FullSizeRender - Version 2I love words. You’ve probably figured that out by now. I also love to make up words. No surprise there either. I mean, a fascination with shoes should be called a fashoenation, don’t you think? Then there are the words that sound like I made them up but didn’t. ‘Culinarily’. Definitely sounds like something I’d fake, but it’s legit.  ‘Ersatz’ sounds made up and a little gassy, but it’s real. ‘Fecund’. Not only does it sound made up, it sounds like something you’d haul off and slap someone for calling you. Yet if someone actually described me as “intellectually productive and inventive to a marked degree”, (I had the chance to look it up), I’d likely be flattered. Then I’d slap them for using such a pompous-ass word.

Now take the word ‘serendipitous’. First, it’s fun to say. Five syllables, with ‘dipi’ in the middle. If I was making up a word, I’d definitely put a dipi in it somewhere. The meaning is interesting too, and sums up my life of late. Kinda good (fortuitous), kinda not so good (erratic and uncertain), kinda fluky as in life feels like one big crapshoot. All of that can be said for the word, for me, and probably for just about everyone else too. We can all plan as much as we want, meticulously lay out the course as we’d like to see it, but there’s no guarantee that any of that is going to turn out as prescribed. Fact is, me, you, none of us has a lock on how things are going to turn out. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, or work really hard, or hope. At least that’s how I look at it. Sure serendipity will always factor in, but I’m serendipitously optimistic that whatever happens, I’ll make the best of it eventually. After all, I’m one fecund gal.

2015-09-25 17.43.12So why all the serendipitous chatter? I had a moment of serendipity when recently contacted by someone who works for Azure Farms. Serendipity, by way of the offer of free stuff to play with. Azure Farms is a local farm that among other things, grows and mills flours. The farm is part of Azure Standard, a food and goods grower/supplier based here in Northwest Oregon that distributes through coops, buying clubs and distributors across the country. As a local baker and blogger, I was asked to try out some of their flours. I chose two of their wheat flours, one hard red, one a softer pastry flour, and I must say both are beautiful products to work with. Organic, local, great quality. Of course, being given bags to play with for free was pretty awesome too. Certainly some new recipes will follow. But what got me really excited was the bag of their garbanzo flour.2015-09-25 13.37.20

If you’ve never used garbanzo (chickpea) flour, you’re in for a treat. You could certainly substitute it for some of the wheat flour in a recipe, especially if you are trying out some gluten free options. However, I chose to make a dish this kind of flour is known for. Socca or Farinata is part flatbread, part pancake, and totally delicious. A street food commonly found in the Provence region of France (socca) and neighboring Liguria, Italy (farina), it is the marriage of golden chick pea flour, lots of olive oil, onions, and whatever herb you like, cooked in a hot oven, brushed with more olive oil and then broiled briefly. I made it as a snack/appetizer to go with a great bottle of wine, but it could easily serve as first course, brunch or lunch. Thank you Rob from Azure Farms for your generosity inspiring this tasty addition to the Cooking in My Heels recipe files!

Socca/Farinata (Adapted from Mark Bittman and the New York Times)

4-6 appetizer servings

Recipe Notes: Bittman’s recipe calls for a 12-inch nonstick pizza pan or skillet. I grabbed a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron pan to make this, which makes a little bit thicker pancake, and I liked it better than the original. You can use whichever you prefer, just make sure the pan is well-seasoned or nonstick. If using the larger, you’ll have a crispier socca; use the smaller and you’ll get crispy top crust with a softer almost creamy inside. I reduced the pepper a little, and the rosemary too. Both were great at first, but I found you lost the subtle chickpea flavor to the rosemary and pepper.

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 -3/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 more for sautéing the onions
  • ½ large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or whatever your favorite – thyme or sage would be great too.

You can make the pancake in about 45 minutes start to finish, or make the batter and onions ahead, park it in the fridge for up to 12 hours, and bake it off as you are making cocktails or pouring wine. The instructions below are for prep/bake/serve.

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Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add one tablespoon oil to pan, and once it is hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until they are nice and caramelized. While the onions are cooking, mix the chickpea flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Bittman suggests an immersion blender. A whisk is fine, especially if you are planning on letting it sit a few hours, but if you like power tools, have at it. Once the batter is smooth, stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover and let sit while the oven heats, or for as long as 12 hours.The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.

Once the onions are done, remove from pan, wipe out, put 1 tablespoon oil in the pan, and put pan in oven for about 5 minutes until oil is hot. Stir in the rosemary or whatever herb you’re using into the batter, along with the onions. Carefully remove the pan from oven and pour the batter in. Return to oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the pancake is firm and the edges set.

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Carefully remove the pan from oven and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Turn broiler on. Place pan a few inches away from the broiler and cook just long enough to brown it in spots. Cut it into wedges, and serve hot or warm. Leftovers are great cold, or reheated and crisped up in a little oil in a pan.

 If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

In a Perfect World…

FullSizeRender - Version 2“In a perfect world…” I find myself falling back on that phrase a lot lately. Been having a bit of an internal whine-fest, stomping around grumpily because it feels like things are more uphill slog than downhill jog these days. So when my days are less happy than sad, less confident than scared I try to think of what that “perfect world” might look like. Doesn’t necessarily make things better, but it does help pass the time and brighten my mood on long hikes when I’m cranky and whining to squirrels.

Of course the obvious perfect world requests that no one would get sick, suffer loss, hunger or fear always apply. So would the perfection of always being near enough to loved ones to score a hug whenever needed. There’d always be more than enough of whatever is lacking – money, time, love, laughter, peace. But what if you dove in deeper? Here’s just a few ideas I’ve come up with lately:

In a perfect world;

  • calories would magically reduce when butter, cream or bacon are added to a dish;
  • every swipe of my debit card would immediately be replenished (with 25% interest) from Donald Trump’s campaign fund account. And yes, I’d go on a shopping spree. BIG one;
  • Kardashians would still do stuff, but no one would watch, or care;
  • differing views on politics, religion, or sports would be well reasoned and discussed with respect toward all opinions, and if that could not be accomplished things would just be settled with a dance-off.
  • the only polar icecaps melting would be the one in the back of my freezer, and;
  • every day at around 4PM, there would be kaffee and kuchen.

