Month: May 2012

Pie 101 – Derby Pie

Pie 101 – Derby Pie

“Derby” Pie or  Pecan-Chocolate-Bourbon Pie.  Can you say decadent?

When someone needs something baked, I do it if I can.  If I have the time.  Not everyone bakes.  I love to bake and need an excuse now that there are only two of us in the house.  If I bake for an event, I somehow always manage to make enough so that we can share a sample or even have a tiny sweetness for ourselves.  (If it’s pie, it’s usually for Dave; I eat a bite, that’s it.  He loves pie too much for me to eat much.)

(Aside:  After I saw how many people read my basic Pie 101 post, I thought I’d begin a series (quite intermittent) on pies.  I hope  you like them.  Anywho, read on.)

Dave’s baby pie in a 4″ ramekin.  He was so relieved.

My friend Roberta likes to give Kentucky Derby parties and her pie baker was a no-show.  I was happy to have an afternoon in the kitchen, though I had never before baked Derby Pie.  I had baked many a pecan pie (the easiest pie to make except for custard and, by the way, pecan pie is a kind of custard pie as it contains eggs and melted butter) and this didn’t look much different–once I figured out what it was.  And while it wasn’t terribly different, it sure tasted differently.   Think of pecans.  Then think of what they taste like sweetened up a little.  Add chocolate.  Bourbon.  You have the picture.  And oh, how lovely this would be for Thanksgiving.

I don’t know from bourbon, but this is what I bought.

But to begin with,  I  couldn’t locate a recipe in any one of my many cookbooks.   A bit embarrassing.  But not much.

This is my cookbook corner.  That’s not all of them, of course.   And no Derby Pie. Hmph.

I thought it was odd that there was no “Derby Pie” even in any of my baking books; I have a few baking books!  Back to the computer to discover that “Derby Pie” –or the term itself– is patented and can only be baked by the Kern family in Louisville, Kentucky.  In other words, they have a monopoly on it.  Once I knew exactly what Derby Pie was, I began to look on other sites for a recipe.  I found dozens –some too simple and some too complicated– and settled on one (below) from examiner.com, a site I wrote for for a few years.  It looked like a recipe I could easily triple or quadruple, which was my day’s goal.

Warming the eggs in warm water since I forgot to take them out the night before.  Room temperature eggs are needed for baking.  I left them about 10 minutes.  Warm eggs crack easier and are less likely to leave bits of shell in your bowl.
Collecting the pie plates.  I keep a couple in my kitchen and the rest downstairs. I use pie plates for a lot of cooking.  They’re perfect for anything in the microwave (vegetables, leftovers) and I bake biscuits in them because you can take the Pyrex plate to the table and the biscuits stay warm.  I almost always use glass pie plates for even baking and for seeing the crust when checking to see if the pie is done.  Do not ever use disposable aluminum pie plates; they’re just too shallow and lightweight.
Toasting all the pecans at once on a half sheet pan.  I like to buy pecans in the fall from Georgia growers.  Often churches sell pecans for fundraisers.  Buy enough for the year then and freeze them.  I make a lot of spicy pecans for Christmas and also at other times of the year for nibbles with wine. (below)

Here I’ve mixed them with other nuts for gift giving or cookie trays.  Recipe here.

For photos of the making dough portion, turn back to my Pie 101 (Step-by-Step) or use your own favorite.  My own dough recipe–scroll down.  Do not use a sweetened dough here.

Dough in all four pie plates, including the baby pie for Dave.
Mixing each pie’s ingredients separately to make sure each pie has enough of everything.
Carefully filling the shells so that I don’t spill the filling onto the pie dough.  Some people do this on the oven rack.
This one is baked in a deep dish stoneware plate from Pampered Chef.  Emile Henry also makes a good deep dish plate.

Glass Pyrex plate

Side view of deep dish pie.

The baby.  You can bake pie in about anything that’s oven proof.  Apilco (French porcelain–excellent dishes for everyday and any day) makes large coffee cups that are oven-proof–as does Corning Ware.

The whole gang all done.    Enough for a Kentucky Derby Party.    How about Thanksgiving?

derby pie

  • Recipe for 10-inch Single Crust Pie Crust  (see below for my crust recipe or use your own)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted (and cooled or it’ll cook your eggs)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup Karo light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs  (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla  (I like Nielson-Massey vanilla; some prefer Penzey’s.)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (You see -above- I used Jim Beam.  You may know more and choose better.)
  • 3/4 cup gourmet chocolate chips (I use Guiradelli or Guittard; Callebaut is lovely, but pricey and hard to locate.*)
  • 1 1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, shelled and chopped in half if desired

 How To Make Kentucky Derby Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Roll crust according to my directions in the Best Ever Pie Crust Recipe, or use Alyce’s crust below,  or use a store bought pre-baked pie crust, line a 10-inch deep dish pie pan with the dough, and flute the edges as desired.
  • In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed with whisk attachment, whip butter, sugars, corn syrup, eggs, vanilla and bourbon together until frothy.
  • Remove bowl from mixer, and fold in chocolate chips and pecans or walnuts. Blend well.
  • Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until set.
  • Serve warm, or cool completely before serving with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Yields 8-10 slices.   Derby  Pie Recipe courtesy Donna Diegel, Examiner.com

*You can also choose an excellent semi or bittersweet baking chocolate like Valrhona or Callebaut and chop your own chocolate if you like.  BTW, I sometimes order Valrhona chocolate from amazon.com though it is sometimes available at Whole Foods or better grocery stores.)

