Sunday, November 29, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good Pies...

Thanksgiving and pies go hand in hand. This Thanksgiving I had hand in pie. It looked a little more like a face imprint, but it was indeed my oven mitt covered hand! As I was taking the pie out of the oven, there was a slip....I was glad I made 2 pumpkin pies as well as an apple pie. Friends started lamenting their own pie stories from meringue toppings that didn't brown beautifully under the broiler, but burned organic pumpkin pie lovingly prepared and baked, but taking 2 hours in the oven to set which ruined the crust. Then there was the pecan pie that needed a chain saw to cut it and a pumpkin pie made by twin sisters that dropped on the airport floor as they ran to catch their flight home. But home baked pies, no matter their blunders, are far more appreciated than their store bought, cardboard sisters! They are full of love and personality, and with luck they are beautiful and tasty as well. Over the years I've experimented with traditional pumpkin pie recipes and have come back to Libby's pie filling and recipe. It is just no fail. This year I decorated the top with pumpkin shapes and vines. Whole cloves are perfect pumpkin stems.My apple pie recipe is one that I tweaked a lot of years ago and make it without deviation. I pile the cinnamon and nutmeg spiced apples mile high for a lush apple filling. My family loves it warm from the oven with a scoop of pure vanilla ice cream. It just doesn't get much better.

Mile High Apple Pie

8 medium apples*, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoon raisins soaked in
1 tablespoon brandy, until plump

*I used mainly Granny Smith apples for their firmness and sweet/ tart flavor and Fuji and Macintosh to round out the taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll chilled pie dough, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap (to prevent sticking), into two 12 inch rounds. Place dough into a 9 inch pie pan, letting excess to hang over the sides.

In a large bowl, mix apples, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add optional nuts and raisins and stir. Spoon into the prepared pie pan, dot with butter and cover with a top layer of pie crust. Trim the crust evenly along the edge of the pie. Seal edges together. Flute the edges or finish with a decorative edge*. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour, until crust is golden brown and apples are cooked and juicy. Check after half an hour to make sure it is not browning too quickly. If it is, loosely cover with aluminum foil for the remaining time. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Eight servings

*To make a decorative crust edge, cut out small leaves with a pastry cutter. Moisten the edges of the pie and place the small pastry leaves all around the edge, slightly overlapping. Keep the pastry from drying out by covering it loosely with damp paper towels as you work.

Pate Brisee (Pie Crust)
adapted from Martha Stewart

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 8 ounce stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
6 tablespoons ice water (approximately)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8-10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water, a little at a time, in a slow steady stream through the feed tube. Depending on the humidity, less or more water may be needed. Pulse until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky, being careful not to process more than 30 seconds. Overworking the dough will make it tough. To test, squeeze a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, a little at a time. Shape the dough into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Dough may be stored, frozen for up to one month.

Makes two layers of pie crust.

Mile High Apple Pie recipe (pdf)

Pate Brisee
(Pie Crust) recipe (pdf)

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Onion Confit With Piment D'Espelette and Cherries

Just like some Thanksgiving Day relatives, this onion confit is sweet and savory with a little spice. It sits beside the Thanksgiving turkey or ham easily (back to those relatives again ;-)) It also adds zip to cheese, pork, lamb, and even scrambled eggs. It's versatility makes the effort worthwhile. I plan on bringing it to the holiday table and have extra jars to give away. I used piment d'espelette that I bought in the food market in Paris, but cayenne pepper can be substituted if you adjust for the heat. Many of my favorite ingredients were used when I devised this recipe. It was also another opportunity to use my Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends!

Onion Confit with Piment D'Espelette and Cherries

2 pounds yellow onions
10 ounces white pearl onions, peeled*
10 ounces red pearl onions, peeled*
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 teaspoon piment d'espelette or 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Peel and cut yellow onions in half lengthwise. Put the flat side down on a cutting board and slice in 1/4 inch slices.
In a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the sliced onions. Slowly saute, while stirring, over medium low heat for about 30 minutes or until the onions are translucent and very soft. Make sure they do not burn. Turn the heat up to medium and add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir constantly until all liquid is gone and onions are caramelized. Again, be careful they do not burn. This will only take a few minutes. Remove the onions from the skillet and set aside. Rinse skillet to remove any sugar. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and return to medium low heat. Put in peeled white and red pearl onions and saute until fully cooked and translucent and soft, about 30 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon brown sugar and turn the heat up to medium. Stir constantly while the onions caramelize, being careful not to burn. Add the caramelized sliced onions and stir. Add balsamic vinegar, pomegranate juice and dried cherries while stirring. Sprinkle the pepper over the mixture and stir. Continue cooking until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed. Pack into sterilized jars. Wipe the tops clean and seal.Makes enough for 8-9, four ounce jars, or 4 eight ounce jars. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

If you want to make the recipe and not can it, divide accordingly.