I grew up in a world not necessarily more perfect, but one that often included the calm late afternoon break of caffeine and something sweet. As a kid who loved any break involving food, that world seemed pretty perfect to me. Call it afternoon tea or kaffee und kuchen, it was the time when the world slowed a little and you could recharge your battery before heading into the rest of the day. My grandmother was a firm believer in kaffee und kuchen. Actually, my grandmother was a firm believer in dessert after every meal, but I seem to remember afternoon kuchen the best. If you were lucky enough to stop by her home around 4, you’d likely be sitting in front of a cup and saucer of white porcelain with tiny blue flowers, a slice of cake on your plate, and the most pressing stress you’d have to deal with is deciding with or without whipped cream. With, always.

So I suggest in today’s imperfect world of too much information, too little respectful reasoned debate, and a 24/7 technology stream attached to the end of our hands,  that we reinstitute kaffee and kuchen time. No technology, just cake and conversation. I’m betting the world won’t end if we all took an hour break in the late afternoon. It might even make it just a little bit more perfect.

File Sep 10, 10 42 59 AMSince most of us don’t have the time in our busy worlds to bake a cake every day I’m sharing one that can last a few days, provided you don’t leave a knife on the plate for hungry passersby.  The inspiration for this cake was a recipe for Farm Apple Cake I found in Bon Appetit magazine many years ago. Heavy on the butter and eggs (1&1/2 sticks butter, 4 eggs), this cake is dense but not overly sweet, with fruit both mixed in the batter and sliced on top. It also has no leavening in it other than the air whipped into the butter and the eggs as they are added, giving it an almost velvety rich texture, and a bit of a crispy meringue-ish top.

File Sep 10, 10 46 23 AMI’ve adapted the original recipe to pears instead of apples (thus the name change) since that’s what I had on hand, upped the spice a little and subbed cognac for the Vin Santo the original recipe used. It’s perfect for afternoon tea, makes a great morning coffeecake, and since Rosh Hashanah begins this evening, would be a lovely addition to any sweet New Year celebration.

ORCHARD PEAR CAKE (Adapted from Bon Appetit, Farm Apple Cake,1998)

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp orange or lemon zest
  • 2 cups plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp Cognac
  • 1 medium pear, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/3 –inch pieces
  • 2 pears, peeled, quartered, cored, thinly sliced

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 10-inch springform pan. Dust pan with four, tap out excess.

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Whisk flour, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and citrus peel in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating until mixture is well blended and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended. (Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled – it will smooth out when the dry ingredients are added.) Mix in all but 1 tbsp flour mixture, then cognac. Toss 1/3-inch pear pieces with 1 tbsp flour mixture in small bowl; add to batter.

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Transfer batter to pan. Place sliced pears in overlapping rings atop cake. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar.Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, covering loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Run a small knife around cake to loosen. Release pan sides; cool. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome; store at room temperature).

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  


DSC02819For this week’s post, I thought I’d share a few culinary hacks. No, I’m not planning on breaking into some super secret, presumably impenetrable cache of Pentagon recipes. The hack I mean is actually a good thing, and if you perfect one you probably won’t have to worry about the NSA tracking you down, or spending any time with Vladimir Putin.

I started to hear about ‘life hacks’ (the good kind) a few months ago. Yeah, I’m a little late to the game, again. So as not to illuminate my cluelessness further, I thought I’d do a little on-line research rather than ask a friendly twenty-something what exactly this thing was. Naturally, I went to the foremost authority on everything (Google), and then to the cyber-cyclopedia (Wiki). Here’s what they had to say, hack-wise (my comments are in parenthesis):

Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life. (In other words, being clever.) (Here’s my favorite part…)The terms hack, hacking, and hacker have a long history of ambiguity in the computing and geek communities… (I was unaware “computing” and “geek” were two separate communities.)

So in other words, a ‘hack’ is just a clever way to solve a problem. Put another way, when you are missing a thingamajig or too lazy or broke to go out and get the aforementioned whatsis, you come up with a solution with what you’ve got on hand.  Invention, catalyzed by laziness seems to sum it up. Which means I’ve been using hacks all my life. Duct tape is usually involved, unfurled paperclips or bobby pins too.  And on one occasion the cap from a can of hairspray (back when big hair was BIG), and it worked quite well to fix a running toilet. You’ve heard the phrase “the right tool for the job”? I’m more a tool that is right at hand kind of gal.

I’ve repaired squeaky hinges with olive oil cooking spray, piped decorative icing flourishes with plastic baggie, squeezed countless limes with kitchen tongs, and used a vegetable peeler on butter, chocolate, cheese, and even a carrot or spud. I didn’t know we needed a trendy hipster name for it, but since we apparently have one now, it’s safe to say I’ve hacked my way through life.

When I started to think about applying hacks to cooking, I realized about half the dishes I’ve come up with were done so with hacks firmly in place. Hacks seem tailor-made for cooking, since we are constantly trying to come up with substitutions due to allergies, calories, cost, unavailable ingredients or the likes and dislikes of our eaters. Today I’ll share two recipes, one mine, the other from the Saveur. Both take advantage of the abundance of sweet corn this time of year and use it as a cream sauce hack for pasta.

File Aug 30, 2 18 12 PM Fettuccine with Corn Crema and Charred Green Onions 

(Marc Vetri, Saveur 2015)

Serves 8-10

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, minced
  • 2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 scallions, trimmed
  • 1 lb. fresh egg yolk dough or pappardelle
  • Ricotta salata, for serving

Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1⁄4 cup water and all but 1⁄4 cup corn; simmer until heated through and almost tender, 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper and transfer to a blender; purée crema until smooth.

File Aug 30, 2 17 39 PMHeat a 10” cast iron skillet until hot; cook scallions, flipping once, until charred, 2-3 minutes. Transfer scallions to a cutting board and mince. Wipe saucepan clean and add remaining oil; cook reserved corn and the scallions, 1 minute, then add corn crema and cook 1-2 minutes more. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving 1⁄2 cup pasta water; add pasta and reserved water to saucepan and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving platter and grate ricotta salata over the top.

