Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Okra Jalapeno Stew

I made this dish up a couple years back. It's really easy, but tasty as well.

Large quantity okra, rinsed, then chopped. Or from a freezer bag.
Jalapeno(s), diced (to taste!)
Large quantity(3-6 cloves, depending on size) garlic
Onion, diced
Tomatoes, diced
Boneless skinless chicken, in chunks
Chicken broth (preferably real, but you can get away with cubes. Just not as tasty)

Sweat onions in pan, add chicken, jalapeno, and garlic and tomato. Cook on low until chicken is mostly cooked. Add okra and enough chicken broth for a stew-like consistency, cook until okra is no longer woody. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Baby Lima Bean Soup with Sausage

I made this a while back and forgot to post the recipe. Hopefully I'm remembering it right. It was my first time using dried baby lima beans and it turns out they have a nice buttery texture, just right for soup. The only sausage I had on hand was bratwurst and it actually came out well, but you can use any other kind. For fresh herbs I used marjoram and thyme. If you like, you can make this a tomato-ey soup by adding tomato paste and diced tomatoes, or you can add greens at the ends for a vegetable soup. The sausage can be omitted to make it vegetarian, but be sure to increase the spices.

1 lb. baby lima beans, soaked, rinsed, and drained
2 large sausage links, or equivalent in pan sausage
1 onion, diced
4 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh herbs of choice, minced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. ketchup
water to cover

Begin by sauteing the onions, celery, and carrots in butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or pressure cooker, starting with the onions and a pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes. Cook the onions until they begin to get soft, then add the celery and carrots and cook a while longer until all the vegetables are slightly browned on the edges.

In a separate pan, brown the sausage well on all sides (if you are using links, cook them whole for a few minutes, then slice into rounds and add back to the pan for further browning).

Add the lima beans, sausage, and water to cover the beans with 1.5" water. Cook until tender (30-40 minutes on the stovetop, 6-8 minutes in a pressure cooker). Add the garlic and herbs and cook for 5 minutes. Adjust the flavor with salt, pepper, vinegar, and ketchup. The end result should be a somewhat brothy bean soup with a zingy flavor.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Grilled or Roasted Cauliflower (plus proof that Lillian is only a pie-goddess-in-training)

Hooray! We finally got a grill and we put it to use immediately. Crisp, succulent cauliflower seems to be in season around here so we threw some on the grill. I make this in the winter too, using the oven. Simply cut up a cauliflower into fairly large chunks, brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika. Roast it in a hot oven (450) with a run under the broiler, if need be, or on a charcoal grill. It may take some time, so be patient.

The steaks simply had salt and pepper on them and were fantastic. There may be hope for my steak-making skills yet. Look forward to more grill recipes!

***

In other news, I finally found some rhubarb at one of the farmers' markets around here and I set out to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It sure looked good when I finished baking it...


...but, alas, it didn't thicken up enough and was also rather tart!

Reflecting upon what went wrong, I realize that I only used 3 Tbsp. of thickener instead of 4 because I lost count, and I probably should have used 5! I was also using tapioca starch for the first time in years. I wasn't sure how much sugar to add, since the strawberries were frozen in syrup, so I used 1 c. Guess I should have gone for the max. amount of 1 1/4 to account for the rhubarb anyway. Another day, another pie...live and learn.

Simple Light White Wine Gravy

There's not actually that much wine in this, but that's really the predominant flavor. It's really a light tasting (not 'lite' calorie-wise) gravy, not too overpowering. Produced originally by randomly throwing stuff together:

2-3 Tbs butter
3-4 Tbs flour
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 shallots, minced
1/4 (or so) cup milk
1/2-3/4 c. beef stock
couple dashes white wine
salt
pepper

Melt the butter, and add the garlic and shallots. Cook for a couple of minutes until softer. Whisk in flour, cook until roux darkens a bit. Whisk in milk until fully mixed. Slowly whisk in beef stock until reaching desired consistency. Add a couple of dashes of white wine, and a couple turns of the pepper grinder.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuna and Pasta Salad with Tahini Dressing

I often wind up with leftover pasta and struggle to find ways to use it. This recipe is a great way to use it with stuff you probably have around the house, and doesn't involve heating up the kitchen at all. If your noodles are stiff from being in the fridge, microwave them for a minute or run them under hot water before adding the dressing. I recommend using chunky-shaped noodles, but if you use spaghetti I would chop it up a bit first. If you don't have a green pepper, you could use celery or broccoli middles or any crunchy veg.

Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
2 Tbsp. tahini
1-2 cloves garlic
~1/4 c. olive oil
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white pepper
pinch cayenne (optional)

Salad:
2 -3 c. cooked pasta
1 can tuna, drained and in pieces
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
chopped fresh parsley (optional but recommended)

In a food processor or blender, blend together the lime juice, garlic, tahini, and seasonings (make sure the garlic is pulverized well). Drizzle in the olive oil until it looks like a good consistency and quantity for the amount of noodles you have. Mix the dressing with the noodles, tuna, vegetables, and parsley. Go relax and eat this in the shade. Have an iced tea and take the afternoon off.

Pierogies and Kielbasa with Summer Veggies

This one-dish recipe accomplishes three valuable things: a) uses frozen convenience foods, b) uses fresh summer vegetables, and c) feeds you tastily and quickly. I use packaged turkey kielbasa (the regular kind seems unnecessarily greasy to me), but it would be good with Kramarczuk's Ukranian sausage. You can omit and substitute ingredients according to what you have--I'm simply posting it how I made it last night as inspiration. I try to fry the ingredients more or less separately, but if you're feeling lazy and unconcerned by things getting mushy you can put it all together at once.

1 package potato & onion pierogies
1 turkey kielbasa, in 1/4" diagonal slices
3 small yellow summer squash, in 1/4" slices
3 shallots, minced coarsely
1 tomato, diced
1 handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I used marjoram and parsley)
a few glugs Vermouth or white wine
S & P
oil for frying

Use your biggest frying pan and add a thin coating of oil. Fry the kielbasa in a single layer, flipping once, until they're browned. Remove the kielbasa and re-grease the pan if necessary. Add the frozen pierogies and fry them on both sides until they're browned and heated through, adding a dash of water or broth if they stick. Remove the pierogies and re-grease the pan if necessary. Add the shallots and some salt and cook 1-2 minutes, then add the zucchini slices and fry until they brown on each side and there isn't much moisture in the pan. Add the pierogies and kielbasa, tomatoes and a few glugs Vermouth and toss gently. Add the fresh herbs, plenty of pepper, and a little salt. Toss gently again and allow the Vermouth and tomato juices to cook off until they form a thick gravy. Serve as-is or with a grain side dish or more seasonal veggies. Makes great planned-overs.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chicken with Thai Basil (Can also be made with virtually any other form of protein)

This is a super easy stir fry with an unforgettable flavor. In Thailand, 'Holy basil' is typically used, but in the US most people make it with 'Thai basil'. (Now that I've tried the holy basil, I think that Thai basil is better.) You can use any mild meat, like chicken or pork, and either chop it small or buy it coarsely ground. It's traditionally served with an egg that's been fried until crisp in a fairly deep pan of oil, though eaten simply with rice it makes a respectable meal.

1-2 bunches Thai (or Holy) basil, stems removed
3-4 Tbsp. stir fry oil (less if using nonstick)
1.5 lbs chicken or pork, ground or chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-5 hot chilies (to taste), sliced thin
3 large shallots (or substitute 1 large onion), sliced into thin strips
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. fish sauce
4 Tbsp. black soy sauce*
OR 3 Tbsp. regular soy sauce + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Heat the stir fry oil in a large pan until it's really hot. Add the garlic and stir, cooking just a minute or so until it barely starts to brown. Add the shallots and chilies and continue cooking 2-3 more minutes until starting to brown and soften, stirring frequently. Add 2 Tbsp. fish sauce and cook for a few seconds. Move the shallots and chilies away from the center of the pan and add the chicken. Stir until most of the chicken has turned white and most liquid has cooked off, then add the black soy sauce. Combine well and continue cooking until the chicken is just cooked through. Stir in the remaining fish sauce and the basil, and cook a couple more minutes until the basil is wilted. Serve over fresh, fluffy rice. If desired, top with a crispy fried egg.

*Black soy sauce (also called sweet soy sauce) is a variety of soy sauce that's been sweetened with palm sugar and thickened. It can be bought at the Asian store or simply substituted with regular soy sauce plus brown sugar.

