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Monday, August 31, 2009

Blackberry Pie

So, I made the blueberry pie recipe with blackberries instead. The berries were pretty tart, so I increased the sugar to 1 C. I remembered the egg wash on the crust this time, and the lemon juice (I still left out the lemon zest, which I almost never care for).

YUM. I've never been a pie person (except for pumpkin), but this is almost enough to convert me. In any case, it's something I'll be adding to my seasonal rotation. And other times, too (since I froze enough blackberries for another two pies).

One note to emphasize in the original recipe: they weren't kidding about letting it cool down all the way before slicing it. When first cut while still warm, the filling was pretty loose and ran out into the pie plate. But left over the next day, it sliced neatly with no big oozing.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blueberry Pie with Vodka Crust

I'd heard a lot from friends about the fabulous vodka pie crust from Cook's Illustrated. Finally I had a chance to try it for myself! At the peak of blueberry season, a local blueberry farmer sells gallon-sized zipper-lock bags FULL of blueberries at the farmers' market for a good price. I had Mavis pick one up with the idea that I would (finally) try this recipe, even though I don't personally care for blueberries. We took it to a potluck with a can of whipped cream (easier than ice cream) and it was a HUGE hit. No leftovers.
Blueberry Pie with Foolproof Vodka Crust
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Jul/Aug 2008

Foolproof Pie Dough
2 1/2 C flour, plus more for work surface
1 t salt
2 T sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices (Cook's calls for 3/4 C butter and 1/4 C shortening, but I don't DO shortening, ever)
1/4 C cold vodka (absolutely necessary to this recipe; do not omit; if you can't stand to use it, switch to a different recipe)
1/4 C cold water

Process 1 1/2 C flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined. Add butter (and shortening if you're using it) and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. Scrape bowl with spatula and redistribute dough around work bowl. Add remaining 1 C flour and process 4-6 quick pulses to break up clumps. Empty into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. Use rubber spatula to fold and press mixture into itself until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide into two evenly-sized balls and flatten into 4-inch disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 45 minutes to 48 hours.

Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate, easing dough down into bottom of pie plate. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

Blueberry Filling
6 C fresh blueberries
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes
2 t grated zest and 2 t juice from one lemon (I omitted this and it didn't kill it)
3/4 C sugar
2 T instant tapioca, ground in spice grinder or mini food processor
2 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

egg wash (egg lightly beaten with 1 t water) (I omitted this too, just because I forgot, and it didn't kill it)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position (oops, forgot that too), put rimmed baking sheet on rack, and preheat oven to 400. Put 3 C berries in medium saucepan over medium heat. Mash with potato masher to start releasing juices. Cook, stirring and mashing occasionally, until mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 C. Let cool slightly.

Put grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Put in large bowl. Add cooked berries, uncooked berries, lemon zest and juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt. Toss to combine, then put in dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

Roll out second disk of dough on floured work surface to 11-inch circle. Cut 7 small circles out of dough with 1 1/4-inch cutter. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie. Roll top layer of dough over bottom layer of dough, crimp and flute. Brush with egg wash. Put on heated baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 and bake until juices bubble and crust is golden, 30-40 minutes more. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, cut into wedges and serve.

Next up--I'll try this same recipe with blackberries. Don't know why it shouldn't work.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homemade Gyros

Another winner from Cook's Illustrated. Not a huge hit with any of the kids, but Mavis and I thought it was delicious. We bought ground,locally-raised lamb at the farmers' market, plus local lettuce and cherry tomatoes.
Homemade Gyros
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Jul/Aug 2007

4 large pitas (I made my own)
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T minced fresh oregano leaves (mine dried up in the heat, so I used 1 t dried--from a jar, not from the backyard)
2 med cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press (about 2 t)
1 lb ground lamb
2 t vegetable oil
Tzatziki sauce (below)
1 large tomato, sliced thin, or 1/2 pt cherry tomatoes, halved
2 C shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 C)

Preheat oven to 350. Cut top quarter off each pita bread, and tear into one-inch pieces (about 3/4 C total). Stack pitas and wrap tightly in foil. Process onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and pita pieces in food processor until they form a smooth paste. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, and then mix in lamb with hands until thoroughly combined. Divide meat mixture into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls, then flatten to make 1/2-inch-thick mini-patties (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter).

