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Just finished reading The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Salads, on April 21st, 2018.

new_pot_salad_asparagus_gribiche

Or, in this case, fingerling potatoes with arugula, asparagus and a vinaigrette version of gribiche. Altogether delicious.

What is gribiche, you ask? It’s a dressing, but traditionally it’s made with mayo, or a kind of emulsion with cooked egg yolks (a mayo of sorts). It’s unique ingredients include minced hard boiled egg, little slices of cornichons (those French baby pickles – see photo below left), and some capers. Definitely a savory kind of dressing, but here, Tarla Fallgatter made the dressing using EVOO, sherry vinegar and a bit of honey mustard. Definitely a departure from the standard gribiche. It’s French, and no, I’m not certain how it’s pronounced, although I think it’s greh-beech. And oh yes, it was really good with the fingerling potatoes that had been oven-roasted, the asparagus and tossed with arugula. We jokingly tease Tarla that nearly every class needs to contain something with arugula and usually chocolate.

cornichonsThis could be a beautiful side/salad for some kind of grilled meat (chicken, pork chops, even fish or lamb, and definitely for steak) and would cover you for both salad and a carb. Tarla made the dressing ahead of time, had roasted the potatoes and asparagus, so it was easy to finish up the last of things like mincing hard boiled eggs, slicing the cornichons, draining the capers. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about gribiche variations, read Daniela Galarza’s blog post about preparing it in various restaurant kitchens. And her advice that you can make gribiche the main attraction, like an open-faced egg salad sandwich. My mouth is watering just thinking about that. Photo above of cornichons from finecooking.com.

What’s GOOD: there were lots of good flavors melding in my mouth – from the capers, the cornichons and the sweet/savory dressing. As most of you know, I don’t make many potato salads, but this one was a winner. I’d definitely make this for a nice company dinner too.

What’s NOT: nothing other than you do need to roast the potatoes and asparagus, and mince up the eggs. Not too hard, and definitely worth it for the flavor burst in your mouth! I think this dressing would need to be eaten the day you make it – though it might hold for one day.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

New Potato Salad with Asparagus and Gribiche

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

2 packages fingerling potatoes — roasted, slightly cooled, halved
1 pound asparagus spears — trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper to taste
1 cup arugula — or watercress
GRIBICHE:
1 tablespoon honey mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large eggs — hard boiled, very finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
1 tablespoon cornichons — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers — drained, patted dry
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and roast until tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Cut into small pieces.
3. GRIBICHE: Whisk mustard, vinegar and olive oil together. Stir in minced hard cooked eggs, Italian parsley, cornichons and capers. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Toss potato halves and asparagus with gribiche. Add arugula and toss again. Divide among plates and serve.
Per Serving: 194 Calories; 16g Fat (70.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on April 17th, 2018.

spinach_salad_artichoke_hearts_raisins

This is the kind of salad you could make as dinner if you’re inclined to do that. It’s got lots of good stuff in it. You could easily add some chicken if you want some protein.

Usually I’m not a big fan of spinach salad. Spinach served and eaten raw makes my teeth squeak. Anyone else notice that about spinach? But this one didn’t both me much that way – maybe because it was baby spinach? I have no idea why. Maybe because there is sugar in the dressing? Who knows. In any case, this is a really delicious salad, one it’s definitely worth the time to make.

There are a few things that are unique about this – the sweet/sour salad dressing is made with powdered sugar. Why? Tarla Fallgatter told us at the cooking class when she prepared this, that it’s because it dissolves easily. Yes. For sure it would. Did she use that method in other salad dressings? No. And the second thing is the use of grilled artichoke hearts (if you have Trader Joe’s near you, they’re bottled, marinated in the veggie section). And for me, the golden raisins just “made” this salad. This salad is one that Tarla said she’s been making for years, decades maybe, but had never shared at a cooking class before. She doesn’t always use bacon, but she did for the class. I love bacon, so liked that too.

The dressing is mostly normal ingredients, although you don’t usually see ground ginger in a sweetened vinaigrette kind of dressing. I like it a lot. This salad would be great to make to take somewhere, as you could have everything prepped ahead of time, including the dressing, and it’s just a matter of opening up 2 packages of baby spinach, adding it all together and you’ve got salad.

What’s GOOD: loved the dressing. Loved the golden raisins and the artichoke hearts and the crunch of nuts. Everything about this salad was delish.