Here is a photo of holy basil so you can recognize it if you see it in the store.

Super easy greens

I just made this the other day, and I like how it turned out, so I figured I'd post it. I've yet to try Lillian's Southern Style Greens, but this seems like an easy second best:

Greens (I used collard, though something a little less tough might be good)
Bacon grease (1 Tbs. or so - this really adds a lot of flavor, though you could use butter I suppose, it just wouldn't be very good)
Brown Sugar (1 Tbs. or so)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Option: Red pepper flakes

Chop the greens into reasonably sized chunks. Throw into hot bacon grease. I added a shake of red pepper flakes at this point. Cook for a little bit, then add a small amount of brown sugar. Cook a bit longer, then add more apple cider vinegar than you think is necessary - the brown sugar really takes the sting out. Cook until done.

I've been saving bacon grease in a salsa jar, rather than our weird old family standby of aluminum cans - this way, I can seal it, keep it in the fridge, and use it later for cooking.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lillian's Gardening Blog

Hello Extra Schmaltz readers! I've created another blog to record my gardening endeavors for future reference. It's mostly for my own use, but you might find it of interest. Here's the link: Lillian's Gardening Notebook.

I'll be back to posting recipes once I get all my seeds planted.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mana'iish Za`tar

So this should take the cake as one of the easiest recipes posted so far. It's actually related to all of the fataayir recipes Lillian has been posting - this is one particularly popular variation that is good for a quick breakfast item, or for something to impress guests with:

1 can Pillsbury biscuit dough
Za`tar spice mix (available at Arabic grocery stores)
Olive Oil

Mix the za`tar with the olive oil until it forms a liquidy paste. It will need to be liquid enough to be easily spread on the dough.

Roll the biscuit dough out into large, thin circles. Crimp the edges by pinching around the perimeter (not strictly necessary, but looks cool). Spread za`tar olive oil mix on top. Bake at 350, but near the end of the cooking time, be really careful not to burn then, since there's a thin line between done and cremated.

You can obviously use any topping you want - traditionally, this shape is used with the za`tar paste, or with that crumbly, salty white middle eastern cheese, with a few sesame seeds as well. You could put any of the toppings suggested by Lillian but make sure meat is ground very finely.

I took a picture, but only after taking a few bites to confirm that it was indeed delicious:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Meat or Spinach Fataayir - Savory Arabic Pastries

Alex linked me to a website with Middle Eastern recipes and videos (accompanied with very entertaining musical choices) called Mimi Cooks. The recipes all look good, and I stumbled across this one for Sfeeha: Meat Pies. It was uploaded with "When Doves Cry" by Prince, which is one of my favorite songs so I knew the recipe would be good! :P

The website author, from Bahrain, calls these 'sfeeha', but Alex calls them 'fataayir' (often spelled 'fatayer'), so I'll go with the Levantine name for consistency. I think they can also be called 'manaish'. Basically it's a simple dough topped with a savory filling and baked. They're often sold as street food. This is a recipe for meat filling, but there are many others including spinach, zaa3tar (herb and sesame mix), potato, cheese, etc... If I try other styles out I'll post the results here. Check out the original site for video!


Meat Fataayir served with tomato salad, pickle, and bulghur pilaf. I was out of yogurt, but these would have been good with it.

Mimi provides a basic bread dough recipe, but also suggests using frozen bread or pizza dough. She uses a package of frozen bread dough that makes two loaves. I used Pillsbury's pizza dough for my first try but it tasted mediocre and one tube wasn't enough. I suggest using something higher quality.

Basic bread dough
1.5 lbs ground beef or lamb
2 diced onions
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
S & P
1 Tbsp. allspice
Oil for the pan
1/2 c. pine nuts

I also added:
1 Tbsp. marjoram
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses

Preheat the oven to 450 and grease a round pan (I used a cast iron frying pan).

Cook the meat, onions, and seasonings in a little oil until well browned. Stir in the tomato paste, and any other seasonings you desire--feel free to be creative.

Form the dough into 3-4" rounds and place them in the pan. Let them rest for 15 minutes.

Press a spoonful of meat filling into each round. Sprinkle each round with pine nuts.

Bake for 15 minutes until the dough in the center is cooked. Run under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown the tops, but take care not to burn.

