2 Tbsp (46 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (236 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (180 g) whole milk ricotta
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 – 2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (14 g) butter, melted
strawberry butter and maple syrup for topping

Directions

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta, eggs, and vanilla extract until smooth. Mix in the lemon zest and lemon juice. It’s okay if the milk mixture curdles a little.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the milk mixture into the hole. Mix together until the batter is mostly smooth with a few lumps.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once it’s melted, ladle 1/3 cup of batter onto the skillet. Cook the pancakes until bubbles form on the tops. Flip them and cook for another minute or so until golden brown on both sides. Serve with strawberry butter and maple syrup. Enjoy!

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Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese and Thyme

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I was in the middle of running errands on Saturday morning when I got a text from my friend Tony. “Do you want some tomatoes?” he asked. I immediately responded yes and raced home to meet him at my apartment, where he delivered a crate full of beautiful yellow tomatoes. For a few minutes, it was almost summer again.

I feel lucky to have met Tony. A few months ago, I wrote a profile of him for St. Louis Magazine‘s Top 32 Dishes to Eat feature. After we spoke on the phone, he brought me some tomatoes to try.

Tony supplies local tomatoes and other produce to some of the best restaurants in town. I’ve started to notice when I’m eating a Tony tomato versus an imported tomato because the former tastes juicy and fresh and the latter tastes…like nothing. Tony gets his tomatoes from MightyVine, a company outside Chicago that grows tomatoes indoors year round.

But anyway, I digress. I got the yellow tomatoes on Saturday and immediately I started thinking about what to make with them. I thought about making tomato sauce again, because that’s what I did the last time Tony brought me tomatoes and it turned out well. But homemade tomato sauce is a process, one that can take hours, so I decided to make something easier instead.IMG_8485This tomato soup is relatively easy to make and it freezes beautifully, so you can save some for later in the week. It gets a boost from crumbled goat cheese and fresh thyme on top. If you want, you can even add homemade croutons.

My favorite part about the soup is the fresh herbs. Rosemary is my favorite herb and thyme is a close second or third. The smell of rosemary roasting in the oven with the tomatoes is heavenly. It makes me really want pizza. I might make pizza with extra tomatoes and rosemary later this week.

But before I do, I’ll keep enjoying this soup. It’s the perfect thing to make on cold weekends when it feels like winter will never end. It’s comforting, slightly sweet, rich but not cloyingly so, and full of flavor.

A word to the wise: Be generous with the amount of salt that you put into the soup. You might want to hold back, but don’t. The salt enhances the flavor of the tomatoes and the herbs. Keep tasting as you go along so you can adjust sparingly, but don’t be afraid to add more if the soup really needs it.

Here’s a song to get you started on your tomato soup journey.

Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese and Thyme

Ingredients

3 pounds yellow tomatoes, halved (about 9 medium)
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the tomatoes cut side down in a large greased baking tin. Brush them with one tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with 1 tsp of garlic and the rosemary and thyme. Roast the tomatoes for about 30 minutes until the skins are slightly charred and starting to crack. Remove them from the oven and cool the tomatoes slightly. Pull off the skins and then blend the tomatoes in a blender on high until smooth.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pot and add the onion. Saute the onion until tender and then add the remaining garlic. Saute for a minute and then add the broth and milk. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the tomato puree. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to sit uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and heat the mixture through but don’t let it boil.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with crumbled goat cheese and fresh thyme. Freeze the leftovers if you’d like. Enjoy!

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