Monday, July 6, 2015

Blueberry-Basil Galette in a Cast Iron Skillet

Music can be found within the cuisine of the American South. 
I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, a place of fog and fiddle music. It's no wonder that I developed a big love for bluegrass, knee-high weeds, and country cooking.  But once upon a time, I had my doubts.

When I was eight years old, my family moved from New Orleans to a small town in Tennessee. As we drove around the courthouse square, my mother wept--not because she was homesick, not because she was suffering from culture shock, but because she was worried about food. 

"Where will I buy oysters for Christmas gumbo?" she whispered. 
Gumbo was a religion in our family. You couldn't have Christmas without it. Until now, we'd gone to the French Market for seafood, and my daddy had shucked the oysters in the backyard. My eyes brimmed as I remembered stopping in Cafe du Monde for beignets. I remembered picking berries at Mama Hughes' Mississippi farm, swimming in the bayou, and getting my hair braided by the aunts.
Maybe it wasn't too late to turn around. 

Each day brought a shocking revelation, mainly culinary. One day Mama decided to bake a cheesecake, but the local market didn't sell sour cream--they'd never heard of it. The manager looked flustered. Why, he'd be put out of business if he sold rotten food. 

That summer, a neighbor lady brought us pints of Appalachian blueberries. Mama whipped up a tart in her cast iron skillet, and at that moment, a down-home cook was born.

Blueberry Basil Galette
                                         serves 6

Basil brightens the berries and lemon, adding a savory edge--and a touch of mint. Lavender adds adventure and a witch's spell. Cinnamon coaxes sweetness from the berries.

2 pounds fresh blueberries
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh lavender buds
2 teaspoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package store-bought puff pastry (2 sheets)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon water
cast iron skillet

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Into a large bowl, toss blueberries with sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, lavender buds, basil, and vanilla extract. Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes. (Tip: to prevent basil from darkening, roll the leaves into logs, then slice.)
Defrost puff pastry and roll out. Place in greased cast iron skillet, allowing pastry to flop over the sides. Add blueberries, spreading evenly in the skillet. Gently fold pastry over the berries, crimping at the edges. Mix egg and water. Brush egg wash over pastry. Place the skillet in the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry browns, Remove from oven and cool. Sprinkle with Demerara or lemon sanding sugar. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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  1. Sure sounds good! Very pretty in the cast iron too:@)

  2. Oh this sounds devine and I love the story of how your mom became a country cook. Fun.

  3. What a delightful way to kick start the morn! I adore your story telling, coupled with your beautiful photography, AND dessert, well lets just say it's going to be a great day!

  4. Your galette looks amazing! I wouldn't think to cook it in cast iron... it would help contain the juices!

  5. I agree with Jain. What a great way to start the week! Michael Lee your skills in the kitchen are stellar, but add it your "story telling" as Jain says , along with the incredible photos ~ well, it's all awe inspiring. The fourth photo should be a painting. Love the way you wove the ivy and lavender into the shot as well as that gently folded textile under the pie. Sheer artistry!

  6. Story was wonderful <3 - but galette is even better!!!

  7. You are without a doubt your mother's daughter! And you do tell a good tale too.

  8. Never would have thought that basil paired with blueberry and cinnamon would work! Your recent posts about herbs have inspired a new Pinterest board dedicated to learning more about herbs and recipe adventures, thanks for sharing the info as well as the sweet stories Michael Lee~

  9. Visiting from The Scoop Blog Party and I am glad I decided to stop by and get the details of this recipe. I've been looking for new ways to use the herbs from my garden, and you have some great ideas, starting with this recipe. Thanks so much for sharing.~Dorene @ Seasonal Chapters

  10. I can understand why your mom was so upset...

    When I moved to Virginia from California, I went to buy some artichokes (a staple year round in stores at home) and after going to three different stores, I finally found three of them off to the side. When I got in line the checker asked me what it was and what I was going to do with it. When I told her that I was going to serve them for dinner she looked at me like I was crazy and asked where I was from. When I told her she just shook her head, I'm sure thinking... crazy California people lol


  11. Your blueberry and basil galette looks delicious but is even more so, served up with your story-telling! My grandparents had a farm in Mississippi. I have such fond memories of hot summer days and nights sitting in the rocking chairs snapping beans and watching the fireflies from the porch. I don't think fireflies exist like that any more :)

  12. The blueberry basil gallette sounds like it's full of hidden tastes and delightful surprises. Plus, it's so gorgeous in the cast iron skillet. However, Michael Lee, dear friend, it's your story telling and memories of long ago that just have me craving more!

  13. Here I am, a lady of "a certain age" but far from knowing all the
    I would like to make this and a fresh strawberry galette for my home fellowship on Sun 2 questions are how in the world do I pronounce GAL' ETTE..? When my friends ask what it is, I would like to pronounce it correctly. Just like it's spelled ? or GALET
    2ND ques. is I doubt very seriously if I am able to find lavender ...this will still be good, right ? I did make a strawberry galette once and it was so lavender.
    Thanks, Gollum

  14. Wow, looking yummy, will surely try it,thanks for sharing :) do visit my blog too for more yummy recipes