Friday, August 28, 2009

The ugliest Papple Pie

The awesome thing about having friends that are adults is that sometimes they have houses. And sometimes, those houses come with trees. And sometimes those trees bear fruit, as in the case with my friend Kari’s house with its papple tree! And maybe papple isn’t the proper term (pear plus apple? Yes) but it is so much more fun to say than Asian Pear which is what the fruit is technically called.

So I foraged a bag of fruit (legally this time, with permission and everything!) and decided to make a pie. The response to this was generally, “A, pear, pie? I’ve…never had that.” But I’m never one to shy away from experiment. I’ve never made a pie before, and so maybe I should have like, rolled out the crust and the like, but this turned out good. You want to keep an eye on it because mine turned out a little burnt. It tasted more like a coffee cake than anything because the crust had that texture and the filling ended up smooshed down.

Adapted from Group Recipes
Papple Pie

8 pears, sliced*
½ a lemon’s juice
1 lemon’s zest
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbls cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup flour
Pie crust recipe plus cinnamon, doubled

Preheat oven to 350. Spread bottom crust out, combine all other ingredients in bowl for filling that toss into pie pan. Spread half of curst dough out on top of pie, make holes for venting. Cook for 50 minutes. I let mine sit for a day before serving to le tthe flavors settle, and served with ice cream.

*The recipe calls for peeled pears, but I honestly like to leave the peel on most things I eat

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Good morning Baltimore!

My eldest sister came home from Baltimore recently, and was thoughtful enough to bring me back some Old Bay spice. To celebrate her return, I stayed home and made crab cakes while she went out with her boyfriend. Keep in mind that prior to this night I had never seen a crab cake, much less eaten one. But, there was a recipe on the box of the spice so I thought I might as well try. And I’m glad I did, the recipe makes enough for three and was delicious. Clearly, it is unreasonable to expect everyone to have an obscure brand of seasoning on hand, and this seems to be a combination of celery salt, red pepper, black pepper, and paprika. The recipe calls for parsley flakes, but we only had a little so I mostly used dried basil.

Adapted from the Old Bay box
Crab Cakes

2 slices bread, un-toasted
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
2 tsp parsley flakes
1 egg beaten
1 lb crab meat
½ tsp Dijon mustard

Break bread into small pieces, or get someone to do it for you (as seen below). Combine in bowl with everything but crab. Stir in the crab meat (I used one can and didn’t actually weight it), and shape into small patties about 1.5 inches in diameter. Place on baking sheet, un-greased, like your making cookies, and broil for 10 minutes. We served it with corn and I’d recommend tartar or cocktail sauce.

I have no idea if these are what crab cakes are supposed to be like, but I do know they were good.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Not so tarty tarts

I’ve been busy moving (into my parent’s basement like every successful cliché) and unpacking so haven’t had a chance to post this yet. The recipe title for this was a Brandy Tart, but it much more resembled a not crumbly coffee cake to me. Good, just not super dessert tasting. The recipe calls for mextaxa or other good Brandy, and we used Christian Brothers Brandy so whatever you have around (or if you’re under aged like me, can get people to buy for you) should work fine.

I lucked out with my family; my Uncle married a very nice woman who has very nice parents who are amazing Greek cooks. Every Thanksgiving we have normal Thanksgiving and then Greek Thanksgiving. This recipe comes from their wonderful cookbook.

Adapted from Papas' Art of Traditional Greek Cooking
Brandy Tart

5 eggs, separated
½ cup sugar
½ cup brandy
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp pure almond extract
1 cup farina
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1 cup sliced almonds

Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer until stiff. In a separate bowl beat egg yolks and sugar until fluffy. Add the brandy, vanilla, and almond extract and beat for an additional two minutes. Add farina, baking powder, cinnamon, clove and almonds together, then slowly fold in the egg whites a little at a time with a rubber spatula. Slowly add this to the brandy mixture. Butter a ten inch spring form pan (I used a normal 8 inch pan), and pour in the batter, spread evenly. Cook for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

One of the suggestions the book gave (that I didn’t follow but sounds pretty damn good) was pouring basic syrup on top as a sort of glaze. I’m including the recipe here so you can try it out. It would also be good with ice cream I think, but then again I think everything would be good with ice cream.

Basic Syrup

4 cups water
8 cups sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 oranges cut in half
2 lemons cut in half
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup honey

Add everything but honey, and bring to a rapid boil. Continue to boil until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and remove cinnamon sticks, orange halves, and lemon halves. Add the honey and stir well. Refrigerate to cool completely for later use.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Cupcakes!

