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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Potato Fritters for Sher

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Last Sunday, the food blog community lost one of its own. Sher, of the popular blog What Did You Eat? passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. I didn't know Sher well, but what I did know, I liked very much. She was smart and funny and caring. Her blog was a great read, with terrific recipes and beautiful photography. I enjoyed myself whenever I visited and I will miss her.


My heart goes out to Sher's husband, Bob, and the rest of her family and friends. It is always a tragedy to lose someone you love, especially so suddenly and without warning.
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As a tribute to Sher, Mary of Bread Baking Babes and Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen have organized an online memorial to her. Fellow food bloggers all over the Internet have been preparing recipes from Sher's blog and will be posting about them today. I think that this is a wonderful idea and I am proud and happy to participate.


There were so many great recipes to choose from, it was hard for me to decide what to make. I finally settled on her recipe for Potato Fritters with Sweet Pepper Relish. These are not fritters in the traditional sense of the word as I understand it, as they contain no flour in the mix. They are actually more like a potato cake or croquette. Whatever you call them, however, they are delicious!
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Potato Fritters with Sweet Pepper Relish
Adapted from Deborah Madison, The Greens Cookbook via Sher of What Did You Eat?

(Printable Recipe)

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2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 egg yolks

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, white and some of the green part

1 cup shredded jack cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup panko bread crumbs

4 tablespoons oil

Sweet Pepper Relish (recipe follows)

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Put potatoes in a steamer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Transfer to a bowl and roughly break them up with a fork. Don't try to make them too smooth.


Add the egg yolks, cilantro, scallions, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into patties shaped and sized as you like. I let the patties rest in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm up so that they would hold their shape better while frying.


Dredge patties in the bread crumbs and press the crumbs into the patties on both sides.


Heat the oil in a skillet until hot and cook the patties over medium high heat, until browned on both sides.


Serve immediately with the Sweet Pepper Relish.

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Sweet Pepper Relish


1 small yellow pepper
1 small red pepper

1/4 small red onion, finely diced

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons or more balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

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Trim the peppers, cut them into thin slices and dice into small even pieces. Combine the peppers, onion oil and vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. Marinate this for about 2 hours, then drain the oil off (reserving for other purposes, like salad dressing) when you are ready to serve the fritters.
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Enjoy!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Losing My Balance

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When I first started SGCC last September, I had so much to say. I was literally bursting with ideas of recipes I wanted to share with you, and stories I wanted to tell. I spent almost every spare moment that I wasn't cooking, writing, rewriting and finessing my posts. In my prolific frenzy, I couldn't get the words out fast enough. It was so liberating to be able to voice my opinions and tell my stories without anyone arguing or disagreeing with me. The Internet was like a new best friend I'd found that I wanted to tell everything to, so it would feel like it had known me forever.

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting as much lately? It's true, but not because I haven't tried. It's not because I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen either, because I've actually been cooking quite a bit. I've just been having a really hard time motivating myself to write about it. I've been running with this whole blogging thing for months at full throttle and now I think I've hit the wall. I won't say that I'm burned out, but maybe all of the countless hours of writing posts, reading posts and commenting on posts has begun to take its toll. As much as I love doing it, sometimes it feels a little overwhelming.