Alyce’s Pie Dough Recipe:

Pâte Brisée-— Made in a Cuisinart — This is the dough I use most often.
                                                        for each 10″ pie shell 
1 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1/4#  unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 8 pieces (1 stick) 
1/4 cup ice water (measure 1/4 cup water into a 1 cup measuring cup half full of ice)

Place flour and salt in the work bowl of the food processor fitted with steel blade.  Pulse a couple of times to distribute salt.  Add cold butter and pulse briefly several times until butter is worked into flour in several different sizes (1/4″ – 1/2″).  With machine running, slowly pour water through feed tube until dough begins to come together.  Stop machine and carefully remove dough from work bowl.  Working quickly to avoid melting the butter within the dough, form into a ball and then flatten into a disc.  Roll out and fill immediately (see above) or chill, well-wrapped,  1 hour or up to two days ahead. 

Sing a new song; bake a new pie,
Alyce

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #49 – Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #49 – Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski

bbq chicken pizza from the happy gnome, st. paul, minnesota

Actually, this is Alyce’s BBQ Chicken Pizza!

 As a girl who loves to take pictures of food (it only started out with wanting to write about it), I don’t know how I missed being involved in Foodspotting, a website and way of life devoted to not just sharing the names of good restaurants (with our now ubiquitous and often ambiguous reviews), but to sharing the best dishes at those restaurants.  Oddly enough, in the whirl around the net, I guess I had signed up on Foodspotting, but never got around to actually participating.   So, in order to write my post for our group-blogging of Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food   (#49, Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski, ) this week,  I had to go on the Foodspotter’s website and see what it was all about.

Continue reading “50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #49 – Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski”

Strawberry Shortcake for Memorial Day

Strawberry Shortcake for Memorial Day

 When it’s my friend Sue’s birthday, or at least if I can find one, I send her a birthday card with strawberries on it.  Sometimes I can’t find one.  Sue loves strawberries and so when I knew she was coming for our Mother’s Day cook-out, I knew what the dessert was going to be.   It’ll be just perfect for Memorial Day, too, though I’ll be busy making carrot cake sheet cakes for a graduation party.  (Carrot cake was one of my first posts as a blogger.  Things, luckily, have really improved!  If all goes well, I’ll take some better photographs than I did three years ago.)

Taking vanilla bean out with my kids’ Mickey Mouse spoon.

I only make Strawberry Shortcake once or twice a year, so I try and make it light, layered with lots of ripe fruit, full of textural and temperature contrasts, and touched just enough by two kinds sweet cream–frozen and fresh whipped.  It’s a celebration  of the start of summer, though if we’re lucky, we have strawberries coming for a good part of summer in Minnesota.

For the best Strawberry Shortcake, you need each ingredient to be fresh and/or the best you can find or make.  So for this dessert, I made the shortcakes as well as homemade vanilla ice cream. (Baby spoon used at right still in drawer and my kids are 25 and 34.  We’ve moved 20 times since the oldest was a baby, so it’s been through at least 20 kitchens.  Geez.)    Ripe strawberries (some mashed) and just-whipped cream, of course.   My other tiny, but critical element is a gentle smear of raspberry jam on each half of the sliced sweet biscuits we use for shortcakes.   This recipe makes enough for 8 with a few shortcakes leftover for breakfast the next day. (Slice them, spread with butter, slip under the broiler and serve with jam and lots of hot coffee.)
 

Try this:

 strawberry shortcake with homemade shortcakes and 
            ice cream  serves 8 

8 freshly baked and cooled shortcakes, each sliced in half (recipe below)
1/2 cup best quality raspberry jam, room temperature
2 qts ripe strawberries, stemmed and sliced.  Mash about 1/4 of the berries with a tablespoon of sugar
             and mix the rest of the berries into the sugared ones.
1 1/2 qts homemade vanilla ice cream*

1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 1/4 tsp vanilla and a pinch of sugar

 To assemble...for each shortcake in a deep individual serving bowl or plate:

  1. Spread the two halves of the shortcake gently with a little raspberry jam, using about half a tablespoon for each half.  Place one half (jammed side up) in the bottom of bowl or plate and top with sliced strawberries.  
  2. Dollop in a little whipped cream on top of the berries and place the second half jammed shortcake on top.  Spoon on more strawberries and top with whipped cream.
  3. Garnish with a couple strawberry slices.
  4. Add a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream to the side of the cake and berries or on top, if you wish.
  5. Strawberry shortcake is good with a cup of coffee.

 *I made Jeni’s Ugandan Vanilla Ice Cream.  You can make any kind you’d like or even buy some best quality vanilla if you don’t have time to make it.  This recipe from epicurious.com is similar to Jeni’s, though Jeni’s has no eggs.

 My ice cream:

Chilling the ice cream mixture.

All frozen and ready for you in about 25 minutes.

And the shortcakes:

Making the shortcakes, which are like a sweet biscuit.
Shortcakes cooling on the rack.  Don’t want them too brown.