Fresh Pasta with Basil Sweet Corn Sauce

(Me, 2012 or somewhere around there)

Serves 2 as main course, 4 as starter

  • 2 small-medium ear of sweet corn (you’ll need about 1 cup kernels) – still in the husk
  • 8 oz. fresh fettucine (about 6 oz. dry)
  • 1/4 cups fresh basil leaves, plus a little extra for chopping and sprinkling on top
  • 2-3 TBSP fresh goat cheese
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 2-3 TBSP grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for table
  • Salt & pepper

Wrap the ears of corn, husk and all in a paper towel and steam in the microwave for 3-4 minutes until it is just tender. Once it cools enough so you can handle it, remove the husk and silk (this is a lot easier once it’s been steamed), and cut the kernels off of the cob. You should have about 1 cup total. Set aside 1/4 cup of corn, then put the rest, along with the goat cheese, butter and parmesan in a blender. Tear up the basil and add to blender. Add a pinch of salt and a few good grindings of pepper.

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, salt liberally (the water should taste salty) and stir until the salt dissolves. Remove 2/3 cup of water and add to the blender. Blend until you have a somewhat smooth sauce. You want a little texture. Put the sauce into a skillet and add the reserved corn kernels.

Cook pasta until it is just al dente. About a minute or two before the pasta is ready, turn on the heat under the sauce and bring to a simmer. When the pasta is done, add it to the simmering sauce. Don’t drain the pasta before adding, in case you need a little more water to thin out the sauce.  Toss the pasta well on low heat until it is completely coated in the sauce. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. Top with a little chopped basil and extra cheese. Serve in warmed pasta bowls.

 If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

I have issues…

DSC04158_3They say admitting there’s a problem is the first step. So I’m admitting. I’m admitting BIG TIME. I am…a hoarder and an addict. I can’t help it and I can’t stop. You’re thinking shoes, right? I mean, look at the name I chose for my business and online yammering. But you’d be wrong. Sure, I have a lot of shoes. Actually, I had a lot of shoes a few years ago. When I decided to switch coasts I converted much of my sole assets to road trip cash.

Fine Italian leather isn’t the problem. Tomatoes are. And sometimes peaches….and plums….and figs…and… I could go on, but basically the point is I’m a summertime produce junky. I’ve tried to avert my eyes and drive past the enticement of handwritten “farm stand” signs. I’ve attempted to over-schedule myself on farmers market days, just to avoid dealers. Yet somehow I still find them. Doesn’t matter that I have a counter full at home, or a wallet that’s empty. The minute I spy those crimson or yellow or orange or green orbs of juicy goodness calling saucily from folding tables and wooden crates, I’m a goner.

2015-08-11 16.41.51Of all the farm stand temptations, tomatoes are the worst. Ripe summer tomatoes are the sluts of summer produce. I mean, just look at them. Sitting there all voluptuous, brazenly daring you to come over and give a little squeeze. They have no shame, the licentious love apples. They don’t care if I’m perilously close to overdosing from tomato gluttony, or my last dollar budgeted for such things was spent last week. They practically throw themselves at me, exploiting my want. And I want so bad. Jonesing for a caprese, a BLT, or just a fat slab sprinkled with salt is like breathing to me.

2015-08-15 10.38.07Rehab or intervention is pointless, so don’t even try. The only thing to do is jam as many of them into my mouth in as many ways possible, until the brief season of my mania has passed. So if you see me off in a corner, seeds and juices dribbling down my chin and telltale leaves of basil scattered about, don’t look away. It will be over soon. In the meantime….buddy, can you spare a beefsteak?

A thick BLT. A stylish caprese salad. Just a sprinkle of some great flakey salt. I’ve done them all and love them all. But since I’ve amassed a rather embarrassing mess of ‘maters on my counter, I thought I’d better come up with a few new variations to keep it interesting. My first recipe is a variation of tomato pie, this time with a hash brown crust. Hey Tamaytah Pie is named for my dad, who used the term as a cheeky endearment for his wife and daughter.  It works equally well as a name for this hearty summer pie, and I think he would have loved this dish.

My second recipe Tomato Tarte Tartin is a quick and really easy take on the traditional tart, substituting phyllo dough for puff pastry, and letting the oven do all the work.

2015-08-12 19.17.48Hey Tamaytah Pie

Makes one 8 1/2-inch springform pie

For the Crust:

  • 4 cups frozen hash browns, thawed and squeezed dry (do this well, it helps make a crisp crust.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 heaping cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup sautéed onions (large onion coarsely chopped, 1 T each butter and olive oil, a tiny pinch sugar, fat pinch salt, and a few grinds of pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • 1 pound tomatoes – assorted types and sizes, whatever your favorite
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • Some grated parmesan for sprinkling on finished pie

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Preheat the oven to 425F. Oil an 8 1/2″ springform pan. Once the hash browns are squeezed dry, toss with salt, pepper and olive oil. Add the potato mixture to the springform, covering the bottom evenly. Using a flat bottom measuring cup or glass, press the potatoes into an even layer, and up the sides about 1/2 inch. Bake for about 25 minutes until the edges are light golden brown.

While the crust is baking, cut the tomatoes into thick slices, about 1/2″. Lay them out on a double thickness of paper towels and sprinkle with about a teaspoon salt. Let sit for about 25-30 minutes, or for as long as the crust is baking.

Mix together the cheeses, pesto and sautéed onions. When the crust is browned, turn the oven down to 350F and let the crust cool 5 minutes. Blot the tomatoes with another paper towel. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the crust, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

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Arrange the tomato slices over the top of the pie, covering the surface (you and squish them a little to fit. Sprinkle the top of the pie with a pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar. Dot with 1-2 tablespoons of butter.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Remove the outer edge of the springform, turn oven up to 375F and bake another 20 minutes. Remove pie from oven, sprinkle over a little grated parmesan. Let cool to room temperature and serve.

