Posts filed under ‘summer’

Lemon-Zucchini Salad

Everything good is in season right now, and I have a barbecue to attend this afternoon. So: Farmers’ market for produce, and a big batch of Lemon Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes and Sweet Corn, a fabulously flavorful – and easy! – summer recipe from Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s always-excellent Splendid Table/Weeknight Kitchen. Think “pasta salad” – only with thinly shaved raw zucchini filling in for the pasta, dressed with lemon, basil and garlicky oil. I got this via email subscription a couple of summers ago, and it never fails to make me – and anyone to whom I feed it – happy.

Lemon Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes and Corn

As Kasper suggests, I added More Stuff: cucumber, Kalamata olives, a little diced red onion. My tomatoes were great big heirlooms, chopped in chunks, and I pan-roasted the sweetcorn till it was browned before adding the garlic, basil and olive oil. For the dressing, I went with a 50-50 Greek yogurt-mayo blend, and another half-lemon’s worth of juice to thin it, with crumbled, herbed feta.

I can hardly wait for the barbecue.

(Am I back to blogging? Maybe … this is the peak time of year for the market, and for my garden … and thus my peak time of year for cooking. And my wonky sense of smell continues to improve, to the point where I can just about cook by taste again. Stay tuned …)

August 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

Welcome, Willamette Living readers

If you’ve stopped by because you read my crab cake recipe in Willamette Living – welcome! I’d actually forgotten that my friend Kate Rivera – who I first met through this blog, and have since had the pleasure of spending a bit of face-time with – had asked to reprint that particular post, so when she promoted it on Facebook today, I figured I’d better dust off the blog and at least explain why it’s been idle for so long.

Four years ago, after a severe sinus infection, I lost most of my sense of smell, and with it, much of my sense of taste. That hasn’t kept me from continuing to cook and eat good, fresh, local food in season, but it’s taken a good deal of the pleasure out of the experience. I’ve found myself eating things I know I like(d), even when I couldn’t really taste them … or they tasted downright strange.

I won’t bore you with all the ways anosmia (or, more properly, hyposmia) has affected me, but one was the loss of a lot of my confidence as an inventive cook. While I still devise interesting-to-me ways of combining and preparing the bounty of the Willamette Valley farms and our local ocean, I can’t be sure that what tastes good to me will taste good to anyone else. So the blog has languished.

The good news is that, like a number of people with hyposmia, I’m getting my sense of smell back. It’s slow, and it’s quirky – Indian food came back suddenly; lemons come and go, and I still can’t really taste single-malt scotch (*sob*). But I’m hopeful, and if progress continues, I might just fire up the blog again.

Meanwhile, it’s summer, the farmers markets are booming, and I just harvested the first handful of sugar-pod peas and radishes from my little garden. Enjoy the recipes here, and feel free to comment. Happy eating!

June 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

Sweet corn, the next day

Corn fritters and beefsteak tomatoesWe’ve hit what I think of as the trifecta of harvest-season perfection: Tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches. Lots of other stuff, too, but I could (and at this time of year, often do) live on tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches.

I bought a half-dozen ears of pretty, yellow-and-white sweet corn at the market yesterday for two bucks, and ate two ears, buttered and salted, for dinner, with a sliced beefsteak tomato and a ripe peach for dessert. I went ahead and cooked the extra corn so I’d have leftover corn for one of my favorite savory side dishes, courtesy of good old Joy of Cooking, circa 1964 (the cookbook my mother sent away with me to college). If you love corn, you should try these; they’re quick, easy and really delicious.

Corn Fritters

Ingredients

  • Enough sweet corn to make 1 cup of kernels (2-4 ears, depending on size)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you’ve got it)
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Method:

Cut the kernels off an ear of fresh or cooked sweet corn into a bowl , and scrape the cob with the back edge of the knife to get all of the germ and the sweet, milky corn juice. (If sweet corn isn’t in season, frozen corn works. “Joy” suggests canned, cream-style corn, but bleah.)  Mash the corn a bit with a wooden spoon or potato masher.

Beat eggs until light and add to corn, along with everything else but the butter.

Melt butter in a medium-hot skillet. Drop big tablespoonfuls of batter into the pan  and cook like pancakes, browning one side and then the other.

