By CLAIRE McCONNELL
June 1, 2012
Special to Falls Church Times
One of the things about getting produce from a farmers market is that you can only work with what is available. If you want peaches for your pie in the spring and they’re not in season, then you can’t buy them. If you’re thinking about cauliflower and potatoes for your aloo Gobi in the summer, forget it. But not having everything available at your fingertips can also be one of the best things about a farmers market. It teaches you how to adapt as a cook and how to incorporate other ingredients as the seasons change.
Shopping seasonally also helps to point out nature’s perfect pairings. Think about foods that go perfectly together: tomatoes and basil, strawberries and rhubarb, peas and mint, cabbage and apples, potatoes and leeks, duck and figs; the list goes on and on. Notice how each ingredient is grown or produced in the same season as the other. Now, obviously, with the modernization of grocery stores and shipping around the country, all of these items can be purchased outside of their growing season. But let’s be honest, there is nothing better than biting into a locally grown strawberry that is produced without pesticides or that first bite of ecorganic basil that tastes the way it is suppose to: fragrant and lovely. It is the true meaning of what summer is all about.
A crostata is a rustic Italian tart that is loosely formed and thin-crusted. It can be filled with a wide variety of ingredients, from berries and stone fruit to caramelized onions and goat cheese. It is a perfect addition to any savory or dessert menu and can be interchanged with different ingredients as the seasons change.
Three of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church Farmers Market. The pesticide-free strawberries are from Homestead Farm in Faulkner, Md., www.ljhomesteadfarm.com. The pesticide-free, ecorganic basil is from Potomac Vegetable Farm. The farm has two locations: in Vienna, Va. and in Purceville, Va., www.potomacvegetablefarms.com. And the honey Greek-style yogurt is from Blue Ridge Dairy in Sterling, Va., www.brdairy.com. Blue Ridge Dairy also makes excellent butter, but due to the cost of this dish I used store-bought, organic butter instead.
Equipment: A rolling pin, a pastry brush, 1 medium mixing bowl, 1 medium sauce pan, 1 ½ sheet pan or pizza stone.
1 cup of all-purpose flour — $0.19
1 cup of whole wheat/white flour (King Arthur Flour and Trader Joe’s both make a blend) — $0.19
¼ cup sugar — $0.14
½ tsp. cinnamon — $0.06
¼ tsp. nutmeg — $0.02
1 cup (8 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch dice — $1.39
¼ cup ice water
4 cups (2 pints) organic or pesticide-free strawberries – quartered — $7.00
¼ cup sugar — $0.14
¼ cup basil – finely chopped — $0.25
1 tsp. cornstarch — $0.03
1 tsp. lemon juice — $0.11
2 Tbsp. whole milk — $0.08
2 cups (1 pint) Blue Ridge Dairy Honey Greek Style Yogurt — $6.00
If this isn’t available in your area you can use any whole-milk Greek yogurt and add 1-2 tablespoons of honey.
Total cost of this dish = $15.85
For the crostata dough:
Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a food processor or a Kitchen Aid mixer and mix until combined. Add the butter and mix until pea-size crumb is formed. With the mixer still running, add the ice water all at once. Process just until dough comes together. Remove from the bowl and form into a 1-inch-thick disc on a lightly floured board. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but over-night is best.
When the dough has been chilled thoroughly, flour the area you plan to roll the dough. Slowly, working from the middle roll the dough out from all sides to achieve an 8-inch round. Transfer the round by rolling it around the rolling pin and placing it on a sheet pan or pizza stone. Place in the refrigerator until you are ready to add the filling.
For the strawberry filling:
In a medium saucepan mix 3 cups of quartered strawberries with all but 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cook over medium high heat until strawberries are frothy and have reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Mix cornstarch with 1 teaspoon of cold water and mix until cornstarch has “melted”. (This step is super important. If you add the cornstarch straight to the hot strawberry mixture it will clump up and not be smooth.) Add cornstarch mixture to strawberries to thicken. Bring mixture back to a boil to achieve the proper consistency. Let mixture completely cool in the fridge or if you are pressed for time it can be rushed in the freezer. Once cooled, add the last cup of quartered strawberries, chopped basil and lemon juice.
To assemble the crostata:
Place the strawberry basil mixture in the middle of the dough round. (Reference picture below)
Fold all sides up on top of the filling very rustically. There is no rhyme or reason to this step, just make sure there are no holes in any of the folds. (Reference picture below)
Use a pastry brush to brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake crostata at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling in bubbling. Let the crostata rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
For the honey Greek “frozen yogurt”:
While the crostata is cooking place the pint of yogurt in the freezer. Every 5 minutes vigorously stir the yogurt, set a timer if you need to. After about an hour the yogurt will resemble frozen yogurt without ever needing an ice cream machine. Serve a scoop with every portion of crostata. (Reference picture below) Enjoy!
Veronneau, an acoustic Latin Jazz and Gypsy Swing group, will perform in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish at 8 pm at Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 S. Maple Avenue. Tickets are $20 for adults/$18 for students and seniors. Order online in advance at www.creativecauldron.org or by calling 571-239-5288.