2015-08-15 15.22.27Easy Tomato Tarte Tartin

This one is more suggestion than exact amounts. I have these ridiculously cute mini springform pans, about 4″ in diameter. They are perfect for individual tartlets, and so the amounts I’m describing are for one of those. I got the pans on Amazon, but no reason you have to run out and get some. This works really well with a bigger pan too, 8.5″ or 10″ or whatever you have. Just adjust the amounts accordingly – about 3x for the 8.5″, 4x for the 10″.

Per 4″ mini tart

  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, or a variety of small tomatoes. You’ll need enough to fit in one layer in the pan, squeezed together a little so there aren’t big spaces in between. A variety of bigger and smaller tomatoes works particularly well here.
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • A pinch salt & a few grind pepper
  • Small splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon dry unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 5 sheets phyllo dough, cut to a square about an inch larger than the size of your pan (if you are making a bigger tart, use bigger piece of phyllo, not 3x the number of sheets)
  • 3-4 teaspoons grated parmesan
  • Olive oil spray, or a small dish of olive oil for brushing the dough
  • A few leaves of basil for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss the tomatoes with the sugar, honey, salt, pepper, oil and balsamic. Generously oil the pan. Lay the tomatoes in the pan, in a single layer, carefully fitting them in so there is little empty space. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and a little of the parmesan.

Take one sheet of phyllo, spray or brush with oil and sprinkle a little of the parmesan over. Top with next sheet of phyllo and repeat. Keep going until you get to the last sheet. Don’t spray that one yet. Take the stack of prepared phyllo and place on top of the tomatoes, tucking in the edges around the tomatoes. Spray with a little oil.

2015-08-15 14.49.13   2015-08-15 14.55.40 2015-08-15 15.16.43

Since every springform pan I’ve ever met leaks, wrap the pan with a little foil.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes (more time for larger pans.) Check at about 15 minutes, and if the phyllo is getting too dark, cover with a piece of foil.

Remove from oven and carefully remove sides of pan. Invert a plate onto the tart, and slide a spatula under it. Now carefully flip it over, and remove bottom of pan. Do this over a plate or paper towel, since there’s bound to be some liquid. Let cool to room temperature, tear over a few basil leaves and serve.

File Aug 17, 2 03 41 PM[BTW – this technique works really well with fruit too. Just substitute halved small plums for tomatoes, honey and chopped nuts for the oil and cheese on the dough, and swap out the vinegar and salt and pepper, and add in a little more sugar, some cinnamon and butter.]

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Rude Acts

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That’s right honey, look away….

This weekend I did something rather rude to a chicken. And despite living about 65 miles east of Portlandia, I didn’t ask the chicken her name, or anything about her life. Clearly that was inconsiderate, but not really rude. Rude came a little later, when I shoved a can up her, well…

I’ve been curious about the whole concept of Beer Can Chicken for a while now, but never attempted. I think a certain boldness is required to pursue it. The concept seemed sound enough.  Barbecues can certainly double for ovens. I’ve tested that theory with numerous grilled pizzas and stuffed flatbread. I think it was just the way the bird actually looked that was stopping me. She’s sitting there, upright, as though she was watching her favorite afternoon stories. Well, if she still had a head. It just seemed a little, um, disturbing. That was how I felt until last Thanksgiving, when I met Trash Can Turkey. That seemed a bit odd too, a turkey who looks like he’s sitting in an easy chair watching the game, encased in a garbage can. But the succulent beast that landed on the table was without a doubt the BEST turkey I’ve ever had. So if sitting under a can is good enough for Tom, sitting on one is good enough for whatshername.

File Aug 07, 6 07 05 PMAnd it was good. Really good. Especially with the barbecue sauce I made to dress her nakedness as she sat there, back to the inevitable, like she was waiting for a bus.  A bit more on that sauce in a minute. First the bird. Sam Sifton from the New York Times has a great recipe for Beer Can Chicken. I made two modifications. First, I very generously salted and peppered the beast and let rest in my fridge, covered, for about 24 hours. This is my standard prep for a bird that goes in the oven, so I figured it would work as well with barby-bird. Second, I had no beer but did have a can of hard cider. Since the purpose was mostly a perch I figured it would be fine substituting, and not being particularly fond of this brand of cider, foregoing the contents wasn’t a loss.  I was thinking of playing around with cider in a recipe anyway, so the half can I was going to dump went into the sauce.

The resulting Hard Cider BBQ Sauce was a nice play of sweetness, heat and a little tang. Give it a try. But if you use it on a chicken sitting on a can, at least introduce yourself first. It would be rude not to.

Hard Cider BBQ Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 a can of hard cider (your preference – I used Schilling Ginger Cider)
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 6 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne, New Mexico, or your favorite
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 good shot bourbon

Add everything together in a saucepan. Whisk until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook about 30-45 minutes until thickened. I found it to be better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to get to know each other. Store in a jar in the fridge.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

August Beginnings

 DSC03237  2015-08-02 07.58.51 2015-08-02 10.44.16

I noticed something the other day about me. Not exactly an epiphanic moment, just a coincidence. Or maybe not. Either way, it seems my life has a tendency towards august beginnings. As in the things I start in August tend to be important, august if you will. Maybe I’m reading a bit too much into this. Probably I’m reading too much into this, but bear with me a minute. First of all, I began in August. Well technically 9+months before, but my first breath was in August which is pretty important to me, so there’s that. Next, I began this cyber-journey into my kitchen, stomach and psyche 4 years ago in August (August 3rd actually.) And last August (the 3rd again), I started something sorta great with a pretty terrific guy. So, you can’t blame me for thinking there may just be something to this ‘august August’ thing.

Anyway, I’ve decided not to dwell on it and just celebrate it. To help me do that, I invite you to read the first blog post I ever posted 4 years ago, The Sweet Potato Incident, and try the two new recipes below. The second, Fennel Focaccia, comes from the book Savoring the Wine Country, which was given to me by the inspiration for Winemaker’s Focaccia.

Thank you for reading and sharing, and for making the last 4 years (and especially the past one) pretty awesome too. <3

2015-08-02 13.22.32-1Winemaker’s Focaccia (Adapted from recipes in Saveur and Jim Lahey’s Bread Book, inspired by a special winemaker)

Makes one 9-1/2″ x 13″ Focaccia (1/4 sheet pan). If you don’t have the pan, you can make this free-form on a cookie sheet instead.


