Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happy Tu B'Shvat

Tu B'Shvat is a minor Jewish holiday that is considered the birthday of the trees. By Jewish law this is important in terms of knowing when it is permissible to eat the fruit of the trees. Typically it's celebrated by eating dried fruits and nuts and is the start of spring, which was sort of funny when it was 20 degrees out yesterday. In particular I always think of almonds because of one of the more well known songs for the holiday about the flowering of the almond tree. I have always associated the holiday with eating the Shivat Haminim or Seven Species of Israel. These include wheat, barley, pomegranate, grape, dates, figs and olives. Next year I fully intend to try to make a pie or pies that incorporate all of these, but for this year I stuck with two pies: Pomegranate Berry with an almond crumble top, and Apple Grape.

Pomegranate Berry Pie Filling
3 Tbs Pomegranate Juice
6 cup mixture of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries
4 Tbs Tapioca
1 cup of sugar

Almond Crumble Topping
1 cup of flour
4 Tbs butter
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
3 Tbs of brown sugar

Normally I would melt the butter to combine but this time I just worked it in with my hands like I would the pie dough itself.

Apple Grape Pie Filling
4 Golden Delicious Apples
2 cups of sliced green seedless apples
1 cup of sugar
3 tbs of corn starch
1 tbs of tapioca (because it was all I had left!)

Goodbye Dollhouse

I started making pies regularly for gatherings to watch Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. For the final episode of Dollhouse I combined some favorites and made Peach Berry Pie. The filling includes blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and peaches. I cut the vents in the shape of the Dollhouse sleeping pods. Though the show over the last two seasons had ups and downs I will miss it and the opportunity to feed pie to people.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lentils and Pie Oh My!

No, its not a lentil pie. Although that is an intriguing idea to file away.
Last weekend I went to visit a friend in New Haven and we made a curried red lentil recipe that she had from a friend and it was fantastic.

Of course no weekend would be complete without making a pie. We didn't have a lot of time so went with a store bought crust and instant pudding but added a layer of melted peanut butter before putting the pudding in the crust and letting it set in the refrigerator. The lesson of the day however was that if you are going to melt peanut butter in the microwave make sure to do it in stages and mix it up. Otherwise the peanut butter will burn on the inside. Burnt peanut butter strangely smells almost exactly like burnt popcorn and that is a smell I could do without in my life.

Curried Lentils
Florence Minnis

9oz split red lentils (about 1 cup)
2 medium onions chopped
3oz butter (very important for flavour)
6 cloves garlic sliced
1 medium carrot grated (though I just slice mine)
2 teasp. whole cumin seeds
1 and a half teasp. whole black or yellow mustard seeds
3 teasp. ground tumeric
1 can coconut milk
4-5 slices fresh ginger
140z chopped ripe tomatoes (or a can but some fresh tomato good for texture)
juice of one large lime or 2 small ones
handful chopped fresh coriander
salt and pepper to taste

Fry onions in half the butter, add half the garlic, carrot and whole spices and cook for 5 mins. Stir in tumeric. Cool slightly. Tip in lentils, 10fl oz water, coconut milk, ginger, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30-40 mins. In separate pan, melt the rest of the butter and add the rest of the garlic, fry for a minute or two, and then tip into the lentil mixture. Add lime juice and coriander and leave to mellow for ten minutes. Remove the ginger slices. Serve warm, not hot, with rice and/or naan bread.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

National Pie Championship?!?!?!?!

Apparently there is a National Pie Championship in April.
I may have to attend.

It will mean a lot of practice pies and I will need some willing volunteers to consume them. Also a pie fund jar to donate to the purchase of butter. Costco flour and butter run here I come.

Also of note is that January 23rd is apparently National Pie Day, although the nerd in me rebels and says that should be March 14th.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

It's been a long time since I've made a lasagna and I wanted to do one without tomato sauce. I also had some goat cheese in the fridge that hadn't been used in the macaroni and cheese from the other day. I actually should have used more of it to give a bit more of a goat cheese flavor than I ended up with, but it worked out well anyway.