Eat hot. (“Joy” suggests topping with maple syrup, but I like these as savory side dishes, or by themselves – even reheated in the toaster-oven – for lunch). Yummy as is, or experiment with additives – I’ve made them with minced garlic and hot peppers, for a spicy version, and with  a little grated cheddar, parmesan  or gruyere mixed in.

Makes 6-8 fritters.

Note for the gluten-intolerant, such as my sister: I think this would work great with the same proportion of whatever gluten-free flour you prefer, or even with gf pancake mix (omit the baking powder).

August 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

Making things up: Menus as inspiration

Seared tuna and watermelon saladOur little farmers’ market is getting more sophisticated by the month. One of the latest, and most welcomed additions: Brandywine Fisheries, a family fishing operation out of Charleston, trucking caught-the-day-before fish inland to satisfy my seafood cravings when I can’t make it to the coast.

Yesterday, they had whole albacore tuna loins for $7 a pound, which is an astonishingly good price. Could I resist? No, I could not.

Ever since my trip to New Orleans last fall, I’ve been day-dreaming about the fabulous meal I had at The Green Goddess – and all the  enticing things on their menu that I didn’t have a chance to try.  One, in particular, keeps coming back to haunt me: a dish of seared tuna and diced watermelon, of all things, called Tumblin’ Dice.  Now, I don’t have access to the more esoteric ingredients – fennel pollen, for instance. But the basic concept, pairing warm, barely cooked tuna with cool watermelon, sounded like a fantastic high-summer meal.

Having acquired the tuna, I hit the supermarket and picked up a small, sweet seedless watermelon. After pondering flavor combinations, I came up with this. Call it a Pacific Rim tribute to a great New Orleans restaurant.

Seared Tuna and Watermelon Salad

(Inspired by The Green Goddess)

Ingredients

  • Fresh (or shipboard-frozen and thawed) tuna loin
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • dried hot chili peppers, crushed (I used two fiery little Thai chiles)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds.
  • Seedless watermelon,  rind removed, cut into cubes*
  • Sea salt
  • Tender greens of your choice (I used baby lettuce and chives from my garden)
  • Pickled sushi ginger
  • Wasabi mayonnaise (mix prepared wasabi into store-bought mayonnaise at a strength that suits your tastes).

Preparation

In a large resealable bag, combine lime juice, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, chiles and black pepper. Add the tuna loin, seal bag and turn several times to coat the fish with the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or more.

When dinner time rolls around, prepare watermelon by cutting it in inch-thick slices, removing rind and cutting the slices into cubes. Place melon cubes in the fridge (or freezer!) while you prepare the fish.

Remove tuna from refrigerator and drain off marinade. Sprinkle sesame seeds in a plate, and roll the tuna loin in the to coat well.

Heat a large, heavy skillet on high until a drop of water sprinkled onto the surface sizzles and dances.

Using tongs, place the tuna in the skillet (you may want to cut it in half to make it fit) and sear each side for about a minute, if you like your fish, as I do, cooked on the outside but pink and rare-to-raw inside. Feel free to cook it longer if you prefer, although it won’t be as luscious.

When fish is cooked to your taste, transfer to a cutting board. Remove melon cubes from freezer and pile on plates. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cut inch-thick slices off the tuna, and  arrange atop the melon, garnish with greens. Serve *now*, with wasabi mayo and pickled ginger.

Depending on the size of the fish, a whole tuna loin can easily serve 4-6 people. If you wind up with leftovers, as I do, the best bet is to wrap it in foil, pop it in a 350F oven and let it cook through (it should only take 15-20 minutes), then refrigerate. Me, I’m going to be taking fabulous tuna sandwiches and fresh watermelon cubes to work for lunch this week. (-:

Quick links:

July 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

Ripening tomatoesI haven’t quite reached the point where I have so many ripe tomatoes that I need to start cooking them, or to where I’m bored with the basics (BLTs!), but I’m getting 3-4 ripe ones a day out of my modest garden, and I know some of you have a lot more.