 Recipe for Shortcakes from Fanny Farmer’s Baking Book, by Marion Cunningham:

fluffy shortcakes makes 16

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 3 T sugar
  • 8 T butter
  • 1 egg, well-beaten
  • 1/3 c milk or cream,  plus droplets if needed  

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Get out 2 8 or 9″ round cake pans or a large baking sheet, but do not grease.

  Combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar in a mixing bowl, and stir ad toss them together with a fork or wire whisk. Cut the butter into bits and add it to the dry ingredients.  Then, using two knives or a pasty blender (I do this in the food processor.), or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture of fine, irregular crumbs that resemble fresh bread crumbs.  Add the beaten egg and the milk all at once, and stir with a fork until the mixture just holds together.
    Turn out (it will probably be sticky) onto a smooth, well-floured surface, and knead 12-14 times.  Pat into a rectangle 1/2″ thick.  Cut the dough into squares or rectangles, using a knife, or into rounds with a 2″ cookie cutter.  Place the biscuits touching each other in the cake pans or on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15\to 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned.

two-dog kitchen and around the hood or other stuff I’m cooking:

 

I had fun making an eggplant risotto (lots of tomatoes and basil) and a little red-winey salad for dinner the other night.   I like cooking risotto when I’m not making five other things to go with it.  (I typically do asparagus risotto with filets for a celebration dinner, for example.)   With a nod to the food world’s discussion of how long it takes to make certain dishes, I’m with the group who wants to know, “Can we be honest about how long it takes to make risotto?”  My F&W recipe says 25-30 minutes, but the rice is still crunchy then and the broth isn’t all used.  Closer to 40 minutes was right, I think.  I find that I can do a few other things in the kitchen and stir periodically, I’m not chained that risotto pot.  Neither can I go cut some peonies or trail behind my husband down the stairs to the tv either.  I haven’t yet tried the oven version that was in Oprah’s magazine a couple of months ago.  This will be a lovely dish later in the summer when all these ingredients, including fresh basil, are in good supply at the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market. Now that I think of it, there’s a microwave risotto in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook that’s really good.   It’s actually called “Spinach and Rice,”  I think.  (That, after all these years,  is still my go-to microwave section — thanks to Marion Cunningham.) Lovely for summer–no heat.

 Bleeding Hearts (I have pink and white) and Pansies…  
I’ll decorate the sheet carrot cake next weekend with the edible pansies.

One of these girls lays eggs so big they don’t fit in the carton!  (Top right corner)

I got more eggs from Cathy’s ladies this week. (Cathy’s a friend and fine pianist whose family owns a terrific coffee business, Velasquez Family Coffee, in St. Paul)  I usually save them for an omelet dinner, poached eggs on grilled cheese tomatoes:

or
Poached eggs on grilled asparagus and mushrooms with hot balsamic vinaigrette
or even Dave’s favorite, Porridged Eggs (on my dinnerplace blog)

 and I did make an omelet, but I also spread my wings and beat some up to use in making some fried chicken out of the Olives cookbook (the recipe is actually for cornish hens; I subbed boneless chicken thighs and served them with a spicy black bean-ham salad.)  This chicken is worth the price of the book.

Tucker sneaking around the cookbook corner.  Red stool @ counter = my kitchen table!

Hey, Mom!  Time to eat yet?

These are my youngest peonies planted in the shade on the west side.  Must be moved to sun.  I have some on the south side that are literally on the ground because they’re so big and I don’t have a peony cage for them.

  
If you liked this, I think you’d like my Fresh Berry Cake--.  Take the components separately to a Memorial Day Picnic. Make it with a one-layer butter cake sliced in half, or buy a Sara Lee (or bakery) pound cake, slice it horizontally, and serve a rectangular version.  Time for berries!  Recipe for Fresh Berry Cake courtesy Aida Mollenkamp, whose recipes–every one–have been delicious and spot-on.

The other thing I get to do this week is make a BBQ Chicken Pizza for our 50 Women Game-Changers (Gourmet Live); this week–almost the end–is Foodspotting.  I really love making pizza, though I don’t do it often.  (My son Sean makes the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and I’m embarrassed to think how much pizza I’ve eaten.  And in how many countries!)

A little guilty admission: I recently moved my computer to the basement temporarily and find I’m blogging while I watch Morning Joe, one of the few tv shows to which I’m addicted.  So as Joe holds forth and Mika never gets to say her piece, the blog gets written.   Thanks, guys.

Sing a new song,
Alyce
50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #48 – Cat Cora’s Grapefruit Margarita

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #48 – Cat Cora’s Grapefruit Margarita

Grapefruit Margarita by Cat Cora

On the journey with fellow food bloggers through Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, we’re heading on fast toward the finish line with number 48, Cat Cora (b 1968.)  Each week, we feature one special woman who has made an impact on what goes on the table when we sit down to eat.  Some we’ve know well; others have been new to some of us.  If you’re interested in the celebrity food world, you’ve heard of this week’s Cat Cora (Iron Chef, Around the World in 80 Plates), who hailed from Jackson, Mississippi where she was raised in a Greek restaurant family.  Soon after college she found her way to New York and the CIA for culinary school.   Training further in first-class kitchens in France and New York, she finally found her way to California where she now lives with her partner and four sons.  

