They arrived about 3 weeks before I left NYC. These were not the Birkenstocks sent along with a 2-pound bag of granola as a snarky reminder of my impending life change. No, while they did indeed come from the same beloved shoe fairy and fairy godmother, these were serious shoes. Sensible shoes. Shoes, or rather clogs that the professionals wore. I had received my first pair of what I’m guessing will be a long line of chef clogs. Surely you’ve seen the animal. Those “HI, I’m ORANGE” ones made famous by a pony-tailed Mario, or the serious black ones likely worn by anyone you’ve seen come out from behind the swinging kitchen door in your favorite restaurant. Sturdy, non-skid, made-for-standing-in-for-8-hours sensible shoes.
Of course this all made perfect sense. For safety, for comfort, what lay before me in their sturdy, sensible box were absolutely the right shoe for the career path I was about to embark upon. Yet for an ample-heeled shoe enthusiast who’d spent considerable time (and money) perfecting the art of acquiring and wearing very un-sensible footwear, shoes that were good for you, especially shoes that took your slender, graceful, and not especially dainty feet and made then look like canal barges….let’s just say I was less enthusiastic than perhaps I should have been at this generous gift from my friends. I mean, come on. I write a blog called cooking in my heels, emphasis on the HEELS. How could I possibly be seen sporting SENSIBLE SHOES? What would Miuccia think? Or the Ferragamo boys? Would I be shunned, banned from the Prada mother ship in Milan for the rest of my life? Granted my new footwear was pretty swanky as far as large blocks of nonskid go, all patent leather with a watercolor flower pattern in blues, purples and pinks. Maybe I could get some cool socks to peak out of all that sensibility, ones that say, “she’s smart enough to wear these for the work she’s doing, but look at those socks…so chic, so stylish.” Ok, that’s a lot for a sock to say, but I had to think of some way to get past feeling like I was 8 years old again, and the only kid who had to wear orthopedic oxfords in the third grade.
While all of this was going on in my head, my feet decided to just jump in and check out these unusual creatures in the box. First one, then the other tucked herself inside, and as I began to walk around my apartment, my feet let out a sigh. Then my knees began to smile, then my back. Damn, these are really comfortable. I mean, ‘like buttah’ comfortable. If I was going to be on my feet for hours at a stretch, you better believe I’d want these hunks of cloggy comfort to be on them too. Hmmm….I wonder if Prada makes aprons….
A week ago I started my new job as a baker. Naturally, after 5 days of baking, I decided on my day off I would bake. (Hi, I’m Karin, and I’m a bakeaholic…) This recipe came about partly from last week’s $10 farmer’s market challenge, and partly because I was looking for an interesting way to use some blueberries and plum tomatoes from a terrific local farmer named Buzz. A crostata seemed like a good way to go. Rather than my usual tart crust recipe, I wanted something with a little more texture, and the addition of semolina gave the resulting pastries a nice subtle crunch. This dough can be used for both savory and sweet, so with the abundance from Buzz’s farm, here’s two crostatas to choose from – Oven-Dried Tomato and Roasted Pepper Goat Cheese, and Blueberry Frangipane.
Semolina Crostata Dough
(Recipe makes enough for 1 large or 2 small crostata)
- 1 cup flour
- ½ cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into cubes
- ¼ cup semolina
- A fat pinch salt (a little more than ¼ tsp)
- 3-4 TBSP ice water
In a processor, pulse the flours and salt until well mixed. Add the chilled cubed butter and process about 8-10 pulses until the butter is about the size of peas. Add the ice water, a tablespoon at a time and pulse until the dough just comes together (grab a handful and squeeze – if it sticks together, it’s done.)
Lay out some plastic wrap, dump the dough on top, and using the wrap, gather together and press into a disk. Wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Remove from fridge, and roll out into a rectangle. With the long side facing you, fold in the edges to the middle. Wrap and chill another 20 minutes. (At this point you could put in a zip top bag and stow in freezer for about a month.)
After the second rest and chill, cut the dough in half, roll each half into a rough circle about 1/8th inch thick, rewrap and chill while you make the fillings.
Oven-Dried Tomato and Roasted Pepper Goat Cheese Crostata
Serves 2 using ½ the dough recipe. If you use the whole recipe, double the ingredients for the crostata filling and topping.
- ½ Semolina Crostata Dough Recipe
- 2 oz. goat cheese
- 2 oz. roasted peppers (you could make your own, or use the jarred)
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 1 TBSP heavy cream
- Pinch salt and a few grinds black pepper
- 6-8 oven-dried tomato halves (you can also use sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained.)
- 2 tsp pine nuts
- A small wedge of pecorino romano (you’ll be shaving a little over the crostata)
- 1 egg yolk, plus 2 tsp water to make an egg wash
- Salt and pepper for sprinkling on crust
- 4 or 5 small basil leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Roll out the dough to a rough circle, about 1/8th inch thick. Wrap and chill while preparing the filling. Add the next 6 ingredients to the bowl of a processor and process until smooth. Take dough out of refrigerator and lay out on a parchment lined backing sheet. Spread cheese mixture over the dough, leaving an inch border all around. Sprinkle pine nuts over the filling, then arrange the tomatoes on top. With a vegetable peeler, shave a few shards of pecorino over the top of the tomatoes.
Fold the edges of the dough over to make a crust, gently pressing a little where the dough overlaps. It’s ok if you cover the tomatoes a little on the edge. Brush the dough with the egg wash, and lightly sprinkle the crust with coarse salt and a grind or two of pepper.
Bake 18 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let rest 10 minutes. Sprinkle over the basil leaves and serve. Calories – approximately 470 for 2 servings. **
**This crostata makes a nice appetizer, served with wine. Just cut it into 8 smaller wedges.
Blueberry Frangipane Crostata
This is pretty rich, so one recipe serves three nicely.
For the Frangipane
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1 ½ tsp flour
- 3 TBSP sugar
- 1 TBSP softened butter
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- 1 egg white
- A pinch salt
Add the almonds to the bowl of a processor and process a minute to chop. Remove a heaping tablespoon of the chopped nuts and reserve to sprinkle over the tart. Add the sugar to the almonds in the processor; pulse until the mixture is relatively fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a smooth paste. Cover and chill while you get the other ingredients together.
To assemble crostata
- ½ Semolina Crostata Dough recipe
- Heaping ½ cup of fresh or frozen blueberries (you want enough to cover the filling in one layer)
- 1 to 2 TBSP cream or milk
- Sugar for sprinkling (turbinado works nicely here)
Roll out the dough to a rough circle, about 1/8th inch thick, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the frangipane out on the tart, leaving an inch border all around. (If you have leftover frangipane it freezes well, and makes a nice addition in fruit turnovers.) Cover the frangipane with the blueberries, then sprinkle over the reserved chopped almonds. Fold over the edges of the dough, pressing gently where the dough overlaps. Brush with crust with the cream and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake 17-18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Calories: approximately 450 calories per serving.
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