June is for pies

Phew! That was quite the three months. Since my last post at the end of March, I have finished teaching, written a first chapter of my dissertation, finished planning a wedding, gotten married, moved house, and honeymooned. Now things are slowly returning to normal. My first official domestic act as a married woman was to bake a strawberry rhubarb pie.

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I bought native berries and long, thick stems of rhubarb from the Italian grocery store down the street, and invested a ridiculous amount of butter in what turned out to be my Very Best Pie Crust Ever. (My advice: When Deb says to not blend the butter all the way into the dough, obey her! My butter was frozen when I started which made it impossible for me to *not* follow her instructions. The result was largish pats of butter scattered through the dough which melted away in the oven, leaving delectable golden pockets and layers of crust in their wake.)

Nobody was dissapointed. Not me. Not my philosopher. And not the housemates and unexpected guests who picked the perfect moment to stop by.

The crust was flaky and buttery and melted in our mouths. The filling was the perfect tangle of tart and sweet. If I could only pick one pie to eat for the rest of my life, it would be this one.

p.s. The crust was more golden than the photo lets on, but I think I could have baked the pie even longer than I did. I noticed on the second day that some of the bottom crust seemed par-baked still, though it was nothing a little oven-warming couldn’t remedy.

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Pain aux Chocolat

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Success! Kind of. These pain aux chocolat tasted great: the croissant had a rich flavor from the dough’s long, cool rise (plus all that butter) and paired beautifully with dark chocolate. But I mourned when I beheld the texture of the croissants as I pulled them out of the oven. They were somewhere between a scone and an ultra-buttery pie crust. Nothing like the “puffs of air” quality I was going for. But I still consider it a success. After all, they were really enjoyed. I froze half to be baked tomorrow–they will make a great plane ride treat on they way to Connecticut, to celebrate Allison’s wedding!!!

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Happy Monday!

Faerynn M.

Mother’s Day Shish Kabobs and Lemon Sour-Cream Pie

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I’m posting two “recipes” to make up for last month’s zero (sorry!) and maybe I’ll get around to it once more this week for extra compensation. I better, because next weekend I’m going to experiment with pain aux chocolate again. There, now I’m committed.

Last Sunday, to celebrate my lovely Mama, I made two large trays of chicken and steak shish kabobs and a pot of buttery purple rice, served with cubes of watermelon. No recipe for the shish kabobs: just marinated chunks of meat (I used water, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, white wine vinegar and oil for the marinade) alternated with fresh fruits and vegetables (in this case pineapple, yellow and green  zucchini and cherry tomatoes) and grilled.

For dessert we had a beautiful lemon sour-cream pie. At least, it was beautiful until I sliced it and attempted to transfer the slices from pie dish to plates. I think it would have done better with some freezer time just before serving, or maybe refrigerated overnight. Anyhow, it ended up in delicious puddles of tangy pudding and pecan-crunch on our plates.

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Happy late Mother’s Day! And also, just one more week of school! After that: a hopefully-successful recipe for pain aux chocolate.

Love from Oregon,

Faerynn M.

rocambole (caramel cake roll!)

I am all about vegetables and legumes but we eat our fair share of sugar too, so it’s time I pass on some of that sweetness to you. Just when we thought spring was here for real, a snow storm swept in and ruined my dreams of spending the weekend in my newly acquired community garden. But it also provided cool enough weather that I was willing to leave a pot of water containing a can of sweetened condensed milk simmering on my stove ALL DAY. A couple of months ago I tried to make doce de leite, per C’s request. Unfortunately 2 hours just wasn’t long enough for the milk to caramelize. However, a second very lonely can of condensed milk was still sitting in the pantry last week and bravely I decided to give milk caramel a second chance. Turns out you can make caramel that way it just takes about 4 and a half hours with 20 minute water refills. Also, it simultaneously turns your house into a sauna so. . . maybe not something you want to do mid summer.

Of course, caramel is tasty all on its own, but I couldn’t stop there. It needed to make its way into something. And that is how this lovely cake found its way onto my table at 10 p.m. last Thursday, just as the flurries of snow started to sift down in earnest. I’ve tried to make cake rolls before with varying degrees of success. This recipe doesn’t require you to pre-roll the cake while cooling, a step which has usually caused me some grief. It does, however, require parchment paper: a kitchen item that has become a staple in my home since moving to  CO and sporting a normal sized oven.