What’s NOT: Not much . . . I thought this was a super salad.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spinach Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Mushrooms and Pecans

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

DRESSING:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
SALAD:
5 sliced thick-sliced bacon
12 ounces baby spinach — (two bags)
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sesame seeds — toasted
6 ounces artichoke hearts — sliced (grilled, if you can find them)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms — thinly sliced
1/4 cup pecans — toasted

1. BACON: Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast bacon for approximately 10 minutes, until golden. Remove, drain, cool and crumble.
2. Whisk dressing ingredients together and set aside.
3. Place spinach into a large salad bowl first, then add all the other salad ingredients including the crumbled bacon. Add dressing to coat, tasting as you add (don’t use too much). Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 346 Calories; 28g Fat (69.9% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 332mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on April 13th, 2018.

budapest_coffeecake_slice

Lovely, tasty coffeecake with a cinnamon and nut filling, made in a Bundt pan.

It’s been years now, I’ve been on a quest. A friend and I went on a Los Angeles gourmet crawl of some kind. It was daytime, and we visited a variety of restaurants and food emporiums. When we paused at a catering place in Santa Monica (I think it was) they served us each a little slice of a Hungarian coffee cake. I was smitten. I asked if they’d share the recipe. Uh, NO. That coffeecake didn’t look like this coffeecake, I’m sorry to say – it was much darker colored batter/cake. It was made in either a Bundt or a tube pan and it had cinnamon in it, some nuts too. It was just so divine. Ever since (and this has been 25 or more years ago) I’ve looked in cookbooks at the library, on the internet, etc. to try to find a recipe for a dark battered coffee cake. But when I looked at THIS recipe I thought well, definitely not a dark batter, but it sounded good nonetheless.

budapest_coffeecake_wholeThe recipe came from Food52, and is credited to Maida Heatter, that diva of all things sweet, and comes from a 1999 cookbook she published. I followed the recipe to a T; however, I’ve made one little change in the directions. When served, as I cut my fork into the cake, it toppled over right where the filling was – because the filling was dry and unto itself. So I’ve added one step – running a knife through the batter and filling layer to help adhere the cake and filling together. Obviously I didn’t do that with the one I made, but it’s such a minor change, you might not even be aware of it. Hopefully, the cake will hold together better.

The filling consists of cinnamon, cocoa, nuts, dark brown sugar and some chopped up raisins. As you layer the sour cream rich batter in the greased Bundt pan, you sprinkle on the filling. Just run your knife through as you add each layer of filling. I didn’t use quite all of the dry filling. It’s baked for 50-60 minutes (I’d lean toward 60 if you make this yourself). I used the toothpick test, but found when I served it that the cake toward the center was still quite wet – I took my cake out of the oven at 50 minutes. Anyway, the cake is cooled, then plated and drizzled with an easy icing.

What’s GOOD: my favorite part was the filling, and the raisins in it. They add a special bit of sweetness. It’s a nice batter – not overly moist, actually, considering there’s 2 cups of sour cream in the batter. The cake part is relatively nondescript, as it’s the filling that makes it.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Maida Heatter’s Budapest Coffee Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, 1999
Serving Size: 12

NUT FILLING:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons raisins — coarsely chopped (dark or golden)
1 cup toasted walnuts — finely chopped
CAKE BATTER:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces butter — (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs — at room temperature
2 cups sour cream — at room temperature
ICING:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk — (2 to 3)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. NUT FILLING: In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Set aside.
2. CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 10-inch Bundt pan.
3. Into a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla and the sugar and beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl, as necessary, to keep mixture smooth. Beat at high speed until mixture is light and creamy, about 1 minute.
5. Turn mixer to low speed. Add dry ingredients in three additions and sour cream in two additions, beating only until smooth after each addition.
6. Spread a thin layer of batter in bottom of prepared pan. Sometimes it’s easier to use a small spoon to drop some batter into pan, and then to smooth it together. Top with 1/3 of nut mixture. Run a knife, zigzagging slightly through the batter. Repeat until you have 4 layers of batter into pan and smooth it together. Use a knife to zigzag once with each layer of filling. Top layer will be batter and it’s not necessary to run the knife through that layer.
7. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then turn out and re-invert on a rack.
8. Combine confectioners’ sugar, hot milk, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Mix well. Mixture should have the consistency of a thick cream sauce. Place a sheet of wax paper underneath a cooling rack. Pour glaze over cake, letting it run down the sides, while still hot. When glaze is set, transfer cake to a serving plate. Serve cake warm or at room temp.
Per Serving: 611 Calories; 27g Fat (39.1% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 86g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 470mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on April 9th, 2018.

chili_spaghetti_2_slice

Sometimes you just crave one of those old-fashioned ground beef casseroles. Instead of hunting for something new, I knew this was what I wanted. If you need a casserole for serving a big crowd, this is a good one.