Serve as a snack or as a meal with greens on the side. Meat pies are especially good with yogurt sauce. In the summertime they heat up the kitchen for a little while, but are so nice to have as snacky leftovers when you're too hot to think about food.

Update: Spinach Version!

I liked these so much that I already tried another version. This one can be made with spinach and/or swiss chard or any other tender green (I used beet tops). Apparently spinach ones are typically made into fully enclosed triangle shapes, but I wasn't ambitious enough to try that. I went with a traditional Syrian canoe-shaped style instead. I also used frozen dinner roll dough this time, which were much more suited for the recipe.

These would be more green if you used spinach instead of beet tops.

2 bunches chard, beet greens, or spinach
2 onions, diced
oil for frying
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
OR 2 Tbsp. dried sumac
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. pine nuts
S & P
olive oil (optional)

Prepare your dough, form it into 1.5 oz balls, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425.

Blanch the greens in boiling salted water. Drain in cold water and squeeze dry. Chop finely.

Meanwhile, saute the onions over low heat until caramelized with a pinch of salt. Add the greens and cook a few more minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, and salt and black pepper to taste. Add the oil and combine well.

Flatten the dough into oval shapes, place a spoonful of filling in the center, and pinch the small ends together to make a canoe shape. Place the canoes into a greased baking dish.

Sprinkle with pine nuts and bake at 425 for 15 minutes until the edges are beginning to brown. Run under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the pine nuts are toasted. Remove from the oven and brush the dough lightly with olive oil. Delicious!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rhubarb Custard Bars - When you don't feel like making pie

After all that talk about pie, here's another family classic that's perfect for when you have a ton of rhubarb and you don't want to make pastry crust or wait for it to chill. This dessert has a buttery shortbread crust and a creamy, custardy filling with the tang of rhubarb.

Crust:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 stick butter, soft but not melted

Filling:
4-5 c. rhubarb, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 c. sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13" baking dish.

Crust: Stir the flour, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl and then cut in the butter with a fork or pastry blender until the butter is well-distributed in fine crumbs. Press the crust into a greased 9 x 13" baking dish so that the crust goes halfway up the sides. Prick with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

Filling: In a large mixing bowl, blend the sugar and flour with a fork. Add the eggs, vanilla, and rhubarb and mix until well combined. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the baked shortbread crust and return to the oven to bake for 30-35 minutes. The edges should be firm and the center slightly soft (it will continue to tighten up).

Serve warm or cooled. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator, if there are any.

Basic Fruit Pie Protocol and Piemaking Tips

Like I said, it's piemaking* season and I've been getting some questions about recipes and techniques. I'm still in training to become the Queen of Pies, but I'll post here what I've learned so far. I'll try to update this post with any other tips and revelations, so refer back to it whenever you're making a pie.

Before embarking on any piemaking pursuit, remember that most recipes are written for a 9" x 1.5" (usually metal) pie pan. Our family traditionally uses a 10" deep-dish glass pie pan. Glass heats more evenly, slows baking, and reduces browning compared to the metal pan. A 10" deep dish requires around 2 lbs of filling, while the 9" regular will only require 1.5 lbs. Adjust your recipe and pan choice accordingly.

*I hereby declare 'piemaking' to be a real word.

Generic Fruit Pie Recipe

2 Basic Pie Crusts
1 1/2 - 2 lbs. fruit pieces
3/4 - 1 1/2 c. sugar, depending on the sweetness of your fruit
3 Tbsp. - 1/4 c. thickener
1/4 tsp. salt
1 well-chosen seasoning
2 - 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 egg white + sugar for the crust

Arrange your oven so that one rack is in the vertical center and one is beneath it. Preheat your oven to 425.

Place the chopped fruit in a bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and seasoning, toss, and allow to sit for 15-60 minutes. For non-apple pies, limit yourself to one seasoning, such as vanilla, lemon zest, or cinnamon. For apple pies use brown sugar and more seasonings; I use garam masala, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a dash of sweet sherry. Taste your filling to check the sweetness and flavor.

Meanwhile, roll out your crusts and place the bottom crust in the pie plate. Wrap the top crust in plastic wrap and place the pie plate and top crust in the refrigerator. This allows the bottom crust to relax into the pie plate and keeps the dough from melting in the heat of the kitchen.

