Another milestone to remember from these hazy baby days: the first time I felt inspired, I mean truly inspired, not I’ll-roast-sweet-potatoes inspired, not I’ll-make-a-comfort-kale-salad inspired, but actually, genuinely inspired to create something new in the kitchen post-baby was Tuesday, September 1, nine weeks and three days after the little man entered our world. I wondered when this day would come. In the immediate days after Rocco was born, I doubted it ever would. So many of those first few weeks while I sat on our living room sofa watching the world through our front windows, I doubted I would ever do even the simplest things again. I had lost half my blood supply at the hospital, a statement that surprised me as much when they first told me as it does now when I think about it, and while I recovered, things that were always easy to overlook about everyday life—walking to the bathroom, laying down in bed, getting a drink, taking a shower—became luxuries I fantasized about and coveted being able to do on my own. So in the last few weeks as we’ve celebrated one new milestone after another for Rocco (he makes eye contact! he smiles! he can hold up his head!), we’ve also celebrated mine (making the bed! driving a car! walking around a mall!). This week, the newest update is also bloggable: baking a crostata!
The thing I love about the crostata, that rustic Italian tart that lends itself to sweet feelings like peach as well as savory fillings like the one pictured here, is that it can be freeform. You roll out your dough, you place something in the middle and you fold up the sides. That’s it. Super simple, super flexible, super approachable when you’re just regaining your sea legs at the stove. Here, I went with thinly sliced carrot matchsticks over a spiced kefir (or yogurt) sauce because personally I love recipes that call for kitchen staples. I want more of them in my life. True, exotic ingredients are fun, but personally I love thinking something sounds good and then promptly pulling out ingredients and getting it prepped right away, just as inspiration strikes.
Tim and I had baked a similar dish last summer, back when we were in Austin, the same night we made this crazy delicious tomato tart. That time, we cut the carrots too thick, so while the tart tasted good, the carrots weren’t quite soft and we didn’t tell you about it, but, this time, they were just right and so it’s time. Moral of the story: the thinner the better! Also, you’ll notice I put basil in the crust and in the sauce, but it’s fairly optional, especially if we want to keep the pantry-cooking idea going and you don’t have basil on hand.
OK, that’s all for now! Rocco’s laying next to me on the rug in the living room, cooing and squawking like he does when he’s full and clean and enjoying a little awake time. At nine weeks old, he doesn’t even care who’s with him while he plays. He’ll happily, contentedly punch the air and smile at the ceiling, like all the world’s his toy, which, for right now, at least until he transitions into ready-for-nap time, means I’m free to type away from inches next to him, my new life meeting my old one. What a kid!
Indian-Spiced Carrot Crostata with Basil
The crust of this crostata is lightly adapted from our favorite all-butter pie crust recipe, for which we posted step-by-step directions in this previous how-to guide. If you are at all hesitant about making your own pastry dough, go over to that tutorial! Here, the only changes are the addition of kefir and basil to the dough and the rustic method of a freeform crust instead of one in a pie plate. It uses a whole stick of butter, which is the thing everyone balks at, but believe us that it yields a crazy flaky dough. In this crostata it reminded me of the edges of a croissant. For real. Try it.
Oh, and also: Feel free to use yogurt in place of kefir and another all-purpose flour in place of einkorn.
For the crust:
1 cup all-purpose einkorn or regular flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 tablespoon plain kefir
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon torn fresh basil leaves
For the kefir (or yogurt) sauce:
3 tablespoons plain kefir
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon torn fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1/4 to 1/2 pound (about 4 to 7) carrots
Olive oil, for drizzling
Honey, for drizzling
Start by making the tart crust: Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or forks/knives or your fingers until it’s broken up throughout. Stir in kefir and water and basil and use your hands to quickly quickly make this mixture a dough. Once you’ve formed it into a cohesive ball, set it in the bowl and put the bowl in the refrigerator.
In a small bowl, combine yogurt sauce ingredients (kefir or yogurt, cumin, basil, salt).
Preheat the oven to 375F. Next prepare the carrots: Peel them all. Chop off the root ends. Slice the carrots vertically until they are super thin, about 1/8” to 1/16” in width. Length is up to you and part of the whole rustic bit.
Remove ball of dough from fridge and place on a floured piece of parchment. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to be about 10” to 12” around. It can be whatever odd shape, be it circle or rectangle or octagon, that you like, but 10” to 12” is about how large that shape should be. In the center of the dough, leaving about 2” to 3” around the edges free, spoon and spread the yogurt sauce. Next top with carrots.
Here is a slightly tricky part: move the edges of the dough up and over the middle section. If the dough sticks a little, which is very possible, I recommend using a pastry knife to get underneath it and move it up. Otherwise, lots of flour and patience.
Once the dough is all pulled up around the carrot filling, drizzling a little olive oil and a little honey over the top. I also like to sprinkle a dash or two of salt over everything.
Move parchment to rimmed baking sheet and place in oven. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the crust is golden and the carrots are soft. Garnish tart with more fresh basil if you like. Once slightly cooled, slice and enjoy!
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.