So here’s a quick rundown on some great things to do with “excess” tomatoes while they’re ripe and ready to eat. I’m going to link to other people’s recipes, because (a) I’m feeling lazy and (b) it’s almost time for dinner, which will include a helping of …

Tuscan Bread Salad. This is a late-summer staple at my house, and it’s not bad in the winter made with good-quality canned tomatoes, well-drained. There are lots of variations on the recipe, many of which call for soaking the bread till it gets mooshy. I prefer it this way, sometimes substituting balsamic vinegar for red-wine vinegar and I like to use rustic whole-grain bread. Add some chopped cucumber if you like, or even canned tuna to make the dish a meal. Fast, easy and absolutely delicious.

Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille – Classic ratatouille is a vegetable stew; I prefer this version, which roasts the vegetables and then combines them in a rich, smoky-sweet dish. The tomatoes and eggplant are central; everything else is optional, and you can experiment with adding mushrooms, pearl onions and other seasonal veggies.

Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Mozarella Sandwiches with Green Tomato Gazpacho – I stumbled onto this a while back and it’s a great new harvest-season take on good old grilled cheese and tomato soup. Make one, the other or both, depending on how many tomatoes you’re blessed with.

And then there’s the Easiest Pasta Dish in the World: Chop up some room-temperature tomatoes. Add fresh basil, a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the pasta of your choice and top with tomatoes. Cheese is optional.

September 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm Leave a comment

Harvest dinner: Fasolakia

FasoulakiaHarvest season is in full swing, and the only thing better than having my own garden right now is knowing other gardeners who planted things I didn’t get around to planting this year. Because it seems like all of us overestimated something, and food-swapping is happening all over the place. Last week I offloaded a bunch of cherry tomatoes and a half-dozen lemon cucumbers on some friends at work, and picked up a nice zucchini someone had left in the break room.

I love green beans, but my garden isn’t laid out well for growing them. The border along the backyard fence which once made a nice spot for pole beans is now fully occupied by raspberries (poor me). So it was great to hear that my friends Debra and Gary had too many green beans. I swung by their place on the way to run errands this morning, and they weren’t home to thank, but they’d left a nice big bag of them on the porch for me.

And I have tomatoes, finally. Quite a few tomatoes, in fact, having got through an early scare with blossom-end rot by side-dressing the plants with lime and keeping to a regular watering schedule.

In my kitchen, the coincidence of fresh green beans and ripe tomatoes  means one thing: Fasolakia.

This Greek dish is so easy – and so flavorful – that I can’t let a harvest season go by without making big pots of it. I always mean it as a side dish; I always eat the first big bowl all by itself.

Here’s my recipe, such as it is. It’s endlessly adaptable and forgiving, and you can adjust it to your tastes – or your harvest. Diced potatoes are traditional, some people like to add summer squash, and I change up the herbs depending on what’s thriving in my garden at the time. Heck, you can make it in the middle of winter with frozen green beans and canned tomatoes if you like. But try it with fresh, while the season is high. Trust me on this.

Fasoulakia

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • One medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound of fresh green beans (or more, or less), stringed if they need it, cut into bite-sized lengths
  • Minced garlic (you know how much you like. I use at least 3-4 big cloves)
  • 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks. If you want it to look prettier, I suppose you could peel them (dip the fruit briefly in boiling water and the skins will come right off), but the skins add a lot of flavor and good nutrients.
  • A big handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • A generous amount of oregano and thyme. Dried is OK. Fresh – at least a tablespoon of each, minced – is better. If you prefer other herbs – basil, for instance – go for it.
  • Generous grinding of black pepper

Method

Pour some olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet – enough to coat the bottom; more if you like (the traditional Greek recipe often calls for up to a cup of oil!). Heat to medium and toss in the onions, cooking until they begin to soften.

Add the green beans and garlic; stir to coat with oil and cook for 10  minutes to give them a head start.

Add remaining ingredients, bring it all to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer away, stirring occasionally. After about 20 minutes total cooking time, check beans for tenderness; continue cooking until they’re quite soft but not mushy. (Note that the traditional Greek dish, which uses much more olive oil and often substitutes canned tomatoes or tomato puree for fresh, turns out quite soupy; this doesn’t, but the flavors are startlingly good).

Serve hot or lukewarm – or even chilled (that’s how I usually eat the leftovers). Great with grilled lamb, pork or sausages or all by itself. Got vegans to feed? Feed them this!

How many does it serve? That depends on whether you’re serving it as a side dish or main course, but this amount could satisfy 3-4 people – or 2 really hungry ones – eaten all by itself.

