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.

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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 cookinginmyheels.com. 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 cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

August Beginnings

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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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Ingredients

  • 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 cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Sidekicks

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 cooking.nytimes.com, 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 cookinginmyheels.com. 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.

File Jul 15, 9 13 34 PM

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 cookinginmyheels.com. 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 cookinginmyheels.com. 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.

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 cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Endangered Species

I’m seriously considering printing t-shirts. SAVE THE ENDANGERED GLUTEN! I have this recurring nightmare that one morning I’ll wake to do my early bake, walk into my kitchen, and a gluten hating zombie horde, (there’s always a zombie horde in apocalyptic nightmares) has replaced all my gluten-filled flours with oat, brown rice, and, (oh my GAWD) millet. THE HORROR!!!!!

Why is it that gluten has suddenly become the bad guy? I’m half expecting to see its face on a poster in the Post Office as culinary public enemy number one, knocking carbohydrates off the top of the list. Menus, magazines, celebrity doc talk shows all preach the gluten-abstinence gospel, and ex-gluties will proudly tell you how they kicked the habit, then describe in detail the awful things gluten does to you as you stand in line waiting for your coffee and killer wheat breakfast. What did poor gluten do to deserve this?

Look, everyone is entitled to feed their body as they see fit. And I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate gluten allergy sufferers out there. I personally know those who’ve had to eschew all flakey doughy bliss for diagnosed health reasons, and my heart goes out to them. To be faced with the fate of no more crispy baguette, chewy soft pretzels, heavenly pasta and, gasp, BAGELS is a sentence I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I have a sneaking suspicion the genetically glutenless are a lot fewer than would appear based upon all the coverage “gluten-free” is getting. Actually, I know it for a fact.

I’ve been behind the apron when the request came in for gluten-free. And after making an entire separate menu to accommodate these 3 out of a party of 30 guests for 3 days, discovered that no, they weren’t medically mandated. They were on the gluten-free bandwagon and decided they’d give it a try. Yup. Gluten-less posers. These are the folks who give the legitimately gluten-free a bad name. And the irony is if I asked my medically gluten-free friends, not a one would choose to ban gluten if they didn’t have to! The problem as I see it is that we’ve become overrun with food faddists and evangelists. You’ve seen them before. The low carbers, paleo dieters, zoners, juicers, raw fooders, green fooders, raw green fooders! Every year another new way to eat comes along. And every year folks looking for a new fix become evangelized and go forth preaching their diet.

Hey, if it works for you, have at it. As for me, I think I’ll just stick to my old diet of loving food, all of it. Food isn’t evil or scary or “bad”, and providing you haven’t an allergy, food loves those who love it. Now I’d like my coffee and killer bagel please. And can I get a little extra gluten with that, on the side?;-)

2015-05-14 14.19.42So, why would I give you a recipe for something with no gluten in a post dedicated to saving the gluten? Well, two reasons. First, because I love my gluten-free gentle readers too, and second, this is just an awesome dessert and perfect for the holiday weekend. So hush up now and pay attention. Pavlova has been around for almost 100 years, and was first made in Australia or New Zealand (both claim it) in honor of a visit from the famous prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Basically it’s a big meringue, crunchy on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside and topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I recently made it, topped with roasted rhubarb and fresh raspberries for my cooking class at the Hawks Ridge Assisted Living Facility, and not only did they love it, one of the women had actually seen Anna Pavlova perform when she was a little girl! So here’s Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb. And for the gluten lovers out there, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. Here’s something I’ll be making on the grill this Memorial Day – Feta Stuffed Flatbread.

Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb – (Adapted from The Kitchn and  Martha Stewart Living)

Makes one Pavlova that will easily serve 10

For the meringue base:2015-05-13 19.14.54

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the fruit:

  • 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced on the bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 pint raspberries

2015-05-13 19.51.21Move rack to lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 400 °F. Combine rhubarb,water,  3/4cup sugar, tablespoon lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Bake until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes, spooning juices over halfway through. Carefully transfer rhubarb pieces (they will be very soft) to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with a spatula; reserve juices. Let cool completely.