Before I started blogging, there were many different things that I enjoyed doing. I loved to read, and not just cookbooks, but books with actual plots. I played tennis three or four times a week. I wrote a lot of poetry and did a lot of composing and musical arrangments. I liked to go for bike rides and take impromptu shoe-shopping trips. I went to movies, concerts and gallery openings. I went out to lunch with my girlfriends. Hell, I even made time to clean my house once in a while too! I feel it's safe to say that the pre-blog SGCC was a pretty well-rounded person.
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But, here's the thing. I don't do most of those things anymore. I seem to have sacrificed a lot of my other interests, including spending quality time with family and friends, for the sake of "the blog", as it has become known around here.
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Mini SGCC: Mom, can we--
Me: Not now! I'm trying to finish this post!
Mr. SGCC: Hey, what do you think about--
Me: Later! I need to catch up on these comments! Oh, wait - someone's tweeting me!
Mini & Mr. SGCC: We're hungry!
Me: Move! You're in my light! Can't you see I'm trying to take pictures here!?!?
,,,
Do you see where I'm going with this?
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The thing that finally made me sit up and take notice happened on the 4th of July. Every year on the 4th at sundown, our community sponsors a huge fireworks spectacular on the bayfront. It is always impossibly crowded, but we've found a special place just a few blocks from our house, with an unobstructed view, where we can watch the show. We've been doing this every year since Mini SGCC was a toddler. It's tradition! This year, they went without me. They weren't mean about it or anything. They just assumed that I was busy with "the blog". As I was sitting at the computer catching up on some emails, they packed some lawn chairs in the car and headed out.
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Me: Hey, where are you going?
Them: We're going to watch the fireworks.
Me: But, what about me?
Them: We thought you were busy with "the blog".
Me: I'm not THAT busy.
Them: Oh. (uncomfortable silence) Well, we don't have much time. If you really want to come, we can put an extra chair in the car.......
Me: Never mind. You guys go and have fun. I guess I can watch it on TV.
Them: Okay. See you later.
Me: (feeling incredibly hurt) Um, bye.......
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Hmmmph!
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So, I guess I got a little depressed, which made me apathetic, which made me unproductive, which made me more depressed, which made me feel like sh*t. And that, dear readers, is why I haven't been posting or commenting as much lately.
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What happened? When did this little hobby of mine become an all-consuming obsession? When did I stop caring about the other things I used to like to do? When did I lose my balance?

I realized that I needed to make some changes. I am not Wonder Woman. I cannot do it all and yet, I don't want to be a one-trick pony. So, I've started spending more time doing other things and a little less time glued to the computer. I'm working on that skyscraper stack of novels piled next to my bed. I've signed up for the ladies tennis league at my club. I'm catching up on all those DVDs I bought and never watched (with my husband and daughter). I'm planning a Girls Nite with my friends. I'm set to start a Photoshop class next month. And, I'm preparing some delicious meals for my family to enjoy with no ulterior motive. I feel better already!

Rest assured, I have no intention of abandoning SGCC. It is one of the most fulfilling, rewarding and fun things in my life. But, I am going to try to do a better job of juggling it in with the rest of my life. I'm going to try to focus on quality over quantity in my posts. I'm also going to do my best at keeping up with comments and making the rounds to all of your blogs too. With over a thousand Daring Bakers and over two hundred TWDers, that is not going to be easy! Please know that if I haven't visited or left a comment in a while, it is not personal. I adore seeing what you all are up to and your comments mean so much to me, but with almost 300 food blogs in my Google Reader and great new ones discovered every day, it is virtually impossible to hit them all, all the time!

So, let me propose some questions to you. How do you balance blogging (and everything associated with it) with the rest of your lives? Do you have a full-time job? Are you married with children to look after? How often do you post each week? How long does it take for you to get a post up from start to finish? How much time do you spend tweaking your blogs? On social networking? Do any of you ever feel frustrated and overwhelmed, or is it just me? How much time do you spend blog-hopping and commenting? What is your most favorite and least favorite aspect of blogging?

I am very interested in your input, not only for myself, but for others out there who might also be struggling with the same issues. Maybe by sharing our blogging trials and tribulations, we can help each other.
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Now, if you're still reading this, (and I hope you are), the least I can do is give you some food for your trouble. This is a dish I cooked up a few weeks ago when I found some incredibly fresh and gorgeous rainbow trout at the market. I'd never made rainbow trout before, but Mr. SGCC has mentioned many times that he really likes it. So, I bought some.

Rainbow trout is a mild, small white fish that reminds me of flounder, tastewise. My fishmonger said that he likes to pan fry it in bacon fat. That sounded pretty good, but I didn't have bacon, so I decided to try a makeshift trout almondine. I call it makeshift because I didn't follow a recipe and have no idea if what I did was actually "authentic". I did use almonds and butter, so I'm calling it almondine. If I'm wrong, I'm sure I'll hear about it. I prepared the trout pretty simply by dredging it in flour mixed with ground almonds, pan frying it in a little butter and finishing it off in the oven.
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I thought it was a very successful dish. The fish was nice and flaky on the inside and nutty and crunchy on the outside. We all enjoyed it very much. An added bonus was that it took very little time to prepare. Because the filets were thin, they cooked up quickly. I served it with an easy, cheesy potato casserole and a salad and called it a meal.
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Trout Almondine
(Printable Recipe)
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6 rainbow trout filets
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup ground almonds or almond meal
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.