  • File Aug 03, 4 59 54 PM3/4 cup chopped Italian plums (Damson plums)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup sugar, depending upon the sweetness of the plums
  • 1/4 cup+ port wine
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 pkg active dry yeast
  • 3- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole is best, 2% ok, but don’t use skim)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for pan and dough
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • flakey sea salt

Recipe Note:  The addition of the plums is an example of how my recipes often evolve. One of the recipes I looked at called for soaking dried fruit in white wine. I didn’t have dried fruit. I didn’t have white wine. It did have a bunch of italian plums ripening on my windowsill, and a bottle of port in my pantry. Presto-chango….plums in foccaccia!

Generously oil your pan with olive oil and set aside. Add the plums, sugar and port and toss. You want enough port so it just about covers the plums. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the water and milk together until warm (about 115ºF). Add yeast and mix until the yeast dissolves. Mix the flour, salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer with dough hook or food processor with dough blade. Drain the plums (save the juices) and toss in the flour mixture. Add the two tablespoons olive oil to the yeast/water/milk. With the mixer on low, slowly add the liquid and mix until the dough comes together into a ball. If it’s too wet, add flour, one to two tablespoons at a time until the dough comes together – you want it dry enough so the sides of the mixer are cleaned of dough. Remove to a floured board and knead a little until smooth. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 45 -60 minutes, or until doubled.

While you are waiting for the dough to rise, take the liquid from the drained plums (you should have about 1/4 cup), add 1 teaspoon honey and taste. If it’s too tart, add the second teaspoon of honey. Add the sprig of rosemary and heat until just boiling. Remove from heat, let sit for about 30 minutes, then remove the rosemary and set aside to cool. Once cooled, toss in the grapes and mix so all of the grapes are coated.

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Once the dough has doubled, punch down, then pick up by one end and use gravity to stretch the long way to fit the length of your pan. Brush the dough with olive oil and use your fingers to push the dough into the corners and fill the pan. Push the grapes into the dough in rows, leaving about an inch and a half between. (Hang onto those juices, you aren’t finished with them yet!)

2015-08-02 13.23.06-1Sprinkle with a little bit of coarse salt, and let sit, loosely covered until puffed, about 45 minutes.

About 15 minutes before your dough is ready, preheat oven to 400ºF. Uncover the focaccia and push the grapes down into the puffy dough. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove to a rack and while still hot, brush the dough with the rest of the juices from the plums and port, and sprinkle with tiny bit of flakey salt.

2015-08-02 12.56.47-1Fennel Focaccia (Adapted from Savoring the Wine Country, Collins Publishers, San Francisco 1995)

Makes 8 6″ focaccia


  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water (about 120ºF – warm but not hot)
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 5 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP toasted fennel seeds (toast in a dry pan just until you start to smell them)
  • 2 TBSP Pernod (Anise flavored liquor)
  • 1-2 TBSP olive oil for pan and brushing focaccia
  • 1 tsp+ coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top

Dissolve the yeast in a cup of the warm water. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with dough hook, add flour, salt and pepper and fennel seeds and toss together to mix. Add 2 TBSP olive oil and Pernod to water/yeast mixture. Start on slow and add enough water to form a dough. Increase the speed to medium and knead in mixer for about 8 minutes (or by hand for 10) until the dough is soft and satiny. Set aside in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let rise in a warm spot for about an hour or until doubled.

2015-08-02 12.36.19-1Once the dough has risen, punch down and on a floured board, divide into 8 balls. Using your hands, gently pat out the dough to about 6″ circles. Place four focaccia on parchment lined baking sheets. Brush with olive oil, and form dimples with your fingers. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Repeat with the other 4 focaccia. Set aside in a warm spot while the oven heats up.

2015-08-02 12.59.00-1Preheat oven to 500ºF. Once it’s at temperature, bake the focaccia for 16-18 minutes, rotating pans halfway. If they look like they are baking too fast, lower the heat to 400ºF when you rotate pans. They are done when golden brown and the bottoms have a hollow sound when tapped. Remove from oven, brush with more olive oil and sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Serve warm. If you want, you can let cool completely and freeze leftovers, wrapped well in foil and sealed in plastic bag.  Warm 15 minutes in 350ºF oven before serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  


What would Batman be without Robin? Or Lucy without Ethel? If Fred had no Barney there’d be no one to ditch the quarry with for the ballgame, thereby erasing the particular glee a “Fred and Barney Day” brings to thousands of the ersatz sick sitting in afternoon bleacher seats. Yogi without BooBoo makes that pic-a-nic basket unappealing. And I can’t even think about Richie Cunningham without at least Potsie in the picture, or Laverne working the Shotz line Shirley-less. OK, so maybe I did watch a lot of TV as a kid, but you get where I’m going with this, right? The sidekick may get second billing, but a star would be paler without a second banana polishing his shine.

I was recently encouraged to put more of me in my blog. This is me. Me, getting ready to eat, which is pretty much all the time.

I was recently encouraged to put more of me in my blog. This is me,  getting ready to eat, which is pretty much all the time.

Same goes for food. Can you really think of a hamburger without ketchup, a reuben without russian, or a frank without the mustard? (FYI, I’m ignoring the hamburger-mustard crowd on purpose. That stuff’s just wrong. And if you are past the second grade and still putting ketchup on a dog, shame on you. My blog, my rules.) Condiments are the sidekicks of the culinary world. Without them, things just seem unfinished. Sure your sausage may be stellar, that steak sublime, but adding just the right condiment elevates that bite to “F$#K YEAH!!!” You know if food makes you swear it’s gotta be good.

The other day while excavating the archeology of my freezer, I found some boneless chicken breasts and a ribeye tucked away in the back. Yipee! Meat!! (I’m on a tight budget.) Both needed to be eaten before the ice age took its toll, but I was bored with my usual steak sidekick (caramelized onions), and after one too many tequila lime or lemon garlic chicken marinades, needed something to make that chicken interesting. My recipe for Balsamic Onion Jam was amazing with the steak, and this Simple Barbecue Sauce  found in the New York Times was perfect on the chicken (and pretty freakin’ awesome on last night’s burger too!)

