Capitalism, Cheese, and Freeform Pastries

Despite attempting to run a cooking(ish) blog, I’m actually not a fan of recipes. This probably comes from a place of not liking being told what to do?! Regardless, I think the best recipes are both forgiving and highly customizable. This is why my absolute favorite dish to bake is a galette.

In the world of pastry baking, there are pies and there are tarts, both of which are labor intensive works of art. I respect pies and tarts. I appreciate the love and time that goes into baking said pies and tarts. But sometimes (most of the time), we just don’t have the patience for those and that’s totally okay. Galettes are the free form, rustic pies that everyone needs to keep in their back pockets when they want to wow someone with minimal effort and guidance.

They can have juice leaking from the sides. The pastry pie can tear. They can be octagonal. No matter what happens, they will be delicious and endearingly rustic. And the best part? You can fill them with whatever you want to, which makes it really easy to shop locally and in-season to keep your carbon footprint low while supporting local farmers. If you didn’t know, now you know!

Last weekend my sister picked up my favorite kinds of beets, striped chioggia beets, at the Farmer’s Market from Spring Brook Farm in Lincoln, MA. They taste similar to traditional beets, but they have a slightly sweeter taste and they give off some serious Dr. Seuss vibes which I’m really into. Because they’re so sweet, they’re just begging to be paired with a briny, creamy feta cheese.

I can hear you all right now saying, “Hold up. Feta cheese definitely doesn’t fall into the ‘good for the earth’ category, right?!” To which, yes, you’re entirely right. As far as climate impact goes, meat and dairy account for nearly 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse emissions each year, and that doesn’t even take into account the deforestation associated with farming and ranching! What’s a cheese-loving, tree hugging girl to do?!

You eat the cheese, of course, but you do it in moderation. And when you can, you buy locally! I’m fortunate to live down the street from an American Provisions where they stock their shelves with local, ethic food like this feta cheese from Vermont. Remember, I’m all about finding that balance between food that brings you joy and food that supports a healthy environment. Because while the world would probably be a better place if everyone ate beans instead of beef, the world would be a hell of a lot better if we held the 100 energy companies that have contributed over 71% of carbon emissions since climate change was acknowledged accountable for their unregulated greed and deceitful marketing.

In short, enjoy your cheese while you plot the destruction of capitalism. Here’s a great recipe to do just that:

Za’atar Spiced Beet Galette

Serves 6

For one, 9-inch pie crust:

  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted vegan or dairy butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ice

For the filling:

  • 2 medium chiogga beets, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2-4 sprigs of thyme, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 block of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 egg + water for egg wash
  • Za’atar for sprinkling

1. Combine the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix gently to combine. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula or wooden spoon (be careful not to use your hands too much because we don’t want to melt the butter).

2. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until a few pea-size pieces of butter remain. The mixture at this stage should be dry and loose with butter mixed throughout.

3. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large cup or small bowl. Sprinkle (don’t just pour!) 2 tablespoons of this ice water mixture into the dough, using a spoon to mix until fully incorporated.

4. Keep adding the mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, using a spatula or your hands now to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. It’s okay if there is leftover water mixture, you probably will not need it all.

5. Shape the dough into a flat disk, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to give the crust time to mellow and relax.

6. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss together the sliced potatoes, beets, garlic, olive oil, and thyme in a bowl until the vegetables are even coated. Season liberally with salt! Root vegetables can handle a lot of salt.

7. Flour a clean surface and take out the rested dough. Roll the dough out to a 12-inch round (again, we’re not aiming for perfection here! Ragged is fine.). Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

8. Pile the vegetable mixture over the dough circle, leaving about a half inch border. Sprinkle the feta over the top and gently fold the pastry over the vegetables, pleating to hold it together. Brush the crust liberally with a beaten egg and tablespoon of water mixture. Sprinkle the crust with a za’atar seasoning blend, which will add a delightful, nutty touch to an earthy wheat crust.

9. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and caramelized and the crust is golden brown. Cool for at least 15 minutes, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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