August 28, 2010 at 7:15 pm 1 comment

Hot weather food

Sesame crusted albacoreThe temperature here hit somewhere between 100 and 102 today, depending on which weather site you believe. All I know is it was hot enough to keep me indoors all day, half wishing I hadn’t set that lovely piece of Pacific albacore to thaw in the fridge last night, because I could just as easily have dined on salad and fresh blueberries.

But thawed it was. I’d originally planned to grill it, but by dinner time it was still too hot to mess with charcoal. So I chose a recipe that requires no thought, virtually no prep and under five minutes at the stove.

If you’ve never tried tuna rare, you should. Tender and meaty, hot on the outside and meltingly warm at the core, it’s absolutely delicious. The trick is getting the best possible tuna, and that’s not hard to do in Oregon. Albacore season runs from April through October, and modern fishing practices include shipboard freezing that results in fish that’s “fresher” than much of what’s sold as fresh in the supermarket.

If you’re worried about mercury in tuna, troll-caught albacore is a good choice. Troll-caught fisher are much smaller – and younger – than the large fish that typically go into canned tuna, and thus have had less time to absorb mercury; tests have shown that troll-caught fish are low in this toxic compound.

Pan-seared, sesame-crusted tuna

Ingredients:

  • Thick albacore or ahi tuna steaks, fresh or thawed
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbps black sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbps white sesame seeds

Method

Place the tuna steaks in a plastic bag with 1 Tbsp oil and the lime juice; seal bag and turn several times to coat the fish.

Mix sesame seeds in a shallow bowl or saucer

Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a skillet or grill pan over medium heat.

Remove tuna from bag and press into the sesame seeds, covering all sides

Cook in skillet for a scant 2 minutes per side. Fish will be rare and pink in the middle; you can cook it longer if you prefer your fish done through, but it won’t be as good.

Serve with a dollop of wasabi mayonnaise and a light salad. Mine was a mix of locally grown lettuce and arugula topped with heirloom tomatoes and sliced, grilled miniature eggplants from my garden, dressed with nothing more than a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Fantastic, and almost effortless.

August 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm Leave a comment

Peach season

Perfect peachAhhhh, peaches.

The Willamette Valley is not a huge peach-growing region – the season is brief, the potential problems from weather and pests are many, the delicacy of the ripe fruit can make transporting it to and from the markets a challenge. But a few hardy growers make the effort, and when the time comes, I seek them out.

Jeannine and Tom  Thieme at Firstfruits Farm grow 22 varieties of peaches, and I’d be hard-pressed to say which are my favorites, other than “the ones they have at the farmers’ market now.” This week it was rosy Early Lorings and fragrant, white-fleshed Raritan Roses, and I bought a half-dozen of each.

The minute I got home I ate the first one, standing on the back porch, juice dripping down my chin and splattering my toes (really!). Then I turned half of the rest into a quick, easy peach salsa to take to a friend’s barbecue, where even a guy who professes not to like peaches gobbled it up with enthusiasm.

(My salsa was just diced peaches, a couple of diced lemon cucumbers, diced red onion, a few serrano peppers seeded and minced,  dressed with lime juice and a drizzle of honey. But really, you could substitute peaches for tomatoes in your favorite salsa recipe and not go wrong – although I’d use lime juice for any vinegar the recipe might call for).

Today, realizing that the ripe fruit would rapidly turn into overripe fruit if I didn’t do something with it, I made peach cobbler.

Google “peach cobbler” and you’ll find a gazillion recipes. Eliminate the ones based on canned peaches or pie filling (yuck), and you still have a lot to choose from. Some are more like what I’d call a crisp, a crumble or even a pandowdy.

I am a daughter of the South, though; the cobbler I learned at my mother’s knee was sweetened fruit encased in a rich Bisquick batter, tender at the core with a sugary crackle on top. And that’s the the sort of cobbler I still prefer.

Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. For instance: I’m fond of the affinity peaches have for ginger. So today’s cobbler incorporates lots of ginger, in three forms. It’s terrific – sweet and peachy, with bursts of ginger zing. And I’ve greatly reduced the sugar from the 1-2 cups most cobbler recipes call for to just 1/2 cup, because really ripe peaches are plenty sweet on their own and I want them, not the sweetness of the dough, to star. If you have no local source for ripe peaches and must make do with what’s in the supermarket, you may need to ratchet the sugar back up a bit.