Drain the liquid from the bowl of fruit and sugar and place it in a saucepan. Reduce the liquid over high heat until it is thick and syrupy. Take extra care not to let it burn, which can happen very quickly! Reducing the liquids reduces the runny-ness of the filling and concentrates the flavors. For apple pie you can allow this to caramelize for extra tastiness.

Add your thickener to the bowl of fruit pieces and toss them to coat. This will eliminate future lumps. You can use wheat flour, tapioca flour, corn starch, quick-cooking tapioca, or any other starch. They have their pros and cons, which I will discuss later. Corn starch is a good basic one, but it doesn't freeze or refrigerate well. Don't skimp on the thickener, as many fruits contain compounds that interfere with thickening.

Take the dough and pie plate out of the fridge. Place the fruit in the bottom crust and dot with butter. Cover with the top crust and crimp the edges, then cut some vents if it's not a lattice pie. You can also use a crumb topping, if desired.

Bake for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven. If a glazed crust is desired, remove and brush the crust with beaten egg white, then sprinkle with sugar (this can toughen the crust, but it looks nice). Return to the oven, and place a round baking sheet on the lower rack (this will catch any drips). Bake for 20-30 more minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the top is browned. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. Allow the pie to cool on a rack completely before serving--if you can wait that long!


Tips

Picking a Crust Style:

When making a fruit pie, you are always in danger of having liquid hot magma eruptions while baking. The high sugar content tends to erupt in the second part of the baking and creates a blackened carbon nightmare on the bottom of your oven and sets off the fire alarm. All top crust styles are subject to this gaffe, but lattice is the worst. It looks nice when it works out well, but you're probably better off with a safer option. I will discuss some options here:
  • Fully Covered - A full top crust with only a few slits (possibly decorative) for steam to escape. Results in a nice looking pie with minimal chance of fruit eruptions. Also provides crispiness on the top of the pie.
  • Latticework - Though not as difficult to create as you might think, the true danger lies in the baking. You are likely to wind up with molten fruit on the bottom of your oven and lattice strips sullied with darkened pie filling. This top is best done with apple pies and low-moisture fruits. If you're feeling ambitious, go for it. Otherwise stick with something safer and easier.
  • Crumble Top - This is a good option that I always forget about. It's easy, fast, and is a nice change from the pastry-top crust. Dutch apple pie is made with a large quantity of crumb topping.
  • No Top - Easiest of all and actually looks pretty nice. If you do this, I recommend arranging the fruit nicely first. Once the pie is cool you can sprinkle it with powdered sugar, which looks especially nice if you do it over a doily or cool-shaped leaf. Or just leave it be and eat the damn thing.
  • Cutesy - Can be used in combination with any of the above. Cut remaining crust into cute shapes and glue them onto the top of the pie with egg white. Good for holidays or impressing people who don't cook.
  • Other - This includes glazed tops and meringue, and I'm not going to discuss them here.
___

The other aspect of crust style is the edge. This gives added crunch and by jutting over the edge of the pan, also keeps the filling from sucking the crust into the depths of the pan. There are many ways to do this, but here are some ideas:
  • Fluted - The classic style. If you're not sure how to do it, I'm sure you can find instructional videos or diagrams online. Basically you pinch the crust between your thumb and first knuckle with one hand and your first knuckle with the other hand. Make sure this extends over the edge of the pie plate.
  • Fork - Squish the edges of the crust down with a fork. Easy and looks cool.
  • Free-style - In France I had pies where people just folded the edges of the pastry over haphazardly (usually in a very shallow pie plate). This gives a fun, funky look.
  • Braided - For overachievers only. Braid together three strands of pastry dough and squish this across the edge. Looks cool, but probably not worth the effort.
Note: you don't always have to brush the crust with egg wash. It looks cool but detracts from the flakiness of the crust. Decide whether you want a hard, dark brown crust or a light flaky one. If you do decide on an egg wash topping, note that you can use a paintbrush to draw a design with the egg wash for added flair.

Crumb Topping:

Fruit pies can also be topped with a crumb (aka streusel) topping. Simply soften 3 Tbsp. butter and mix it with 1/3 c. white or brown sugar and 2-3 Tbsp. flour or rolled oats using a fork. You can mix in chopped nuts and/or spices if you like. Sprinkle this over the top of the fruit before baking. (If you're making a Dutch apple pie, double this recipe).

