A question I often receive is “How do you make all this delicious food and still say thin?”. I wish I could just pin it on a lightening-fast metabolism, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The reality is that my relationship with food has had its ups and downs over the years, but only recently have I felt like I’ve started (keyword here) to achieve a healthy balance.
For one, my diet on the whole is fairly simple: lots of salads, toast with almond butter, blueberry smoothies, hummus, and sweet potatoes. I try to keep processed foods to a minimum, and keep my cravings under control with lots of fresh fruit, dates, and healthy fats like nuts, olives and avocado. I am my most happy when I sit down not only to a delicious meal, but also one that nourishes my body and leaves me feeling positive about the choices I made at the table. Good and good for you do not have to be exclusive and when you combine the two, you will find it creates a cycle of positive reenforcement. I eat “healthy-ish,” as Bon Appetit puts it.
Which brings me to my next point: moderation. Even though I’m still learning how to reign in my ice cream addiction (it’s a real thing folks, look it up!), I have found the hard way that depriving myself of “bad food” is not sustainable and, oftentimes, counter-productive. In college, I would impose strict diets on myself and cut out whole food groups, only to “crack” and watch my weight yo-yo on the scale. If you’ve ever experienced this back and forth before, you know how tiring it can be. Practicing moderation helped me kick these unhealthy habits and I did this by allowing myself to eat everything.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until I was working as a full-time baker—dreaming up pies, cakes, and cookies each day—that I let go of my deep-rooted inhibitions. If I ate everything I churned out of the kitchen, I’d feel terrible all of the time! I’d also be out of a job. Still, I had to taste everything before it went out front. My meals were oftentimes a smorgasbord of whatever passed through my station: toast, a bite of cake, half a cookie, a few apple wedges seasoned for pie, roasted broccoli for quiche, a handful of nuts (or chocolate chips…) and a sliver or two of a new cheese we were carrying. Overtime, I found that to eat this way, I had to listen to my body and be kind to it. I learned to be satisfied with just a taste or two of cake. Not having a bite also wouldn’t kill me. The experience taught me that I can (in this case, had to) eat everything—as long as it was in moderation. This approach proved especially helpful post-accident, where I went (and continue to go) through long stretches where I'm not as mobile. By eating with discretion but without discrimination, I no longer feel deprived of any one food. There's less of a need to go overboard, less associated guilt, and, in turn, I still can feel good about my body. Everyone's "food journey" is different, so I encourage you to find what works for you.
That being said, as much as I live to eat, most of the time I cook and bake just for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m happy with just a taste and then give the rest away. Sounds crazy, right? It’s not. It’s nice to prepare myself a meal that I’ll enjoy, but it becomes all together special to share it with another and watch as their eyes close and whole body relax as the flavors, textures and nuances of the dish take over their senses. The power to elicit this kind of response brings as much happiness to me as it does them. That’s why I loved working in a professional kitchen—no excuse needed to pick up a rolling pin—and jump at any occasion at home to get my creative juices flowing.
Since moving back to RI, I am constantly inviting friends from all over to visit me. Come! We’ll feast! I’ll cook you whatever your heart desires! My friend Kristen took the bait and visited me a few weeks ago. To celebrate, I picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market, supplemented them with my own homegrown cherry and sungolds, stirred fresh basil and oregano into ricotta cheese and made this galette. That night, we feasted, toasted to our friendship, and relished in each other’s company after being apart for so long. I practiced moderation, but in a way that was appropriate given the circumstances. For as they say, everything in moderation, including moderation.
Heirloom Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Galette with Cornmeal Crust
crust adapted from Baking with Julia
A galette is the whimsical, easy-going cousin of pie. Roll out the pastry, add your filling, fold the edges over (we’re aiming for rustic here so no need to fuss) and pop it in the oven. They can be made sweet or savory, a show-stopping appetizer or delightful dessert. This galette in particular showcases the best of summer: sun-ripened tomatoes, picked from the garden or your local farmer’s stand, fresh basil and oregano, creamy ricotta and a toothsome cornmeal crust that ties it all together. Do yourself a favor and double the pastry dough recipe—it’ll serve as a delicious vehicle for any summer bounty you have on hand.
3 tablespoons sour cream
⅓ cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup medium or finely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3-4 small tomatoes, preferably heirloom
a handful of cherry or sun gold tomatoes
1 cup high-quality ricotta
⅓ cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for garnish
⅓ cup fresh oregano, chopped, plus more for garnish
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg for egg wash (mixed with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, milk or water)
¼ cup shredded parmesan
- For the pastry: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar. Add cubed, cold butter and toss to coat. Place in fridge about 15-20 minutes, or until bowl and ingredients are thoroughly chilled. Mix the water and sour cream in a measuring cup and place in freezer. With your fingers orpastry cutter, cut butter into the flour. You want to create flat, thin sheets of butter ranging from the size of oat flakes to the size of peas.
- Next, drizzle the ice water over the flour-butter mixture, a few tablespoons at a time. Using a gentle, open hand or a rubber spatula, stir the water into the flour. Continue to add more water, a few tablespoons at a time, until dough is hydrated—you know this when you squeeze the dough into clumps and it doesn’t fall apart. Press the dough together, form it in a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least one hour before using, or overnight.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll outdough into a 12- to 13-inch circle, about ⅛-inch thick. Transfer to baking sheet. Place in fridge while you prepare the filling.
- For the filling: Line another baking sheet with paper towel. Cut heirloom tomatoes into ¼-inch thick slices. Place one layer of tomatoes on baking sheet and cover with another paper towel. Stack another layer of tomatoes, followed by more paper towel if needed. This step rids the tomatoes of excess moisture. Slice smaller tomatoes in half and place, cut side down, on paper towel. Let sit for at least 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, stir the basil, oregano and lemon zest into the ricotta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove chilled dough from fridge. Spread herbed ricotta mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Layer the heirloom tomatoes first, then fill gaps with smaller tomatoes, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Fold the edges over the tomatoes, pleating at points to make a circle. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill and set the dough.
- While the galette is chilling, preheat oven to 375°F. When ready to bake, brush edges of galette with egg wash and sprinkle the galette with parmesan cheese. Bake the galette, rotating the pan halfway through, until it is deep golden brown and crisp, about a hour. Serve warm or at room temperature and garnish with more fresh herbs before serving.