*To easily peel pearl onions, place whole unpeeled onions in boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes and drain. Quickly add them to a bowl of ice water to shock the skins and stop the cooking process. After a minute, drain the ice water. On a cutting board, slice off the root end of the onion and gently squeeze. The peeled onion easily slides out. If needed slice off any long pieces that remain.
Click here for video on peeling pearl onions.

Onion Confit with Piment D'Espelette and Cherries recipe (pdf)

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grilled Shrimp With Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette

I am not a superstitious person, but when my sisters and I planned a long weekend getaway, I paused when the date was Friday the 13th. Both of their birthdays were within that week, so Friday the 13th or not, that was when we went. We met in sunny Naples, Florida, where the weather every day was 80 degrees with deep blue skies. We ate well at every meal, making local fish that was fresh off of the boat. We had triple tail, pompano, grouper, scallops and eyed the gulf shrimp. Local fruits and vegetables filled in the sides. Good thing we went to the beach early. I think our sides got filled in a little, too. Hey, a girl has to have a little Key Lime Pie! Sorry, no disappeared too fast. We shopped at some of the fine shops in historic Old Naples. The town was decorated for Christmas, which always seems odd in the warmer climates. We were glad the only alligators we saw up close were sculptures in an art gallery. There are sculptures everywhere here. And wonderful shops. We saw a bottle of wine that we liked....well, maybe next time ( my dreams ;-) Someone had their flip flops gilded.I bought a few shells to add to my beach finds. When I saw these Mother of Pearl capiz shells, I thought they seemed to have a lot of culinary uses. I thought they would hold a grilled shrimp or seared scallops perfectly....OK, so I knew what I'd be making when I returned home! A very lucky purchase on this fun and relaxing Friday the 13th weekend.Back in chilly Boston, I used a recipe that I have had for years. Sometimes I not only use it for the seafood, but as a dressing as well. Today I tossed the shrimp in it, grilled them and then drizzled a little more on top. They sit very nicely on my new capiz shells and since I have 25 of them, I can use them on a holiday buffet table.

Grilled Shrimp With Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette

1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely minced jalapeno pepper, (about 1/2 of a pepper, with seeds removed)
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger (about a 1 inch piece)
1/4 cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/3 cup mild extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lime

1 pound 16-20 raw shrimp, shells removed and deveined

In a bowl mix the garlic, jalapeno pepper, ginger,scallions,lime juice, sesame oil, olive oil and zest from the orange and lime. Stir well and let the flavors meld in the refrigerator for several hours. Remove from refrigerator and divide in half. In one half, toss the shrimp with the vinaigrette
and grill on a grill or very hot cast iron grill pan (make sure to use an exhaust, as it causes a lot of smoke.) Grill for 3-4 minutes or until opaque.

If serving individually, place on serving dish and drizzle lightly with a little of the reserved vinaigrette. Garnish with fresh orange and lime zest. If serving topped on a salad, place 4-5 on a bed of greens and drizzle with reserved vinaigrette. Do not re-use the vinaigrette from the shrimp. The shrimp may be served hot or room temperature.

Makes 3/4 cup vinaigrette.
Serves 4 with a salad or makes 16-20 individual appetizers.

Grilled Shrimp with Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette recipe (pdf)

Happy Birthday, Sisters!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Moroccan Lamb Tagine With Pomegranate and Cherries

The rain was pelting down and the 30mph wind kept my umbrella turned inside out. The walk of a few blocks to Boston's, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum left us soaked. Coming inside we heaved a big "Ah-h!" as we shook off the wet chill. My next door neighbor, Kate and I were looking forward to our 1:00 lunch reservation in the museum's restaurant before we walked around this little gem of a museum. Our table overlooked the outside courtyard where the fall leaves swirled in the wind and rain. The waitress brought menus and one of the choices, Lamb Tagine with couscous, seemed so warming and appealing. That it was...and memorable. Kate and I finished our lunch and started our walk around the museum. Since the largest art theft in history happened here in 1990, the museum is under constant watch. Picture taking is strictly forbidden, so I have no photos to share of this opulent collection....except....I did take one of a plaque in the bathroom when no one was looking!!Translated: Think much, Speak little, Write nothing. This plaque with the French Provençal saying is from the Stewart collection and is now proudly displayed while you wash your hands!

After taking in 3 floors of magnificent paintings, tapestries, furniture and artifacts, we braved the storm again to head back home before rush hour traffic started. Kate drove and since her nickname is "the human GPS", I had no worries! When we arrived back home, I found a case of pomegranate juice on my steps that the generous folks at POM Wonderful sent to me. It was like a friendly face at the door. Pomegranate juice is a favorite with my family. The sweet and tart flavor and health benefits just make us happy. And those shapely bottles from POM are so cute!
H-m-m-m....Lamb Tagine for lunch...pomegranate juice at my door....I must figure out a recipe with pomegranate juice and Lamb Tagine. I googled, I experimented and....voila! This recipe came out so well that I just couldn't put my tasting spoon down. The balanced combination of sweet, savory, spicy and hot was addicting. The list of spices is long, but many are a staple in the kitchen. This is a wonderful dish to prepare ahead to be ready when guests arrive or for a robust dinner by the fire. I didn't have the tagine pot to make it in, but Kate did. She has a beautiful hand painted pot that she loaned to me. Really all you need though, is a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid. And....a good hearty appetite!

Lamb Tagine with Pomegranate and Cherries

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound (meaty) lamb shank
3/4 pound lamb stew meat
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon grated garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil), cut into slivers
1/2 cup dried cherries (unsweetened)
3 fresh figs, cut in half
1 1/2 cup pomegranate juice, (I used Pom Wonderful)
1 cup chicken broth
a few sprigs of fresh mint, snipped for garnish

Combine the paprika, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, cayenne pepper, and lemon zest in a large zip lock bag and shake. Add the lamb, shake the bag to coat it with the spices and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. In a large heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the lamb. Lower heat to medium and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir and continue cooking until the onion is translucent. Stir in the sun dried tomatoes, cherries, and figs. Add the pomegranate juice and chicken broth, while gently stirring. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2-2 hours until the lamb is tender and falling off of the bone. If the sauce needs thickening, simmer with the cover off until slightly reduced. Remove the meat from the lamb shank and return to pot.

Serve with couscous and garnish with snipped mint.
Serves 4.
My friend Lisa Magnuson of the Providence Wine Observer offered suggestions for a complementary wine. Her first thoughts were, "a ripe cherry Pinot Noir v. a rustic one. A big jammy Shiraz might work too, but it may over power it. Carmenere has softer tannins like a Merlot." I had a Pinot Noir with it and loved it.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Pomegranate and Cherries recipe (pdf)

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Men With Mussels, Curried Mussels That Is

There is a restaurant in Paris called Academie de la Biere, or literally translated, The Beer Academy. It sounds like the ultimate Man Cave, but it is a fun restaurant with half as many beer choices than days on the calendar! Now there's a thought! The long tables are often filled with young men as they "study" the choices at the Academie! You can click on the pic to see the many beers to choose from. I'm not a beer drinker and always look for recommendations, since some of these beers are from Belgium micro breweries. Sometimes you may even be given a sample before committing...what's not to like about that? If you can't decide, you can always default to wine. And then there are the mussels and frites...mussels meunière, mussels moutarde, curried mussels...and even m-m-m-more choices. If you are lucky you have a friend beside you who likes to share!! I always look them over, making sure to only eat the ones that open, since all it takes is one bad one to send you to a place you don't want to go to!Yesterday I went to my local fish market and bought 2 pounds of Prince Edward Island mussels. I wanted curried mussels and thought I'd add some coconut milk to give them a different punch. With Asian undertones they don't taste like their Parisian inspiration, but they are delicious alone as a starter or as I had them, with linguine.

Curried Mussels
With Coconut Milk
(I adapted this from an recipe and changed some of the ingredients for my taste.)

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder*
1 1/2 cups dry white wine**
1 14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

1 3-4 inch piece lemon grass, sliced lengthwise
2 small bay leaves
2 pounds mussels, cleaned, scrubbed and debearded

sea salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

*The quality of the curry powder defines this this dish, so use the best you can get.
**I chose a Chardonnay for its fuller flavor that works well curry.
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk, wine, lemon grass and bay leaves; simmer 10 minutes. Add mussels. Increase heat, cover and boil until mussels open, about 6 minutes. Using tongs, place mussels in 4 bowls (discard any mussels that do not open). Boil sauce until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes or more. Season with salt and pepper; discard bay leaves. Spoon sauce over mussels. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Serves 4.

Click here for tips for cleaning mussels.
Curried Mussels With Coconut Milk recipe (pdf)

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