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Simple Barbecue Sauce (John Willoughby, NYT,)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

If you haven’t already discovered, I encourage you to take a peek. Lots of great recipes both new and from the considerable archives of the NYT Dining section (think Craig Clairborne and Pierre Franey.) I get daily emails from the site, which is how I discovered John Willoughby’s awesome and fast bbq sauce.

File Jul 22, 5 22 46 PM File Jul 22, 5 22 26 PMThe only ingredient that may not already be in your fridge or pantry is the pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika).  This stuff is really worth seeking out. I have the picante (hot) version and it’s one of my favorite things to add in a bit of smoke and heat to recipes. And since a little goes a long way, a can lasts for a while.

  • ⅔ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. Keeps in an airtight jar in the fridge for several weeks.

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Balsamic Onion Jam

Balsamic Onion Jam

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 2 large Walla Walla or other sweet onions (about 4″ in diameter)
  • 1 large red onion (about 4″ in diameter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ruby port
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze (available in most supermarkets, and a pretty wonderful condiment all by itself)

2015-07-18 11.56.58Cut the onions into quarters, then into 1/4″ slices. This doesn’t have to be precise. You’re going to be running the finished jam through the food processor for a few pulses when it’s finished cooking.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan large enough to fit everything. Add in the onions, sugar, salt and pepper and toss so everything is mixed well. Add in the balsamic and port and stir to coat the onions. Nestle in the herbs, turn heat to medium/high and bring to a boil. Once you are at a boil, turn down to medium/low and partially cover so there is about an inch of open pot on one side, and maintain a slow boil. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until the onions are very soft.

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After 45 minutes, remove the cover and fish out the herbs. Add in the tablespoon of balsamic glaze and continue to cook over low heat (maintaining slow boil) until the liquid in pan thickens to where you leave a clean trail when running a spatula along bottom of pan, (about 15 minutes). Remove pan from the heat and let cool about 15 minutes before adding to food processor. Pulse 3 to 4 times — you want to chop just enough to break up any long pieces of onion but not puree. Taste jam for seasoning and add more pepper or salt to taste.

You can use this as a condiment for most meats, and it’s pretty terrific on a cheese board too. The jam keeps for several weeks in an airtight jar in the fridge, but I doubt you’ll have to worry about keeping it that long. :-)

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Who Names These Things?

cropped-img_2452.jpgA Grunt. Someone actually thought that would be an appetizing name for a sweet fruit and cakey morsel. Grunt.

Why? Is it the sound made when eating? The response from some otherwise occupied recipient when baker calls across the house ” hon, I’m making dessert, what are you in the mood for?” “Grunt!” Wait, it gets better. If this exchange took place in Vermont, Maine or Rhode Island, grunt becomes slump. Seriously, a slump. Apparently dessert has bad posture in parts of New England, as opposed to just poor language skills.

How do I know this? Gleaned the other day perusing the history of cobblers (and yes, I need to get a life.) Whilst reading The History and Legends of Cobbler, Crisps, Crumbles, Brown Betty, Buckles, Grunts and Slumps  (stop judging me…it’s bad enough I’m admitting to this stuff), I stumbled upon the evolution of what is basically stewed seasonal fruit topped with an amalgam of flour, sugar and butter. Apparently it all started as pudding. As in the English folk’s use of the word “pudding”, or dessert. Which isn’t actually pudding, though pudding can be “pudding”. Anyway…

Cobbler, crisp, crumble, brown betty, buckle, grunt, and slump are all wonderfully tasting and pitifully named desserts that feature glorious and abundant seasonal fruit, wrapped in or tucked under baked goodness with the sole purpose of sopping up sweet juices. I won’t bore you with the history of these things (I’m assuming you DO have a life), but I will tell you that most if not all  cobbler-esque fare was born of modest means. These are not the lofty, precious, elaborately crafted desserts likely to populate bakery cases. These are the homey things you make when you really want something sweet and wonderful but don’t have much in the house other than fridge and pantry staples.

Think of these simple and simply lovely confections as pie for the piecrust-intimidated. I know many bakers out there who wouldn’t attempt to roll their own, but will happily dive in up to their wrists in cobbler craft. And why not? It really is one of the easiest and most beloved desserts you can whip up yourself. Baking, with training wheels. So since it’s that time of year, a pint of berries is finally cheap and the “ugly” peaches even cheaper, go ahead and cobbler to your heart’s content. I promise any grunts you hear will be soaked in pure joy. :-)

File Jul 16, 9 55 11 AMNames and geography aside, that list I rattled off above are really just versions of cobbler, and the versions and preferences of such vary as much as ridiculous names and personal tastes. Some recipes call for melting the butter in pan, topping with sugar and fruit, and pouring a cakey batter on top, which settles between all the delicious fruit crannies and nooks as it bakes. Others call for drop or cut biscuits as a topping. Still others  offer a crumble of sugar, butter, flour. All are swell, but my personal preferences run with the drop biscuit top. I also skip the cornstarch or flour thickener in with the fruit. There’s nothing that ruins my cobbler experience more than gluey fruit on the bottom. Let the juices flow I say. It gives those biscuits on top something to sop, and extra juices drizzled over ice cream is sublime.

The recipe below is based on the one in Matt and Ted Lee’s cookbook, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern. I liked it because it featured cornmeal in the topping, and well, Southerners know their peach cobbler, so why mess with that. I’ve given you their recipe pretty much as written, with  my comments in italics (because kibitzing is best when italicized.)