Put foil-wrapped pitas directly on oven rack and heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add patties and cook until well-browned with a crust, 3-4 minutes.

Flip patties, reduce heat to medium, and cook another five minutes or so, until browned and crusty on the second side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Using soup spoon, spread 1/4 C Tzatziki Sauce inside each pita. Divide patties among pitas, then top with tomato, lettuce and feta. Serve immediately.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 C plain whole-milk yogurt (Brown Cow is best!)
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced fine (about 1/2 C)
3/8 t salt
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 med garlic clove, pressed through garlic press (about 1/2 t)
1 T freshly chopped mint or dill (I used mint)

Line fine-mesh strainer set over deep bowl with 3 paper coffee filters or 3 layers of paper towel. Spoon yogurt into lined strainer, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cucumber, 1/8 t salt, and lemon juice in colander set over bowl and let stand 30 minutes.

Discard strained liquid from yogurt and cucumber. Combine thickened yogurt, drained cucumber, remaining 1/4 t salt, garlic and mint in clean bowl.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Picnic Fare

Love me a good picnic. We recently attended one with just the right number of people (6 families, plus a few extra folks), just the right weather (not too hot, not too chilly), and lots of good food. I took three things to share: Picnic Chicken, Three-Bean Salad, and The Thin (crispy buttery chocolate chip cookies--perfect if, like me, that's the kind of chocolate chip cookie you like, although even the folks who claim to love gooey chewy cookies didn't exactly struggle to get them down). No pictures because we were in a hurry to get out the door, as usual.
Picnic Chicken
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Jul/Aug 2006

5 lbs or so chicken pieces (I cut up two 3.5-pounders, saving the wings and backs for stock), breasts cut into 2-3 pieces, trimmed of excess fat and skin (leave some skin on each piece, just cut off the hanging fatty flaps), short slits cut into remaining skin but not into the flesh

2 T kosher salt
3 T brown sugar
2 T chili powder
2 T sweet paprika
2 t ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 t cayenne (less if you're serving kids)

Mix dry ingredients, then coat chicken pieces, under skin as well where possible without completely dislodging skin. Put chicken on wire rack over rimmed baking sheet, tent with foil, and refrigerate 6-24 hours. It must be at least six hours, or the moisture will not have had a chance to migrate back into the meat (I can explain at greater length if you're puzzled, but trust me, this is a crucial step to the recipe and cannot be shortcutted).

When ready to cook, heat oven to 425. Roast chicken until thickest part of smallest piece reaches 140 on an instant-read thermometer, about 14-20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500 and roast until thickest parts of breast pieces reach 160, 5-8 minutes, removing pieces as they finish and transferring to clean wire rack. Roast dark meat until thickest parts register 170-175, 5 minutes or so longer. Transfer to rack and let cool completely before refrigerating or serving.

The next time I make this recipe, I will probably eliminate or nearly so the cayenne pepper (too spicy for the kids), and I will either try it on the grill or use a broiler pan. Cleaning the baked-on chicken juices from my cookie-cooling rack was a major chore (lovingly undertaken by my husband). And for sure I will line whatever I cook it on with foil--my cookie sheet will probably never recover.
Three-Bean Salad
adapated from Cook's Illustrated Jul/Aug 1999

1 C red wine vinegar
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C canola oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 t salt
freshly-ground black pepper
8 oz fresh green beans, stemmed and cut into one-inch pieces
8 oz fresh yellow wax beans, stemmed and cut into one-inch pieces
1 15-oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 medium red onion, chopped fine
1/4 C minced fresh parsley leaves

Heat vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Transfer to a large nonreactive bowl and cool to room temperature.

