Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pie 101 - Derby Pie

"Derby" Pie or  Pecan-Chocolate-Bourbon Pie.  Can you say decadent?
When someone needs something baked, I do it if I can.  If I have the time.  Not everyone bakes.  I love to bake and need an excuse now that there are only two of us in the house.  If I bake for an event, I somehow always manage to make enough so that we can share a sample or even have a tiny sweetness for ourselves.  (If it's pie, it's usually for Dave; I eat a bite, that's it.  He loves pie too much for me to eat much.)

(Aside:  After I saw how many people read my basic Pie 101 post, I thought I'd begin a series (quite intermittent) on pies.  I hope  you like them.  Anywho, read on.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers in Food - #49 - Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski

bbq chicken pizza from the happy gnome, st. paul, minnesota

Actually, this is Alyce's BBQ Chicken Pizza!

 As a girl who loves to take pictures of food (it only started out with wanting to write about it), I don't know how I missed being involved in Foodspotting, a website and way of life devoted to not just sharing the names of good restaurants (with our now ubiquitous and often ambiguous reviews), but to sharing the best dishes at those restaurants.  Oddly enough, in the whirl around the net, I guess I had signed up on Foodspotting, but never got around to actually participating.   So, in order to write my post for our group-blogging of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game-Changers in Food   (#49, Soraya Darabi & Alexa Andrzejewski, ) this week,  I had to go on the Foodspotter's website and see what it was all about.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake for Memorial Day

 When it's my friend Sue's birthday, or at least if I can find one, I send her a birthday card with strawberries on it.  Sometimes I can't find one.  Sue loves strawberries and so when I knew she was coming for our Mother's Day cook-out, I knew what the dessert was going to be.   It'll be just perfect for Memorial Day, too, though I'll be busy making carrot cake sheet cakes for a graduation party.  (Carrot cake was one of my first posts as a blogger.  Things, luckily, have really improved!  If all goes well, I'll take some better photographs than I did three years ago.)

Taking vanilla bean out with my kids' Mickey Mouse spoon.
I only make Strawberry Shortcake once or twice a year, so I try and make it light, layered with lots of ripe fruit, full of textural and temperature contrasts, and touched just enough by two kinds sweet cream--frozen and fresh whipped.  It's a celebration  of the start of summer, though if we're lucky, we have strawberries coming for a good part of summer in Minnesota.

For the best Strawberry Shortcake, you need each ingredient to be fresh and/or the best you can find or make.  So for this dessert, I made the shortcakes as well as homemade vanilla ice cream. (Baby spoon used at right still in drawer and my kids are 25 and 34.  We've moved 20 times since the oldest was a baby, so it's been through at least 20 kitchens.  Geez.)    Ripe strawberries (some mashed) and just-whipped cream, of course.   My other tiny, but critical element is a gentle smear of raspberry jam on each half of the sliced sweet biscuits we use for shortcakes.   This recipe makes enough for 8 with a few shortcakes leftover for breakfast the next day. (Slice them, spread with butter, slip under the broiler and serve with jam and lots of hot coffee.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers in Food - #48 - Cat Cora's Grapefruit Margarita

Grapefruit Margarita by Cat Cora

On the journey with fellow food bloggers through Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, we're heading on fast toward the finish line with number 48, Cat Cora (b 1968.)  Each week, we feature one special woman who has made an impact on what goes on the table when we sit down to eat.  Some we've know well; others have been new to some of us.  If you're interested in the celebrity food world, you've heard of this week's Cat Cora (Iron Chef, Around the World in 80 Plates), who hailed from Jackson, Mississippi where she was raised in a Greek restaurant family.  Soon after college she found her way to New York and the CIA for culinary school.   Training further in first-class kitchens in France and New York, she finally found her way to California where she now lives with her partner and four sons.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lemon Split Pea Soup with Peppered Sour Cream


Split pea is an old love, but I never make it the same way twice.   What's cool about this version is a. the lick of lemon up against the spicy notes and b. texture layers-- i.e. crunchy, seedy tortilla chips and smooth sour cream on top of the soup, which is about halfway pureed. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pie 101 - Alyce's Step by Step Instructions for Making and Baking Pie (Rhubarb is the Sample Lesson Pie)

R for Rhubarb

This post now featured on Rachel Rappaport's PIE FAIR LADY blog!  
Thanks, Rachel.  Bake pie! 

