Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

After weeks of falsely warm weather and then cold rain, it seems summer is here at last! Spring was right out, skip directly to 90 degrees, do not pass cardigans, do not soak in 70 degrees. There are certain foods that go with each season, naturally, and specific ones that go with that nostalgic childhood feeling. For me, those summer wonders include the popsicle icy things in plastic, orange Julius's (which I thought my mom invented until about a year ago), and strawberry rhubarb pie.

I'm pretty sure this pie entered my life late in childhood aka adulthood. My mom started making it and it is now a high demand summer food. And I've finally learned how to make it! This pie is so important that my mom prepares the rhubarb for a year (okay she freezes it year over year but it apparently gives a different effect). 

For this recipe, splurge on the good strawberries at the farm stand. So worth it. So you take a pint of those (the precise measurement of one basket thing) and cut the leafy part off and halve the strawberries (also you should wash them). Set them aside and prepare your rhubarb. If you're using fresh rhubarb, slice and chop the stalks to make 5 cups. The pieces should resemble chopped celery. If you're using frozen rhubarb, measure 5 cups before you freeze it. Thaw the rhubarb and drain the liquid. Keep the juices in a bowl to the side just in case the pie is too dry.

Combine the strawberries and rhubarb in a bowl with 1.5 cups of sugar, 1/4 cup of cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 and roll out your pie crust (go ahead, use the boxed ones or be overly ambitious--we were not and used Pillsbury) and with a fork, poke holes around the dough to prevent bubbling. 

Pour the filling into the prepared pie pan. Lay the second pie crust overtop and pinch the crusts together to get a nice edge. Lastly wash with milk (just like an egg wash but with milk instead). Sprinkle with sugar for an added touch! Then poke holes in the top of the pie crust and place in the oven.

Set your timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and place the pie pan on a cookie sheet for another 30 minutes. Bake to perfection. 

While I would like to say this is an old family recipe, it's adapted from Joy of Cooking (the other source of food joy, Mrs. Joy). Rhubarb and strawberries aren't in season all year so make the most of these summer months. And don't let any rhubarb go to waste, freeze them in a ziplock bag for those cold winter days when you crave a taste of summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Orange Blueberry Pancakes

Lazy weekends just might be the best thing ever. Yes, it's a great opportunity to do things and explore the city or hang out with friends. But the week is busy with work obligations and social obligations of their own so having a weekend full of no plans is spectacular. 

And what makes a lazy weekend better than brunch?!  Growing up, my dad always made Belgian waffles on Sunday, complete with bacon, strawberries and cool whip. This weekend though, I had a surplus of blueberries (embrace the fresh fruit or at least pretend the grocery store produce is fresh) so I turned to Joy the Baker's cookbook for inspiration. This recipe calls for orange juice,orange zest and almond extract (as the more obscure ingredients). At first I thought I'd have to improvise and just leave out basically everything exciting except the blueberries. But by some culinary miracle, I had orange juice and oranges in my fridge! No luck on the almond extract though so I just used vanilla (can you do that? Is that the same thing kinda?). 

Yummy zest
The orange zest added a really nice tangy flavor (to my kitchen and the pancakes) which was a pleasant surprise. I feel like usually you can't taste the zest in most things, it's just one of those secret baking things that just works. This is not one of those things, totally embrace the orange.
Ready to flip...
Well, about double the amount of recommended blueberries later and I had gloriously golden pancakes. Sadly they were very gooey in the middle. Some raw center is good but the issue was more that the griddle was too hot so the outside cooked beautifully but the centers didn't cook. So, less heat, more time. Also this recipe seems healthy and not because it has blueberries but because it doesn't have oil or much sugar. It does have buttermilk though... Eh, I deem the healthy-ish. Good enough for me!

Perfect 10!
So the lesson is to enjoy your weekend, take the time to sleep in until brunch o'clock. And then make up some waffles or pancakes or cinnamon rolls or just plain old cinnamon toast crunch. Just enjoy some breakfast food, people.