CORNMEAL DROP-BISCUIT PEACH COBBLER RECIPE  (Adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern – Clarkson Potter, 2009)

Serves 4 to 6

For the peach filling

  • 2 pounds (6 to 7) ripe freestone peaches, unpeeled, pitted, and cut into slices – about 6 cups.(Works with other fruit too, and I especially like to toss in some blueberries, raspberries or blackberries if I have them. You can peel the peaches if you like, I don’t bother, and I don’t really care if they are freestone or not – freestone is easier, but the other is often less expensive so use whatever you have access to.)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, depending on your peaches and your sweet tooth. (Taste your fruit, then decide how much sugar – I alway err on the side of less sugar, tarter fruit, especially if this is accompanies by vanilla ice cream, as it should be.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces (my addition, you’ll see why later)

For the biscuit dough

  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal (yellow or white)
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt or fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces, plus more for the baking dish
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (whole or low-fat), cold
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
  • A teaspoon or two of sugar to sprinkle over the biscuit dough
2015-07-15 15.19.58

See those spoons? Those are older than me, and I’m told were my favorite rattle/teether. Might be where this whole thing started…

Make the Filling:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 2-quart ovenproof dish. Add the peaches, brown sugar, lemon juice, water (if using), cinnamon, and salt and toss until the peaches are evenly coated. Dot the top of the fruit with that extra tablespoon butter. (My mom always does this with pies and strudel, and there can’t be anything wrong with a little extra buttah.) Forget about it for 10 minutes or so while you prep the drop-biscuit dough.

Make the drop-biscuit dough

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Note the amount of dough ingredients to fruit. This isn’t about the biscuit, it’s about all that gorgeous fruit. Plus then you can load up on ice cream, because as my Oma used to say “it’s just fruit.”

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the flour by pinching small amounts of the mixture together between your fingertips.

Like that

Like that

Do this until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size pieces of butter mixed throughout. Add the buttermilk and stir with a rubber spatula just until a tacky, wet dough comes together. This should take no more than a few seconds.


Gently plop spoonfuls of the biscuit dough on top of the peach filling or, if the dough is too sticky to plop, simply spread it unevenly. The dough should be patchy and should not cover the entire surface of the filling. Sprinkle over a teaspoon or two of sugar over the dough – gives it a nice crunchy texture.

Note the gentle ploppage.

Note the gentle ploppage.

Bake until the syrup is bubbly and the biscuit top is alluringly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. (I LOVE that description! I’m using that from now on…”alluringly browned.”)

Let cool slightly before you scoop the warm cobbler into small dessert bowls, ramekins, even cocktail glasses. Top with some vanilla ice cream, and grunt to your heart’s content! Calories: approximately 275, without the ice cream.

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Scoop, apply vanilla ice cream, repeat.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Real Girl Power

No, this is not one of those positive affirmation filled posts dripping with feministic references to what women (girls, whatever) can accomplish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and coming on the heels of the US Women’s World Cup win last weekend the temptation is certainly there. But this isn’t going to be one of those things. This is about something even better. This is about a group of gals that have been around since before “girl power” existed, or rather, since it was given a name. These gals have had power all along, despite being told they didn’t. And I had the privilege to be invited into their sassy sisterhood a few weeks ago for a peek into what has come to be known as The View.

First let me clarify. I’m not referring to same-named broadcast broadfest, though the name of this group is a tongue-in-check reference to it. This View is a weekly convergence of some of the coolest septua and octogenarian babes I’ve ever encountered. They live in an “adult” community out on eastern Long Island, and trust me, if the fun these ladies have is what it means to be an adult, I want to go to there! I was able to get limited access and secret handshake for this awesome society by having exited the womb of one of its members. They don’t invite just anyone you know. Well, actually, they probably would.

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Labels like married, divorced, widowed, single, etc. don’t matter here. Call them feminists or not, they don’t seem to care nor feel the need to make the distinction. But these sassy gals are trailblazers none the less. My generation and all that followed wouldn’t be what we are today, or have what we do without these bold beautiful broads. They did what they had to, lived within the confines of whatever the times and society threw at them, and moved forward through challenges we can’t even imagine. And from what from I can tell, most if not all did whatever the hell they wanted when no one was looking (and probably  when someone was looking, too.)

Weekly View topics range from “the exalted to the raunchy” (thank you, Astheta), and membership in this “Ol Girl’s Club” isn’t difficult. No dues other than what their lives have already paid. After that all that matters is a willingness to share, to listen, and to laugh till you piddle. And, gentle readers, the wisdom we could glean from this wonderful group? That’s REAL girl power. <3

2015-06-18 13.23.59Strudel just screams of wise wonderful Omas, doesn’t it? Beautiful well-aged hands gently coaxing simple dough to the size of tabletops and transparency of wedding night chemise. Yeah, I’m not doing that. What’s more, I have not an ounce of guilt about it. Probably helps that my Oma never made strudel, because she wasn’t doing that either. But my mom does, and that’s where this strudel got its start.

My mother is an amazing cook and baker. She is not, however, a patient woman when it comes to these things. Which is great because it means her recipes both yield something delicious, and won’t send you screaming from the room or launching  bakeware across kitchens in fits of frustration. This strudel recipe is a perfect example of her wonderful lack of patience. Easy and incredibly adaptable to what’s in season, it’s the height of simplicity and flakey fruity sweet awesomeness.

Easy Fruit Strudel

Makes one strudel that serves 6-8

  • 1 sheet of purchased puff pastry (since this is sold frozen, you’ll want to defrost the pastry in the fridge overnight.)
  • 1 1/2-2 cups pitted cherries, berries, sliced peaches or whatever fruit you have (apple, naturally work swell here too.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar or more, depending on sweetness of fruit and your taste
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cookie crumbs, bread crumbs, cake crumbs (this is to sop up fruit juice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces (about 1/4″ size)

Preheat oven to 375ºF and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a sided baking sheet. Toss together in a bowl the fruit, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out the sheet of puff pastry to a 12″ x 16″ rectangle. This is why rulers are a baker’s friend. Do measure and trim to that size. It takes a few seconds but makes a prettier strudel. Lay the pastry onto that piece of parchment you cut, with the long side facing you.

2015-06-18 12.40.46Once the fruit has sat long enough that some juices have formed, sprinkle the crumbs down the middle third of the pastry dough the long way, leaving about an inch on either end. Distribute the fruit over the crumbs. Try to resist overfilling the strudel, which only helps it burst and leaves a mess of fruit on your pan. Start with a cup, add from there. Dot the fruit with the pieces of butter.