Just for the record, I posted this recipe about 2 weeks after I began writing this blog in 2007. I was still using my point-and-shoot camera, no special lighting, and I took one close-up photo that looked positively ugly and dark. I didn’t have a clue how to compose or edit photos back then. Some years later I made a list of all the early blog posts I intended to return to, to take some better photos (with my good camera that’s now about 9 years old) and with better lighting. I’d just not gotten around to it.

When I decided I wanted to make a casserole the other night I did hunt in my to-try file, but I kept coming back to – – no, I really wanted to make chili spaghetti. So I did. It’s SO very easy to do. Other than the pound of ground beef, this contains ingredients I almost always have available. You need ground beef (or ground turkey, or a mixture), tomatoes, canned kidney beans, cheddar and Jack cheese, and some pasta (I prefer linguine). And some seasonings. That’s it.

chili_spaghett_2_before_baking

There’s a photo of it before I’d baked it. I’d made a pot of chili (ground beef, onion, garlic, ground cumin and chili powder, then canned tomatoes and canned kidney beans). That took about 20 minutes, I suppose. I let it bubble away on the stove while I cooked up the linguine (a little under-done) and grated tons of cheese. I buttered the pasta just a bit and began layering the stuff in a pie plate. You can make it in a 9×13 pan as well. With a pound of pasta, there’s certainly enough to put into a big casserole. I have the leftover components and will likely make another casserole to freeze.

chili_spaghett_2_after_baking

And there’s the casserole after it had been in the oven for 30 minutes. Since everything was warm/hot when I composed the casserole, it didn’t take all that long to bake.

What’s GOOD: everything about this casserole is delicious. It’s comfort food. It’s not that I truly needed comfort food, but it was a cold night outside, and a casserole just sounded like the perfect ticket for me. It makes a lot, so I can share it with friends, and still have some to freeze for later.

What’s NOT: it’s not fancy, that’s for sure. If you know Cincinnati chili, this is very similar. I think they sprinkle Fritos on top, and they don’t make it in a casserole form – just spaghetti, a big blob of chili on top then cheese sprinkled on top of that.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chili Spaghetti

Recipe By: Served to me by friends in about 1972
Serving Size: 10-12

CHILI:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
2 cloves garlic — peeled, minced (2 to 3)
1 whole shallot — peeled, minced (optional)
16 ounces chopped tomatoes — with juice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
CASSEROLE:
16 ounces black beans — with juice
8 ounces tomato sauce — preferably low sodium water — as needed
1 pound linguine — cooked al dente
2 tablespoons butter — optional
6 ounces monterey jack cheese — shredded
6 ounces cheddar cheese — shredded

1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, then crumble in the ground beef. While it is cooking, mince up the onion, shallot and garlic separately. Once the beef has lost all its pink color, add the onion and shallot, stir in and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute or so. Add the chili powder and cumin, the tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans. Stir gently with a spoon, then bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If the chili is too thick, add water to make it a soupy consistency (the pasta absorbs much of the liquid when it’s baked).
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add about a teaspoon of salt, then boil the pasta of your choice (I just happen to like the thin linguine, but any pasta will do) until it’s just undercooked, al dente. Drain (but do not rinse). Return pasta to the pot and add the butter (if you want to add it), stir until melted. Have the piles of cheese nearby. Use a 9 x 13 pan, and spray with cooking spray. Add buttered pasta first (you’ll be making two layers), then scoop the hot chili over it, spread to cover the pasta, then sprinkle liberally with the cheeses, then more pasta, more chili, and top with the remainder of the cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling hot. Serve.
Per Serving: 635 Calories; 26g Fat (36.3% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 68g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 415mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Soups, on April 5th, 2018.

fresh_salmon_chowder The simplest of ingredients, just a lot of them, to make a really flavorful chowder. With chunks of fresh salmon barely cooked at the last.

