November 26, 2013
Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite pies, and we have them at our house more than just for Thanksgiving. I like to use Joy of Cooking’s recipe, which yields a crispy, flaky crust, and custardy, delicious filling that’s not grainy or soggy. The key is the blind-baked crust, which is pre-baking your pie crust lined with foil and pie weights. I like to do this with all of my one-crust pies, ever since I read about it in Joy. It really does produce superior results.
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I have made only a few pumpkin pies in my time. It seems for holiday gatherings, others make the pumpkin and I bake apple or pecan-sweet potato pie – like this Thanksgiving! And I usually follow Mom/Granny’s lead and use the recipe on the side of the can of pumpkin. I’ve always been satisfied with the results, but then I’ve never had this version! One thing I will say is that I think pumpkin pie is best made with canned pumpkin. Every time I’ve had it with fresh pumpkin puree, it seems watery. How about you Margaux? What are your thoughts on fresh vs. canned pumpkin?
I definitely ALWAYS use canned pumpkin. Not only does it seem watery with fresh, but often grainy and stringy. Yuck. It’s really not worth the extra step, because canned pumpkin is just that…pumpkin, no additives. You would have to have commercial grade equipment to get it the consistency that canned is, which is perfect for pies. I was happy to see that there was a little section about it in the November issue of Martha Stewart Living…their test kitchen came up with those same results.
Blind Baked Pie Crust
1/2 recipe pastry dough, like this one
1 egg yolk
Roll out pie dough. Carefully place it in a 9″ pie plate, trim the edges leaving a 1″ hang over, fold it under and crimp. Place in freezer and freeze for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take pie shell out of freezer and cut a large piece of aluminum foil. Place foil into pie plate, shiny side down, carefully pressing it into the corners and leaving a good amount hanging over the sides. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice (I keep dried beans on hand and use them over and over again). Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully remove foil. Prick crust all over with fork and put in oven again for another 5 minutes or so, until the crust is golden. Meanwhile, beat egg yolk with a pinch of salt. When crust is done, brush with egg yolk all over and bake for another minute or two, until the glaze is set.
Pumpkin Pie Filling
A note about eggs in the recipe: If you like your pie more custardy, use 3 eggs. If you like a stronger pumpkin flavor and a denser filling, use only 2. I like to use 3.
2-3 eggs (see note above)
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or half-and-half
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk eggs together in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
While mixture is sitting for a few minutes, place foil around the fluted edges of the crust (or use an aluminum pie sheild…one of my favorite kitchen gadgets). Warm crust back up by placing it in the oven for 1-2 minutes, until it is hot to touch. Pour filling into the hot crust, place in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until center seems set but quivery, like gelatin, when you tap the side of the dish. Cool on a cooling rack to room temperature. Serve within one day, store in the refrigerator.
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp sugar
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high until soft peaks form, no longer. Serve dollops on slices of pie. Store remainder in refrigerator in airtight container. Whip with a wire whisk for 10-15 seconds when ready to use again.
November 21, 2013
Aunt Suzy says . . .
The Wall Street Journal ran this article a few weeks ago on Minestrone, including 3 delicious-looking recipes. I love making Minestrone and the message and recipes here expanded my thinking as to what this soup is all about. I love the quote “But minestrone is, ultimately, a hyper-personal and hyper-seasonal chameleon of a dish, tailored to the current harvest and the cravings of the maker. This soup embodies better than any other the enviable Italian virtue known as sprezzatura: an artful effortlessness.” When Randy and I were talking Sunday morning about what we’d like for dinner, he said he had bought the ingredients for this soup. I had planned to make roasted salmon, potatoes and broccoli, but given I had a cold, the Minestrone sounded way more appealing. Plus I didn’t have to cook – what’s not to like?! We both had seconds of this! Like many “ugly duckling” soups and stews that we’ve posted before (like this, this this and this), don’t let the bland look turn you away – this is one delicious soup, made even better by the unusual pesto.
Guest chef Randy Tatum says . . .
This recipe looked like an interesting use of seasonal ingredients, including celery root which I don’t cook with enough. I thought the soup could use even more winter vegetables, so I added rutabaga. I found this easy to make, even if it takes a little chopping. It’s one of those dishes that can really be flexible in terms of ingredients and quantities. Unlike Suzy, who always has flavorful homemade chicken stock in the freezer, I take a rather relaxed approach to creating a stock for my soups. It’s called Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base and is a more than acceptable substitute. I often use their “No-Chicken Base”, which tastes just as good but is vegetarian. The pesto is indeed unusual and I agree that it really adds to the finished product.