Order Cat Cora’s Classics with a Twist
In addition to cookbooks, restaurants, a line of food, wine, and cookware, as well as the tv shows (click here for her You Tube Channel), Cat is also involved in a variety of causes… 
Outside of the kitchen, Cat is known for her philanthropy. She is President and Founder of Chefs for Humanity, an organization that originated in response to the 2004 Tsunami disaster. Modeled after Doctors Without Borders, the not-for-profit gathers the culinary community together to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency, educational and hunger-related causes. Recognizing Cat’s altruistic determination in the food world, UNICEF named her a nutritional spokesperson to help raise awareness for humanitarian crises around the world.

In June 2010, Cat joined First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Chefs Move To Schools campaign in an effort to provide nutritional guidance and education from professional chefs to schools nationwide. Cat is presently working on adopting an elementary school near her home in Santa Barbara, CA.  (courtesy catcora.com)

Want more info about Cat and her recipes?  Check out her website here . 
Follow Cat on twitter here.

But first, mix up this heat-beating  grapefruit cocktail as a trial run for your Memorial Day cook-out.  I am not much of a spirits drinker (as a foodie I’m into wine–it goes with food!), but I do drink the occasional  finger of island Scotch come January in St. Paul, a shot of Asbach-Uralt if I’m stuffed up with a cold, or the ubiquitous summer margarita on the patio.  You could say I’m a  medicinal drinker!   I  do like the idea of something different with a nod toward healthy (has grapefruit, right?) and so had my husband and friend Jim whip these up for us to try last weekend.  That’s right, I didn’t even make these babies; I’m fessing up.  I don’t grill outdoors and I don’t make cocktails; I don’t want to learn.  I do make great sangria and will make you some if you come to dinner in the summertime.  So there.  Try these:

cat cora’s straight up grapefruit margaritas  makes 4 cocktails

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (from about 2 large grapefruit)
  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup Triple Sec
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbs superfine sugar (plus extra for rim)
  • 4 cups crushed ice

Directions

Run a lime wedge over the rim of each glass and dip in superfine sugar. Shake all ingredients together in martini shaker, strain out the ice, carefully divide the margarita mixture among four glasses and serve. 

Taster’s Notes:  I thought these a tad sweet for my taste and would increase the lime juice next time.  Otherwise–a beautiful, refreshing start to our Mother’s Day cookout.  We also made a non-alcoholic version with grenadine and grapefruit juice.

~
I blog, on this project, with a tasty group of writers.  Read up:

Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo, Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen, Annie – Most Lovely Things, Jeanette – Healthy Living
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table
Kathy – Bakeaway with Me, Martha – Simple Nourished Living, Jill – Saucy Cooks
Sara – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

   
If you liked this, you might like my Greek Chicken Salad to go along with the margarita!

Mother’s Day Dessert

two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
Making the shortcakes–I did the ice cream, too.  May blog the whole thing!
Baked a glazed Korobuta ham–Bourbon-Orange Glazed— Wednesday for my choir’s last rehearsal.  Berkshire pork is worth the price and this is my new go-to recipe (Fine Cooking) for big groups or holiday ham.

You see where they are–getting the tablecloth full of dog hair!
Allium in my west garden–everything is way ahead of schedule.

 Egg Salad on my Dinner Place Blog (Cooking for One) this week :
                “An Egg with a Few Greens for Supper”

Sing a new song,

Alyce
Lemon Split Pea Soup with Peppered Sour Cream

Lemon Split Pea Soup with Peppered Sour Cream

Split pea is an old love, but I never make it the same way twice.   What’s cool about this version is a. the lick of lemon up against the spicy notes and b. texture layers– i.e. crunchy, seedy tortilla chips and smooth sour cream on top of the soup, which is about halfway pureed.

Legume soups are healthy and inexpensive, but I’m mostly drawn to them because they’re tasty, homey, and filling.  I adore the look, smell, and feel of a big pot of bean soup bubbling away on the stove nearly anytime.  Split pea is about the quickest in the group, though lentils are right up there.
About an hour, especially if you use the food processor for chopping, you’ve got super soup.  I’ve made them while camping, using a Coleman stove.  They’re so simple and accepting of different ingredients that as long as you have the dried beans in the pantry and a few staples like onions, carrots, and celery, you’ve got soup.  Add-ins might be zucchini, jalapeno, or leftover asparagus; toppings might be minced cucumber or grated Parmesan or oyster crackers.  A bit of crunchy bacon on top could replace ham hocks or chopped ham in the soup.  No meat at all, made with vegetable stock, and it’s great for a vegan meal.  Versatile is the word for these soups.   Make a big pot, freeze individual portions (Tupperware makes freezer-microwave safe containers), and you have lunch.