Triple Ginger Peach Cobbler

Cobbler ingredients

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh peaches, peeled* and sliced, set in a colander to drain off excess juice (reserve the juice)
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, diced
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups when combined with the juice from the peaches
  • A handful of ginger snaps, crushed to coarse crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps because I had them on hand).

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Place a large baking dish on a cookie sheet (in case of spills). Place the butter in the bottom and stick it in the oven while you prepare the cobbler.

Combine drained fruit and candied ginger.

In another bowl, combine Bisquick, dried ginger, sugar, peach juice and milk. Stir well to get rid of any lumps.

When the butter is melted, remove baking dish from oven. Pour in the batter. Spoon the fruit-and-ginger on top (the batter will rise up through the fruit as it bakes).

Peach cobbler!Bake for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the crushed ginger snaps on top and bake for another 15 minutes. Test with a knife to make sure the batter is baked through (the knife won’t come out clean because of the peaches, but you should be able to tell if there’s any raw batter left in the middle. If so, give it another 10 minutes or so.)

Serve warm, with or without ice cream. Leftovers, should you have any, make an excellent breakfast.

* You know how to peel peaches, right? Fill a good-sized saucepan with water, bring to a boil and immerse the peaches for no more than 60 seconds. Remove from water with tongs or a slotted spoon, run under cold water and use your fingers to slip the skin right off.

August 8, 2010 at 4:16 pm Leave a comment

Cherry pie from scratch

Pie!(Warning: This is a long post, because I’m indulging in some pastry-geeking. Don’t let that deter you. The pie itself took much less time to make than to write about.)

I’m the kind of cook who sees no contradition between a love of the home-made and a love of expedient shortcuts. I’d rather spend an hour making an excellent risotto with boxed stock from the supermarket than spend an entire weekend simmering, straining and clarifying  soup bones and trimmings for a measely quart of home-made.

Or pie: While I’m perfectly capable of making a tender, flaky crust from scratch – hell, I learned it at my mother’s knee – I also think frozen supermarket pie crusts are one of the small miracles of modern life; they let me throw together a tasty pie or quiche on a whim, or on a busy evening, without dragging out the flour and fat and rolling pins.

So I’m here to tell you: If you want to make this pie with a refrigerator-case crust-inna-box, you go right ahead. The food police won’t show up on your door, and whoever you’re feeding likely won’t know the difference if you don’t tell them.

ON THE OTHER HAND … this from-scratch crust, which I’ve made several times without failure,  is good. Really, really good. Good enough to be more than just a container for the tart, juicy local  pie cherries I got  this week; I crisped up the trimmings with a light sprinkle of sugar and can’t stop nibbling them.

What makes it good – what makes any pie crust good – is the combination of a light hand and nice, cold fat – in this case, pure lard and high-quality unsalted butter. Trust me, pie crust is not the place to cut corners on fat. Yeah, you can make a pie crust with Crisco or vegetable oil (or even olive oil). But it will never be as shatteringly crisp and flaky and flavorful as one made from honest-to-god animal fat. And while I’ve tried a crust that purported to be fat-free, it was also free of flavor and texture; it might as well have been cardboard. If you absolutely cannot have fat, then skip the crust, bake the filling in a naked pie pan and call it a baked fruit compote.

Butter and lardI happen to have a quantity of first-rate leaf lard (the delicate white fat from around a hog’s kidneys) in the freezer, frozen in half-cup portions. I will admit to having gone all pioneer woman this spring: I bought five pounds of fat from Heritage Farms Northwest, cut it into chunks and simmered it all one afternoon in my stock pot to render out the pure lard, just to see if I could. You don’t have to go that far; rendered, packaged lard is available in most supermarkets  in the cooler where they keep the butter. Try it, either alone or in combination with butter. You won’t believe how much better your pie crusts taste.

Why is that? Well, for one thing, lard is all fat, unlike butter, which has a fairly high water content; an all-butter crust will taste great, but it will probably be tough, too, unless you go for a pate brisee-style short crust where the fat is more evenly blended into the flour.