Mix flour and ground almonds in a pie plate or other deep dish with sides.

Season filets with salt and pepper and dredge each in flour mixture, coating on both sides.

Melt butter in a large frying pan or skillet over medium high heat.

Pan fry fish in the skillet on both sides until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer trout to a baking sheet and sprinkle sliced almonds over each filet. Pour any remaining melted butter from the skillet over the fish.


Bake for about 7-8 minutes or until cooked through.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TWD: You Can't Win 'Em All

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You can't win 'em all. That's what I kept telling myself when I baked my Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie event. I've had pretty good luck with every recipe I've made so far from Dorie's book, so I had no reason to expect anything less than success this time as well. Boy, was I wrong!

Dorie's Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler recipe is really not difficult at all. The filling is just cherries, rhubarb, sugar, ground ginger and a little salt. The biscuit topping is a mixture of white and whole wheat flours, milk and, of course, butter. Pretty standard fare. I followed the directions precisely, but, for some reason I have yet to figure out, it turned out awful! It was a shame too, because this week I actually had an event to go to and I needed to bring something.
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My first clue that something wasn't right was when I took the cobbler out of the oven. I checked it after forty-five minutes, but the biscuit topping hadn't puffed up very much, so I baked it for fifteen minutes more. After that, the fruit was all nice and bubbly, but the topping still didn't look much better. There wasn't much else I could do, so I crossed my fingers and took it to the party anyway.

When I served the dish the topping was hard as a rock on the surface and totally raw on the inside. For some reason, the dough didn't cook through. The fruit filling was very tasty but the topping was inedible.
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I'll be interested to see how the other TWDers fared this week. I'm sure that the fault for my flop lies with me. I must have messed up somewhere. If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks to Amanda from Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake for choosing this week's recipe. It looked like a really great one. If you'd like to see how this dish was supposed to turn out, check out the Tuesday's with Dorie blogroll. Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward to next week's Summer Fruit Galette!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Name My Pasta Contest Winners!!!

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I'm sure you've all been waiting with bated breath for this, so here it is.  Ladies and gentlemen, and everyone in between, I'd like to introduce you to.......(drumroll please)........Chicken Pasta Alfresco! 



Remember when I wrote this post last week asking for your help in naming my pasta dish? Well, little did I know how many of you were out there actually paying attention.  I received over forty clever and creative suggestions for the name of this dish.  That was way too many for me to process all by myself.  I had to enlist the help of my loyal and trusted kitchen assistants and resident taste-testers. 

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This is Mini SGCC.  She's made a few appearances on this blog before, and I've written of her many times. Mini SGCC is uniquely qualified to be on this panel because she is fourteen, and thus, knows everything.
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This is Philson, the Wonder Dog.  Philson has a very discriminating palate and is an expert on cleaning up spilled food off of tile floors.   He is also a great arbiter of good taste and gracious living.
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It was a long, difficult process. Each of us had our own favorites and there were many disagreements among the panel.  At one point, Philson started to get a little out of control and needed a time-out!  He is sooooo opinionated and frankly, just a little too bossy!  For hours, we kept bouncing back and forth among the submissions and just could not come to a consensus. 

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In the end, we finally decided on Christa's (Our Fun Life) entry, Chicken Pasta Alfresco, because it was concise, easy to remember and accurately described the essence of the dish.  It was perfect!  As a token of my appreciation, I will be sending Christa a copy of Mario Batali's hot, new cookbook, Italian Grill.  Thank you Christa, and congratulations!

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But wait!  There's more!  My esteemed colleagues and I agreed that there was another entry that we wanted to recognize as well.  Heather (Diary of a Fanatic Foodie) suggested that I name my pasta Sicilian Summer in a Bowl.  We loved that!  It sounded so lyrical and conjured up lovely images for us, so we decided to give Heather a cookbook too.  Now, I only have one copy of Italian Grill, but I do still have a brand new copy of Top Chef: The Cookbook left over from my Top Chef giveaways. So Heather, this one's for you!

Christa and Heather, if you'll both email me with your mailing addresses at stickygooeycreamychewy AT gmail DOT com, I'll send your cookbooks out to you as soon as possible.  Thanks, and congrats again!