The day I made this, I called a friend at 10 and said, “Come for lunch at 12.”  I started the soup at 11 and, well, it was a good thing she was a little late.  I was still pureeing at 12:10, but that might have been because I was doing ten other things in the middle…  Honest, it’s pretty quick for soup.  I think Dave ate nearly three bowls and the friend two.  While not in the habit of wine at lunch except while on vacation or for tasting, we did each have a half-glass of California Chardonnay with this and thought it a fine sip.  I think, with the heat in this soup (and I like several sorts of heat at once), an off-dry Oregon or German Riesling would be a good match as well.    Try this:

lemon split pea soup with peppered sour cream
                   8 servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small red potatoes chopped (with peel)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups dried split peas
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme, marjoram, crushed red pepper
  • 1 quart each vegetable and chicken stock
  • 2 cups water or 1 cup water and 1 cup white wine
  • 4-6 drops hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (added near end)

Toppings:  1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt mixed with freshly ground black pepper
Tortilla chips with seeds

In an 8-qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes.  Sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, five minutes or so.  Add everything else except the lemon juice, including a teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Stir and raise heat to high.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer.  Cook until peas and  vegetables are tender, about an hour.  Add lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor.  If you’d like a chunkier soup, leave it as is or crush briefly with a potato masher. Serve hot with seeded tortilla chips and a dollop of peppered sour cream for toppings.

{printable recipe}


Cook’s Note:  If you’d like a crock-pot version, try this on my Dinner Place blog (Cooking for One.)  I did say I liked to make split pea soup.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Pie 101 – Alyce’s Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)

Pie 101 – Alyce’s Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)

R for Rhubarb

This post now featured on Rachel Rappaport’s PIE FAIR LADY blog!  
Thanks, Rachel.  Bake pie! 

I don’t know why you want to make pie and searched for Pie 101.  Me-oh-my.  You love pie? (I adore the movie “Michael”)  Someone you love loves pie, maybe?  You want to make beautiful things and don’t paint–right.  You want to bring pie to Thanksgiving dinner:  “Oh, I’ll bring the pie,” would be fun to say. You’d like to celebrate Pi Day in a more meaningful way.    Making pie, or wanting to make or eat pie, is sort of a passion.  It’s not anything like, “I think I’ll scramble eggs and make toast because I’m hungry.”  Or even “Let’s make a pot of vegetable soup; it’s cold outside and sounds good.”   I mean, no one really needs pie.  People, do, however, desire (is not too strong a word) pie and are sort of sometimes heart-starved and/or breathless for it.  Think of the look on your uncle’s (aunt, cousin, boyfriend, co-worker, super) when words like, “coconut cream” or “strawberry-rhubarb” cross their lips.  Or the rush through a potluck meal if a pie sits alone, waiting, down at the end of the counter in the kitchen.    Is it fond memories of  your aunt’s pumpkin from Thanksgiving of 1967 or your best friend’s apple (from her own tree) in 2009?  Is it the crappy diner crust on a short, slim piece of pecan late one night after a restaurant shift when you had to have something sweet and that’s all there was?

If, by chance you’re looking for gluten-free pie dough, please just go to Gluten-Free Girl…a great blog; here’s one post on pie dough there.

I’m just guessing that usually there’s a lot of love goes into pie.  Making it is not an endeavor one embarks on lightly.  Like weeding the flower bed out back or picking up a gallon of milk at the store.  It’s kind of a devoted, warm-fuzzy, all around commitment.  Bake with a band on sort of thing.  (Being both a cook and musician gives me license for such sentences.)

Whatever reason brings  you to pie, I hope this little (not really so little) tutorial will be of help.  It contains the story of my own pie-making, a photo-essay on making the rhubarb pie (including crust), and the recipes/basic info you’ll need to make it all happen.  FYI:  This long pie post is truly a work in progress.

No fear.  Pie is near.

Continue reading “Pie 101 – Alyce’s Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)”

50 Women Game-Changers – #47 – Zarela Martinez’ Savory Cornbread

50 Women Game-Changers – #47 – Zarela Martinez’ Savory Cornbread

From my childhood on, cooking meant sharing and security and a way of “speaking” to people.  When I grew up I found that cooking grew also to be a means of celebrating and honoring those who would eat meals that I’d carefully prepared from scratch. Over the years as I lived and thought and learned, cooking grew even more to embrace nearly every aspect of culture and human relationships. I have been lucky to make my career as chef, consultant, and businesswoman a never-ending source of joy and fulfillment.”

                                                                                                              –Zarela Martinez

Each week for the last forty-six, a food-loving group of bloggers has been studying, choosing a recipe, cooking, photographing, and writing  about one very special food expert off the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women-Game Changers in Food.    I jumped on this yummy trolley last January at stop number 32, but a good number of these scribes started right from the beginning.   We’re near the end of the line, but this week we’re featuring number forty-seven, Mexican chef, author, teacher, philanthropist, and NYC restauranteur-caterer Zarela Martinez.

Born on a northern Mexico ranch, Zarela moved to the U.S. in the ’70’s, and to make a few bucks, began catering.  Soon she was at culinary school, studying with Paul Prudhomme, and working at Cafe Marimba in NYC!  Her famed, but currently closed, restaurant, Zarela, came next and taught more than one generation of New Yorkers about just how fine true Mexican cuisine could be, as well as providing training ground for her son, chef Aaron Sanchez.

 Here, Zarela teaches us how to roast poblanos (used in her cornbread recipe-below) and gives us her “Creamy Rice Casserole” recipe.