As the sainted Harold McGee explains it:

“The methods for making American-style pie dough produce a crust that is both tender and flaky. They disperse some of the fat evenly into the dough, separating small particles from each other, and some coarsely, separating different layers of the dough from each other … the dough is rested in the refrigerator to rechill the fat and let the water become more evenly distributed, and then is rolled out. The rolling stretches the dough and thus develops some gluten, and flattens the fat chunks into thin sheets. The combination creates the layered texture … In the oven, the sheets of fat, trapped air and steam from the dough water … all help to separate the dough into layers and give it a flaky texture.”

– Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking

The way my mom (and her mom, and generations of moms before them) achieved this was to use her fingertips to rub about half of the fat into the flour, and then two dinner knives to cut the rest into the mixture in pea-sized chunks. But mom was baking in a world without food processors. I use mine to achieve the same ends – and better, really, because the fat doesn’t get melted by the heat of my hands – by pulsing in half the butter and lard until the mixture resembles fine corn meal, then adding the rest and pulsing just a few times to chop the fat  into pea-sized chunks.

Here’s the pie I’m feeding my friends this afternoon. I rose early yesterday to make the crust before the house got hot, then spent a pleasant half-hour on the shady front porch pitting cherries with my cheap little mechanical pitter; everything went into the fridge, and then I baked the pie early this morning. The crust is based on a recipe I found on Epicurious.com for the “Best-Ever Pie Crust” and they aren’t exaggerating. The filling is one I’ve improvised over the years to the point where I don’t need a recipe to make it, but I took the time to note amounts, etc. this time around so you can recreate it – or add your own personal touch.

Cherry Pie to Die For

Crust

Ingredients

For two crusts

  • 2 1/2 cups pastry flour*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chilled, unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1/2 cup chilled lard, cut in cubes
  • 5 Tbsp ice water (or more, as needed)

Method

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse to blend. Begin feeding cubes of butter and lard into the processor, pulsing on-and-off until about half the fat is incorporated and the mixture is beginning to look like coarse cornmeal. Add the rest of the fat and pulse just a few times to cut it into pea-sized chunks. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly distributed.

Dump the mixture into a bowl and, using a fork, begin to toss in the ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough begins to clump together. Depending on the flour, the air temperature and the weather, it may take more than five tablespoons; if so, add more a teaspoon at a time; you want a dough you can form into a neat ball, but it shouldn’t be wet.

Divide dough in half, form into balls and flatten each half into a disk on a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap and refrigerate at least an hour (or up to three days in advance). If necessary, let rest at room temperature for a few minutes to soften before you roll it out.

Sprinkle a large cutting board or pastry cloth with a small amount of flour and roll each disk to about 1/8″ thickness.

Here’s a tip from Harold McGee: Let the dough rest for 20-15after rolling it out to allow the gluten sheets formed by rolling to relax; that makes it easier to shape the crust without stretching it, which in turn prevents the crust from shrinking when it bakes.

Transfer crust to a pyrex pie plate (the easy way is to roll the circle of dough up onto your rolling pin and then gently unroll it into the plate). Press gently into plate, trim and crimp the edges as you please (unless you’re making a two-crust pie, in which case see below). If your recipe calls for a prebaked crust (this one doesn’t), prick it all over with a fork before baking. and weight it down to prevent bubbles (a handful of dried beans on a piece of tinfoil is as good as expensive pie weights).

Use the second disc of dough to make a lid for your pie, or a second pie, or freeze it for later.

* Pastry flour has a lower protein  content than all-purpose or bread flour, but more than cake flour; that helps produce the tender, flaky result you want in a pie crust (or biscuit), as opposed to the chewiness you get in good bread. I used whole wheat pastry flour, grown and ground by Stalford Seed Farms in Shedd. This flour is ground fairly coursely, and the resulting dough was a bit crumbly, so I had to do some piecing to get it in the pan. And the strips for the lattice topping kept breaking – so rather than fuss with them and risk turning the dough tough, I just arranged them randomly on top of the filling. What the heck: It’s all about “more tasty crust,” and I’m not entering it in the county fair or anything.

Sour Cherry Filling

Ready to pit

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3-6 Tbsp cornstarch (depending on how juicy your cherries are
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5-6 cups of fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted. You want enough to mound a bit in the pie crust, whether or not you’re going to put a top crust on. I like sour pie cherries, but feel free to use your favorite variety; just adjust the sugar and lemon juice to the level of sweetness/tartness you enjoy
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (for tart cherries) to 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (for sweet cherries)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract OR almond extract, or 1/2 tsp of each
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 Tbsp milk, for glaze

Whisk together 1 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice and vanilla/almond extract; set aside.

