There's definitely something to be said for sharing a meal. One of the first European gastronomic journalists, Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin, observed that the sense of taste, preparing and eating food (what we know as gastronomy), are aspects of a civilizing power that brings people together and keeps them together. In other words, meals (the preparation and eating of) create bonding experiences.
When you're new to a city, meeting friends and establishing relationships can be a bit intimidating. Two Fridays ago we had the Gastronomy program orientation, where we all prepared a meal together. We broke off into little groups and each prepared a seasonal, local, spectacular dish. My group created four rustic winter squash tarts that were lovely.
As we sat down to a four course meal, one that everyone had contributed to, whether by sautéing onions or slicing watermelon radishes with the mandolin, our connection to one another was already that much stronger because of the time spent in the kitchen, and then sharing the meal we had prepared together.
This past weekend I had the good fortune of meeting up again with some of my classmates and breaking bread at a fine establishment in the South End, followed by the consumption of a few French macarons at a local bakery-café. I am now more convinced than ever that food brings people together.
Rustic Acorn Squash Galette with Roasted Garlic
p&q original (inspired by my orientation dinner)
Serves 4 (as main) to 6 (as starter)
For galette dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp hot red pepper flakes
5 tbsp butter, cut into small pats and chilled
4-5 tbsp ice water
1 large acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
1 small head of garlic
1 tsp + 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Cheese, shredded or crumbled (optional- I topped the galette with feta before serving)
Preheat oven to 400F with rack in the center.
To make dough, combine the flour, salt, and hot pepper flakes in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to incorporate. Add the pats of cold butter and pulse a few more times until there are some pea-size pieces remaining. Add the ice water very slowly, pulsing all the while, JUST until the dough is slightly damp and when pinched it clumps/ sticks together (it's very easy to add too much water and/or over process the dough, so use precaution). Form dough into a ball and then flatten into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you roast the acorn squash and garlic.
Place the acorn squash face-down in a baking pan large enough to hold the two halves. Remove the outer layers of paper-like skin on the garlic, leaving only the thin skin on each clove. Using a serrated knife, cut about ¼ to ½ inch of the top off of the garlic bulb. Drizzle top with about 1 tsp olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Place in baking pan along with the acorn squash. Roast in preheated oven-- garlic will take about 30-35 minutes (the cloves will feel soft when squeezed), and the squash will take a bit longer, about 40-45 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove from oven (don't turn oven off) and let cool slightly. Remove skin from squash and chop into rough pieces. Remove garlic from foil pouch and squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins. Mash garlic slightly with a fork.
While the squash and garlic are baking, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until translucent and just starting to brown.
Lower oven heat to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Remove galette dough from refrigerator and roll into a rough 12-inch circle (it doesn't have to be pretty or perfect!), about ⅛ to ¼-inch thick. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and spread the onions and garlic on the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border all around. Top with the acorn squash and a light sprinkling of salt to taste. Top with cheese if using. Fold the dough border up around the filling and press to adhere and seal. Brush the beaten egg on the visible dough. Bake for about 30 minutes, until crust is golden. You could dress it up for a meal by serving it with a green salad and a glass of wine.