Making this happened on Oscar Sunday afternoon. I’d invited 5 widow friends of mine to come to watch the show together. I made soup, and everyone else brought something else to round out the meal. It was simple enough to do, although this took a bit longer than some soups, I suppose! Not by a lot, but there were more than the usual amount of things added to this. I started with a recipe at epicurious, but I altered it so much, it’s really doesn’t bear much resemblance to that recipe.

salmon_chowder_spoonfulIt started out with rendering a bunch of bacon. The meaty bacon I used didn’t give off much fat, but there was enough to then cook down some fresh leeks. Meanwhile, I cooked the potatoes separately in a pot of salted water. I’d cut them into small chunks and that took about 10-14 minutes at most. The potatoes were drained and set aside. Once the leeks were mostly done I added a whole bunch of celery and green onions (4 cups of the latter – I doubled the recipe you see below), including most of the green tops since they would add good flavor. Then I began adding in the other ingredients – corn, garlic, fresh thyme, some dried thyme too, a couple of Bay leaves, red chili flakes and some chicken broth. I brought that up to just BELOW a simmer, then added in the raw salmon chunks, milk, half and half and cream, plus the potatoes – oh, and the bacon. I brought that just barely BELOW a simmer again and let it stew for about 10 minutes until the salmon was cooked through. Discarded the bay leaves and served with chopped dill and chopped chives on top. DEFINITELY don’t bring this soup to a boil or it will separate – the half and half and milk can’t hold together over high heat. Not a pretty sight, so stay close as you watch it as it cooks at about 200°F.

What’s GOOD: Delicious soup. Just plain, simple, but very flavorful soup. Everyone raved, me included. I gave 2-3 portions away to my friend Gloria and her husband, had 2 more portions to take lunch to my friend Judy on a day when she was under the weather, and had one more portion for myself for dinner another night.

What’s NOT: nothing really; takes an hour or so to make, quite a bit of chopping and dicing. Very worth it, though.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Salmon Chowder

Recipe By: Adapted significantly from an epicurious recipe
Serving Size: 6

1/2 pound red potatoes — scrubbed, but leave skins on
6 ounces thick-sliced bacon — cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 large leeks — cleaned, chopped
1 cup celery — chopped
2 cups chopped scallions
1 cup corn — fresh or frozen (use more if you like)
1 tablespoon garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme — finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Turkish bay leaves — or half the amount of California bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 quart half and half
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 pound salmon fillet — skin discarded and fish cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Garnish: chopped fresh chives and fresh dill

1. Cut potatoes, skin on, into 1/3-inch cubes, then cook in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
2. Cook bacon in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot, then cook leeks for about 5 minutes until wilted. Then add celery, scallions, corn, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and red-pepper flakes in fat in pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add half and half, milk and cream and bring very low simmer – do not let it bubble or the soup will separate.
3. Reduce heat to moderately low, then add potatoes, salmon, bacon, salt, and pepper and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until salmon is just cooked through and begins to break up as you stir, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped chives and fresh dill.
Per Serving: 484 Calories; 31g Fat (56.4% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 886mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on April 1st, 2018.

zucchini_patties_feta_dill

Tender little pancake-shaped fritters of shredded zucchini, onion, Feta and topped with a dollop of yogurt. Make sure you add the dill!

Some years ago I made a version of this, Turkish Zucchini Pancakes, and liked them. Those, that I made in 2008 contained tons of green onions instead of white onion, and had 4 eggs in the batch and included chopped walnuts too. I don’t know why I don’t make some version of these more often, because I love them. They could easily (for me anyway) be dinner. I’d have about 4 of them, I suppose. These are quite thin, and they’re fragile-tender. They’re full of flavor (from the onions, dill, the spice rub and Italian parsley), and once cooked, they have a lovely (but tender) texture. There is a bit of flour added to help hold them together (plus an egg and egg yolk).

Do start an hour or so ahead as you need to salt the grated zucchini and let it sit a bit, to give off some of their water before you start to mix up the batter. The onions (chopped) need to be squeezed of their extra fluid also. Then you can mix up everything, including about 1/2 cup of Feta. Speaking of Feta, Tarla Fallgatter, the cooking instructor who made these recently, recommended Bulgarian Feta. She buys it at a local ethnic market, and prefers it because it’s lower in sodium and she likes the flavor of Bulgarian over others. So, the batter is formed into thin patties, and you can work as you go – do some for the first batch and while they’re frying, form more rounds of them.

Into a big frying pan they go with some olive oil (you’ll likely need to add more olive oil with each subsequent batch you fry). This recipe makes 16-18 of the pancakes, but they’re thin, so surely you’d have 2 per person, or more. For an entrée you’d have 4-5 per person, I’d guess. Maybe more if your crowd is really hungry. Anyway, they take about 5 minutes per side to get golden brown. Transfer them to paper towels to drain. If you make as you go, you’d be serving them immediately. Otherwise, put them on a paper-lined rack on a tray and keep them in a 250°F oven while you finish preparing them all. Because they are thin pancakes, they’ll cool off way too fast.