Lots of gorgeous recipes from Zarela out there, but I hit on Savory Cornbread for this week.  The recipe sounded perfect…lot of fresh corn, great cheese, gluten-free, but something somewhere just didn’t happen exactly as I expected.   While the bread was tasty (though quite rich), I struggled to get it done.  I baked it an extra tweny minutes and it was still underdone–more like spoon bread, which may be exactly what it was supposed to be like.  We simply enjoyed it just like that.  One thing, I did bake it in a metal 9×13 pan in the hopes of obtaining a crispy crust and if I tried it again, I’d put it in the recommended glass Pyrex casserole dish. While full of butter and cheese, the roasted peppers did shine through and provided a touch of heat usually missing from American Corn Bread recipes.  I think it would be great with a fish taco salad or a bowl of spicy chili.  Scroll down past my puppies and try it:

Gabby and Tuck waiting for mom to get done cooking.  Geez Louise, it’s walk time.

savory cornbread — Chefs Aaron Sánchez and Zarela Martínez (courtesy NY Magazine)

Ingredients

3 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups rice flour (use Goya’s, not rice flour from Chinatown) I used King Arthur’s Gluten-Free flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
8 ounces white Cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, and diced
Cornstarch 

Instructions

Grind the corn by pulsing batches in the food processor until coarsely crushed but not puréed. Set aside.

Corn ground in food processor

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat in the eggs one by one until incorporated.

 Sift the dry ingredients, and add to the creamed mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed until combined. Fold the ground corn into the batter, followed by the cheese and chiles.

I could not find Goya rice flour and subbed King Arthur…

Weighing the cheese before grating.

Butter a 13-by-9-inch Pyrex baking dish, and lightly dust with cornstarch. Pour in the mixture and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until crust is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (2007)   

(Published 2007)
I write with a tasty group of bloggers!  Please take some time and visit

If you liked this, you might like my Irish Soda Bread (with Potato Soup)

 
And, also, on Dinner Place (Cooking for One) this week is Alyce’s Killer Guac to take to the Mother’s Day Cookout:
 
Cook with a-band-on,
Alyce
Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Welcome spring!

If you shop Trader Joe’s, you might know Israeli couscous–a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I’m always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what’s going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one’s yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site–if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe’s.

I don’t know how you feel about Trader Joe’s.  People praise it to the highest heavens and you would have thought our lives were being saved from the plague if you listened to the around-town chat before the store opened on its tight corner with underground parking.   I was in grad school at St. Thomas that summer, and even I heard about it.   And this is a city with fine, locally-owned groceries we can walk to in nearly every neighborhood.  The beauty of Saint Paul!

So I’m of mixed emotions over what’s there–inside Trader Joe’s, I mean.  First off, I’m not drinking that wine not no-how.  Not even in Sangria.  I mean, have you tasted it?   I’d rather drink Coke and be sober.   Secondly, the produce (even though you can get cool things like fresh English peas) looks a little sad, a bit used, and not real green in both its meanings.  I mean, why wrap Italian parsley up on paper plates and in plastic?  The other thing is I have the sense (with no reason, I think) that some of this food might be processed in ways I wouldn’t like or in China maybe.   I feel like a snob.  And guess I am.  I repeat:  I have no basis for these feelings or ideas.  I even looked on the boxes of a few things I bought.  The Israeli couscous, for instance, says “Made in Israel.”  Duh.  The canned salmon is wild from Alaska.  Huh.

The chef is always right.  This sign is right by my main prep space.  Just cookin’.

But I go.  Once in a while.  I’ll only go at very specified times.  Like 10am on Tuesday.  If you try and shop at our Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends, you just can’t get in and out of the parking lot or nearby streets.  The location, albeit the only one they could obtain in our city, is crowded, crowded.   While I’m there, I grab up stuff like sparkling pink lemonade in beautiful liter bottles, peanut-butter stuff pretzel chunks that are addictive, boxes of 100-calorie each scrumptious Belgian milk chocolate, and maybe even a plant or two.  Sometimes a little cheese, though I feel guilty not buying it at our local cheese shop, St. Paul Cheese, which is all of four blocks from my house.

Just because I should, I did a little digging and, if you’d like, you can read a professional review–a bit dated– of Trader Joe’s here.  It’s all good.  Nothing to substantiate my weird, stuck up feelings.
Well,  now that that’s off my chest…I can go on about the recipe.  Right?

I tape upcoming recipes on the door.
Things I’m testing or things I’d like to make sometime go up.  The couscous was up for a while before I got to it.

A wonderfully simple all-in-one spring side dish (or summer-add whatever vegetables), we enjoyed this as a foil to a rosemary-roasted pork loin drizzled with homemade barbeque sauce for our second annual “Lilacs are Blooming” dinner party.  (A leek soup with a bit of bacon was the first course that night, but that’s another blog.)  Appearing and tasting something like  risotto, this is much easier; the couscous is cooked in only 10 minutes and the entire dish in about 15–no long-lived ladling and stirring.     My notes or changes are in red.   Try this:

toasted israeli couscous primavera  courtesy WP/Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
  4 main-dish servings; 6 side-dish servings

2T olive oil, divided
2/3 c chopped scallions (1 bunch, white and light green parts)  I used ramps
1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups no-salt added or homemade chicken broth, heated just to boiling
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (2t zest, 2T juice)
8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or blanched fresh peas
2 oz baby spinach leaves
Aleppo pepper to taste
2T fresh parsley, chopped

  1. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 2-3 qt over medium heat.  Add the sallions; cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until just softened.
  2. Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.  Add the hot broth, lemon zest and juice.
  3. Bring to a boil and add asparagus and peas; cover.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked through.
  4. Combine the spinach, the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked couscous and vegetables and stir until the spinach has wilted.  
  5. Dust with aleppo pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve immediately.