I don't know why you want to make pie and searched for Pie 101.  Me-oh-my.  You love pie? (I adore the movie "Michael")  Someone you love loves pie, maybe?  You want to make beautiful things and don't paint--right.  You want to bring pie to Thanksgiving dinner:  "Oh, I'll bring the pie," would be fun to say. You'd like to celebrate Pi Day in a more meaningful way.    Making pie, or wanting to make or eat pie, is sort of a passion.  It's not anything like, "I think I'll scramble eggs and make toast because I'm hungry."  Or even "Let's make a pot of vegetable soup; it's cold outside and sounds good."   I mean, no one really needs pie.  People, do, however, desire (is not too strong a word) pie and are sort of sometimes heart-starved and/or breathless for it.  Think of the look on your uncle's (aunt, cousin, boyfriend, co-worker, super) when words like, "coconut cream" or "strawberry-rhubarb" cross their lips.  Or the rush through a potluck meal if a pie sits alone, waiting, down at the end of the counter in the kitchen.    Is it fond memories of  your aunt's pumpkin from Thanksgiving of 1967 or your best friend's apple (from her own tree) in 2009?  Is it the crappy diner crust on a short, slim piece of pecan late one night after a restaurant shift when you had to have something sweet and that's all there was?

If, by chance you're looking for gluten-free pie dough, please just go to Gluten-Free Girl...a great blog; here's one post on pie dough there.

I'm just guessing that usually there's a lot of love goes into pie.  Making it is not an endeavor one embarks on lightly.  Like weeding the flower bed out back or picking up a gallon of milk at the store.  It's kind of a devoted, warm-fuzzy, all around commitment.  Bake with a band on sort of thing.  (Being both a cook and musician gives me license for such sentences.)

Whatever reason brings  you to pie, I hope this little (not really so little) tutorial will be of help.  It contains the story of my own pie-making, a photo-essay on making the rhubarb pie (including crust), and the recipes/basic info you'll need to make it all happen.  FYI:  This long pie post is truly a work in progress.

No fear.  Pie is near.

Friday, May 11, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers - #47 - Zarela Martinez' Savory Cornbread

From my childhood on, cooking meant sharing and security and a way of “speaking” to people.  When I grew up I found that cooking grew also to be a means of celebrating and honoring those who would eat meals that I’d carefully prepared from scratch. Over the years as I lived and thought and learned, cooking grew even more to embrace nearly every aspect of culture and human relationships. I have been lucky to make my career as chef, consultant, and businesswoman a never-ending source of joy and fulfillment.”
                                                                                                              --Zarela Martinez

Each week for the last forty-six, a food-loving group of bloggers has been studying, choosing a recipe, cooking, photographing, and writing  about one very special food expert off the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women-Game Changers in Food.    I jumped on this yummy trolley last January at stop number 32, but a good number of these scribes started right from the beginning.   We're near the end of the line, but this week we're featuring number forty-seven, Mexican chef, author, teacher, philanthropist, and NYC restauranteur-caterer Zarela Martinez.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera--All from Trader Joe's

Welcome spring!

If you shop Trader Joe's, you might know Israeli couscous--a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I'm always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what's going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you're a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one's yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site--if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe's.

Friday, May 4, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers in Food - #46 - Gael Greene - Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

“Do you sing, too?” I asked, tickling his tweed elbow.

I have a good friend who is fond of this phrase:  "She was born with the words, 'Please peel me a grape,' on her lips."   That could very well have been said about spicy bon vivant Gael Greene (1933-  ), this week's  number 46 on Gourmet Live's List of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food.  Greene, the 40-year New York Magazine restaurant critic and columnist, novelist, and philanthropist from Detroit, is best known for her erotic encounters with food, as well as with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley.   Want details?  It's all (probably not) chronicled in Greene's memoir, the infamous Insatiable : Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess (Grand Central, 2007.)  And while I promise I'm not telling tales out of school, you can listen to her own description of Presley as appetizer here.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fresh Berry Cake for Mother's Day--Bake or Not

Looks like Mother's Day!

I hope you're looking for a cake to make for your Mom for Mother's Day.  If you are, you're sooo wonderful.  What mom wouldn't love someone who baked a great-looking and yummy cake like this?   I made it to take to a friend's for Easter and took it unassembled as I wanted it as fresh as it could be. 

Just looking at this cake will tell you that it's not difficult to make and it's NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don't let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don't take long.  In fact, though it's two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it's cool, you cut it in half.