Rocambole (8 slices)

Ingredients:
for sheet cake:
4 eggs separated
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar (divided in 2)
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour
for simple syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 tbsp liquor (I actually used marsala because that is the only alcohol I had around)
for filling:
1 can dolce de leche (you can usually find this in the Hispanic section of your super market, or you can buy a can of sweetened condensed milk and boil it for several hours).- enough for 1 cake sheet of 17 by 11-in.
to sprinkle on top:
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon – or to taste
utensils: 17 by 11-in. baking pan, parchment paper

Directions:
1- Preheat oven at 400F
2- Separate the egg whites from the yolks. In a mixer or by hand whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking. As soon as it looks like shaving cream add half of the sugar asked in the recipe and whisk it until glossy and very fluffy.
3- In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks with the other half of sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.
4- Add 1/3 of the meringue to the yolk mixture. Stir well and add the melted butter. Now start alternating between the meringue left and the flour making a total of 3 additions.
5- Line a baking pan with parchment paper and pour in the batter. Spread your batter evenly to fill the pan (it will be quite thin)
6- Bake it for 7 minutes.
7- After baked, flip the cake over another piece of parchment paper and immediately remove the paper that is still on the cake.
8- In a small bowl add sugar and water. Microwave it for one minute. Add the rum and stir. Brush this simple syrup all over the cake. Don’t use all the syrup, just a thin layer is enough.
9- If you want clean edges, trim the uneven edges of the cake and let it cool completely (as you can see, aesthetics weren’t a high priority when I made this). Spread the dulce de leche all over it and roll it into a log starting from the short end. After rolling the first edge under I kept rolling by lifting up the parchment paper and peeling it back, yielding a fairly loose roll. The cake will be sticky from the simple syrup, this is normal and keeps the sponge cake from becoming dry. Sprinkle some confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon on top. Serve at room temperature, however if you have leftovers you might want to refrigerate them due to the milk in the caramel. We ate it cold the second day and still thought it was delicious.
Love from CO,

Bethany

lima bean purée

It’s the new hummus! I have been trying to switch up my regular rotation of chickpeas and black beans. In February, we ate our fair share of lentils and great northerns, and then as I perused the dried beans shelf I spotted lima beans and thought “why not? It turns out Anna Thomas, author of “The New Vegetarian Epicure,” has a spectacularly simple preparation for these gems that left my taste buds oh so happy. When you host your next wine tasting/tea party, or just need a quick spread to keep on hand for your veggie sandwich, or are feeling the need for a little something because dinner at 5 p.m. was too early for bed time at 12 a.m. or actually because this tasty dip/spread is too delicious to pass up, please enjoy some lima bean purée. With a hint of rosemary and the perfect balance of fried and raw garlic to liven the taste buds I don’t think you will miss your prepackaged hummus for a moment. My only addition to Anna’s recipe was to cook my beans with a bay leaf. However, I imagine a whole host of other herbs could be subbed in here and should you have some chopped sun dried tomatoes they wouldn’t be unwelcome.

For 5 cups of spread

1 lb. dry lima beans
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
pinch of red pepper flakes
1-2 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
fresh-ground black pepper to taste

garnishes: additional olive oil, chopped flat-leaf parsley

Soak the lima beans overnight in plenty of water. Drain them, rinse them, and put them in a large pot with water to cover by at least 2 inches and the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the beans for at least an hour,and perhaps longer (mine took 2 hours), until they are perfectly tender.*

Add more water, if necessary, to keep the beans just covered. Toward the end of the cooking time, add about a teaspoon of salt, or more to taste.

In a small skillet, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, about a third of the garlic, the chopped rosemary, and the red pepper flakes. Warm the oil and herbs on medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.

Drain the cooked lima beans, reserving the liquid. Combine them in a food processor or blender with 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid and the warm oil with herbs, and purée. Add the remaining minced garlic, the unheated olive oil, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to your taste, and process again until everything is thoroughly blended. Taste, and correct the seasoning with a touch more salt or lemon juice if you like. If the purée seems too thick, add a little more of the cooking liquid. It should be light, but hold a shape.

Allow the purée to cool. spread it in a pretty, shallow bowl, drizzle some fruity olive oil on top, and sprinkle with chopped parsley or a few red pepper flakes. Serve the purée with toasted or grilled bread.

*On cooking dried beans: I cook my beans on the stove top. With a good overnight soak, it usually takes mine about 2 hours. If you have a pressure cooker you could use it here to speed things up a bit, or buy canned beans and perhaps heat them a little extra to make sure they are very tender, or leave the beans in a slow cooker all day. Any way you choose to get 1 lb. of dried beans to a very tender state should be fine.