Meanwhile you chop up some fresh dill for the pretty-factor. DILL is essential in these – there are just food combinations that are made in heaven – zucchini-yogurt-dill is one. To serve, make them pretty with a dollop of the yogurt and garnish with a little sprig of dill on top. My mouth is watering . . . . .

What’s GOOD: the pancakes are delicate and tender. Full of flavor and satisfying. I would think these could be prepared and frozen too, then reheated in a toaster oven easily enough. If you have a bumper crop of zucchini this could be a great make-ahead dish. This would go nicely with a roast (lamb or pork I’m thinking), or all by itself.

What’s NOT: really nothing except that you do need to drain the zucchini and onion so start a bit ahead of when you’re going to prepare them.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Zucchini Patties with Feta

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 8

2 1/2 cups zucchini — coarsely grated (about 3 medium)
1 teaspoon salt — divided use
1 teaspoon spice rub — or use a combo of Mediterranean spices/herbs
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup all purpose flour — (or more)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup olive oil — (about)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — with dill to garnish

1. Toss zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to sieve. Press out excess liquid; place zucchini in dry bowl. Chop the onion finely and gather it into a couple of paper towels and allow to drain for a couple of minutes, then squeeze to extract some of the liquid from the onions. Add onion in with zucchini. Mix in egg, yolk, 1/2 cup flour, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix in parsley and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by spoonfuls.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into skillet. Fry patties until golden, 5 minutes per side, adding more olive oil oil as needed. Transfer to paper towels. Serve immediately or keep warm by placing patties on paper towels on a rack, on a baking sheet in a 225°F oven. Serve with yogurt and garnish with dill.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover, and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350°F oven 12 minutes.
Per Serving: 218 Calories; 18g Fat (73.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 396mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, on March 28th, 2018.

rolled_leg_lamb_herb_garlic_sauce

Uhmmm, mouth watering going on here as I look at this photo. This would make a great Easter dinner entrée if you are inclined to have lamb.

A few weeks ago I was at a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter. I’ll be posting most, if not all, of her recipes from the class. Can’t wait to make some of the dishes myself. Including this one. I love lamb. I just don’t love the calorie count when I do have it. Obviously the wool-covered critters store up lots of fat amidst their meat, hence lamb, although it doesn’t look like it’s full of fat, it is! Darn.

Anyway, this recipe uses a boneless leg of lamb, butterflied. That means rolling it out and cutting butterfly slices all over the meat to make it a bit more flat. There’s a big hunk of the lamb leg that always sticks up high – – it needs to be butterflied and pounded some. If you’ve never done this before, you’ll see what I mean when you unroll that nice big boneless leg (Costco’s are a great price). Make some butterfly slices, then pound it some.

You make a lovely, big batch of herbs (Italian parsley, fresh mint leaves and fresh cilantro) and mix it with garlic, smoked paprika, salt and cayenne. Some oil is added to this mixture, then you pour off 1/4 cup of it to which you add sherry vinegar and more olive oil. That part is slathered all over the outside of the rolled and tied roast – but later. Meanwhile, you use the bulk of the herb stuff to rub all over the interior part of the roast, the part that will get rolled inwards. The roast is tied well with kitchen twine, then you slather on that saved bit of herb stuff.

rolled_leg_lamb_wholeTHEN, you put it in a plastic bag and chill it for at least 8 hours, or preferably 24 hours, so those herbs just permeate everywhere. Let it sit out for an hour before roasting, though. Into a 375°F oven it goes (in a roasting pan) and bake/roast for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the interior temp reaches 125°F (rare to med-rare) or up to 135°F for medium to med-well. Personally I want it pink in the middle everywhere, so I’d be removing it at 125°F. So do start checking the temp after an hour to make sure you don’t cook it beyond your desired point. Remove from the oven and it gets tented for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, you put the roasting pan (roast has gone onto a cutting board and tented) and add wine and chicken broth to boil down a little bit. That little bit of stuff, with the pan juices gets added to the sauce that’s been kept aside. The lamb is carved into 1/2” thick slices (and then you’ll see all those beautiful swirly herbs rolled up inside). See photo. And then serve some of the herb sauce on the side, or spoon it right on top of the slice.