Preheat oven to 425F.

If you haven’t yet done so, roll out one portion of pie crust and transfer to a pyrex pie pan (you can use the cheap metal ones, but they aren’t as deep and, I think, produce an inferior crust.)

Spoon the cherry mixture into the crust, mounding slightly in the center. Dot with butter. Now you can either

  • Roll out the second disk of dough, cut in strips and make a traditional lattice top crust (here’s a nice little  photographic how-to).
  • Do a standard top crust (don’t forget to cut some vents so the steam can escape)
  • Get creative – use a knife or cookie cutters to  cut shapes from the second sheet of pie crust and lay them on top
  • Leave it open-faced and freeze the other piece of dough for later.

If you do top the pie, finger-crimp the edges together for a tight seal. Brush the top (but not the edges) with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar if you like. To keep the edges from overcooking, I fold a long piece of foil into a narrow collar and wrap it loosely around the rim of the pie; remove it 10 minutes or so before the pie is done.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375F and bake until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, about 1 hour longer. Transfer to a rack (or an unused stove burner) and cool completely. Serve with vanilla (or lemon!) ice cream.

Tart-sweet, with a crisp, tender-flaky crust and the smooth sweetness of ice cream: It tastes like summer to me.

July 10, 2010 at 10:37 am 2 comments

It’s been a rough summer

… but I’m slowly starting to get back my sense of smell. Having learned way more than I ever wanted to know about anosmia, I’m thankful that my doctor’s initial diagnosis – a lingering, low-grade sinus infection left over from an awful cold I had in April and May – appears to have been the right one.

It’s been very little fun being unable to smell – or, really, taste – much of anything. Takes the fun right out of eating and cooking, I tell you; I haven’t even bothered going to the market for the past month.

That said, I do have one just-in-time-for-the-season treat to recommend, courtesy of my friend Lisa, who blogged about it:

Smitten Kitchen’s take on tomato pie

Tomato Pie

Tomato pie

Since I still can’t cook by taste, as is my habit, I made this last week following the recipe to the letter (well, OK, I used my food processor on the biscuit crust, and I did follow the advice of some of her commenters and drained the tomato slices before putting them in the shell, with a layer of cheese on the bottom to help seal against sogginess).

And then I invited a friend over for dinner, because while I knew there was nothing about this recipe I shouldn’t like, and it certainly looked wonderful, I couldn’t tell if it tasted as good as it looked – although the biscuit crust was wonderfully flaky and crisp.

My dinner companion, however, deemed it “fabulous.” And had seconds.

(Don’t be put off by the mayonnaise – it merges with the tomato-corn mixture and – again, according to my friend – isn’t identifiable beyond “yum!”)


During the flavor hiatus, and particularly while on the antibiotics that appear to have killed off the sinus ick, I’ve found myself drinking a lot of Reed’s Extra Ginger Ginger Ale. I’m not much of a soda drinker, but ginger calms my stomach and stimulates my appetite, and Reed’s is pungent enough I could almost taste it.

However, it’s spendy, and the bottles aren’t refundable in Oregon. So I rummaged around my bookmarks and found a recipe for home-made gingerale that I’d been meaning to try.

Since one of the things I like about Reed’s is its citrusy base, I altered the recipe a little and came up with something pretty doggoned tasty, at a fraction of the cost of the bottled stuff. If you’re a ginger fancier, try it out. It’s very refreshing – and it also works as a great base for my favorite warm-weather adult beverage, the Gin Gin Mule.

Home-made Gingerale

Ingredients

  • 1 hand ginger, about 4 inches worth, sliced into 1/8″ disks
  • Juice of 4 Meyer lemons
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Seltzer water

Combine ginger, lemon juice, salt and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Stir in sugar until it dissolves; allow to cool. Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.

When you want ginger ale, mix a standard shotglass of the ginger syrup with 1 cup seltzer; serve over ice.

I was a little short on ginger last time I made this, so I substituted an inch or so of galangal I had in my freezer, sliced. It adds a lovely floral zing to the syrup.

September 6, 2009 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

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