Author’s Notes:  Couscous cooks quickly, and when it’s done, it will stick to the pan.   Keep a close eye on it, and stir every few minutes.  After cooking, the couscou will clump together if you let the dish sit too long.  Serve immediately, or add more oil if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.  Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth if desired.

My notes:  I didn’t add more oil, but I did add more broth to keep the dish moist.  I made it  right before our guests arrived for dinner, turned it off, and reheated it for serving.  It was tender,  moist, quite warm, and was not over-cooked even though I had kept it covered.

Made Derby pies for a friend’s Derby party…

Congratulations to Poor Man’s Feast--the blogging winner for the James Beard Awards!  Give a shout-out!

Sing a new song,
Alyce

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #46 – Gael Greene – Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #46 – Gael Greene – Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

“Do you sing, too?” I asked, tickling his tweed elbow.

I have a good friend who is fond of this phrase:  “She was born with the words, ‘Please peel me a grape,’ on her lips.”   That could very well have been said about spicy bon vivant Gael Greene (1933-  ), this week’s  number 46 on Gourmet Live’s List of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food.  Greene, the 40-year New York Magazine restaurant critic and columnist, novelist, and philanthropist from Detroit, is best known for her erotic encounters with food, as well as with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley.   Want details?  It’s all (probably not) chronicled in Greene’s memoir, the infamous Insatiable : Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess (Grand Central, 2007.)  And while I promise I’m not telling tales out of school, you can listen to her own description of Presley as appetizer here.

Lest we consider the ground-breaking critic light-weight or even shallow,  life-long achiever  Greene (still writing, appearing on “Top Chef,” and tweeting as I blog)  has also spent a sizable portion of her adult life making sure New York’s elderly poor had food come weekends and holidays: 

Marcia Stein: Citymeals began in 1981 when Gael Greene and Jim Beard, the founders, read that homebound elderly New Yorkers only got meals from the city Monday through Friday, and not on holidays. They were going very long periods of time without food. Especially over the holidays: at times when other people were over-eating, these people were alone and starving.

Gael and Jim called their friends in the industry; Gael called the city government and wrote about it. She was just as good at describing their situation as she is at describing food, and it made people aware. Checks started coming in, but you can’t just send a check to the government or the Department for the Aging. We had to create an organization that was a not-for-profit so we could receive the checks we were getting. So Citymeals started as a public/private partnership with the city’s meal delivery program.

We started feeding 6,000 homebound elderly, but the number has grown over time. Now we are feeding 18,000 every weekend and holiday.

We receive about 50,000 contributions a year to Citymeals. It’s a cause that New Yorkers have embraced. Six dollars a day can save a person’s life.

Read the entire interview with Marcia Stein, Executive Director of Citymeals-on-Wheels on starchefs.com

But after you get your fill reading and listening — more by scrolling down– do a little cooking with Gael and try her

Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon  serves 4

  • 6 ears corn
  • 4 cups water (reserve water after the corn has cooked)
  • 2 tsp olive oil for vegetables
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced                                        
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Clam broth, to taste
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 6 large sea scallops, quartered       
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper  
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro or basil
  • Cook corn in four cups of water. Remove corn, strain water of corn silk, and reserve cooking water.
    Cut kernels from cobs and reserve the corn. Return cobs to cooking water, simmer till water reduces   to half. Then remove cobs and reserve water.
    Scrape cobs with dull knife to extract all the corn milk and reserve this liquid.
    Sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeño in olive oil in nonstick skillet. Don’t let them brown.
    Add reserved corn kernels and corn milk to vegetables, then toss and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. Puree half of this mix in a blender or food processor.
    Add puree and remaining corn-vegetable mix to reduced corn water. Then add lime juice and clam broth, to taste.
    Cook bacon until crisp, drain, and cut into ribbons.
    Sauté scallop quarters quickly in bacon fat till slightly browned. Don’t overcook.
    Reheat soup. Add scallops and bacon to mixture in the corn water. Season with ground pepper and salt, to taste. Add more lime or clam juice if necessary.
    Serve in bowls with minced cilantro or basil sprinkled on top

    A little bacon garnish might not go amiss.  A nice grind of black pepper, too.

    While this soup is perfectly suited to late summer when the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, I managed to snare a few fresh? ears from our local grocer, who had Fed-exxed a little out of Florida.  If you can’t find any corn,  I think you could use vegetable broth (along with the clam broth) and frozen (cooked) corn kernels.  You won’t have the same soup, but I think it would be tasty.  Corn cooking tip here, though I just bring the water to boil, drop the corn in, let it come up to a boil again, and cover it for 10 minutes or so.  The other great way is to microwave it or grill it right in the husks.  Easy and maybe the tastiest version, but not possible for this recipe.

