Apple Pie

apple pie ingredients IIPumpkin takes center stage, as does pecan typically but good old apple pie holds its own on any festive table. Mix and match whatever apples you might have on hand, toss in a pear or a quince, or stir in 1/2 cup of apricot jam and watch as people gasp and exclaim over how perfect and mysteriously fabulous your pie is! The cook-with-what-you-have philosophy lends itself beautifully to pie! I will be adding a good dollop of Italian prune compote to my sour cherry pie this week too.

PIE CLASS? I love really good pie (crust) and am contemplating teaching a pie class in the next few weeks. Let me know if you’d be interested. Fruit pies, nuts pies/tarts, custard pies. . . all with excellent crust. It would be in Portland, OR on a weeknight evening or weekend afternoon, 2+ hours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Apple Pie

apple pie front porch

This is a pretty classic apple pie. You don’t want to slice the apples too thinly or they’ll get mushy in the pie but too big and you’ll end up with rubbery chunks. It also depends on the kind of apple. If in doubt, slice fairly thinly. This is my all-time favorite pie dough; it’s simply butter, salt, flour and water but the technique is revolutionary. Once you do it a time or two it becomes second nature so don’t be put off by the extra step. Or use your favorite pie dough recipe.

7-ish medium-large apples (you want 7-8 cups sliced), peeled, cored and sliced
½ cup sugar or 1/4 cup sugar and 1/3 – 1/2 cup apricot or peach jam–see headnote
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
Just a little grated lemon zest (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (if apples are a bit bland)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 recipe pie dough which is enough for a 1 double-crusted 9-inch pie (I use 1/3 whole wheat pastry flour and 2/3 all purpose for a more interesting texture and flavor–the technique here keeps the crust flaky and perfect even with a higher ratio of whole wheat–spelt or rye flours would be great alternatives to the whole wheat pastry)

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Put the apples in a large bowl. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg (if using) and lemon zest and jam (if using) together in small bowl. Sprinkle it over the apples and mix well. Drizzle on lemon juice (if using).

Place one disk of dough on a lightly floured surface (right on the counter is easiest unless you have a tile counter). Lightly flour each side of the disk and a rolling pin. Roll from the center out and roll the dough until you have about a 14-inch circle. You want to make sure the dough does not stick to your work surface and slide a spatula under it to loosen up if it does and sprinkle more flour on the counter. The edges of the circle may crack a part but just pinch back together and don’t worry too much about the very edge since it’s going to get crimped anyway. Roll the circle of dough up onto the rolling pin and transfer it to your pie dish, unrolling gently. Lightly press the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and make sure the dough goes all the way out to the edges or the base of the pie pan. Roll out the second disk of dough.

Fill the pie shell with the apple mixture. Dot filling evenly with butter. Carefully lay the top crust over the apples. Trim the overhanging dough with a sharp knife all around leaving at least a 1-inch overhang. Flour your fingers and crimp the two layers of pie dough together by pushing your right pointer finger into a “v” shape created with the thumb and pointer of your left hand, holding the edges of dough. Repeat around the whole pie, re-flouring your fingers as needed. Prick the top of the pie a few times with the tines of a fork to create holes for the steam to escape.

Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 and bake another 35-45 minutes until the apples are tender and the crust is flaky and just slightly golden. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Gratitude

Thanksgiving is upon us. I have done little thinking about the food for the meal. As I’m sure many of you are, I’ve been thinking about the tragedies and injustices near and far. My heart aches for the millions who have nowhere safe to be, whether fleeing their home country or homeless on the streets of my hometown.

I will get to celebrate and enjoy a meal in a warm cozy house surrounded by family and loved ones. I count my blessings daily.  And I think I’ll keep my culinary contributions simple and will support a couple of organizations (here in Portland, OR) who help provide comfort, stability and warmth to those who have the least, such as Streets Roots and Sisters of the Road!

Happy Thanksgiving!

roasted squash w: salsa verde

Winter Squash with Parsley Sauce

Warm, sweet, roasted squash with a cool, lemony parsley sauce is an easy and beautiful dish.

Roast winter squash in a hot oven, 425 – 450 degrees. Roast however much peeled, seeded squash you’d like. I like bite-sized chunks or wedges.

Make salsa verde (just a mixture of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt) and top the squash with plenty of salsa.

 

Good Soup on the Fly

bean winter squash soup parsley pistouYou never know when that cup of cooked beans or chunk of roasted butternut squash will come in handy. Little time to think about what to make for dinner and little time to actually make it?

How does one turn random bits of already cooked ingredients into something delicious? Yesterday’s example . . . friend comes over for dinner but no real plan or time to be fancy. I had about 1 cup of cooked white beans and about as much bean cooking liquid, a rich, silky base for a soup. Also present, about 2 cups of already roasted butternut squash, some of it very soft and some of it still keeping its shape. I had a small chunk of celery root and I always have onions, potatoes and garlic on hand as well as veggie bouillon base (water would have been just fine since the bean broth was flavorful) in the freezer. The garden offered up a handful of parsley and a few leaves of sage.

Soup is a handy format for on-the-fly, no-plan cooking but to make it good–in the absence of time for lengthy simmering–it needs more than vegetables, grain, broths, etc. In this case a handful of chopped parsley and garlic clove and some salt, chopped/mashed into a paste and thinned with some good olive oil made it good. Sometimes soy sauce and/or fish sauce to finish does the trick, other times a slice of bacon, diced and added to the saute-ing onions does it.

parlsey garlic pistou

But to start, think of those beans and roasted vegetables as building blocks, really tasty and efficient ones, to make soup. Happy Cooking!

Simple Vegetable Soup with Parsley “Pistou

This is merely a template for a nice warming bowl of soup. Adapt and substitute to suit your tastes and needs.

Serves 4-ish

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon sage, fresh or dried, chopped (or thyme, oregano, marjoram. . .)
2 medium potatoes, diced fairly small (for quick cooking)
1 cup celery root, diced
1 cup cooked beans (white, pinto, cranberry, chickpeas. . .)
1 cup bean cooking broth
2 cups roasted winter squash, diced (or use raw if that’s what you have and add it when you add the potatoes)
2 – 2 1/2 cups veggie bouillon broth or water or chicken stock  (use more or less depending on how thick/thin you want your soup, you can always thin it out at the end)
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the onion softens. Add the celery root, potatoes and sage and mix well and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the beans, bean broth, squash and stock and bring everything to a simmer. Cover partially and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and beginning to fall apart.

Meanwhile use the side of a chef’s knife to mash the sea salt into the minced garlic and then mix it around on the cutting board with the finely chopped parsley and make a rough paste. It doesn’t need to be uniform. Put it in a bowl and add a couple tablespoons good olive oil; it doesn’t need to totally emulsify, as you can see.

Taste the soup and adjust seasoning with salt and or a splash of vinegar if it’s bland. Serve hot or warm and top with the parsley garlic garnish.