Love from CO,
Bethany

 

roasted winter veggie bowl

I cannot get enough of beets this winter. . . true story! I thought I didn’t like beets, silly me. I have seen them at potluck style meals straight from the can and they just never struck my fancy. Did I try them?  Probably not. But look, it is not the canned beets I am craving these days, but those lovely roots in the produce aisle, all golden or deep red. Did you know that they roast up into a delicious sweet treat that is only improved upon with an orange marinade? I am not kidding and unless you have already tried freshly roasted beets and know they really aren’t your thing, you ought to head to the grocery store at your earliest convenience and pick up a pound of smallish beets in any colors you find. They are ridiculously simple to prepare; preheat your oven to 400 F, trim all but one inch of the stem (if yours comes with the greens keep them, they can be sauteed in olive oil along with a bit of minced garlic, salt, and pepper to taste) and scrub well. Cut a piece of tinfoil large enough to contain your beets, if you have both gold and red beets separate the colors onto two separate sheets of tinfoil or you will end up with only red beets at the end of cooking, place beets on the foil, add a couple of unpeeled garlic cloves and wrap securely. Place foil packets in the oven and let them roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, a kitchen knife should slide right through the skin of the beet. Remove the foil packets from the oven and let the beets cool. When beets are a temperature that you can easily handle, peel the skins off and slice thinly or cut into chunks or wedges.

We like these so much that we start sneaking bites right here; but, they only improve with the dressing.

5-10 cloves roasted garlic (the ones you roasted with your beets)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 Tbl. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 Tbl. minced onion
salt and pepper to taste

Squeeze the garlic out of its peel and mash it with a fork. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Put your beets in a container or two (one for each color) and pour the dressing over the beets. Let sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.*

To turn this into a one bowl meal I reserve part of the marinade and stir it into freshly cooked rice while it is still warm. To assemble the bowl: dish up the rice and top with roasted broccoli (a la SK), a generous helping of beets, the sauteed beet greens (if you had them or substitute arugula, kale, or spinach), and some goat cheese sprinkled on top.

*These can be refrigerated and served cold too if you like, they also keep well for a couple of days so I keep them to add to salads or grain and veggie bowls.

Love from CO,
Bethany

Two March dinners

March has been a busy month! Spring break started on March 12, and I spent the first week off preparing for a conference, traveling to and attending the conference, and traveling back from the conference. The second week is coming to a rapid end. It was filled with some academic work, lots of wedding planning, and apartment-hunting with my soon-to-be husband!

In the midst of all this business, I found time to cook two full dinners. For the first I hosted two friends from the department. I made this spectacular ginger-carrot bisque from The First Mess (who apparently got it from Food52). The colors! the flavors! the artistry! It was good. I served it with Bethany’s citrus salad and SK’s adorable pecorino-parsley biscuits, and finished with a raspberry buttermilk cake. For the cake, I swapped whole wheat for all the flour and used thinned out yogurt instead of buttermilk (I did this for the biscuits as well). My guests adored this dessert–the three of us ate most of it by ourselves that evening. It pairs especially well with prosecco!

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I made the second dinner earlier this week for my homecoming philosopher and his roommates. I had enjoyed the parsley biscuits so much that I made them again, this time with an asiago cheese (since I couldn’t find pecorino) and a bit more flour (the dough was pretty sticky the first time around). I thought this second batch of biscuits held their shape really well and the asiago was just as good as the pecorino.

The main course was this hearty kale and lentil mushroom stew from The First Mess. I could not believe this dish didn’t have meat in it. The mushrooms added such an intense texture and flavor. Mushrooms are expensive, so I usually just buy the cheapest I can find. But for this I did mostly brown and white button mushrooms, a few ginormous portobellos, and some scant handfuls of shitake. Adding the portobello and shitake was an excellent call and really enhanced the texture of the stew. I’d recommend it, and it’s not too expensive if you use button mushrooms as your base. My guys all loved this meal, even the dedicated meat-eaters. It was objectively good, but would be even better on a cold wintry evening.

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This is not a great picture of the stew, but the biscuits look cute! You’ll just have to trust me that it’s lovely in real life.

This may be the last of the soups and stews for a while. Here’s to spring and promise of fresh and growing things!

xoxox,

Allison

 

citrus season

I don’t look forward to tDSC03049he winter months; by February I usually feel like one more rain or snow storm sent my way will put me over the edge. But this winter has been wonderfully mild and I have made a point to bundle up the little boy and spend at least a few minutes outside most days of the week. This has made for a good winter overall, this and the citrus that have been piled up in my grocery store week after week for incredibly low prices. Because of this, my house has also been home to no less than three and more likely four or five varieties of citrus at a time. We are currently gorging ourselves on tangelos! I credit the citrus presence for the absence of colds around my home this winter.

Mostly we’ve been downing these neon colored wonders in the form of a citrus salad first inspired by SK’s mixed citrus salad, but which has gradually taken on its own look in my house. It’s more of a formula than a recipe and the winning factor is that the salad dressing makes itself; as you slice your citrus, the juice runoff takes the edge off finely chopped shallot/red/yellow onion and then mixes with an oil of your choice (mostly olive oil in my house, but this morning I used a garlic and onion infused oil left over from making crispy onions) along with salt and freshly ground black pepper to moisten your greens.