    I did pepper and sugar – 1/2 tsp each- the corn-cooking water for this soup.  Oh, summer…hurry up!

    My best sous and lunchtime taste tester.

    At first taste, my excellent taster wondered what all the shouting was about.  By the second taste, he was hooked.  The subtle heat left a gentle warm buzz in the mouth and the corn and scallops provided good contrast in texture.   I had one small bowl leftover that I ran over to Paul, the owner of our two-doors down wine and beer shop,  The Wine Thief and Ale Jail.  Love living in the city do I.

    The Wine Thief and The Ale Jail

     I chose this recipe because I adored the idea of a mostly healthy  (ok, there’s bacon) seafood soup that used only 6 scallops for four servings.  I calculated about five bucks per serving, which is a less-expensive way to splurge on a little scallop action.   The soup sounded like a luscious and light warm-weather meal that could easily be made outdoors utilizing a grill with a side burner.  It might also serve as a small first-course offering for a special dinner.  I liked a sip of a great big California Chardonnay with this soup.

    Here’ s a review one cook left on epicurious fyi:
    I followed this recipe exactly. I was surprised that the color was not as bright as I had expected (sort of a dull yellow), and the texture was, well, corny. Pureeing the corn mixture did not make it creamy at all, as I could still feel the fibers of the corn kernels in my mouth. I decided to puree all of it, and then strain it, which yielded a something I would describe as a corn broth, great for poaching fish in or serving in shot glasses with some crispy shallots or scallops right on top. 

    by A Cook from Miami Beach, Fl on 07/10/06

    Fyi I pureed three-quarters of the corn.

    Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/reviews/Corn-Soup-with-Sauteed-Scallops-and-Bacon-234219#ixzz1tok3W1g5

    Want more Gael Greene?
    • Read  epicurious.com
    • Check out a NYT article about Gael here.
    • Visit Gael’s personal website, Insatiable Critic, here.
    • Follow Gael on twitter for a daily hoot.
    **
    If you liked this, you might also like my one-pan meal:
    I write with a tasty group of bloggers!  Please take some time and visit
    Cook with a – band – on,
    Alyce
    Fresh Berry Cake for Mother’s Day–Bake or Not

    Fresh Berry Cake for Mother’s Day–Bake or Not

    Looks like Mother’s Day!

    I hope you’re looking for a cake to make for your Mom for Mother’s Day.  If you are, you’re sooo wonderful.  What mom wouldn’t love someone who baked a great-looking and yummy cake like this?   I made it to take to a friend’s for Easter and took it unassembled as I wanted it as fresh as it could be. 

    Just looking at this cake will tell you that it’s not difficult to make and it’s NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don’t let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don’t take long.  In fact, though it’s two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it’s cool, you cut it in half.

     

    But listen, if you’re not a baker, this is just the cake for you… because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers–maybe three?–and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for mom or anyone.
    If you don’t have a special cake plate, don’t worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will or see a funky antique shop, keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

    Another idea comes from my mother-in-law, who, when I was  a young wife, often made a similar cake using a homemade or store bought angel food cake.  To cut calories, she used Cool Whip, but I can’t go that far.   If I’m eating cake I want to eat cake.  Let them eat cake!  But if you really must cut the whipped cream for health or allergy reasons, try the Cool Whip version.

    courtesy Sara Lee Desserts

    Easy Berry Butter Cake (Aida Mollenkamp–courtesy Food Network)

    Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins, plus cooling time | Active Time: 25 mins | Makes:8 to 10 servings

    • For the cake:*

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan

    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

    • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

    • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for coating the pan

    • 1 cup granulated sugar

    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

    • 1/2 cup whole milk

    *Or use a purchased cake like Sara Lee Pound Cake

    • For the filling:

    • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

    • 1 cup heavy cream

    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

    To assemble:

    • 1 1/2 pounds mixed berries*, washed (if you’re using *strawberries, they’ll also need to be hulled and quartered)  You might not need quite this many berries; mine didn’t fit on the cake.
    INSTRUCTIONS
    For the cake:
    1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and flour, tap out the excess flour, and set the pan aside. Combine measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined; set aside.
    2. Place measured butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in color and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in color and the texture of wet sand, about 3 minutes more.
    3. Add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, then add milk and continue mixing until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, about 2 minutes more.
    4. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and turn out onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling.

    For the filling:

    1. Place mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream, sugar, and almond extract, increase speed to medium high, and whip until ingredients are combined and firm peaks form, about 15 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    To assemble: *

    1. Slice cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Divide filling evenly between the cut side and the top of the cake. Divide berries evenly over the filling. Stack cakes on top of each other and serve.
    If using a purchased cake like frozen Sara Lee pound cake, you might want to slice it (into thirds, perhaps) while it’s still partially frozen.
    Note:  I’ll share with you that whenever I’ve made a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp, it’s been incredible.  I don’t see her on Food Network anymore; is she still on?  But she does have a lot of recipes.  One that immediately comes to mind is her lasagna.  Have mercy.  I could double in size eating that stuff.
    Need a great idea for Mother’s Day? 
          Send Mom an ecard and give to Share our Strength:  No Kid Hungry here.

    Sing a new song and bake/make an easy cake,

    Alyce