What’s GOOD: everything about this is good. Delicious. Fantastic in my view, but then I love lamb. I love cilantro and mint too. An altogether beautiful dish, excellent for a lovely spring dinner for guests (Easter). I’d serve it with some spring vegetables (asparagus?) and a casserole full of mashed potatoes, or au gratin potatoes, or sweet potatoes. But I prefer white potatoes with this.

What’s NOT: only that you need to plan ahead with this one – the roast needs to marinate for about 24 hours.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Rolled Leg of Lamb with Herb Garlic Sauce

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2018
Serving Size: 12

4 pounds boneless leg of lamb — butterflied
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
HERB GARLIC SAUCE:
1 tablespoon cumin seed — roasted and ground (or use ground cumin)
1 1/2 cups Italian parsley
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 large garlic cloves — peeled
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1. SAUCE: This must be made ahead as it is inserted into the raw roast and rolled, then refrigerated for 8-24 hours. Place all the sauce ingredients into a food processor (EXCEPT oil) and process until a coarse paste forms. With the machine running, add 4 T of the oil. Transfer 1/4 cup of the sauce to a bowl, add vinegar and remaining 2 T oil. Set that aside.
2. 1-2 DAYS AHEAD: Lay meat flat and pat dry with paper towels. Trim any excess fat. If there are portions that are much thicker than others, butterfly even those small sections so the whole piece if more evenly flat.
3. Lightly pound the lamb with a meat mallet (flat side), if necessary so the meat is more evenly thick. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the lamb with 3/4 of the sauce (the larger portion). Starting at the short end, roll lamb up tightly. Tie the roast well, then rub on the remaining sauce set aside earlier. Wrap roast well in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 and up to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for one hour before roasting.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Unwrap lamb and transfer to a roasting pan. Roast the lamb until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat reads 125° to 135°F depending on your choice of medium-rare to medium. This will take approximately 1 1/4 hours, but begin checking the temp earlier than that. Transfer meat to cutting board and tent with foil for about 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, add wine and chicken broth to the roasting pan and simmer until slightly reduced. Add the sauce that was set aside and mix. Slice lamb into 1/2″ thick slices, snipping away the twine as you go and transfer the meat to a heated platter. Add any juice from the cutting board to sauce. Serve lamb with the sauce.
Per Serving: 300 Calories; 19g Fat (59.4% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 889mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on March 24th, 2018.

Do you like celery root? If you’ve never had it, this might be the time to try it. Celery root has all the flavor of celery, but not the green or ribs, or strings. The root is a big, hunky brown thing you’ll find in the produce section. Not very pretty, but it makes a great soup.

celery root

There’s a celery root that I’ve already peeled, mostly. See the celery stalks poking out of the top?

The benefits of celery: it’s  an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, in addition to vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. AND, it’s also relatively low in carbs.  That’s the part I like. It’s also low in calor too. Do buy one that’s big enough – the recipe here calls for 2 1/2 pounds – which might be 2 of them.

celery root cubedSo, it does need to be peeled, as the knobby root can host all kinds of dirt and sand in the crevices. So wash well, really well, then go at it with a peeler or a knife until you get down to the white root part. Cube it up and set aside briefly while you cook some leek in butter, then add some garlic, then the celery root and chicken stock. It will take about 40-45 minutes for the celery root to get tender. The soup mixture gets pureed until smooth, and once you return it to the pot, perhaps add more chicken stock so it’s less thick, your choice as to how much.  It kind of depends on how much celery root you started with. Then cream is added (only 1/2 cup), salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, you make a gremolata (that’s an Italian word for garnish) of toasted walnuts, olive oil, parsley and some grated Parm. That’s sprinkled on the top when served. The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, and it’s a keeper. When I made it myself the other night, I used almonds instead of walnuts (the gremolata gives the soup some really nice texture), and I used Pecorino Romano, which melted into the soup beautifully. I grated it in at the end since I was all out of Parm rinds.

What’s GOOD: the celery flavor is pronounced – and it’s really tasty. I wrote “fabulous” on the recipe. I’m sure it would freeze well, too.

