Puff Pastry, anyone?

While taking classes in Italy, I discovered just how versatile puff pastry was ~ and when you make your own?  WORTH every pounding moment! However, to enjoy the following recipe for “Strudel di Vegetali, Caprino e Basilico” (vegetable strudel with goat cheese and basil) a trip to your local grocer is all you’ll need.

 

strudel
strudel

 

 

 

 

 

Strudel di Vegetali, Caprino e Basilico

  • 2 carrots
  • 2 eggplant
  • 3 zucchini
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 leek
  • 2 radicchio treviso (if not available, omit)
  • 250 g goat’s cheese
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 100 g grated parmegiano 
  • 1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed

Cut all the vegetables in small cubes and cook in a large skillet with a drop of olive oil. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add parmigiano, basil in julienne and goat’s cheese.  Roll out puff pastry carefully, dust with a little flour and roll out with rolling pin. Spoon vegetables down the center of pastry; roll to create a strudel form. Brush with egg wash and bake in oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until golden and flaky. Serve warm with a nice salad for a delectable dinner!

Here is where you can get creative: either make individual-portions with the pastry-veg, or create one large pastry, bring to the table on a serving platter ~ choice is beautiful… you can even make little tarts by fitting your muffin tin with the puff pastry, spoon veg in and bake.

Radicchio Treviso
Radicchio Treviso

 

Radicchio has been around for quite some time: Pliny mentions the marvelous red-lined lettuces of the Veneto region in hisNaturalis Historia, noting that in addition to being tasty they’re good for insomnia and purifying the blood; he also says it was the Egyptians who bred radicchio from its more wild ancestor, chicory. In the Middle Ages it was especially popular among monks, who welcomed anything that would add zest and flavor to the simple, predominately vegetarian diets proscribed by their orders. Not that the plant was limited to monastic kitchens; it also figured prominently on the tables of nobles, both cooked and raw: In 1537 Pietro Aretino advised a friend who had a garden to plant it, saying he much preferred it to “aroma-free lettuce and endive.”

 

 

 

And for any of you over achievers, risk takers, adventure seekers:

Homemade puff pastry

  • 1 3/4 cups/245 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp/85 g unsalted butter, plus 1 cup/225 g, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml ice-cold water
  • Special equipment: stand mixer with paddle attachment, rimmed baking sheet, rolling pin, bench scraper (optional), a lot of patience
  • Special note:  I do not own a stand mixer! I do this with my good old hand mixer and my hands.  Do not be afraid!

1. In the stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, and 6 tbsp/85 g butter and beat on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the butter is completely mixed into the flour and the mixture resembles damp sand. Add the water and continue to mix on low speed for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the dough comes together. It will be somewhat damp and sticky, with some drier spots. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape it into about a 5-in/12-cm square. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. This dough block is called thedétrempe. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Remove the détrempe from the fridge and place it on a generously floured work surface. With your hands, press the dough into a rectangle about 8 in/20 cm wide and 5 in/12 cm from top to bottom. Using the rolling pin or your palms, press, spread, and shape the remaining 1 cup/225 g butter into a rectangle that covers the entire right half of the dough; it should measure about 4 in/10 cm wide and 5 in/12 cm from top to bottom. Fold the left half of the dough over the butter and press down to seal the butter between the dough halves. Turn the dough 90 degrees clockwise so that the rectangle is 5 in/12 cm wide and 4 in/10 cm top to bottom, and generously flour the underside and top of the dough.

3. With your palms, press the dough down, flattening it out to make rolling it a little easier. Slowly begin rolling the dough from side to side into a long rectangle about 15 in/38 cm wide and 10 in/25 cm from top to bottom. The dough may be a little sticky, so be sure to flour the dough and the work surface as needed to prevent the pin from sticking. Using the bench scraper or a knife, lightly score the rectangle vertically into thirds. Each third will be 5 in/12 cm wide and 10 in/25 cm from top to bottom. Brush any loose flour off the dough. Lift the right third of the dough and flip it over onto the middle third. Then lift the left third of the dough and flip it on top of the middle and right thirds (like folding a business letter). Your dough should now be about 5 in/12 cm wide, 10 in/25 cm from top to bottom, and about 1 in/2.5 cm thick. Rotate the dough clockwise 90 degrees; it will now be 10 in/25 cm wide and 5 in/12 cm from top to bottom, with the folded seam on top. (The process of folding and rotating is called turning the dough.)

4. Repeat the process once more, rolling out the dough into a long rectangle, again about 15 in/ 38 cm wide and 10 in/25 cm from top to bottom, and proceeding as previously directed to give it another turn. This time the dough will be a bit tougher to roll out and a bit more elastic. Try to keep the dough in a nice rectangle, flipping it upside down as needed as you roll it back and forth.

5. Return the dough to the baking sheet and cover it completely with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under the dough as if you are tucking it into bed. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a well-floured work surface, with one long side of the rectangle facing you and the seam of the dough on top. This time, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 27 in/68 cm wide and 8 in/20 cm from top to bottom. Be firm with the dough. It may be a bit tough to roll out, and you’ll need to have patience. Once again score the dough lengthwise into thirds, and then give it another business-letter fold (fold the right third over the middle third, and fold the left third over the middle and right thirds).

7. Repeat to give the dough another turn. Return the dough to the baking sheet and again cover it completely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for another hour.

8. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and give it two more turns. (Place the dough on a well-floured work surface with a long side facing you, roll it into a rectangle 27 in/68 cm wide and 8 in/20 cm from top to bottom, score it into thirds, give it a business-letter fold, and repeat.)

9. Before using the dough, cover it and return it to the fridge to rest for 1 hour. If you are not using the dough that day, wrap it tightly in plastic and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

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