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Asparagus Ricotta Galette


As hinted at earlier this week, asparagus is bustin' out all over on our micro-farm.  One of the very first signs of a long season of fresh food from the gardens, this perennial faithfully returns each May, basically without us having to do a thing.  (That's my kind of garden vegetable!)

Since it is never better than right now, we'll eat just-picked asparagus almost every night for dinner for the next several weeks.  Then finally, when we can't stand it anymore, which fortunately is right about when the asparagus season peters out, we'll put our asparagus habit to bed for another 11 months.  Once you've had it this fresh and this good, you are spoiled for anything trying to masquerade as asparagus in the rest of the year.

But it is a challenge to keep it interesting in the dinners ahead.  Even as good as it is, when having asparagus almost nightly, sauteing, grilling, and soup-ing gets old quickly.  This savory galette was a very welcomed change, and was gobbled up quickly last evening.  It would also be wonderful for brunch, or cut in small squares for late spring hors d'oeuvres. I have been on a galette with corners kick this year, but feel free to form it in the more traditional round shape, or any free-form shape that works for you and your stalks.


Asparagus Ricotta Galette, with Caramelized Shallots and Lemon Zest.
By Catie Schwalb

Makes one 9" square or round galette.

1 single pastry crust (half of the recipe posted here, in my "Pie Crust 101" piece)
1 large bunch fresh asparagus, about 8 ounces, washed and woody ends trimmed.
1 1/2 cups shallots, sliced thin (4-5 large shallots)
1 cup ricotta (here's my recipe for homemade fresh ricotta)
1 tablespoon lemon zest, from about one lemon
2 eggs
salt
olive oil, for roasting and sauteing

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Make the pastry crust, as described here, and allow to rest for thirty minutes in the refrigerator.

Lightly toss asparagus with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt.  Roast on a baking sheet in the oven until about half way roasted.  For pencil-thin asparagus this took six minutes.  Roast longer for thicker stalks.  Do not roast all the way, as they will continue to cook when the galette is baked.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 425 F.

In a wide saute pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat.  Add shallots and stir to coat with oil.  Turn heat down to medium-low and slowly cook, stirring every few minutes, until fragrant, light amber, and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Lower the heat if they start to brown too quickly.  Set aside.

Combine ricotta, lemon zest and a good pinch of salt.  Taste, and adjust salt if necessary.  Add one egg and mix thoroughly.

Roll out pastry dough to 1/4 " thin and transfer to a baking sheet, either by gently folding in quarters, or rolling around your rolling pin.  Spread a thin, about 1/4" layer of the ricotta mixture on the dough, leaving at least an inch boarder of dough around all sides.  Top with caramelized shallots, and then asparagus.  Fold dough up and over on all edges and crimp where necessary to hold in place.

For a more golden crust, mix one egg with a tablespoon of water, and using a pastry brush, gently brush perimeter of the crust with the egg wash.

Bake at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

 


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30
Herb and Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms


Our few small winter squash plants, that I started from seed this year, have taken off, and taken over, and are now literally climbing the walls of the new squash garden we put in.  It is still amazing to me that one tiny 1.5 cm long seed can turn into a gigantic sprawling little-shop-of-horrors-like vine with leaves that are waist-high.  Looks like we will pretty certainly have an abundance of squash, and currently have an abundance of glorious, delicate, and elegant squash blossoms.

If picking them yourself, try to do it early in the day, when they are open and slightly more resilliant--they tear very easily. Also, you'll want to pick the male flowers, as the females are the ones that the squash will grow from.

So with our glut of blossoms, guess I'll just have to stuff them with creamy cheese and fry them, fry them, fry them.




Herb and Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms
by Catie

12 squash blossoms
1 Pint Ricotta or Fresh Cheese
2 TBS fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, oregano), finely chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste

For the Batter:
1 cup of AP Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cup beer or seltzer water, cold

Oil, canola, vegetable, peanut, for frying.

Carefully remove the anther from the inside of the blossoms (if using male flowers) with scizzors. You can cut a seam down the side if it is too hard to get in there without tearing the flower.

Combine the cheese with herbs and season to taste. Gently stuff each blossom with about a tablespoon of filling.



Combine dry ingredients for the batter.  Add the egg, and then the cold beer or seltzer.   The batter should be the consistency of a loose pancake batter.

Heat 3 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350 degrees.  Gently dip each blossom in the batter, letting the excess drip off.  Carefully lay the blossom in the oil, frying until golden brown, turning occasionally.  Remove with a slotted utensil, and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.  Season with salt immediately and eat right away.



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10
Homemade Fresh Ricotta


Lately we have been getting the most wonderful fresh milk from Dirie's Farm, a small family-owned dairy farm near us.  The milk has a whole melody of flavor, that clearly illustrates what people are talking about when they refer to the terroir in wine.  You can taste this area.  You can taste the differences in the seasons, and the grassy fields and hay on which these cows are feeding.

A few months ago I had an impromptu lunch out by myself (I mean, with my date, New York Magazine) at Veloce Pizzeria in the East Village of NYC.  They have a divine ricotta crostini "spuntini" (Italian snacks).  Superb rich ricotta slathered on crusty toasted bread with fresh black pepper.  Heaven.

So craving that, this week's farm milk became glorious ricotta.  It's easy, easy, easy.  There are many recipes out there, using several different acidifying agents (vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, and citric acid).  I learned this from my culinary school, and Ricki the Cheese Queen, both using the exact same method with citric acid, so I'll stick with that.  Citric Acid is pretty widely available.  It is often called for in canning tomatoes.  I have seen it in my grocery store near canning supplies or products like Fruit Fresh.  But you can also easily get it here, from the wonderful New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.


HOMEMADE FRESH RICOTTA

Makes about 2 cups

2 Liters whole milk

1/2 tsp citric acid

1/2 tsp salt (if you can get it, use cheese salt)

Combine milk, citric acid, and salt in a non-reactive pot (heavy bottomed if available), over medium-high heat.  Stirring gently, making sure nothing is sticking or burning on the bottom, heat to just under a boil, to 195° F.  At that point turn off the heat and let the milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.



Line a colander, over a large bowl (the whey that drains off can be used in place of buttermilk), with several layers of cheesecloth or a clean dish towel or floursack.  After the 10 minutes, gently ladle the ricotta milk into the colander.  Let drain for a few minutes, then carefully tie opposite corners of the cloth to made a bundle.  Let ricotta continue to drain in colander, over the bowl, in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour to overnight.  If too thick for desired use, can be thinned with a little cream.  Season with more salt to taste.  Will keep for several days in refrigerator.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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