What’s NOT: well, maybe the tedious job of peeling the celery root. Not to everyone’s taste since it’s full of dirt. But so worth doing. If you like celery, you’ll love this soup!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Celery Root Bisque

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor, 2018
Serving Size: 8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large leek — white and light green only, thinly sliced
5 whole garlic cloves — peeled, crushed
2 1/2 pounds celery root — peeled, cut into 1″ pieces
A Parmesan rind, or a chunk of Parm, about 2″ square
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
GREMOLATA:
1/2 cup walnuts — toasted and chopped (or sliced almonds)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Italian parsley — coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated

1. SOUP: Melt butter in large pan; add leeks and garlic and saute under medium-low heat until soft. Add celery root, Parmesan chunk, chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until celery root is tender, about 40 minutes.
2. GREMOLATA: Chop walnuts and parsley together. In a small bowl mix with olive oil and cheese. Set aside.
3. Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Return to pan and add additional stock if the soup is too thick (up to about a cup). Add cream, salt and pepper to taste and reheat. Divide among soup bowls and garnish with the gremolata.
Per Serving: 220 Calories; 20g Fat (69.8% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 155mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2018.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_slice

Do you like rhubarb? Gosh, I sure do, and here in SoCal, it’s hard to find sometimes. When I see it at any of my local markets, I buy some.

There aren’t many rhubarb recipes here on my blog. Mostly because over the years I was married to my DH, as a Type 1 diabetic, rhubarb was a dangerous fruit for him because it requires so much sugar to make it edible. I was never successful using artificial sweeteners with rhubarb. But I grew up knowing and eating rhubarb. My mother used to make a simple rhubarb sauce and that would be dessert whenever the big patch of rhubarb in our back yard was bearing fruit. My mother did make rhubarb pie now and then too.

rhubarb_in_shell_rawDid you read my last post about the new pie crust I made? That has a bit of cornstarch added into the dough? This one – see the lovely flaky-looking edge – I’ll just tell you even those edges were tender and oh-so flaky – I ate every bite of my slice.

First the raw rhubarb was trimmed and cut up into 1/2” slices. Easy to do. They were piled into the crust. Meanwhile, I’d made an egg and sour cream mixture (plus a tetch of flour and salt), added some vanilla and poured it onto the rhubarb. It took a minute or so for the viscous fluid to sink down in, but it did.

rhubarb_pie_raw_filling_addedInto the oven the pie went, first at a high temp, then after 10 minutes the temp is reduced to 350°F and baked about another 30 minutes.

The crumb topping is kind of standard (sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and butter) and mixed up well with a fork. When the pie comes out of the oven at this point, the crumb topping was added and the pie was baked for an additional 15 minutes.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_streusel_crust_out_of_ovenI had to leave the house at the exact moment this pie was finished, so if I’d wanted to add another 5 minutes of baking I couldn’t have done it. I was concerned, though, as the center was still looking a little bit jiggly, but it had completely set by the time the pie cooled and it was served.

Results? Every one raved about it – me included. Fortunately everyone in my group that night liked rhubarb. I thought the sour cream aspect of it added a lot of mellowing flavor. The recipe came from The Splendid Table, and it’s a keeper.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was good – the pie crust, the filling, the topping, etc. I served it with vanilla ice cream, and then the leftovers were served with whipped cream instead. Both were good. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. I’d definitely make this again.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

Recipe By: The Splendid Table
Serving Size: 8

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rhubarb — (fresh or frozen), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
CRUMB TOPPING:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter — softened

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla, then add to the flour mixture.
3. Place the rhubarb in the prepared pie shell. Pour the egg and flour mixture evenly over the top.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes more.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping and mix with a fork until crumbly.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the crumb topping over the top. Return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.
7. Remove from the oven again and allow the pie to cool slightly before slicing. Pie can be frozen at this point. Once it is defrosted and warmed slightly in a 200°F oven, you would never know it had ever been frozen.
Per Serving: 326 Calories; 13g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 294mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 16th, 2018.

pie_crust_w_cornstarch

One might think there couldn’t be anything “new” regarding pie crusts. But lo, behold, there is a pie crust that’s very easy, has a bunch of butter, but also cornstarch. Amazing.

If someone had given me a recipe for a new pie crust, well, maybe I’d have smiled, said thank you, and promptly set it aside and not even looked at it. But this one, oh gosh, what a mistake to not try it! This one came from Christopher Kimball, from his new venture, Milk Street. And there was a very big write-up about it in the magazine, so I input the recipe into my MasterCook software and didn’t think about it for awhile. I don’t make many pies.

But the other day, needing a dessert for my weekly bible study group, I was going through to-try recipes, and it just so happened I had rhubarb in the refrigerator. That led to a recipe, and that led to my needing a pie crust.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile (it’s been nearly 11  years now I’ve been blogging) you likely have gone to my recipe index. It’s prodigious. I’m not bragging, truly I’m not. But sometimes when I’m actually writing in the additions to the index, I’m kind of blown away by how MANY recipes I have on this site. And I was particularly amazed at how many cakes are there. Obviously I love baking. And I use any occasion as an excuse to try something new. Occasionally I go back to a tried and true recipe (like my mother’s Crisp Apple Pudding that I made recently and used both apples and pears) but because I write a blog, well, one must keep truckin’ and try new recipes.

