Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bye bye American Pie

“The homemade pie has been under siege for a century, and surely its survival is endangered.” 
― Janet ClarksonPie: A Global History

It's true that more and more people are inclined to run down to the corner bakery and pick up their pies instead of baking them at home. Why not? They usually taste great and almost remind you of grandmas home-made version all those years ago. Baking a pie has become a mammoth task involving flour and grease and potentially a lot of unnecessary work for the busy bees of today. Pie making is slowly but surely evolving into a lost art. The reality is that it really isn't that gargantuan a task. For me- baking a pie is not something I do very often but when I do - it is more often than not, a gratifying and therapeutic experience and one that ultimately gets a standing ovation from my audience at home. This particular recipe is adapted from David Leibovitz and is definitely fool-proof. The buttery crust is edible all by itself, never mind the dark chocolate/ toasted pecan filling. At the end of the day there is a vast difference between a pie that comes in a cardboard box and one that pops out fragrant and hot from the oven.

Recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie:
1 1/4 Cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter cut into 1 inch pieces
4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
3 eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup corn or golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tsps Bourbon or liquor of your choice
1 cup lightly toasted pecan chopped coarsely
1 cup bittersweet chocolate bits

1. To make the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add in the cubed butter and mix until the butter pieces are the size of small peas. Add the ice water and combine until the dough comes together. Do not knead. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Flour a surface and roll dough out into a 12 inch circle. Transfer into a 9 inch pan and tuck the edges in and crimp with a fork.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Combine the eggs, brown sugar, syrup, vanilla, salt, butter and bourbon. Stir in the pecan and chocolate and scrape into the pie shell.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes. Cool before slicing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kaboom Shrimp

 This  Shrimp concoction was developed by sheer trial and error and christened Kaboom Shrimp by my son Neil because of the heat and spice it exudes. It's freezing outside and I crave something spicy, tangy and rampant with fried garlic and olive oil. A Putanesca sauce comes to mind because it embodies all of the above but I don't want pasta, instead I want to wipe up the sauce with  some of that crusty Italian bread, fresh from the supermarket. A Putanesca sauce AKA a whore's sauce was named aptly after the  fishy, tangy aroma of this spicy sauce. Although my sauce is not unlike a Putanesca - I take poetic license and add whatever suits my mood. There's shrimp in my freezer and a jar of large pickled cherry peppers in the fridge sitting beside a jar of olives. I pull out all of this and get to work. No recipe but pure appetite at work.... it is truly worth a try!

1 packet frozen Shrimp tail-on
2 glugs olive oil
1 tbsp sliced garlic
2 dried chili peppers
2-3 cherry peppers
2 tbsp pickled olive medley sliced
1/2 can of crushed tomato
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp anchovy paste
dried or fresh basil to taste (ample amount)

1. Heat the olive oil in a wok and saute the shrimp and the garlic, adding the olives, peppers, chilies and tomato in quick succession once the shrimp is cooked and golden.
2. Season and add in the anchovy paste and basil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bottoms Up!

A green pineapple sat on my kitchen counter for a few days and finally turned golden this morning. It took its time getting there but was disappointing nonetheless; hopelessly pale on the inside and way too tart to eat. But I didn't have the heart to throw it away, and so I turned it into an old fashioned upside down cake with a twist. I upped the ante with a few glugs of Malibu (white rum with a coconut flavor). This was inspired by the Pinacolada which marries the coconut and pineapple flavors well. To replicate the coconut flavor, I added sweet dessicated coconut to the batter. This definitely contributes to the depth of flavor and adds sweetness and crunch to an old favorite. It is essentially a cocktail and a dessert rolled into one. Cheers!

Recipe for a Pinacolada Upside Down Cake:
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
4-6 fresh pineapple slices, cored
6 maraschino cherries
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla 
2 tbsp Malibu
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the 2 tbsp butter in a cast iron skillet. Add in the brown sugar and shake the pan gently to mix the two. Remove from the heat and place the pineapple slices in the syrup and decorate with the cherries. 
2. Cream the butter and the sugar till light and fluffy. 
3. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each. Add in the vanilla and the Malibu. Mix well.
4. Sift the flour and the baking powder and mix in. 
5. Pour batter over the pineapple and top with the shredded coconut. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the coconut is golden and a skewer comes out clean from the center of the cake. Cool, run a knife along the edges, place a large platter over it and flip over. Serve with table cream. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What a Ghastly Dish!

                       Recipe of the day: Head on a platter

What better way to celebrate Halloween than to create a costume in my kitchen?  Neil and I decided that he would be the dish of the day- his head would go on a platter. Neil played the part perfectly and won best costume at his friend Carly's Halloween party- much to my delight. It proved to be a worthy exercise putting the costume together and I couldn't resist sharing it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What color is your Lasagna?

Sometimes an assortment of vegetables cooked together can taste like yesterday's garbage, which is why I approached this Vegetarian Lasagna with caution. My kids are second only to Garfield when it comes to loving Lasagna; they begged for me not to destroy their favorite food by adding vegetables, but I was determined!
I tasted this version of veg Lasagna for the first time in Paris in a street side cafe and enjoyed it enough to try and reproduce it at home. It wasn't the stereo- typical Italian lasagna but a more stylized version with a definite Mediterranean flair. Simplistic and back to basic for the most part - no heavy meat sauces needed, it is in my opinion, a throwback to simpler times. I took the liberty of adding  in a couple of Med spices to give it authenticity. Za'atar ( a combination of herbs and sesame seed) and Sumac (a powdered spice that adds tartness) are not spices I use with regularity, but they add a great deal of flavor to this otherwise understated dish.
Surprisingly my kids liked it as much as I did. They ate silently, which is always a good sign and then they asked for seconds. I can barely believe it - they actually asked for more vegetables....

My recipe for Mediterranean Vegetarian Lasagna:
1 large eggplant sliced into 1/2 inch circles
2 zucchini sliced on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices
2 large tomatoes
1 box no-cook lasagna or cooked lasagna sheets
1 jar of Marinara
1 tsp za'atar
1-2 tsp sumac
salt and pepper
olive oil for drizzling
1 cup Bechamel sauce
1 cup grated Italian cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago)

1. Set the oven on broil. Brush the eggplant and zucchini with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread on sheet trays and cook till golden on both sides. Dust with sumac and za'atar and set aside.
2. Heat the bottled Marinara and doctor it if you will, by adding extra garlic, herbs and a pinch of sugar.
3. Make a simple bechamel by cooking flour in butter and adding milk. Add the cheese to the sauce.
4. Grease a large oven proof dish and make layers of the pasta sheets, a combination of tomato slices, zucchini and eggplant and pouring over with the marinara.
5. Finish with a layer of pasta covered with marinara and the cheese sauce and bake at 350 degrees F for about a half hour or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden.