It’s stinking hot out there! Stinking. Hot. If you are anywhere in the eastern half of the country you know what I’m talking about. And, being that I have an inborn ability to be a worry wort, the weather has me busy worrying about global climate change. How can you not, with a heat wave that’s suffocating half the country? Riding in on the coattails of tornados and floods and generally weird weather. Oh dear, oh dear. As Joel said this morning, it kind of makes me want to go all survivalist and move onto a farm in Nova Scotia, with a windmill.
Which would be kind of a cool thing to do anyway, come to think of it.
I get easily overwhelmed by the bigness of the problems we face. Sure I’m working in a field where we’re trying really hard to make changes in some of the biggest problems we’re facing in health and the environment, and maybe that’s supposed to make me feel better. But, most of the time it feels like we’re making about as much headway as a ramshackle raft trying to boat upstream, against the wind…with a waterfall right behind it too. Some days, I find want to walk out into the street and scream at the top of my lungs, “will somebody please just do something??!!”
And, then I walk down the block to pick up my CSA vegetables (they’ve finally started back up, hurrah!) or meat, and see crowds of others doing the same. I get questions from other people about how they can find a CSA and support sustainable agriculture. I find myself in the middle of a brigade of people bike commuting. I see communities coming together to make commitments to reduce their carbon footprint, to support local economies, to think about future generations. And, I think, ‘ok, many of us are trying to do something.’ We need sweeping reforms in the way energy is used and business is done, but I’m counting on the fact that the more little things we all do, the more those will add up to something too. I’m especially counting on the fact that each time we pick up our fork, it really is a political act, one with which we can send a message about responsible and humane agricultural practices.
I know it’s not yet possible or affordable for everyone, and I don’t expect all of us to eat only locally, biodynamically raised food all the time (goodness knows I don’t. I love my avocados and coffee too much!). But each time we can make that choice, I think, I hope, that it does make a difference.
And so, even though at the moment it’s too hot out there to even acknowledge that ovens exist or are ever worth using, I’m going to share these strawberry-rhubarb galettes with you as an homage to what’s growing here right now.
Normally I prefer my rhubarb unsullied by any other flavors, except maybe a delicate suggestion of vanilla or ginger. The flavor of rhubarb is so unique, so full of the tart earthy essence of spring I generally find I don’t want to distract from it with other fruit. All this by way of saying, I never really got why people get so excited about the whole strawberry-rhubarb combination. But, then I started to think about the overlaps in produce as the growing season takes off. How, the shift from asparagus and ramps to radishes and zucchinis and then tomatoes, or the progression from rhubarb to strawberries to stone fruits, is like the aging process. A life cycle from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and then old age (that would be the weathered but wonderful root vegetables). And, somehow, inside my head, it became all romantic to think about these transitions and also the fact that for a very brief moment right now, you can get both rhubarb and strawberries locally.
And, so there you have it. These little rustic tarts are adorned with both strawberries and rhubarb, cooked into a luxuriously thick compote and spooned into a flaky butter (from grass-fed cows :)) crust. They’re perfectly sized little individual treats that you can eat right off of a napkin in your hand – making them perfect for bringing to neighbors and making friends. Or, add a spoonful of whipped cream or ice cream for a more sumptuous dessert. It’s still too hot out there, but for today, this is what I’ve got.
Strawberry-rhubarb mini galettes (makes 8 )
- 5 oz. rhubarb (probably a couple stalks, though this depends a lot on their size)
- 2 cups chopped strawberries
- 1/4 cup cane sugar (raw is better)
- 3 Tbs. brown sugar
- 2 Tbs. water
- 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Chop the rhubarb stalks into small pieces. Combine the rhubarb, the chopped strawberries, the sugars and the water in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half, scrape in the seeds and then add the pod (I actually used Tahitian vanilla – ha, definitely not local, oh well! – which didn’t seem to have seeds, so I just split it open and added it. That works too.).
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the fruits have broken down and cooked to a thick almost jammy consistency.
- Set aside to cool.
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 8 Tbs. cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt (or sour cream)
- 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar or lemon juice
- 3 Tbs. ice cold water
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or rub it in quickly with your fingers until a meal with pea sized chunks of floury butter forms. Chill this mixture in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes.
- Make a well in the chilled flour mix, add the yogurt (or sour cream), vinegar, and 3 Tbs. water to the well. Using a fork, mix everything together, adding another Tbs. of water if needed, until a loose dough ball forms. Do not overmix. Gather the dough together and press it into a ball. Flatten it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (No, it’s no fun to wait. I used to only give it about 20 minutes, but then I discovered how much better the whole rolling process works when you let the dough chill the full hour, and I am an official convert to the virtues of patience.
- Preheat your oven to 375F. Take the chilled dough and cut it into 8 equal sized pieces and roll each into a ball. On a very lightly floured surface, and using a floured rolling pin, roll out each ball into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Work quickly to try to keep the dough from warming up too much, but, you know, don’t stress out about it.
- Put about 3 Tbs. of the strawberry-rhubarb filling in a mound in the center of each circle, then take the edges of each circle and use your fingers, to fold the edges over toward the center and crimp, and pinch and flute them, making the tarts look pretty and making them so they will contain the filling.
- Put the tarts on a baking sheet that is either lined with baking parchment or lightly greased. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Transfer immediately to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for at least 15 minutes or so before you eat them. You don’t want to burn your mouth!
- If desired, serve with whipped cream or some good ice cream