The Citrus Salad Formula (2-3 as a meal 4 as a side)

3 to 4 tablespoons onions of your choice, cut into tiny bits (I have used shallots, red onions, yellow onions, and imagine that scallions would also hold up fine here)
1 garlic clove peeled and grated on a micro zester
4 cups greens I prefer something with a spicy flavor here such as arugula, however lucianato kale is also great*.
1 tablespoon olive oil, or other oil of your choice.
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2-3 pieces of citrus, I use 1 grapefruit and 1 tangelo or 2 valencia oranges
1/4 cup toasted and chopped nuts or sesame seeds (my favorite is walnuts but almonds are also tasty here).
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 white wine or 2 tbl. wine vinegar and 2 tbl. water
3 to 4 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) salty/sour cheese, chopped or crumbled (I have used feta, chevré, and have left off the cheese and added yogurt to my dressing instead, if you try ricotta tell me how you felt about it).

Dressing extras: you can add up to 1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice to the citrus run off. Also, dijon mustard to your tastes is fantastic. 1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried mint, chopped or cut into tiny slivers adds a lovely cool note if that’s your thing. Half of a finely minced red or yellow bell pepper is also a welcome addition here if you have some on hand.

Combine raisins and white wine in a small saucepan and cover. Bring to a simmer and turn down heat slightly, let simmer until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool.

For the citrus dressin: combine your minced onion and grated garlic in a medium sized bowl. Cut the ends off your citrus fruits so that they sit flat against the cutting board and then trim off all the peel and pith. Slice your fruit into 1/4 inch thick rounds and scrape them and all of their juices into the bowl with your onions and garlic. Stir in the oil and any extras and set aside while you prepare your greens.

If using kale, remove tough inner stems then stack and roll the leaves so that you can slice them into thin shreds, think coleslaw style here. Arugula can be used as is, other leaf lettuces you will want to tear into bite sized pieces. Add greens and raisins to bowl and mixed to moisten. Top individual servings with cheese and toasted nuts. Enjoy, again and again, until you can’t handle any more citrus.

*kale holds up especially well and the whole salad will keep for up to a day premixed, just keep your nuts and cheese separate until ready to serve so they don’t get too soggy. The “citrus dressing” can be assembled several days in advance and tossed together with the greens at the desired time making it an easy lunch item.

Love from CO,
Bethany

another pie

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I couldn’t decide between blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, so (lured by my cousin’s triple berry pie made a few days earlier) I decided on all three. Dad tried it and dubbed it “Lazarus-Berry Pie” because its good enough to come back from the dead for–a unique and somewhat disturbing complement!

Lazarus-Berry Pie

Crust:

2 C. Flour

1 1/2 Sticks butter

1 tsp. Salt

3/4 tsp. Baking powder

1 Egg

2 tsp. Vinegar

5 Tbs. ice cold water

Cut butter into flour. Beat egg and pour over flour mixture. Blend vinegar and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle over dry ingredients a little at a time and mix gently with a fork till dough forms. Separate into two balls and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Filling:

2 C. Blackberries

2 C. Blueberries

1 C. Raspberries

1 C. Sugar

1/2 C. Flour

Put everything in a large bowl and stir till sugar is dissolved and everything is combined.

Roll out the bottom crust and lay it in a pie dish, then pour in the filling and top with second crust. Tuck in edges and press, poke or pinch them in whatever way you normally do to pie crusts, then slice the top a few times (or you could cut out a pretty pattern–I tried to write the word “family” but started it too big and had to hyphenate it and put “ily” underneath! It was so disappointing.) Here’s the catch: I baked it at 350 degrees for over an hour! Because its been too long since I made a pie and didn’t catch the faulty temperature in the recipe I used. So, unless you want to make an exact replica of my Lazarus-Berry Pie, which is not necessary, raise the temperature a bit so that it bakes more quickly!

Sorry for the not-very-put-together recipe. Sometimes food is that way! Especially blackberry-raspberry-blueberry fam…ily pie.

Lots of love,

Faerynn M.

 

 

 

 

SK’s Spaghetti Pie (almost little-boy friendly)

A few weeks back I spied a tempting recipe on Smitten Kitchen. That occurs almost every time I look there, but this one was really too good to pass up, I just had to wait for a free Friday evening so that I had time to whip up this baby-brother-friendly, cheesy comfort food plus a side of lemony broccoli and snap peas. Unfortunately, the recipe required a lot of pepper and I put it all in before remembering my original intent. The results were delectable for those who like spice–if you have a little one, I’d suggest cutting back on the black pepper! You can find the recipe here (the only difference between mine and hers is cheese: I wanted Gavin to like it so I used cheeses he knows, cheddar and gouda, but the pecorino and fontina that she used look fantastic!)

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Please make this sometime, it’s easy and so satisfying. Lots of love from Oregon,

Faerynn M.