The Winter Vegetable Minestrone
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium celery root, peeled and cubed
1 large parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cubed
4-5 (or more) cups chicken stock (or Better Than Bouillon per their instructions to equal 4-5 cups)
2 bay leaves
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups yellow split peas
4 (or more) cups shredded cabbage
1 small apple, peeled and cubed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the yellow split peas in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once oil is warm, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook till fragrant. Stir in celery root, parsnip and rutabaga, cooking until fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaves, beans, split peas, cabbage and apple. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer gently until celery root, parsnips and rutabaga soften, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The Pesto, Pasta and Final Assembly
8 ounces whole wheat pasta, small shapes (we used fusilli/spirals)
1 cup leafy greens – spinach, kale or chard (we used spinach), coarsely chopped
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped (we used roasted/salted)
¼ cup fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup olive oil
Cook the pasta to al dente according to instructions. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, make the pesto. In a food processor, purée the greens, pecans, rosemary, whole garlic cloves, oil and a pinch of salt until mixture is reduced almost to a paste. Turn into a serving dish.
To serve, place desired amount of pasta into a soup bowl. Ladle as much soup as you want onto the pasta. Place a dollop of the pesto onto the soup and stir to blend. Enjoy!
November 6, 2013
We eat quinoa like it’s going out of style in the summer. Now it’s finally fall (I don’t know about where you live, but in Chicago I thought summer was never going to end!), and I wasn’t ready to give up my go-to dinner starter, but I’m definitely not in the mood for more salads. So this week I tested out a couple of quinoa side dishes (or in one case we ate it as the main dish with a poached egg on top) that were amazing! They’re based on a recipe in one of my old Martha Stewart magazines for quinoa hash, which is where I got the idea for the poached egg. These would be great also as side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner! Especially if you have vegetarians or vegans in your family, as quinoa has a good amount of protein and can be eaten as a main dish. I served the beet-sweet potato one with roasted chicken, and it was delicious as a weekend meal.
I see Aunt Suzy and I are on the same wavelength…her latest post is very similar to mine, with forbidden rice instead of quinoa. Can’t wait to try that one out, too! There are numerous combinations of things that you can toss with the cooked quinoa; these are just the two that I have made so far.
Aunt Suzy says . . .
We are on the same wavelength! I almost put in my post that I thought the forbidden rice dish could be made with red or black quinoa! I can’t wait to try these.
Quinoa with Beets and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed thoroughly, and sliced thinly
1 sweet potato
2-3 beets with greens, greens rinsed thoroughly and chopped
1 tbsp orange zest
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
Cook quinoa according to package directions.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop sweet potato into 1/2″ chunks and toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread on 1/2 of a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil. Peel and chop beets into 1/2 chunks, toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp salt and spread on other half baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tender, stirring halfway through, taking care not to mix beets and potatoes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté leeks and thyme for about 2 minutes, until they have softened. Add beet greens and sauté until wilted. Turn off heat and set aside until quinoa and veggies are done. Toss quinoa, roasted veggies, and leek mixture together in a large bowl with orange zest. Add salt and pepper if needed.
Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts
1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. shredded Brussels sprouts
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
Cook quinoa according to package directions.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes and squash with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt and place on baking sheet lined with foil. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, until tender, stirring about halfway through.
Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Increase heat to medium-high and add Brussels sprouts. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes. You may want to add a little more oil to the pan by pushing the veggies to the side and adding it (I found the pan got a bit dry and added another tablespoon). Stir in oregano. Turn off heat. Combine quinoa with roasted veggies and Brussels sprouts mixture in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
October 25, 2013
Aunt Suzy says . . .
When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it – after all, I had the exact amount of Forbidden Black Rice sitting in my cupboard from a whirl with a so-so recipe this summer. Even though I didn’t like the previous dish, I was introduced to the unusual floral flavor and wonderful mouth appeal of this new-to-me rice variety. This blend of favorite ingredients and flavors looked like a can’t-miss. In addition to the squash and pecans, I added another seasonal favorite, good old Brussels. It only occurred to me after making it, that it’s perfect for Halloween with it’s black and orange color scheme. Whether you make this as part of a Halloween spread or for dinner as a side to roast something (we served with roast chicken), I know you’ll enjoy.
