Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cherry Slab Pie

Have I ever mentioned that I hate pie crust? Really, pie crust is easy to make.  Its the rolling that scares the daylights out of me.  I've read countless tutorials, but every time I roll out anything, it tears or its uneven.   Too cold and it breaks.  Too warm and it sticks to your counters.  You really have to time it perfectly.   And being a novice, I never seem to get the timing right.

But, OH! I wanted to make this pie from the first time I saw it.  It must have been just about a year ago.  I saw it on one of the food blog compilation sites.  And I bookmarked it and swore I'd tackle it one day when I was feeling ambitious in the kitchen.

I got the itch this weekend and we were having lunch with friends on Sunday, so I decided to commit to it by not only buying 8 cups of cherries but also telling my friends I was bringing it.   My daughter and I got busy pitting the cherries and making the filling one day.  And over night I debated running to Publix to get my trusty old stand-by, the Pillsbury Pie Crust.  Why Pillsbury can't make a quarter sheet pan sized pie crust, I will never know.

Maybe it was a need for conquering this pie, but I got up early on Saturday and busted out a pate brisee. I used the recipe from  The Italian Dish, because she had already figured out how much extra dough I'd need to make a slab, and really I suck at math.    The dough came together quickly, so a few hours later, I decided it was just time to get rolling before I lost my nerve.    I literally live across the street from a grocery store.   I could hear that Pillsbury Doughboy laughing at me from his refrigerator case.

It wasn't so bad.  I did a few things to set myself up.  First, I took my quarter sheet pan -- wait, if you don't have a quarter sheet pan, go get one.  They are so versatile.  And while you are there, get a half sheet, too.  Ok?  Ok, so I took my sheet pan and filled it with ice and let it sit on my granite counter top and make it really cold.   Then I dumped the ice and dried the pan and the counter very well.  Then, I floured the surface.   I don't know if this was helpful or not, but I felt better that it wasn't going to stick right away.

After I floured my work surface, I put my quarter sheet back down and traced around with my finger in the flour, so I'd know how big to roll my crust.

Then I started to roll.  And roll.  And roll.  It's a lot of dough. And a lot of rolling.  I've always said that home made pie crust is a lot of work and doesn't yield anything so much better than a Pillsbury ready made*.   But maybe its just because I make pie crust once a year and maybe my pie crust is not very awesome.   I mean, it's pie crust.  And cherries.  So it is awesome.  I'm just saying someone who does not tremble at the thought of butter and flour being rolled out might make something a little flakier and tastier.

The end result was well worth it.  It was pretty. And delicious.  And I had to leave half of it at my friends house when left because I did not trust myself with this pie alone in the house on Monday.   Oh yea, and if I can do this, I am absolutely certain that you can too.

 *I do not work for good people of Pillsbury.  I'm pretty sure they don't know who I am.  But they make a good pie crust. 
Cherry Slab Pie
filling adapted from Kitchen Simplicity 
crust courtesy of The Italian Dish

For the filling:
6 cups pitted cherries
1 1/2 cups sugar
dash ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Put cherries, sugar, cinnamon and zest in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Continue simmering for about 5-10 minutes until liquids release. 

Whisk cornstarch and water together.   Add to sauce pan and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Let cool. 

For the crust:
3 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 sticks, unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/2 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles course crumbs, about 10 seconds.  

With machine running, slowly pour the ice water through the feed tube until the dough just comes together in a ball.  

Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.   Flatten a little, dust with flour and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. 

To assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surgace, roll out the larger piece of dough into a rectangle, slightly larger than your baking sheet.   Fit it into your baking sheet, pressing into the corners.  Pour pie filling into pie shell. 

Re-flour your surface and roll out the remaining piece of dough to the size of the pan.   Fold the edge of the bottom dough over the top dough.  Pinch edges to seal and prick with a fork or cut vent holes in top dough.  

Bake until crust is golden brown, about 40-50 minutes.   Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 days. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lemon Bulgur with Almonds and Shallots

I do not like diets.  I really hate the idea of eliminating things I love from my diet.  Also, I love to eat, so eating less is not really much of an option for me.   In my head, you can eat anything you want, as long as its in moderation.   Moderation being a very key word that I tend to forget.  Because I make a lot of cakes.

All that said, in six weeks my baby is going to a year old.   (WHAT?)  And I suppose its time for me to stop looking like I just gave birth.

I can hear all of my friends reading this and collectively groaning and saying, "You do NOT look like you just gave birth".   Fine, but I'm definitely not back at pre-pregnancy weight.  So its time for this family to eat a little bit healthier.   And Jillian Michaels is prepared to kick my butt for the next 30 days while I shred.

One of the changes we've made is to move away from rice and potatoes and we've been doing a lot more veggies as side dishes.  But I've also been experimenting with sides we've never had before.  And this bulgur is one of them.

I'm honestly surprised I've never had bulgur before.  I brought a recipe for bulgur risotto with shrimp and mint with me to Vienna and made the recipe a few times.  But I couldn't find bulgur (or even the German word for bulgur) anywhere so I just made a regular risotto.   I really loved this version of bulgur and ate it for lunch the next day as well.  I served it with grilled chicken breasts and my all time favorite summer vegetable, zucchini.   But this dish is worthy of being a stand alone.   I had it again the next day by itself.

Bulgur is a whole grain and is high in fiber so its very filling and satisfying.  While my husband didn't care for it, I suspect it was due to the toasted almonds.  Some people just don't care for nuts in their food, and he is one of them.   I'll be giving other bulgur recipes a try in the next few weeks and I'm confident we'll settle on one he loves as much as I loved this.