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

9 cooked lasagna noodles
1 package frozen spinach, thawed
15oz of Ricotta
3 oz of goat cheese
1/2 a package of crimini mushrooms
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms (soak for 1/2 prior)
5 large shitake mushrooms
2 tbs butter
1 egg
2 cups white sauce
2-3 chopped plum tomatoes
mozzarella cheese to top

1. Saute the mushrooms in the butter
2. Mix mushrooms with ricotta, goat cheese and egg
3. Layer 3 cooked lasagna noodles on bottom of a greased 9"x13" pan
4. Spread 1/2 the spinach over the noodles
5. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta and mushroom mixture over the spinach
6. Add 3 more cooked lasagna noodles, pour 1/2 white sauce over the noodles
7. Add rest of spinach, then ricotta and mushrooms
8. Add layer of chopped plum tomatoes
9. Layer remaining 3 lasagna noodles on top.
10. Cover with remaining white sauce and thin slices of mozzarella cheese

Bake 30-40 minutes at 375.

Apple Cherry Pie

I made a cherry pie once. I vowed not to do it again until I had a cherry pitter as the last event had resulted in cherry juice all over my whole kitchen, self and dog.

For Chanukah I received a cherry pitter and for the first time since then cherries were on sale so I decided it was time to try again, in honor of the penultimate episode of Dollhouse. Only this time I added apples. I liked the apple cherry combination a lot more than just the plain cherry pie. I like cherries, but I think I like them better as a combination ingredient with other fruit. I had debated about adding blueberries into this mix as well and I think in the future I might try that, but sadly they were a bit pricey this week. The cherry pitter might be my new favorite kitchen toy. I have one made by OXO and using it gives this very satisfying punch to each cherry to push the pit out, sort of like using a leather punch. Someone needs to create one with an automatic cherry loader that would work like a machine gun. The best part of course is that the mess was all self contained.

I had the worst pie crust failure I've had in a long time on this one. I realized in the middle of pie making that I had no cold water in my kitchen and that threw off the timing and temperature of the water I used in making the dough. When it came time to roll it out I managed to get one decent crust out of the dough, but gave up and went for pastry shapes on top. It still worked out to a pretty pie though. The water is still not fixed a day later and the lesson here is always check that before you start cooking and more importantly never ever rent an apartment from Vantage Management if you can avoid it.

The filling is made up of 1 1/2 lbs of cherries, 3 large granny smith apples, 2 Tbs of tapioca, 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon and a few dots of butter.

January 29 will mark the last Dollhouse episode and assuming nothing else comes up, I'm planning the finale of Dollhouse and Pie as well. I started making pie partly for company who came over to watch the first early episodes and I've continued through most of both seasons, so now I'm faced with coming up with a suitable parting pie. It might have to feature red splatter in keeping with the latest few episodes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ignoring the New Year's Resolutions

While most people are jumping on the eat healthy and get in shape band wagon, I'm making my first real post in the new year about what might be the epitome of an unbalanced meal: macaroni and cheese and pie. The pie is a pear and strawberry pie.

The macaroni and cheese was inspired by clearing out leftover cheese in the fridge.

16oz box of elbow pasta, cooked
3 cups of white sauce
3 cups mixed of Gruyere, cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan
Top with 1/2 cup of buttered bread crumbs (this time I tried Progresso's herbed panko)

White Sauce:
6 Tbs butter
6 Tbs flour
3 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

Pear & Strawberry Pie Filling
5 ripe pears peeled and sliced
approx 3/4 of a lb of strawberries sliced
3 Tbs tapioca
3/4 cup of sugar

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter gift giving holiday season sum up

Despite it being baking season for most people these past few weeks, I've been taking a bit of a break and working on polishing off a lot of pantry staples that needed to be used up.
Winter gift giving season did however leave me with some new toys to play with in the upcoming year. I've got a new silicon baking mat that I used for the biscuits the other day and can't wait to try with cookies. I also got an ever important cherry pitter so that the next time I decide to use fresh cherries my kitchen doesn't resemble a war zone.
My cookbook library was also increased with a great book on tarts: Janice Murfitt's Savory to Sweet Pies & Tarts and Ken Haedrich's Pie. This last one includes 300 sweet pie recipes. It clocks in at a hefty 600+ pages. I don't think you'll be seeing a Julie/Julia attempt to get through it in the course of the next year, but I'm very excited about trying some of the pies and tarts in both books during the coming months. The dog is excited too as he's always hoping for leftovers.