Breakfast is served
Also, I had someone talk to me about trying something off of my blog! And even though it didn't work out exactly the same way and she improvised, it worked out! And that's the other lesson. Recipes don't always work perfectly but more often than not, you still get a good dish. It's about the journey. And yes, I said 'recipes' but you coooould substitute that for 'life'. Okay, I'm done being all sage and "Eat, Pray, Love" on ya'll. Eat more pancakes!

Recipe (courtesy of Joy the Baker)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. granulated sugar
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 t. orange zest
  • Scant 1/4 t. almond extract
  • 1/2-3/4 cup blueberries
Mix together the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and add the blueberries. Mix and pour onto the griddle, whatever size you'd like.  Flip them over once they're golden brown and enjoy. And for an added bonus, the real recipe in the Joy the Baker cookbook comes with a maple glaze! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Apricot Glaze

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life gives you an hour-long commute, you download the mobile app for blogger. Coming to you live from my evening commute (via public transit, don't text and drive), this is Live Love Lemon blogging about--lemons.

A few years ago, my sister asked me what my favorite type of cake was so she could make me a cake for my birthday. I was completely torn because I love chocolate like looove chocolate. But I also like carrot cake and looove cream cheese frosting. What's a girl to do? After explaining this to my sister she mused how she thought my favorite cake was lemon cake because we always ate it growing up for my birthday. In reality, there was probably an equal number of chocolate and lemon birthday cakes (ps: had a lemon chocolate cupcake once as in both things together. Heaven!) in my life. But now, years later, and I still can't pick a favorite. But for the sake of this blog, let's talk about lemon cake. 

Tracy, from shutterbean.com (sung in the likeness of Joy the Baker), posted a fantastic picture of a bundt cake on her Instagram last week. It was a lemon buttermilk cake with an apricot glaze. It can't get much better. 

Now this recipe required 8 lemons. Count 'me, eight! I suggest you zest the lemons first because it takes longer than you'd think. Unless of course you have a kitchen aid in the form of a small and eager child (I always had to zest the lemons and peel the chestnuts growing up, the jobs the grown ups didn't want to do because it would mess up their nails).
All the lemons!
A lot of the baking recipes I've found have been calling for buttermilk so hopefully I can use up the rest of it. At one time I would just follow the shortcut of adding lemon juice to regular milk (there's your corner cutting for this recipe) but it's probably best to use the real thing. 

I will admit that I was nervous to add the glaze. There would be no turning back and no way to tell if it went poorly. The glaze was extremely simple to make and was sticky enough to actually stay on the cake and congeal. After preserving some for myself (and having a piece for breakfast, as Tracy suggested), I packed up my cake carrier (its maiden voyage) and brought it to work.
Gloriously baked
It was quickly snatched up by the vultures at work. Who says only college students seek out free food? That's a myth and an instinct that never seems to leave us.
All gone
The next lemon creation I aspire to would be this gem from Flour bakery. It was recommended by Hedy Goldsmith (see last blog post about newfound idols) and this consists of alternating layers of cake and custard with raspberry sauce and lemon curd. Yup, I just died and went to heaven. How do you go about alternating two different desserts like that?! Teach me your ways, oh great bakers. 
Not created by me
Well, I have no idea how long this post is but my thumbs are cramping from typing this all on my phone. A general guideline for autocorrect fail: 'if' probably means 'of' and 'in' probably means 'on'. There's your code, go forth and zest some lemons. 

Oh and you do end up with whole lemons left over so make some margaritas and sangria while you're at it. We are so beyond lemonade. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Culinary Research

Okay, I have been extremely negligent in my blogging and in my baking for that matter. It's now June, when did this happen?! I've been busy traveling and discovering new foods and am extremely pumped to get in the kitchen and start testing recipes out. I also had the opportunity to attend a food and wine tasting where I learned from some local chefs some great recipes (and tricks of the trade). I'm equally pumped to test those out. And it's now officially summer which means all kind of fresh fruit and luscious desserts (liiiiike strawberry rhubarb pie).