Turn down oven to 275°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Trace a 9″ circle on the parchment using a cake pan or dinner plate as a guide. Flip the parchment over. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Mix the vanilla and white vinegar together in a separate bowl.

Make sure your mixing bowl and beaters are very clean with no residual fat or grease. Pour the egg whites in to the bowl and begin beating at low speed. Gradually increase the speed to medium. When the egg whites have reached soft peak consistency and the beaters leave trails in the whipped whites, begin adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition. While doing this, gradually increase the speed so that you are at maximum speed once all the sugar has been added.

2015-05-13 18.55.37Continue whipping until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Stop the mixer and sprinkle the vanilla and vinegar over the meringue. Beat for another 20 seconds to fully mix. Use a spatula to scrape all the meringue onto the parchment in the center of the circle. Working from the inside out, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Smooth the sides if desired or leave it in billowy lumps.

2015-05-13 18.59.40 Put the meringue in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 250°F. Make for 60-70 minutes. The pavlovas are done when the outsides are dry to the touch, are very slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped. It’s 2015-05-13 19.39.31fine if cracks form in the crust.

Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova inside with the oven door ajar. Let sit until the pavlova is completely cooled, or overnight. At this point, the pavlova can be wrapped in plastic or sealed in an airtight container and kept for several days unless your house gets very humid (in which case, eat your pavlova right away!).

2015-05-14 14.21.52Just before you’re ready to serve, make the whipped cream. Combine the cream, vanilla, and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until stiff peaks are formed. Spread the whipped cream over the pavlova, leaving a little bit of an edge. Top with fruit and serve within an hour or two. (Do not refrigerate; the meringue will quickly soften.)

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, and please give a thought of thanks to those this holiday is about.

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 cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Real Gourmet

DSC07902I’m a good, sometimes great cook, and my heart cockles warm when I overhear someone I’ve fed call me that. But please, pretty please, don’t call me a “gourmet cook”. I honestly hate that term. I don’t know if it’s because it brings to mind visions of snooty elites and $100 entrees, or that I just have no idea what a “gourmet cook” is. Either way it’s one of those phrases that just pisses me off.

According to wiki-whatever, the word means “refined, elite, a higher degree of sophistication” and other hoity words you’d suspect. As if a gourmet’s palate has specially adapted taste buds that look down upon the lower, classless buds living on the other side of the tongue. To me, food should be far more democratic than that. I’m a culinary socialist with a palate of the people. Sure I love layered flavors, unique ingredients, creative cooking and top quality tasty things. I just don’t think those things should be elevated over a really good street dog with the works, a perfectly baked potato, or even a late-night plate of stoner nachos. If it tastes great at the time you’re tasting, right on! Who’s to say noshes that would send a self-defined gourmet screaming into the night aren’t gourmet to someone else? After all, one mouth’s trash is another mouth’s treasure, right?

Which brings me to Mormon Funeral Potatoes and a moment of enlightenment. This most tasty and decidedly not (by Wiki standard) gourmet fare falls into the culinary category of hot dish or casserole. You know, one of those wonderful concoctions shared at potlucks and hospitality hours, or brought over to nourish the grieving and guests (hence the name). In its most traditional form, a can of condensed soup, cheese and corn flakes aren’t far from the ingredient list. About a week ago, I tasted a version that can only be described as bar food nirvana.

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The best bar food EVER, courtesy of The Garage on Beck (and Josh).

That Mormon Funeral Potatoes would enter my life had been foretold to me about a month or two earlier. After receiving instructions to “google it”, I had a vision of what might unfold from this potato and cheese prophesy. But it wasn’t until I landed in Salt Lake City a few months later that the full extent of my culinary awakening was clear.