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I want to thank all of you who participated in this contest.  All of your entries were great!  I wish I could send each of you something more than just my gratitude and this virtual cake.  Unfortunately, Mr. SGCC is not Bill Gates, so I can't.  I can tell you that my one year blogiversary is coming up in September and I'm planning some terrific giveaways to celebrate. 

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Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TWD: Feels Like the First Time

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The first dessert I ever remember my mother making for me when I was a little girl was chocolate pudding. She used a packaged brand called My T Fine. With great anticipation, I'd watch as she measured out the milk into a pot, added the pudding mix and stirred and stirred until steam began to rise. Then, she'd pour it into little cups and set it on the counter to set. That was the hardest part for me - waiting for it to thicken up and settle into smooth, creamy, chocolately pudding. While I waited, she'd let me lick the spoon for a tasty preview of what was to come. When the pudding was ready, I'd dig my spoon through the firm and slightly chewy skin on top and take my first bite. I always took really small spoonfuls to make the pudding last longer, because I loved it so much.

To this day, chocolate pudding holds a special place in my heart. It represents all the warm, fuzzy and sweet parts of my childhood. So, when I learned that this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a homemade Chocolate Pudding, I got a little excited. I'd never made a pudding from scratch before, and I was anxious to try it. I was also thrilled that I didn't have to turn on my oven for this one.
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The recipe for this pudding seemed relatively basic, although it involved a lot of steps, that seemed a bit unnecessary. The main ingredients were milk, sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and chocolate. I used some Valrhona 61% dark chocolate that I had left over from another recipe. For variety, I added some instant espresso powder to some of my pudding to give it a mocha flavor.

I found those cute little glasses in the top photo at a local restaurant as we were dining there one evening. I asked the server where they got them and he sold me some for a dollar each. Aren't they perfect? I'd been waiting for a chance to use them and this was it. I decided to make little pudding parfaits in them. For the parfaits, I made some white chocolate pudding with a lovely recipe that I found over at Tartelette's place. In between the dark and white chocolate puddings, I put a thin layer of red raspberry sauce. I think raspberry goes so well with both white and dark chocolate! I think they look adorable!
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I'm sure you're wondering how this pudding tasted. Did it hold its own against My T Fine, my childhood standard? Of course, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and this pudding was definitely "My T Fine"! Oh, quit groaning, already. It's my blog and I'm entitled to a few trite cliches now and then. Seriously, this pudding was fantastic! The bittersweet chocolate gave it a rich, complex depth of flavor that you just can't get out of a box. The texture was impossibly silky, like velvet. It was a truly luxurious dessert. Best of all, it brought back such wonderful memories of my childhood. I would absolutely make it again, and since they don't sell My T Fine in my neck of the woods, I probably will. It beats the hell out of Jello Pudding Cups!
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Many thanks to Melissa from It's Melissa's Kitchen for choosing this recipe for us this week! If you would like to try this for yourself, and you should, you can find the recipe on Dorie's site here in addition to her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. And finally, pop on over to the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll to see what the other members have done with this recipe.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Name My Pasta and Win a Great Cookbook!

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One of the most enjoyable aspects of cooking for me is playing around with different ingredients and creating a new dish that I really, really like. I always feel such a sense of accomplishment when I've done this. Last Tuesday, I was just coming off of the June Daring Bakers challenge and my weekly Tuesdays with Dorie assignment and I was wiped! My dislocated elbow was throbbing so badly, I thought it would fall off. The pain must have dulled my other senses, because I drove home from the office and right past the grocery store. I didn't even notice it as I whizzed by. It wasn't until after I was home and had already changed into some comfy pajamas that I remembered I hadn't planned anything for dinner. Since the natives were beginning to get restless, I raided my fridge to see what I could come up with.

I found a container of bocconcini, which are mini mozzarellas packed in water, some mushrooms, a peaked-looking shallot and a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I rooted around some more and dug out a small container of pesto sauce too. I also had a basket of beautiful ripe Campari tomatoes on the counter and a small jar of kalamata olives in the pantry.
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I chopped up the tomatoes and tossed them together with the mozzarella, garlic, fresh basil, olives and olive oil for a nice Caprese salad. I decided to use the rest of my ingredients to make a sauce for some pasta, so I cut up the chicken and sauteed it with the shallot and mushrooms. Then, just for good measure, I mixed in the pesto sauce.