Well first and foremost, I traveled across the world (literally) to Hawaii for my first tropical vacation ever! Surrounded by volcanic rock and deliciously fragrant flowers, I ate all kinds of fish and fruit. Mangos for breakfast? Right on! It was a rough life, lounging by the water all day and snacking on fruit and pina coladas all day. Some of my favorite things foods from the trip:
Such fresh mango
  • Coconut Creme Brulee- as if creme brulee could be more delicious, this had a tropical twist. It was very sweet and while I would love to recreate it, I think I'll leave the blow torch to the pros and just enjoy this as a night out dessert.
Both coconut creme brulee and macadamia nut cookies
  • Macadamia Oatmeal Cookies- I have a renewed obsession with macadamia nuts. I kept a list of foods I sampled as I traveled and there were so many recipes based on macadamia nuts. So these were really dry cookies but only in the sense that they weren't gooey out of the oven. Almost like a biscuit? Again, not like a roll biscuit. But it was great! I'm still searching for a macadamia oatmeal recipes, most of them contain chocolate chips though. Also, macadamia nut brittle. Who comes up with this stuff?! Good luck, family, you all are getting this in your stockings for Christmas. Your waistlines have been warned.
  • Fish- all the fish, so much fish. And sometimes it had macadamia nuts on it. One of the more exciting things that I actually learned to make, was fish curry. My friend's mom taught me how to make authentic fish curry (which can be substituted for chicken too) so look forward to that once I find all the ingredients (like lime leaves....).
 The second culinary adventure I found myself on was an out of the blue opportunity to attend a test drive event with seminars with top chefs and wine connoisseur. Side note, test driving a sports car was aaaawesome! Other passion: driving. Don't eat and drive though--or drink and drive, duh.

The first session was with Hedy Goldsmith, who, if all else fails, could be a comedian. She was unbelievably charismatic as she taught us how to make Basil Panna Cotta. Not only was this delicious, and a perfect summer treat, but she also taught us some tips about the ingredients. Like who would ever add basil into a dessert? Hedy. She also recommended using a wood shaver for lemon zesting. I would recommend keeping two: one for fruit, one for wood, no splinters in desserts please! And lastly, something I found rather interesting, was she suggested not using classic iodized salt in desserts. I always assumed that fancy sea salts was just that: fancy and not necessary. But it turns out it does make a difference. Oh darn, I guess I could add that to a list of things to explore at a farmer's market or spice shop. And now farmer's markets and spice shops are on my to-do list. And Hedy's book as now been added to my desired library.
Snapshots from Hedy's demonstration
 Secondly, we spoke with one of Food & Wine's best new chefs, Barry Maiden. He owns a restaurant called Hungry Mother (awesome, awesome name) and added some southern style to his dish. I'm not sure I could ever cook or prepare crawfish but he also had some fried catfish (oh look, we have a theme: see Hawaii) to make Cornmeal Catfish with Crawfish Remoulade. He went through the steps of making your own mayonnaise. Apparently one egg yolk can absorb (hold?) one CUP of oil. Whaaaat??? And this is why people avoid mayonnaise. But it's so gooood. Especially if you make it yourself.

Somewhat lastly, we went through a wine tasting, complete with salted chocolate (delicious). Now, I've been to wine tasting before but I still walk into a store completely confused about how to select wine. Or how to order in a restaurant. Now, there are a lot of factors to good wine, hardly none of which can be told from a label. So basically don't believe that a higher price means better wine. Go with what you like and know that wine from warmer climates will be sweeter and more alcoholic (wooo!) because the grapes have more time to ripen. Also, if you're bored while drinking white wine, try biting a lemon and seeing if it changes how you perceive the wine. Fun times. And fun wine connoisseur, Michael Green.

Crawfish and catfish
Now actually lastly, we spoke with Michael Psilakis. He did a Greek twist on an American staple: Gyro Spiced Sliders. But more importantly, he spoke of the important role food has played in his life. Sure he is a famous chef and has restaurants and books but he spoke of an epiphany he had. As he passed down family traditions from the kitchen to his son, he was reminded of when his dad did the same for him. We received an autographed copy of his book How To Roast a Lamb with the inscription "plant seeds".
Michael Psilakis, Gyro spiced sliders and the grab bag
So I once again recommit to cooking and baking but also encourage everyone who might find this to do the same. Food is not just about food but the experience. Maybe that's why I've come to enjoy cooking and baking, I love to share the food and bring people together. Build memories people, get off your phones while you do it too!