Using the parchment to help you, fold the inch borders you left over the fruit on the ends. Wet your finger with water or milk and run a 1/2 inch line along the top edge of the dough. This will help it stick together. Now using the parchment to help you, fold the bottom third of dough over the fruit. Do the same with the top, pressing a little where you wet it to help it seal.

2015-06-18 12.42.10Again, use the parchment to help flip the strudel over so the seam is on the bottom. Now lift the parchment and strudel and place on your pan. You may have to curve the strudel a little to fit your pan. With a serrated knife, make a few slices through the top of the dough for steam holes.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden brown. Remove entire parchment and strudel to rack and cool 15 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Itinerant Pieing

DSC07624Hi there. I’m back. Well, I’ve been back for over a week now, but a nasty souvenir head cold clogged the synapses with gunk, and any thought of cognitive thought was snotty at best. A souvenir you say? You went someplace? Yup, two weeks ago I made a trip two years in the making. I went back home.

I need to rephrase that. My home is wherever I am, which at the present time happens to be in the left-hand corner of the map. I went back, after a two-year absence, to the places I called home for a very long time.

Choice and circumstance kept me away for those two years. Circumstance, because to be blunt, I wasn’t making enough to afford the trip. Choice, well that’s a bit more complicated.  After doing something big and scary like picking up and going someplace you’ve never been, to do something you’ve never done, (and aren’t even quite sure you can do), it takes time to adjust. Going “back home” too soon, especially when you are knee-deep in doubt, is like waving a giant bag of jelly beans in front of a diabetic. “Screw this insanity, hell YES I’ll move back” is just too tempting. Luckily I had the occasional clarity of thought to know that. Clarity, and a crap-load of cardboard in my basement reminding me of just how much stuff I removed from the east and transported to the west. Resolution of thought and the dread of packing are powerful things.

What does all of this have to do with pie? It seems EVERYTHING I do has something to do with pie. I sell pie. I keep posting pictures of adorable little pies on the internet. Facebook, Instagram, and other assorted inter web spots are papered (screened?) in my pies. I’ve brought this upon myself, I know. I’m trying to build a business on a shoestring, butter and flour. And hate it or love it, this social media stuff is mostly free advertising. I’m all about the mostly free. Now imagine all of the folks back home following my on-line tartscapades, hitting “like”, making yummy and drooly comments, etc. Fast forward to the pie-er actually showing up in front of some of those droolers. Guess what they ask. Go ahead. “Where’s MY PIE?!” Ok, perhaps it was a little subtler than that, but picture a puppy as you are walking out the door after you’ve just said “ok now, be good, I’ll be back soon.” You know that “ok, but where’s my cookie” look? Exactly.

2015-06-08 14.56.13I truly don’t mind. I mean, I’m with the people who know me best and still love me. I love making them pie. They get a little slice of me, and a little slice of just what the hell I’ve been doing way out here. If butter, flour, fruit and sugar is the currency for the hospitality of my family and friends, so be it. Truth be told, I offer it up as much as it’s requested. It’s pretty cool to be known for something as magical as pie. Plus there isn’t much better than catching up after a long time away from the girls over a slice of flakey goodness. It answers the “so what have you been doing the past two years” question quite effectively. Call it the sisterhood of the traveling tarts if you like (on second thought, please don’t). If itinerant pieing is what I need to do when I come back for a visit, then bake on I say. Can’t think of a better way to share the love with my peeps.

And as far as sticking around here in the upper left corner? Yes I am, at least for now. I just renewed my kitchen license, the lease where that kitchen lives, and am in the process of planning new pie exploits for the CIMH Kitchen. Yet as any true itinerant pie-er knows, plans can change in a heartbeat, but you’re always welcome to set up camp wherever you go. Just remember to bring pie. ;-)

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There really isn’t much to making a pie, especially a one-crust pie. You don’t even need a pie tin. A cookie sheet and piece of parchment is about all the equipment it takes. Heck, you don’t even need to make pie dough, although I think I’ve shown you over the many many times pie has shown up here that’s not too tough either. Making crust too daunting? Buy one, or a box of puff pastry if you prefer.   This is pretty much technique, not recipe.  Pie crust + fruit + sugar + some crumbs under the fruit to sop up juices + hot oven (400F hot) = PIE. However, since this is technically a recipe blog (kinda, sorta) here are some tips for tasty tarting  you might find helpful.

  • Terminology: Pie, crostata, tart, galette. All ways of saying pie to me. Therefore, I use them interchangeably. You want to get technical? Crostata (Italian) and galette (French) are usually freeform, without a pie tin. Tarts tend to be baked in a pan, though not always. This is way too complicated. Call it pie. Pie is good.
  • See that fancy looking crust? Not too tough either. It’s just a question of starting in one spot, and keep folding over a little bit of edge til you reach where you started. Like this:  (*NOTE: this video was made a year ago for a smaller individual pie, not the larger one I have pictures of in this post – no worries, just make smaller folds. The technique, and optional Ed Sullivan plate spinning music singing are the same.)
  • Your fruit not perfect? Sprinkle it with sugar, let it sit about 30 minutes.
  • Want a crunchy sweet crust? Sprinkle it with sugar before it goes in the oven. And don’t forget to sprinkle a teaspoon or few over the fruit before it goes in the oven too, even if you’ve let the fruit sit sugared a little.
  • How do you know when it’s done? Bubbly is a good indicator, brown crust is better. Don’t be timid. Beige is not pie crust’s friend, golden brown is. If you think it’s done, give it another 3-5 minutes (and DON’T walk away.) Trust me on this, you won’t regret it.
  • Leftovers (yeah, right…): Don’t refrigerate. Don’t wrap airtight unless you are planning to freeze. Leave on counter, lightly covered with a piece of wax paper or parchment. Airtight means soggy crust.
  • Freezing: Yes, both pre and post baking. You can bake an unbaked tart directly from freezer, just give it a bit more time in the oven. Want to bake off a bunch of small crostata and reheat as needed?Go right ahead. Make sure they have cooled completely, then put in freezer bag and stow.
  • Reheating: 350F oven, for about 15 minutes from freezer should crisp up that crust nicely. It won’t be as good as it is right out of the oven fresh, but it’s pretty damn good regardless.

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