Blanch green and yellow beans in salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness of beans. Shock in ice water to stop cooking, then drain well.

Add all beans, onion and parsley to dressing and toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors, then let come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Pasta with Summer Squash Redux

I made this recipe again, and I remembered to take a picture. Just barely (this is the last of the leftovers).

Too bad the kids are on an anti-zucchini kick.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rice Salad

Tonight we had some of the sockeye salmon my dad caught in Alaska on his birthday fishing trip, fresh sweet corn on the cob, and a rice salad with cauliflower, currants, almonds and peach. Amazing what happens when I decide what I want to make before sending Mavis to the farmers' market.

Curried Rice Salad
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Jul/Aug 2000

1 C basmati rice
1 1/2 t salt

Bring a few quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot, then toast rice in dry skillet for five minutes or so. Carefully add rice and salt to boiling water and cook, uncovered, 10-12 minutes until rice is tender but not soft. Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer or colander, then spread in a foil-lined baking sheet to cool while preparing other ingredients.

2 T canola oil
2 C small cauliflower florets (about half a small to medium head)
1 T curry powder
1 t salt
1/4 C currants
1/2 C chopped roasted almonds (recipe originally called for cashews)
1 medium peach, peeled and diced (recipe originally called for mango)
3 T minced chives (I had considerably less than this because mine dried up in the heat)
1/4 t ground black pepper

Heat oil in skillet over high heat until just shimmering. Add cauliflower, curry powder, and 1/2 t salt and cook, stirring, for about a minute, until curry coats cauliflower. Add currants and 1/4 C water, stir, cover, reduce heat slightly, and cook for a few minutes, until water evaporates and cauliflower is tender. Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl, stir in rice and other ingredients, including remaining 1/2 t salt. Let stand 20 minutes to blend flavors before serving.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chicken & Potatoes a New Way

As you may have heard, last week in Portland was too hot to do much of anything, let alone cook. But I had all this food Mavis had bought, and I needed to cook it. Plus, The Laundry Queen and her family were coming to visit, and I didn't feel like serving or eating anything we might have gotten for takeout. So, roast chicken and scalloped potatoes it was. Not really summery, except that we cooked it on the grill.

There's nothing particularly difficult about roasting a chicken on the grill. Prepare it the way you would to roast in the oven. For me, that usually means just a little salt and pepper, and maybe a little softened butter. This time I happened to have some leftover all-purpose grill rub (I'm not even sure what was in it any more), so I rubbed it all over the skin and under the skin on the breast.

Start a chimney full of briquettes, and when they're ready spread them evenly on both sides of the grill, leaving a space wide enough for the chicken in between. To make absolutely sure they'll last long enough for the chicken, spread a few unlit coals over the top. Heat, scrape and oil the grate, then place the chicken breast side down and close the lid, with top vents half open. For a chicken around four pounds (the size I usually do, which usually makes two dinners for us), leave it alone for a half-hour. Flip it over on its back and cook, lid closed, at least another half-hour before taking its temperature. When it's 165 in the breast and thigh, pull it off and tent with foil to rest.

Now for the potatoes. They were inspired by a recipe The Laundry Queen saw on the Pioneer Woman blog.
Grill-Scalloped Potatoes

2.5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
1-2 garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 t sweet Spanish paprika
1/2-3/4 C heavy cream
kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
several tablespoons butter

Toss all ingredients except for butter in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Divide evenly between two or three large pieces of heavy-duty foil, put a blob of butter (2-3 T per pouch) on top, and bring sides up to make fairly-well-sealed-but-still-openable and fairly flat pouches. Put them directly over the coals on either side of the chicken when you flip the chicken over. Roast until tender and starting to brown, stirring once or twice during cooking.

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