Tag Archives: Cook

The pinch hitter and his Dead Sea Scroll pear/cranberry/blueberry pie

Pies are not on my list of favorites to bake or eat, but I’m pretty sure my husband’s first solid food was pie. So this weekend, I realized it was time to call in my pinch hitter since I’ve been in a no-blogging zone for the past five weeks while teaching.

On Saturday night when I returned from the Country Living Fair in Columbus, there was another Dead Sea Scroll pie cooling on the counter. The pie baker had been busy, so I took a photo and begged him to send me the recipe to share. He did more than that — he expounded. What a guy!

photo (10)Fred’s Dead Sea Scroll
Pear-Cranberry-Blueberry Pie

I call these pies my “Dead Sea Pie Scroll” series. That’s because I use Phyllo dough as crust. It’s frozen and rolls out looking like I think the Dead Sea Scrolls probably looked when they were unrolled after 2,000 years in the desert.

I followed the opinion that it’s very difficult to bake a bad pie.

On Saturday someone placed a bag of Bartlett pears on our back porch. So, I peeled them (about 7). Sliced them and started rummaging through the freezer to see what needed to be dumped.

I found a half bag of cranberries from Christmas and a bag of blueberries. I nuked them for 2 minutes, dumped them into the pear slices and started to think.

What else would go with this? So, in went one-half cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn starch and some random spices – ginger and something else that I don’t remember. You can never lose with sugar, but I like to try to limit it – most pie recipes call for lots more sugar than this.

While lemon juice is always good with cranberries, I had none, so I added a slug of OJ.

I wasn’t in the mood to make a crust, but luckily I had Phyllo dough frozen from a previous project. I used that for my pie crust and pie topping. After all, Phyllo sounds like “pie,” so why not use it as a crust substitute? It works.

Poured the fruit-sugar glop into the Pyllo crust, already placed in the deep dish pie plate.

I’d preheated the oven to 350. Placed the pie in the heated over and ignored it for one hour. I added an aluminum sheet on top of the pie so as to not burn the crust after one hour. 

Waited 30 more minutes and took it out of the oven. Didn’t wait to eat.

 

 

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Episode 1: The man who cooks in triplicate

Having been raised in a fairly “non-traditional” family — at least for the 50s-60s, my husband learned his way around the kitchen at an early age. His dad often cooked — in fact, his fried potatoes are legendary. Technically, they’re probably called rosti, which is a Swiss concoction made with coarsely grated potato, either cooked or raw.

Pies, on the other hand, were his mom’s specialty. When we first married, I was confused by the fact that these pies always arrived at the table with a very thin sliver missing. And she always delivered them to the table with the same disclaimer: “This is the worst pie I’ve ever made.” Her adult children rolled their eyes and in fact, often spoke the words at the same time or tried to beat her to the punch.

About 10 years ago, the hubs embarked on his own pie project — baking a different kind every Sunday. By this time, our daughters were off at college and since I don’t like pie, he knew he wouldn’t offend anyone if one failed. My mom happily joined him in the tasting/rating process.

A few weeks after the failed attempt at vinegar pie (I’m serious) he said he was completely out of ideas and asked ME to suggest something. I knew we had applesauce so suggested he attempt to create something from that. He was so pleased with the result that he developed a whole new attitude toward baking and, subsequently, cooking. He became Invincible Man in the Kitchen.

Sunday has become baking and cooking day in our house. A few weeks ago, I asked what his plan was. His response was that he “likes to cook in threes.” How could I pass this up? Fortunately, he’s a good sport and went along with the deal.

So….that day began a series of “The man who cooks in triplicate.” Most weeks this includes a variation on granola, which he began making after I raved too many times about my mom and dad’s granola, which they began making in the 70s after reading Francis Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet.” Someday, I’ll share his recipe — if and when he actually creates one.

The first day in this series included granolaIMG_0169[1], a simplified version of eggplant Parmesan,IMG_0170[1]                                                       and blueberry pie. Each year we buy a case of blueberries from Michigan and he freezes them in small amounts. The new case was due to arrive so he needed to use up the leftovers from last year. IMG_0168[1]

His explanation is SO much better than anything I could duplicate, so here it is. Understand that he — and sometimes my mom, a daughter, a significant other-in-law, a niece or nephew, or some other lucky guest — are the testers and rarely do his pies see the public eye.

Blueberry Pie
The recipe calls for 2 cups of blueberries. I like pies to be really tall, so I put in about 4 cups. That’s probably why is was runny. Just added 2 tbsp. of corn starch. Plus had had to get rid of the blueberries from 2012 to make room of the 2013 batch.

Basic fruit pie recipe for me is:

Fruit
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar (I don’t like to put too much in)
Sometimes corn starch
Crust (sometimes homemade from whole wheat flour — which is all we have; usually made from oil, not butter or lard; sometimes purchased.) On this day, he got really creative and used phyllo dough which produced a top that resembled corn husks.

Bake at 350 until I’m hungry.  Sometimes the pie is overdone, sometimes underdone, sometimes just right.  Sometimes I add a top if I have enough pie crust left.

Editor’s note: Yep, it looked this strange. Apparently, it was perfect.