Let me preface this: mixed reviews. As in some people thought that these were delicious, and some people were not big fans, and no one really asked for more than one, so on the whole, pretty average. Better when they first came out, and I think I paired the wrong sort of frosting with them so I’d either eat them as sweet muffins, or use a butter cream, so I’m not including the frosting recipe.

However, they were pretty adorable cupcakes, and I made them for my friend Ilana’s birthday (23!), even though she requested chocolate. Which, upon reflection probably makes me not the greatest friend, but I should get an ‘A’ for effort considering I foraged these raspberries. And that is illegal, according to a nice police office I chatted with hours after the fact. But you know, good to know. Anyways, all the recipes I found had jam in them and I wanted to use real fruit so that was something, and I very loosely based it off this recipe.

Adapted from We Are Not Martha
Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes
Makes 22

1 ¼ sticks butter
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup self rising flour
½ cup lemon juice
1 ½ cup raspberries
1 ½ cup powdered sugar

Beat butter (softened) and powdered sugar together until it is a fluffy. As a first warning, this is the weirdest batter, it is just so fluffy and light and I felt like I had beat egg whites and not made a batter. Then add in eggs, then flour and lemon juice slowly. Now, beat in softly by hand raspberries. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and spoon batter into cupcake/muffin pan. Mine needed to cook about 28 minutes, but the original only suggests 23 so keep an eye on them.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Not Marina Sauce

So this was meant to be a sauce, only it was not very saucy. Still delicious and served with some plums that I foraged. Maybe slightly unethically, but hey, they were not picking them. Anyways, if you wanted to turn this into a sauce you could probably just add some tomato paste to thicken it up. Also, this is a little mushroom heavy which makes me ridiculously happy, but my dinner guest didn’t like mushrooms. My bad.

Faux Marina Sauce
Serves 3 and a half

8 white mushrooms
2 tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach
Handful of fresh oregano and basil leaves
1 piece bread
1 walla walla onion
Mozzerella cheese for topping

Take out a pot, and put in the diced tomatoes and sliced mushrooms, diced onion, and all ingredients but bread. Garlic should be minced and is about two cloves worth. Turn on stove medium heat and cover, make sure you stir it a lot. It may seem tempting to add liquid considering that there is none, but resist the urge. The juice from all vegetables will come out soon. Put piece of bread in toaster. Then chop into smaller pieces and add into mixture 30 minutes in. I cooked mine for about 45minutes which seemed to do the trick, but cook until the vegetables are as tender as you want them. Serve over spaghetti noodles. Sprinkly a little cheese on top, and viola!
As a side note, it always amazes me how much spinach shrinks when cooked. It is sort of like a magic trick.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Baked Salmon (with milk?)

My tomato plant may have only produced one tomato, but it is glorious. And homegrown, and I may have left it on the vine a touch too long. So I bought another salmon fillet because it was ridiculously cheap and I’m a bit of an impulse buyer, and decided that to spice things up I’d bake it this time. After laying down a sheet of foil in my shallow baking pan, I then reflected that I had no idea for how hot or how long one is supposed to bake a salmon. A quick google search turned up a recipe with…milk?

Not one to shy away from experimental cooking, I went ahead and used milk along with a heaping of vegetables (spinach would have been good with this, and it’d be excellent served with wild rice) and the result? A pretty excellently textured salmon. I’m not sure if the milk steamed it or just kept it moist, but I didn’t taste a difference.
Lightly adapted from
Baked Salmon
Serves one

1 small salmon fillet
4 leaves fresh basil
¼ cup cut corn
3 white mushrooms
1 medium tomato
1 clove garlic, pressed
Salt to taste
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 30 degrees. Line a shallow baking ban with foil, place fillet skin side down on foil. Cover with chopped basil, garlic, and all various vegetables, then pour over 1/3 cup milk and salt to taste. Bake for 30 minutes, or until salmon skin is light pink (my tomato was the color of uncooked salmon, not helpful). Serve without the milk juices.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bell Peppers stuffed

At a local grocery store down in Kent the other day, I spotted a rarity. A purple pepper. Having previously exclaimed my love for the color, you can imagine that I went and bought one (it tastes like all other bell peppers, closest to red I’d say), and since my friend was coming over to cook I decided to combine the two occasions. Stuffed Peppers Granted, by the end the peppers were pretty weak and not the best containers, and the filling wasn’t as flavorful as I’d have like (bread crumbs would have been a good edition as would mushrooms) but it was tasty and filling and though this recipe makes two there was still leftovers.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