My prophet escorted me into a temple of MFP worship called The Garage on Beck. Our minister Josh handed us prayer menus and we took our place on stools, ready to receive our tater testimony.  Sacramental PBRs were poured, and the reason I was there was placed in front of me. One bite of the revelatory nugget and I knew my life would be forever changed by this bar nosh of trashy greatness. Am I gushing? Perhaps. But if you’d tasted a perfect creamy combination of cheese, bacon and potato wrapped in a perfect deep fry crunch and washed it down with a cold beer, you’d be gushing from steeple-top too. This, my brothers and sisters, this right here, is real gourmet food. AMEN!

IMG_2018 The manager of The Garage on Beck, Josh, is terrific guy. I have a complimentary shot glass to prove it. Unfortunately, Josh was a bit hesitant to ask the cook when when I inquired about the recipe for bar nosh nirvana. I get that. When you’ve perfected something so wonderful, you want to keep it close. Luckily, he was able to give me a  really good visual on what went into the mix, so I figured I could play around a little when I got home. What I found out after some more research is that I wasn’t the first to ask for the recipe. Sunset Magazine had beat me to it, and published it when they featured Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes as one of their Chefs’ Favorite Restaurant Dishes in March 2013. So that’s the recipe I’ll share with you. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t play around a little with it, since that’s kinda what I do.

At The Garage, MFP are served with a ranch dressing dipping sauce. But my mormon funeral potato missionary and I thought there might be a better way. With the original recipe from Sunset, I’ve included two suggestions for dipping sauces. The first, Wasabi Ranch, and the second Horseradish Honey Mustard both gave a really nice bite of heat and sweet, but if you’d like to stick with ranch I can testify that it was really tasty too. And if you come up with another saucy suggestion, please share in the comments. What good is finding wonderful noshes of trashy goodness if you can’t spread the word! ;-)

Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes (From Sunset Magazine, February 2013) 

Makes 20

These little nuggets from The Garage restaurant, in Salt Lake City, are based on Mormon funeral potatoes, a crunchy, cheesy, creamy casserole dish that is served at just about any big function in that town. Rolled into balls and deep-fried, they are totally over the top.

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups defrosted frozen shredded hash browns
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground corn flakes, divided
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Whirl bacon, cream cheese, onion, jalapeños, green onion, and sour cream in a food processor, about 1 minute. Place in a large mixing bowl. Stir hash browns, cheddar, flour, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and 3 tbsp. ground corn flakes into bacon mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of potato mixture and roll into a ball. Drop ball into a bowl filled with 3/4 cup corn flakes and roll to coat (mixture will firm up once coated). Place on sheet and repeat with remaining mixture. Chill until ready to cook. Heat 2 in. oil in a medium pot until it registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry potato balls, a few at a time, until golden, 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.

Wasabi Ranch Dip/Dressing Makes about 1/2 cup, and can be doubled/tripled easily Whisk together the following ingredients. Chill until ready to use. (This is also pretty awesome on a steak sandwich!)

  • 5 TBSP sour cream
  • 2-3 TBSP buttermilk (depending upon how thin you want dip)
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp prepared wasabi (depending on taste and heat tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Lowry’s Season Salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tsp – 1 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Squirt of lemon

Horseradish Honey Mustard Whisk together the following and chill until ready to use.

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp honey

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 cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Little Balls of Love

DSC03536_2Stop snickering and pay attention (especially you, over there…I know who you are.)  Have you ever noticed that some of the best, most comforting culinary representations of love are round and often filled with something wonderful? I’m talking about dumplings. Dumplings = love. Tasty, comforting love. Call them knödel,  samosas, gyoza, ha gao, pierogi, gnocchi, gnudi, kreplach, matzoh balls, I don’t care. Just call me, because I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like. I’ve never researched this, but my guess is the dumpling in its myriad forms evolved from love. Love, and economy. Take flour, maybe some sort of fat and probably leftovers or fruit past its glamour shot prime and you’ve got it.  Or maybe no filling at all, just glorious gravy to sop up. Cheap, usually easy and always delicious. Yup, dumplings are pretty genius, whether as a means to nourish while using up things, make something special out of nothing, or just be a love-filled comfort carrying sponge. So why all the dumpling gushing? I recently had occasion to bake a version I’d never tried before. I do a monthly recipe demo/class at a lovely assisted living facility in my town. I love my Hawk’s Ridge gals, and when I do my planning I usually try to bring them something that’s easy enough to demo in about 30 minutes and uses familiar ingredients, perhaps even something they made themselves for their family. Apple and Pear Dumplings did the trick last week. The fruit was readily available, and since I make pastries weekly for a local cafe, so was extra pie dough. 2015-04-17 21.01.14I discovered apple dumplings back in my heel and suit wearing days, when I had the chance to visit Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market while attending a business convention. Reading Market is an amazing indoor market filled with food, food and more food. I happily ate my way through over the course of the week, sampling treats from practically all over the globe. A highlight was the Amish stand. Fresh made cheeses, sausages, and OH MY the apple dumplings!  I have no idea why I never made them before last week, but MAN am I happy I do now.  Easy, flakey, sweet and giddy comfort, all in the palm of my hand. Come here my little ball of sweet sweet love…. FullSizeRenderApple or Pear Dumplings This is one of those “technique” recipes, rather than precise measured ingredients. Staying true to the “dumpling ethos”, my recipe was originally created because I had pie dough scraps and some small apples and pears I needed to use up. It’s also highly adaptable, though I’d be careful using fruit that is highly juicy, since it gets a pastry wrapping, and soggy is not pie dough’s friend. I’ve adapted the recipe below for one pie crust, which should make about 4 dumplings.

  • 1 pie crust, rolled out to a little larger than 12″ x 12″ square. If you have a pre-rolled crust, you’ll want to roll it out a little more so you can get four squares or circles that measure about 5 1/2 inches each.
  • 4 small (about 2 1/2″ diameter) apples, or pears, or two of each
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts
  • sugar for sprinkling

You don’t have to peel the fruit but could if you like. I don’t and just wash and dry it well. Cut the apple in half horizontally, then take a melon baller and scoop out the core and seeds, leaving a little fruit on the bottom so you have a hole you can fill. If you are using pears, cut them the same way, core the bottom half, (and snack on the top.) In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, zest, salt, butter and cinnamon. Using a fork, mix well so you wind up with something similar to streusel. Roll out the dough, then cut into four 5 1/2 inch squares (or circles), saving a little dough to make 4 small leaves. Sprinkle the center of each dough square with a quarter of the chopped nuts. Place the fruit on top of the nuts, then fill the hole you made with a fourth of the sugar/butter mix. Wet a finger with water, and paint a border around the edges of the dough square (this will help it stick together.) Take opposite corners of the dough and bring up over the fruit making a triangle. Pinch the dough together. If it doesn’t quite reach, carefully pat out the dough a little larger. Do the same with the opposite corners. You should now have something that looks a little like a 4 point star. Wet the tip of each point with a little water, then wrap each point clockwise around the dumpling and press to the dough to stick. 2015-04-26 11.42.06If you cut out circles instead of squares, gather up around the fruit and pinch together like a pouch so everything is sealed. Cut 4 leaf shapes (or whatever shape you like) out of the little bit of dough you reserved, wet the back, and stick on top of each dumpling, pressing to seal.  Sprinkle a little white sugar on top. Bake at 375ºF for 20-30 minutes, until the dough is golden and puffed a little. Let sit 10 minutes before taking a bite! These can be formed ahead and kept in the fridge up to a day before baking too. Preheat oven, then bake them right from the fridge, adding about 5 minutes time if needed.

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 cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!