My next post will be the pie filling part – but today we’re just talkin’ about the crust. I’m not often lured into making pie crusts. They just seem like so much work. More work than I want to do. I’m not fond of making a pre-baked crust – more work with digging out the pie weights, getting them cleanly out of the shell, etc. In this case the sour cream-rhubarb filling was put into the raw crust and baked together (easier!).

The crust isn’t difficult, although you do have to briefly cook the cornstarch with water in the microwave until it’s hot and set. It gets cooled some, then stuffed in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool off. Then it’s added to the usual dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) in the food processor and pulsed until that mixture is smooth. Then you add the sour cream (only 2 tablespoons) and 10 tablespoons of butter. Once pulsed for a bit, it all comes together into a ball. It’s flattened into a 4-inch flat disk, wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled for an hour (or longer). I was on a time schedule, so I did 60 minutes.pie_crust_w_cornstarch_sideview

But now, the crust – when I took it out of the refrigerator and began rolling it, it had a definite texture difference. It was supple and soft and the amount was perfect for my 9-inch pie plate. It didn’t roll out into that magical perfect circle that one would like (darn) but when I patched the dough in a couple of places, it adhered and was very easy to finish rolling. I rolled it up onto the rolling pin and gently let it down into the dish. It was easy to move, because, of course, I hadn’t centered it correctly, but the dough allowed me to do that without tearing or stretching it. Yea! I trimmed some of the edges off, then folded the 1/2 inch outer edges under and crimped with my fingers and the crust was DONE! It was easier than I thought. I didn’t freeze the dough-filled plate (as you would do if you wanted to blind bake it) and the finished pie was just fine – not overly browned even though I baked the pie at a different temperature than the suggested for a blind bake.

And oh, my. Is this crust tender! Even those tall, thick finger-crimped edges were as tender as could be. Sometimes when you make a wet kind of pie filling (like the sour cream rhubarb one I did) it makes the bottom crust soggy. Not this one. Why, I don’t know. I may just be making this pie crust anytime I need one in the future. The recipe says to make two and freeze one of the disks, which would be a great idea – just use within a month, though. You can also make the dough a couple of days ahead and keep chilled.

What’s GOOD: everything about this crust is a good thing! Easy to make. Easy to roll out. Easy to get into the pie plate. Baked perfectly. Bottom crust stayed a crust and wasn’t soggy. Easy to cut and get out of the pie dish too. Sometimes that first slice is a bummer. Not with this one, anyway. A day later when I had a leftover slice that had been refrigerated, the bottom crust was still firm and not soggy, and the chilled crust was tasty and flaky. Truly, this pie crust is a bit of a miracle for me!

What’s NOT: nothing at all – just one extra step to cook the cornstarch and water before starting and cooling it in the freezer for 10 minutes. You should chill the dough, too, so do plan a few hours ahead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Single-Crust Pie Dough with Cornstarch

Recipe By: Milk Street, 2016
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
159 grams all purpose flour — (equals 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons butter — WITH SALT, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons sour cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch. Microwave until set, 30 to 40 seconds, stirring halfway through. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
2. Once the cornstarch mixture has chilled, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and process until mixed, about 5 seconds. Add the chilled cornstarch mixture and pulse until uniformly ground, about 5 pulses.
3. Add the butter and sour cream and process until the dough comes together and begins to collect around the blade, 20 to 30 seconds.
4. Pat the dough into a 4-inch disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.
5. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position.
6. On a well-floured counter, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.
7. Hang the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Gently ease the dough into the pan by lifting the edges while pressing down into the corners of the pan.
8. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then tuck the overhang under itself so the dough is flush with the rim of the pan.
9. Crimp the dough with your fingers or the tines of a fork, then chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
10. To blind bake, line the chilled crust with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until the edges are light golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
11. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the bottom of the crust just begins to color, another 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before filling.
12. Once baked and cooled, the crust can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Tip: Don’t skip the sour cream; it’s key for a tender crust. And don’t skimp on the pie weights; use enough to come 3/4 of the way up the sides.
Per Serving: 214 Calories; 15g Fat (64.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 216mg Sodium.

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