½ cup brown rice or some sort of grain
½ large onion (I used walla walla)
¾ cup fresh spinach
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 bell peppers
Mozzarella cheese
1 ½ cup water
1 small tomato
Spices to preference

Brown rice/grain, diced onion, diced tomato, minced garlic, and ½ of a bell pepper diced in a saucepan with olive oil. After 3-5 minutes add in water and cook rice/grain per directed (I simmered mine for 45 minutes covered). Once 20 minutes are left place bell peppers deviened and open on top in oven on sides, turn every five minutes. When there is only 15 minutes left add in the spinach and spices, I put in some fresh basil leaves, thyme, savory, and oregano, but many other combos would work as well. Once the mixture is cooked spoon it into upright standing bell peppers (though mine were more than a little tipsy), place some mozzarella slices on it, and let cook eight more minutes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Everything but the kitchen sink pasta

When I was little (and to be honest now) I hated spaghetti sauce, and so ate my pasta with simply butter. Now, my palette has matured, not a whole lot truth be told, and so I’ve decided to introduce you to ‘Whatever is in the fridge pasta’. Which is, simply put, what I eat four nights a week.The noodle
I prefer a penne or rigatoni, because macaroni is too tiny and I still have yet to learn how to properly measure. Obviously you can substitute for any kind of damn noodle you want. Except lasagna noodles might be awkward. Anyways, if you have penne measure out how much you want in the bowl you’re going to be eating it in and throw it in some water and turn on to boil. Yes, that’s right, put in water and then boil because that saves energy according to the NYT despite being thought weird by my friends.

The veggies
I prefer mushrooms and some tomatoes. I generally sauté those in olive oil while the pasta is cooking, adding in spices. Other great things? Corn (we keep some frozen in the freezer), spinach (though I prefer it raw added in at the end), garlic, onion, or basically whatever is in your fridge.

The spices
Pasta is traditionally Italian, and so generally my top five spices are basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. All this is a healthier alternative to salt, which I say you avoid in this dish.

The cheese
Once your noodles are boiled, and your veggies and spices ready, toss them in a bowl. Then put on top some shredded cheese (mozzarella is my favorite, but parmesan or other white cheeses work equally well) and mix it in so it melts throughout the pasta and not just at the bottom.

Interchange and eat at will, much more exciting than plain old spaghetti sauce. And considering how cheap pasta is and that most of the ingredients are in your fridge you save money too. Not to mention it takes almost no time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Color Theory

I may have spent the better part of last night eating chocolate chips out a bag. Which made me feel the need to do something more exciting tonight, and so I went and bought a salmon fillet from the store today. (Side note, they were selling these itsy cartons of blackberries for three fifty each, and this store is on the Burke Gilman, people are crazy) But I decided that nothing sounded better than salmon and blackberries, and so I googled blackberry sauce and came up with…almost nothing. Steamy kitchen has a variety that looks good, but is heavily based on brandy which I have none, and being underage which I have no means of getting. So I decided to come up with a something and see how it tastes.
I should of course, issue a word of caution. When cooking with a plank, have a bowl of water nearby, because mine caught on fire a total of three times and set off the smoke alarm once.

Salmon with Blackberry Sauce
Serves 2

½ teaspoon butter
Pinch of thyme
1cup blackberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 salmon fillet
1cedar plank

Combine vinegar and blackberries on stovetop, cooking at a very low temperature. (If you want your blackberries more whole, don’t add them till the end, but I wanted all of their flavor). Once you’ve done that for a couple of minutes add the honey, then the mustard, thyme, and butter. Simmer for a while longer, until you get the consistency and flavor you want. This isn’t very sweet despite the honey and berries, and is more mustardy and savory. If that wasn’t what you were looking for with the berry approach, I’d omit the Dijon.

After letting the sauce cool for a while, I poured it on top of the salmon and set it in the fridge to marinate until dinner a few hours later. About two hours before I was going to start cooking I took out a glass pan and placed the cedar plank in it while filling it up with water. You can weigh the plank down with a bowl, it needs to soak two hours so as not to catch on fire in the grill. This is not a desired result.

Once the plank has been soaked for two hours, turn the grill on and let it preheat for 5 minutes before putting the salmon on. Cook salmon as normal, and for an elegant finish you can even serve it still on the plank. Unless of course, you’re like me and your plank has turned the color of a bruise.

I served mine over the pilaf mixed with some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, and although it was tasty my favorite thing about this might be the color. The entire salmon was purple, and purple happens to be my favorite color (my being a husky is really a coincidence). If my parents had made this for me when I was two (and refused to wear anything but purple for an entire year) I might have been the happiest kid. As it was, I was still a pretty happy adult.