Thickeners:

I'm still experimenting with thickeners, but here's a good site to check out when deciding what to use: The Cooks Thesaurus - Starch Thickeners. I find that wheat flour works well with blueberry pies and I like good ol' corn starch for apple pie. Potato starch has gotten very popular, but I tried it in a strawberry pie and wasn't very impressed (I think I need to get more experience with it). I've never had luck with quick-cooking tapioca--I usually wind up with it too noticeable in the finished pie. Tapioca starch has worked well for me in the past, though.

Pre-baking Crust:

Some pies require a pre-baked pie crust. Place the rolled-out dough in your pie pan and preheat the oven to 425. Form the edge of the dough as desired and prick the bottom of the crust with a knife or fork several times. Weigh the bottom crust down with one of the following methods: a handful of dry beans, 3-4 all-metal pieces of cutlery, or another pie plate that nests within the first (this may mash down your fluted edge). If the pie will be baked a second time, loosely cover the fluted edge with foil to prevent excessive browning. The edge can be glazed with egg white and sugar if desired.

Bake 15 minutes. Remove weights and foil and then bake for 5-10 minutes until lightly golden. Cool before filling.

Notes on Apple Pie:

Most fruit fillings are uncooked before the pie is baked. One exception is with apple pie, which comes in two basic styles: pre-cooked and baked raw. The pre-cooked style has a denser filling that is more uniform in texture, and is typically shorter in stature. The baked raw style retains more of the crunch and texture of the original apple pieces, and is generally deeper, often with a large gap between the top crust and the apples. Both pie styles have devotees and their own set of pros and cons:
  • When you pre-cook an apple pie you can depend on the pie keeping its thickness and depth, because most of the moisture has been cooked out of the apples beforehand. This makes for a picture-perfect pie that doesn't have a gap under the top crust, or that works well with a crumb topping. You can also caramelize the apples in a skillet for a deeper flavor. However, this style doesn't showcase the crisp freshness of the apples, and it adds another cooking step.
  • Baking an apple pie raw results in an iconic pie with lots of apple flavor, texture, and crunch. You can pile the crust high with apples and make the pie in just a few easy steps. On the other hand, the moisture in the apples escapes when you bake it, leading to shrinkage beneath the crust and often a runnier pie. Though this pie is what most people think of when they picture apple pie, it is fraught with more pitfalls that the pre-cooked style.
In the end, you should pick which style works best with your preferences and vision. I've had good luck with combining the techniques, but sometimes I prefer one style or the other.

___

When picking apples to use for your apple pie, a combination of sweetness and tartness, and crispness and softness is best. I like combining Granny Smith with a sweeter variety. McIntosh apples have super apple-y flavor, but can get a little mushy by themselves. If you can find Rome Beauties, consider yourself lucky--these have supreme apple flavor and retain their shape better than any other variety. They store well, so buy a bunch, give me some, and keep the rest in your crisper ;)

Other Pies:

These recommendations are strictly for baked, pastry crust fruit pies. Chilled pies, pies with crumb or shortcake crusts, cream pies, and meringue pies are another story for another time!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Basic Pie Crust

I'm posting the pie crust recipe I emailed out to you all a while back for even easier reference. I've gotten good feedback on this recipe, so hopefully it's the definitive one.

This recipe makes one crust (bottom or top), so double it for a two-crust pie. Remember that the amount of water you'll need depends on the protein content of your flour and the ambient humidity. Try to keep your ingredients cold and work quickly. Crust can be frozen and thawed for use as needed--just make sure to wrap it thoroughly.

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. shortening or lard
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
~1/3 c. ice water + 1 tsp. white vinegar

Measure the butter and shortening and place them in the freezer while you work.

Measure the flour, salt, and sugar and fluff together with a fork.

Take the fat out of the freezer and cut into small chunks. Mix in using your fingers so that the fat pieces become coated in flour and then start pulling them into smaller pieces. Stop when you have a mixture of sizes, the largest the size of chickpeas and the smallest like coarse sand.

Pour ice water in while you mix (this is easiest with an assistant), until the dough just holds together when you squish it into a ball. Add about 1-2 more tsp. of water until the dough seems workable. You want to add a minimum of water and keep the dough fairly stiff, but you don't want it to be crumbly or it will be a nightmare later. Try for something that's not as homogeneous as Play-Doh in texture, but that's almost as workable.

Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead 3-4 times until it becomes smooth and coherent. If it is too dry, wet fingers. If too wet, knead in more flour.

If you doubled the recipe for a 2-crust pie, divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 3/4" thick disk(s) and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour (ideally several). Dough can be frozen at this point.

Roll out the dough, using a floured board and rolling pin. The dough should be pliable enough that you can wrap it around the rolling pin or fold it up and move it over to your pie pan. If it breaks apart, you should add more water next time. If it sticks to the counter, you should use less water. Good luck! :)

Also, I don't have any pictures using this recipe that I haven't already posted, so here are some cute photos of baby raccoons from our backyard:

Awww...so cute. You little shits had better not start eating our garbage!


They're all puffed up trying to look big and scary. It didn't work.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lillian's CowPoon aka Khaub Poob Recipe (Red Curry and Coconut Soup with Chicken)

This is taken from Lillian's original handwritten recipe. I'm thinking of making it soon, so I figured I'd post it:

Ingredients

1 chicken
7 kaffir lime leaves
2 stalks lemon grass
Ginger
2 cans mushrooms (straw, etc)
2 cans bamboo shoots, cut into thin pieces
1 can coconut milk
Rice noodles
Red curry paste
Bean sprouts
Thai Basil
Limes

Instructions

1.Fill big pot with the amount of water corresponding to the amount of soup you want(1/2, 2/3, enough to cover chicken) and add:
chicken
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 stalks lemon grass
5 big slices of ginger
Boil until chicken is fully cooked(~1 hr)

2.Meanwhile:
Slice up 2 cans bamboo shoots
Slice up 2 cans mushrooms
Wash bean sprouts and Thai basil
Slice limes

3.Once chicken is cooked, remove it and ALL seasoning items from the stock pot
Debone and shred chicken

4.Boil a separate large pot of water for noodles; cook them, drain them, rinse them in cold water and coil them into bowl sized portions and set aside.

5.Return the following to stock pot, then bring all to a boil:
Chicken
Mushrooms
Bamboo shoots
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 can coconut milk

6. Using two spoons to smash it, add 1 tablespoon (no more) of red curry paste. Ensure that it is mixed well

7.Simmer for 20 minutes; serve when ready with garnishes and noodles.

Drunken Noodles

So I can't vouch for the authenticity of the recipe, but this is turns out more or less like the deliciousness of a Lao-Thai restaurant back in Madison. I based the recipe heavily on this recipe, though I didn't follow it exactly. The reason for the name is something of a dispute. Some say that it's a pre-drinking/hangover meal, others say that its spiciness causes people to drink lots of cold beer. Also called Pad Kee Mao.

Quantities are given as I made it yesterday, YMMV:
1 large white onion (cut into thin slices)
1 large green bell pepper (thin slices)
3-5 cloves garlic
a lot of thai basil (leaves separated from stems)
4 large tomatoes, preferably peeled then chopped in large chunks.
1 bulb shallot
Thai bird peppers(I used like 4, but they were green and of varying sizes. It should be spicy)
1 pound chicken boneless skinless chicken thighs(cut into thin slices)
Wide rice noodles

Sauce(I just eyeballed this):
Oyster sauce
Rice Vinegar
Lime or Lemon juice
Fish Sauce
Sugar
Sriracha

1. Cook rice noodles. If you want, you can use the same water to soak the tomatoes in briefly to aid in skinning. Set rice noodles aside, rinse with water occasionally to keep them separated.

2. In very hot wok, stir friend onions, shallots, garlic. Add chicken with hot peppers. This tends to keep them from vaporizing and killing you. When kitchen is no longer too pink, add green peppers. During this time, you can also add some of the stems of the thai basil for more flavor.

3. When the vegis are reasonably stir fried, add the tomatoes. Reduce heat- you want to form a lot of juice in the bottom. You may want to cover to aid this process.

4. Once everything's gotten juicy, add the sauce mixture and basil. Simmer for a bit to get the sauce right - if it's too acidic, add more oyster and fish sauce. If its not spicy enough, add another chili or two. Once the sauce is right, throw in the noodle to coat them with the sauce.

This can be served with or without rice - if there's a lot of sauce, it's good with rice to soak it up.

And the requisite artsy food shot: