NOTE: I am a fan of 30-day challenges, and November is traditionally a time of two: National Novel Writing Month, and 30 Days of Thanks. As I am not a fiction writer, this year I have chosen to publish a daily blog for the entire month, expressing my gratitude. This may not be entirely food-focused, but expect recipes aplenty. Feel free to join me in the comments below. What are you thankful for today?
Last week I drove to Pennsylvania to visit my nearly-98-year-old grandmother. It was the day after a particularly difficult therapy session (yes, we can talk about this: it’s mental health, y’all), and the drive out of the city was a welcome escape.
There is something about sunny, crisp days when the trees are outlined in black against the clearest blue sky and golden-hued leaves fall like rain from the trees that fills me up with a complicated mix of emotions.
On this particular day, I had a very clear sense of myself and what it is I am trying to do.
(a phrase I hate but which is utterly appropriate here)
On a day like this, I feel like every step I take is a step towards the person I have always wanted to become in this lifetime and away from the person that I was becoming, the child who experienced trauma but had never looked it square in the eyes as an adult. It is difficult to imagine doing work like this on a clear, sunny day, and yet this is one of the few times when I feel at peace with myself.
I cannot always talk explicitly about the things I am dealing with; it’s not a fit for this blog, and it will be hurtful to some who are still on the earth. But it is important work for me, and as I drove the two hours to see Grandma, I kept returning to one person with whom I have been able to talk explicity, slowly unwinding the knotted threads of decades-old hurts and haunts.
In this endeavor, I have been supported this past (nearly) year by someone who has previously only been known as my “particular friend.”
I am 45. “Boyfriend” sounds dumb at my age.
“Partner” could be many different things.
“Lovin’ spoonful” is silly and applies but is often dismissed.
“Lover” just doesn’t work in mixed company.
In light of this, I will start my 30 Days of Thanks by introducing Khristian Weeks, my particular friend.
I introduce him here, this first day, because he has been in the 11 months I have known him a source of tremendous joy, love, and support.
Khristian is an artist. He loves children and has decided to love my dogs, even though he isn’t, himself, actually a dog person (and they love him sloppily back).
He brings me coffee in bed.
I cook for him, and he loves it.
We go for long walks.
We kiss in public, quite a lot (sorry, everyone in the freezer section of MOM’s in Hampden).
He talks to me about creative things and wants to collaborate with me, a first for me in all of my time as a writer (and with a host of other past artistic boyfriends who maybe never saw me as an artist).
Khristian has made me happy and given me hope for everything that is to come in this life.
So for all of this, I am making him a mushroom galette.
Khristian is a newly-minted pescatarian, and he loves all things vegetable.
So why in hell would I decide to make a mushroom galette for this person who means so much to me? Isn’t that sort of shitty?
Well, here’s the thing.
I like a challenge. Khristian hates mushrooms; I want to make him something with mushrooms that he loves.
When my friend Laura posted that she had foraged some maitake mushrooms (also known as hen of the woods) from Druid Hill Park, I swapped her buttermilk mashed potatoes, two types of slaw, and a roasted chicken thigh for a huge bag of maitakes and a smaller bag of chicken of the woods mushrooms (which I am planning on frying like chicken and slathering in barbecue sauce. #Trust).
The recipe below uses my gluten-free galette crust from my butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. The filling is a combination of red chard harvested from The Friends School (where Khristian works), mushrooms from Druid Hill Park just two miles away, and ricotta cheese. This is the kind of hyper-local food that is bound to taste good.
Hopefully dedicating a recipe to someone isn’t like getting their named tattooed on your body (as in, that it pretty much instantly dooms the relationship).
Khristian, my love, on my first day of gratitude in November, this is for you.
Maitake Mushroom and Swiss Chard Galette
1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (regular flour works, too)
pinch of salt
1 stick of very cold butter, cut into bits (or frozen and grated)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or regular yogurt)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water (seriously. Ice water. Don’t skimp. Cold tap doesn’t work.)
1 cup ricotta cheese, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
1 cup (ish) maitake mushrooms, torn, or crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large bunch of red chard, cut into bite-sized pieces (I do not remove the ribs, but you can if you like)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh mixed herbs (I used all parsley because that’s what was in the Friends’ School garden, but any combination of cilantro, chives, or dill would be lovely)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Make pastry first, as it needs to chill. You can even make it the day before.
Method one: Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice. Add butter to flour and salt in food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add sour cream mixture and pulse to combine. Slowly add ice water until dough comes together.
Method two: Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice. Using a pastry cutter or fingers, rub butter into flour until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add sour cream mixture and mix well. Add ice water and mix until dough comes together.
Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press together into a ball. Wrap tightly and chill for an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large pan to prevent overcrowding, heat oil and add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. If mushrooms are crowded in the pan, they will steam rather than crisp. If you only have a small pan, saute in batches. Crispy mushrooms take about five minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add garlic to the same pan and saute without burning, then add red chard. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until the chard begins to wilt. I like to keep mine slightly crispy, but it’s up to you. Four minutes and your chard will be completely wilted. I cook for about a minute less than that.
I use a piece of parchment paper to roll out my crust, as this makes for super easy transfer to a baking sheet.
Place chilled dough on parchment. Place plastic wrap on top of the dough (this keeps pastry from sticking to the rolling pin without adding extra flour, which can dry pastry out) and roll out into a circle roughly 12″ in diameter and no more than a 1/4″ thick.
Spread 3/4 cup of ricotta over the pastry, leaving about 1 1/2″ around the edge without filling. Top ricotta with chard, then pile mushrooms on top of that. Spoon remaining ricotta over vegetables. Season once more with salt and pepper.
Fold the edges of the pastry over and pinch to seal any gaps. I use a bench scraper to pick up the dough so that I am not warming it up by touching it more than I have to.
Brush edges of pastry with beaten egg.
Keeping galette on the parchment, transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes (check at 20) until the edges are golden brown.
Remove from oven and let stand for at least five minutes before serving. To serve, mix fresh herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and one tablespoon of olive oil together. Top galette with herb mixture and cut like a pizza.