Lemon Bulgur with Toasted Almonds and Shallots
adapted from Every Day Food Special Issue, summer 2011

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced in rings
1 cup bulgur
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the shallots and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Add the bulgur to the pan and toast for a few minutes before adding the chicken broth (or water is fine, too if you wanted it to be vegetarian).   Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil for 1 minute.

Stir the bulgur then cover and let stand for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork then transfer to the bowl with the shallots.  Add the almond, lemon juice, lemon zest, chives, parsley, salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fish Tacos

Typically, with fish, I buy it the day I need it.  I'm very picky about fish and will only buy from certain places.  I think it comes from living on Long Island Sound for so long.  I had access to fresh fish all the time.   You know that expression, "You don't know what you have until its gone"?   (Later, you'll wonder why you have the awesome 80's power ballad of a similar name by Cinderella stuck in your head.  You're welcome!)

When I moved to Austria, we were completely land locked and suddenly I realized how I'd taken fish for granted while living in Connecticut.  Fish from the sea is not the same as fish from the ocean.  We went from having fish 2-3 times per week to almost never.   When I was pregnant with my daughter I would force myself to have fish at least once per week.   I did the same thing every time.  Salmon wrapped in a foil/parchment packet with lots of lemon.

Now in Atlanta, I find myself land locked again.  Fish has to be shipped to the stores here and most of it is flash frozen.  It's just not the same.  So I only use a few sources for fish, and we still don't eat fish as often as we once did.

Anyhow, this is such a great meal to have on hand for one of those nights when you just don't feel like cooking.  I throw all the ingredients (sans fish) onto my menu for the week.  Then when the inevitable day comes that I've had too much on my plate and the idea of making dinner is a ridiculous impossibility, all I have to do is run into Whole Foods and grab some tilapia or cod or other white fleshed fish.  It comes together very quickly but is so full of flavor.  Always a big hit in our house.  And you don't even need to buy a super expensive fish (such as sea bass).

Fish Tacos

For the fish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

1 1/4 pounds skinless, firm, white fleshed fish

In a zip top bag, combine the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add the fish to the bag and coat with marinade.  Let sit for 5 minutes while you prepare the toppings.

Remove the fish from the marinade and grill over medium heat, until the fish is opaque throughout.  Flake it with a fork and serve in warmed corn tortillas with toppings.

For toppings:
Corn Salsa, from Everyday Food June 2011
1 cup fresh corn, off the cob
1 medium tomato, diced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Can be stored for a day in the fridge.

We also use greek yogurt, salsa verde and queso fresco.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shrimp Boil Kebabs

I made these kebabs for the Fourth of July.  While I do love a hamburger (probably more than I should), often for the Fourth I find us having seafood.  Last year I did a huge clambake for a group of about 10 of us.  This year I thought it would be fun to do a clambake on a skewer since it was just our family of four at home.

I hadn't conceptualized what a clambake kebab would entail just yet when I saw these Shrimp Boil Kebabs in Martha Stewarts Every Day Food.  It incorporated all of my favorite aspects of a clambake (I could really take or leave the clams), so I decided to go with this recipe.  We loved it.  This could very well be my new favorite summer meal.  It was simple, quick to assemble, required minimal dishes and minimal clean up.  But beyond all that, it was so tasty.

I dropped the Old Bay Seasoning down by half and probably upped the Tabasco a little bit.  I didn't really measure the butter ingredients, I just eyeballed it.  The only real cooking I did was the boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes.

But I thought, if we had potatoes another night during the week, I could very easily cook a few extra and have a meal on hand that just needed to be prepped and grilled.  With only 8 quick minutes on the grill, you can be enjoying a summer boil in no time. 

Shrimp Boil Kebabs
from Everyday Food, June 2011

1/2 pound small new potatoes
2 small ears corn, cut into 1 1/2 inch rounds
1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1 inch rounds
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined 
1/2 stick butter, melted
4 teaspoons Tabasco
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

Boil the potatoes in salted water over medium-high heat for about 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.   Drain and rinse under cold water.  

Thread potatoes, corn, andouille and shrimp onto skewers.  (This makes about 4 skewers.)  

Heat grill to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil the grill.  In a small bowl, combine the butter, Tabasco and Old Bay.  Grill kebabs turning and brushing with butter mixture occasionally until the shrimp are cooked through and corn in starting to char, about 8 minutes.  Serve with lemon wedges. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Blueberry Cobbler

I love summer fruits.  Going shopping and filling my cart with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries... what could be better?  Blueberry season is in full swing and this blueberry cobbler is calling for me to make it for the Fourth of July.

This recipe is not what I've made for the last few years.  But I think it may become the new standard in our house.  For years, I've made mine with an oat topping.  Back at the beginning of the summer, on a whim, I decided to google cobbler while I was at the store and see what I'd need to bring home to make one.   I found this recipe from America's Test Kitchen, which has a biscuit topping and I settled on it.

What appealed to me is the cornmeal in the biscuits.  I really love blueberry cornmeal pancakes, and this was reminiscent of that.  The recipe calls for you to time the completion of the batter for just before it goes into the oven.  I was making this for a potluck we went to, so I just packaged up the wet and dry ingredients separately.  When it was time to top the blueberries, I finished the biscuit dough and popped the whole thing back in the oven.

It smells heavenly.  And the soft biscuits with the slight crunch from the cornmeal and the sweetness of the blueberries was all perfect together.   Of course, a scoop of ice cream on the side was the perfect compliment.

Blueberry Cobbler
courtesy of Cooks Illustrated

1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch salt
6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over
1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Biscuit Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  

For the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently with a rubber spatula until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice.  Mix to combine. Transfer the berry mixture to a 9-inch glass pie plate, place the plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges; about 25 minutes.

For the biscuit topping, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.   Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.  One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Pinch off 8 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart so they do not touch.  Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack for 20 minutes before serving.