Cooking Art History: Savoring Silence

The way we taste food is far more complex than flavor alone.
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This past weekend I taught a class at ESMoA inspired by its latest Experience, SILENCE. The exhibit explores the path of abstraction in art, a path that goes hand in hand with our ways of perceiving and understanding the world. Though abstract art can be rooted in realism, it uses a visual language of color, shape, line, texture and space (the elements of art) to create a composition that is independent from the recognizable visual references of the world.

Food can be as expressive as art and uses the same elements of art, but with the added dimensions of taste and smell. The way we taste food is far more complex than flavor alone. The shape, smell and color of a food, its packaging, and even the setting in which it is eaten, affects the way it tastes. Similarly, how one experiences art -- the setting, one's state of mind when doing so -- can tap into our psyches and emotions in different ways.

Run to ESMoA on or before May 4th to see Edouard Manet hanging next to Carl Andre and Amely Spotzl, a contemporary artist whose work I'm slightly obsessed with. This show is not to be missed!

This recipe is inspired by SILENCE and explores the element of art, texture. The 19th-century French chef Antonin Carême once said, "The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music and architecture, the principle branch of this latter being pastry." A quote that rings so true.


Strawberry Galette

Texture is used to describe either the way a three-dimensional work actually feels when touched, or the visual "feel" of a two-dimensional work. This free-formed tart has a combination of wet berries, a crunchy crust and a creamy topping.

For the crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

For the filling:

1 pound strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces

For the whipped cream:

2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Prepare the dough: Combine both flours, sugar, and salt in a food processor; blend for 5 seconds. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Whisk egg and milk in a small bowl to blend. Add to the flour and butter mixture and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 1/2 hours. This can be prepared 2 days in advance.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface to 12" round; brush with egg wash and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

3. Cut strawberries lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss slices with the sugar and cornstarch, and immediately arrange them in concentric circles on dough. Start 1 inch from edge, overlapping slices slightly. Fold edge of dough over berries. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

4. Whisk together yolk and water. Brush dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Dot berries with butter. Bake until crust is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

5. While the galette is baking make the whipped cream by beating the heavy cream, confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract together in a large bowl until soft peaks form.

7. Let the galette cool and serve with dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 8 to 10

Image: Fragment, Claude Monet, oil on canvas, after 1908