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, bottoms removed and cut in half (about 3 cups)
Olive oil for roasting
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil or a combo
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cups forbidden black rice
2 1/2 cups water
Zest of 1 orange
1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped
Salt and Pepper
Roast the vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Place the squash cubes on the foil and toss to coat with the oil. Roast for 15 min, stir and roast for another 5-10 min. Remove from oven and turn out onto a platter. Do the same for the Brussels sprouts, but roast for 10 min, stir and roast for another 5-10 min. Turn out onto a platter.
Cook the rice:
Rinse the rice thoroughly in a mesh sieve and set aside to drain. Set a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and/or olive oil and heat till bubbling or shimmering if using oil. Add the shallot and saute for 2 minutes. Add the rice, stir and saute for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt,. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until water is completely absorbed. Let stand for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
Assemble the dish:
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, the roasted vegetables, the orange zest and thyme. Stir to combine. Add the pecans and stir again until just combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS: The original recipe did not call for the Brussels sprouts, so if these aren’t a favorite for you, they can be omitted. Black rice is available in both bulk and packaged at our local co-op, so if you have a co-op or health food store locally you can check there. I highly recommend seeking it out. It’s available online directly from Lotus Foods. Short grain brown rice or one of the black or rice blends from Lundberg could be a good substitute.
October 18, 2013
This is one of those things that I can’t believe I haven’t shared yet. I make this almost every year, and it is one of my absolute favorite cakes. For one, I love apples. Secondly, who doesn’t like sweet and salty together? That’s what this cake is…a rich, moist, apple cake, infused with a decadent salted caramel sauce. This is an adaptation of my Granny’s recipe that Aunt Suzy gave me years ago, and you need to make it ASAP.
This is a pretty easy cake – peeling and chopping the apples is the most time consuming part. Because it’s an oil cake, you don’t even have to get out the mixer…just whip it up by hand. Make sure you give plenty of time before having to serve it, though, because you need to let it sit for 2 hours after it comes out of the oven so that the caramel sauce sinks down into the cake and makes it into yummy goodness.
Caramel Apple Cake
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups peeled, chopped apples
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace (or 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg)
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10″ tube pan with removable bottom.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and mace in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until completely combined and a little bit fluffy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add dry ingredients, stirring carefully with a wooden spoon until completely combined. Add apples and walnuts and stir until just combined. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, and prepare the caramel sauce.
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter
1/4 cup milk
Melt butter in saucepan. When butter is melted, add sugar and milk and stir until combined. Boil hard for 3 minutes, and immediately pour over the cake (make sure you don’t boil it for any longer than 3 minutes or you will end up with hard candy on top of your cake! Still tastes good, but hard on the teeth). Let the cake cool for 2 hours, then carefully remove from the pan by removing the center, inverting it onto a large flat plate, then invert it again to right side up onto your serving plate. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
October 13, 2013
We have been BUSY around here. With Desi starting school and Stella being at that age where she doesn’t sleep all the time anymore and is into EVERYTHING, I haven’t had time to do much of anything other than cook dinner and do dishes. The rest of the (extremely dirty) house and my side projects have definitely suffered. But fall is here, and I’m cooking new and fun things again, so I’m doing my best to make time to post about them.
My husband raved about this chili, and actually got really protective over the leftovers. I knew this meant that he really REALLY liked it, because usually I’m the only one in this house that eats any leftovers. The charred veggies gives the chili a little bit of a smoky flavor…it’s very different than any chili I’ve ever made. So I’m definitely making it again, even though that means I’ll have to make Desi his own little pot of chili because this one has meat in it AND is pretty spicy. But that’s ok…more leftovers for us.
adapted from Martha Stewart Living
10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 jalapeno (or I used a Fresno because the jalapenos didn’t look that good)
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 3/4-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/4 cup chili powder
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2-14 oz. cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Preheat broiler, with rack 3 inches from heat source. Arrange tomatoes, jalapeno and onion, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until starting to char, about 5 minutes. Pulse tomatoes and jalapeno in food processor until chunky. Chop onion and mince garlic.
Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Working in batches, brown chicken in a single layer, allowing to sear before stirring, 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onion to skillet. Cook until soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili powder and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring for one minute. Stir in chipotles, and drain fat off chicken and add chicken to the pot. Raise heat to high. Add tomato-jalapeno mixture. Cook, scraping up browned bits, until fully incorporated, 3-5 minutes. Stir in stock; simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans, simmer for 10 minutes. We served topped with sour cream and tortilla chips on the side…it would also be great with shredded cheese and chopped avocados, and with corn bread on the side.