IMG_0166[1]

 

 

 

 

One bad apple didn’t spoil this applesauce

As a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with this tree — or at least one of its predecessors. It’s a transparent apple tree, which stands in the exact same spot it stood when I was a child. If it’s the original, it’s ancient.

Last week, my running partner and I discovered that the tree was full of apples but no one was picking them. We got permission from the owners to pick the apples, so carefully picked our way through the grass which was littered with rotten fruit. Which brings us to the hate part of my relationship with this tree — rotten apples draw bees. Not a summer went by that one of those bees failed to embed its little stinger in one of my feet.
IMG_0142[1]As for the love part…well, my mom made the best applesauce with those apples. They tend toward worminess but she spent hours cutting them up, cooking them, mashing and straining them through the ancient Foley Food Mill before canning or freezing the resulting sauce.

Fast forward to 2013  — the apples still tend toward worminess but we each managed to pick enough to make us both happy.
IMG_0140[1]For a few days, my husband and I avoided the apples, thinking maybe the applesauce fairy would deal with them. But…as luck would have it, a few days later, we lost power so with nothing better to do, we lugged the apples to my mom’s home, where she cheerfully helped us prepare the apples — in exchange for keeping some for herself.
IMG_0148[1]While cooking them, I forgot to add sugar until the sauce had already cooled. Which just proves that sugar is highly overrated — it didn’t even need sweetening!

Since we’d sold our canning equipment long ago — after remembering exactly what we hated about helping our parents can tons of produce every summer — we froze the sauce. A few whirls through the Cuisinart and it was ready for the containers.
IMG_0151[1]

The early bird gets the….blackberries!

One of my brothers lives in the mountains of Virginia where he regularly picks a variety of wild berries on his runs up the mountainside and into the woods.  This never really impressed me because I don’t like blackberries and raspberries so why bother picking them?

Or at least that was my perspective until I heard Hank Shaw talk about hunting, fishing, and foraging your own food. Shaw, the author of “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast”, offers advice to anyone interested in taking a more active role in determining what they feed themselves and their families.

Ironically, during a recent run I was listening to Shaw’s conversation on a Splendid Table podcast. A few minutes later, I stopped near a favorite rock to take a break. There, within an arm’s reach, grew a rambling bush of wild blackberries.

I grabbed a few, shoved them in my shorts pocket for my husband and decided to return later in the week to pick more. The next day, the destructive derecho windstorm swept through our part of Ohio, replacing those visions of blackberries with downed ancient trees, power lines, and a week of struggling back to normality.

But this morning — the Fourth of July — I loaded up my bike basket with containers and pedaled down to my rock and the blackberry bush — all the time wondering whether the winds had swept the berries into the nearby water. But no…there they were, looking as if they were just bursting with flavor.

This was not an easy task — one can’t just lift a branch to grab a bunch of berries unless one enjoys the pain of the thorny brambles. So it was careful picking. Worse, some of the best ones hung over the water, where I could just barely reach them by standing on the ancient flagstone overhang.

But hey, I felt a little like Euell Gibbons in “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”, returning home with a bowlful of berries. It was worth battling the thorny branches. And strangely, freshly picked blackberries actually taste pretty good. Might have to rethink my dislike of berries.

Did you know that long ago, people used blackberry bushes to magically cure  whooping cough? They’d pass the victim under the arching bramble seven times, reciting:

In bramble, out cough
Here I leave the whooping cough.

Filling the bread drawer takes unexpected turn

Our bread drawer was nearly empty today so I decided it was time to stir up the sourdough and bake some bread. My plan did not include making crackers or pizza dough, but…well…things happen.

Just an FYI for the uninformed: In the “olden” days, a bread drawer was usually made of tin, with holes punched in the lid for airflow. The purpose is to store bread safely and keep it fresh.

When we looked this house, one of the things I fell in love with immediately was the fact that it has two built-in tin bread drawers…just like the one in the house I grew up in.

This is what ours looks like. See? It’s empty.

So..back to the bread. Using some of the sourdough, I mixed up one of my favorite blends — whole wheat flour, cracked wheat, flax seeds, and white flour. While kneading it, I remembered that I could have used the Cuisinart for this part.

I put the dough in a big bowl to rise. Plenty pleased with myself, I went off to do something else. Oddly, when I checked the dough, it hadn’t risen. At all. Of course, that’s when I remembered what I should never forget. Yeast.  Unlike my big brother’s sourdough, mine doesn’t provide enough rising action so I have to add yeast. Except I forgot.

My husband reminded me that he did that once and baked it anyway. He thought it tasted okay. I considered that option, but decided I wasn’t up for unleavened bread. But..all was not lost. Crackers don’t need yeast, so we rolled half of it out for crackers and stuck the other half in the freezer for thin crust pizza.

That didn’t solve the empty bread drawer so I swiped more of the sourdough and mixed up another batch of bread. This time I cheated and let the bread machine do the kneading (it’s easier to clean than the Cuisinart).

I know what you’re thinking. Why doesn’t she toss the Cuisinart pieces in the dishwasher? We don’t have a dishwasher. Never have and according to the hubs, never will. Guess who does the dishes? Not me.

But we do have two tin bread drawers. And now they’ll both be full — one with crackers and one with bread.