I woke up on Saturday morning thinking about pie. Pie and baked eggplant. They would be perfect, seasonal first posts for this blog, a project I’ve had in mind for three years. Still in bed, I mentally planned on going to the local Laiki (farmers market) with my husband where we’d choose ingredients for said delicacies. I pictured us hauling our finds back to the car, the plastic shopping bags pinching our hands beneath their weight. Typically we cook together on the weekends; it’s a hobby of sorts.
Over hot coffees, we saw that overnight Prime Minister Tsipras had not signed the latest bailout deal with Europe and had instead called for a public referendum to decide whether Greece should sign the offer or pursue another course. No matter how Mr. Tsipras words his question, it amounts to whether Greece should stay in the Eurozone. We were shocked by his decision, or perhaps I should say non-decision?
For my husband and me a Grexit would mean an abrupt change in plans. For my part, this was going to be the year I began a part-time writing career. Just last week, I ended my full-time teaching position to do so. Perhaps I made a poor choice. These are dismal thoughts for a Saturday morning.
Like most Greeks, we spent our day not far from a TV or radio, listening to reports about people queuing at ATMs and gas stations. We continued with our weekend plans in a modified way. At the supermarket we watched shoppers load their carts with dried pasta, canned milk, chips, and bottled water— cash investments before imminent price hikes and capital controls. The atmosphere was disquieting and strange.
We visited the Laiki for fresh produce for the blog post and bought what we needed for the baked eggplants, a cherry galette, and the week’s meals. Bags clutched in our hands, we did not linger over the goods as usual but headed home.
In the afternoon, I avoided the news updates and disappeared into the kitchen where I toasted walnuts for the galette. I inhaled their aroma as they roasted. The smell and the familiar rhythms of the kitchen helped to calm me somewhat and put order to the day. I continued on, pitting cherries with a homemade cherry pitter (read: an empty beer bottle and a chopstick), piling the fruit in the center of the dough and folding it up around the cherries.
Cherries are abundant now in Greece and the ones from the laiki were plump and tart, like little bombs of cherry juice. Cooked with a bit of sugar and Amaretto, their sweet and tangy flavor coupled well with the rich, walnut-kneaded crust. A strategic dollop of vanilla ice cream further improved the number. My husband and I ate forkfuls of galette while watching the latest updates. The flavors of summer and cherries melted on our tongues and for a moment they brought us some pleasure. This is what summer is all about; our mouths seemed to tell us. But we couldn’t turn off the TV.
Dough: ½ cup (55 grams) walnuts, coarsely chopped 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 grams) all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons sugar 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt ½ cup (115 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Filling: 2 lbs (907 grams) fresh cherries, pitted 1/2 cup (102 grams) sugar 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1 tablespoon lemon juice a pinch of kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon Amaretto 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk sugar
*Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Blueberry-Walnut Galette, June 2015 Issue
To make the dough:
Toast the walnuts in a small frying pan over medium heat, tossing frequently until golden and fragrant. When cool, pulse the walnuts in a food processor until the mixture resembles a coarse crumbs. Add the flour, sugar, and salt; pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few mid-sized crumbs.
Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle over 4 tablespoons of ice water. With your hands or the paddle attachment of a mixer, knead until just combined, adding another tablespoon of water or flour if necessary.
On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a 6” diameter disk. Wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before rolling out.
Filling and assembly:
Preheat the oven to 375o F (190o C). On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a thirteen-inch round. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and let rest in the refrigerator until needed.
Combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, salt and Amaretto in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pile the fruit in the center. Carefully fold a 1-inch boarder of dough up around the sides of the fruit mound. Brush the dough edges with heavy cream or milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 30-40 minutes until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown. Cool the pan on wire racks.