I love when recipes give vegetables full-display, and it’s better still when they dominate an entire menu. I’m not vegetarian; I continually look for the tenderest cuts of meat and seafood, savoring what’s inherently juicy and made flavorful simply by butter and a perfect method. But I find it even more compelling when vegetables, beans, and grains can elicit the same interest and complexity of flavor. And what’s more is the color, innate within and essential to what the vegetable is: a foundation to the possibilities of taste.
That’s what I looked for in this pairing of an Asparagus Galette with Roasted Carrots. The green stalks become vibrant from a quick roasting, while the carrots develop a burnished golden hue. Eaten alongside one another, the two components of this meal balance a subdued sweetness with the bright, lemon freshness of the tart. We each had a glass of Fess Parker, 2015 Chardonnay, liking the ripe apple, butter and melon flavors, beautifully balanced with the anticipated oakiness. But the truth is, I enjoy everything with this wine. I think I simply love the wine, and drink it at the side of whatever I can.
I wanted to make these dishes this week as well because I’ve only now become overwhelmed by the mass of questions about the future. I’ve now counted forty-seven individually-composed cover letters that I’ve sent out since March, with interviews, emails without reply, and promising leads that have only run cold.
I thought I had done everything right, that I’d built a life on doing everything perfectly in order to be rewarded in the end. I now understand that nothing creates future certainty, a thought that’s left me somewhat bitter and cynical. I now see as well the emptiness unemployment brings. You’re without value, frustrated because you can’t market yourself or present yourself in a way that makes you desirable to a company. And because of all this, you have no idea what happens next.
I thought, at first, that because no one wanted me to write for them, that I shouldn’t write. That I couldn’t derive any purpose from it, because no one could identify its worth.
But I can only feel sorry for myself for so long, and I’m reminded that, if nothing else, I can write for its enjoyment, for its moments of reflection. And so returning to these recipes, I wanted to make them because they’re the closest I can get to a certain return. I know that smothering the carrots in olive oil and my favorite herbs leaves the vegetable with a deep, sustaining sweetness and sheen. I know too, that the addition of cream cheese yields a flaky crust, and overdoing it on the lemon zest leaves each bite lingering with incredible freshness.
Carrots Roasted with Herbes de Provence
Because it’s not exactly a recipe, my writing won’t pretend that it is. These carrots result from a suggested list of steps outlining a method that almost always strays from the original idea. So I suppose what it becomes then, is a reflection of experience, a consciousness of design and purpose. And when you think about it, that’s all cooking should be anyways. An examination of flavor, a sensibility of what you like, and a remembrance of why.
I set the oven to 400°F, laying a bundle of carrots rinsed in cool water on a baking sheet. I leave the peel and stems on, a choice made with attention to both visual aesthetics and the flavor’s intent. Drizzle atop a generous guzzle of olive oil; I like extra-virgin because it’s the fruitiest, retaining substantial flavor from the olives. Above that, a sprinkled layer of herbes de Provence, a mixture of dried herbs whose combination varies but often has savory, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Salt and pepper follow, and I gather the assortment in my hands, rotating the carrots so that each receives an equal covering of the oil and herbs. By now, the oven is warm enough to slide the sheet inside and onto a middle rack.
I try not to worry about the constraints of time here, enjoying the carrots’ slow-roasting nature. I’d say it was about an hour that I let them sit there, opening the oven periodically to toss them around to roast evenly. I was lucky though, because I stayed close to the oven, all the while preparing the ricotta mixture for the galette. (A note about timing the carrots with the galette, the asparagus was already roasting on the oven’s lower rack when I put in the carrots, and the crust already made. I leave the stalks in the oven for about twelve minutes.)
When you’re happy with the carrots’ glossy finish, you’re free to cut off the tops, but I like to take this adherence to the presentation a step further, bringing the vegetable in its entirety to the table, and snapping off some of the crisp tresses for a taste.
With the galette, I rely more so on specifics, adapting a King Arthur Flour recipe my mom and I first fell in love with for an early-summer picnic. I really only changed up the herbs, not having chives on hand and instead substituting for a mix of chopped fresh parsley and basil. And I suppose we ran out of Parmesan, so I used a ¼ cup of grated mozzarella in the ricotta mixture, with only enough Parmesan to sprinkle on top before baking. And oh, I was liberal with my measuring of the lemon zest, probably to the extent of doubling what was called for. An unapologetic mistake.
Asparagus and Chive Galette
1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold cream cheese
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 to 6 tablespoons cold water
1 medium bunch asparagus
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
To make the crust: Whisk together the flour and salt. Work in the cream cheese and butter until the mixture is crumbly.
Drizzle in 4 tablespoons of the water, tossing to moisten evenly. Add the remaining water if needed to make a cohesive dough. Pat the dough into a disk 3/4" thick, wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Snap the woody stems from the bottoms of the asparagus stalks and toss the spears in the olive oil to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Once cool, cut the asparagus into 1 1/2" pieces; a pair of scissors works well here.
In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half of the Parmesan, chives, and lemon zest.
To assemble: On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 14" circle. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 2"-wide strip uncovered around the outside edge. Arrange the asparagus pieces over the filling.
Fold the bare edges of the dough toward the center, pleating as needed. Brush the exposed dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the entire galette.
Bake the galette in a preheated 425°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before serving warm; or cool and serve at room temperature.