Now, I don't know exactly how it happened or why, but after I drained the pasta, it somehow found its way into the bowl with the Caprese salad. Ooops! I don't even remember doing it! I told you I was really tired. Maybe I blacked out for a minute. Maybe I had a mini-stroke. Maybe, I had a few deviant cells lurking in my brain and they decided to screw around with me. I don't know, but at that point, it seemed like the only logical thing left to do was to dump the chicken mix in there too. So I did. And you know what? It was good. In fact, it was more than good. It was great!
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Strangely enough, even though they were intended to be two different dishes, all of the ingredients of each worked brilliantly together. The sweet and juicy of the tomatoes, the spicy of the pesto and the salty of the olives all blended with each other and melded into one helluva pasta sauce! One taste was all it took to know that I needed to post about it.

As I tried to write out the recipe for my accidental success, I realized that I had no idea what to call it. There were too many different components to the dish! I toyed with a few different names, but nothing sounded right. So, dear readers, I bring it to you. Please! Help me give my poor pasta a name!

Read through my recipe, look at the pictures and let your creative juices flow! Leave your suggestions of what to name this dish in the comments section of this post by next Thursday, July 17 at midnight EDT. My esteemed panel of judges and I will go through all of your submissions and choose the name that we feel captures the personality of the dish best.
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The person with the winning submission will win a copy of Mario Batali's fab new cookbook, Italian Grill. Italian Grill is the ultimate resource on Italian grilling and features over eighty terrific recipes for appetizers, pizza and flatbreads, fish and shellfish, poultry, meat, and vegetables. It's the must-have cookbook of the season!

So, what are you waiting for? Put on your thinking caps, turn on your imaginations and......
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Name My Pasta!!!
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No Name Pasta

1 lb short pasta of your choice (I used penne.)
4 medium-sized tomatoes, roughly chopped or one pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 12-ounce container bocconcini
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Small handful of fresh basil, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pint mushrooms, sliced
1 7-ounce container pesto sauce or equivalent of homemade pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Romano cheese for topping

Bring a large pot of water to boil. When boiling, cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, bocconcini, olives, garlic, basil and 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. When pasta is cooked, add it to the bowl, toss and set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add diced shallot and chicken and saute until chicken is lightly browned. Add mushrooms and continue to saute until everything is cooked through.

Remove from heat and stir in pesto sauce. Add to bowl with tomatoes, bocconcini and pasta. Mix well and top with grated cheese.
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Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Double Crusted Blueberry Pie

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In every culture, there are certain foods that just inherently represent home, family and love. We call them "comfort foods". These are the foods that, no matter where you may be or how old you become, manage to invoke Norman Rockwell-esque memories of backyard barbecues, county fairs and church socials. They represent safety, security and nostalgia of simpler times. Chicken & Dumplings, Macaroni & Cheese, Chocolate Chip Cookies and even the ubiquitous Meatloaf have found their way onto this list. Perhaps, the most representative of these is pie.

According to What's Cooking America?, historians surmise that pies have been around since the times of the ancient Egyptians, who incorporated nuts, honey, and fruits in bread dough. They believe that the Greeks actually originated pie pastry and the Romans expounded upon it. The idea caught on and by the 12th century the allure of the pie had begun to spread throughout Europe.

In those days, pies were predominantly savory, usually filled with meat or fowl. Examples of this are the ever popular Shepherd's and Cottage Pies from England. Ironically, these were called "coffyns" because the fillings were sealed up in the pastry. The crusts of these pies were usually just vessels for the fillings and too hard to actually eat.
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Pie came to America with the first English settlers. The Pilgrims brought their favorite pie recipes with them when they came to the New World. They adapted their pies to the ingredients available to them, such as the native berries and fruits found growing wild.

Pioneer women regularly served pies with every meal, cementing its place in traditional American culture. As settlers moved to the West and South, various regional specialties were created, most likely as a result of different conditions and available ingredients. When you think about it, is there anything more quintessentially American, or more comforting, than a home-baked, fresh out of the oven fruit pie - especially a luscious blueberry pie?
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This rather long, drawn out preamble brings me to this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe: Double Crusted Blueberry Pie. I've chosen to give you this mini history lesson on the evolution of pie because frankly, there isn't a whole lot to say about this pie and I didn't have a funny/clever/witty story to tell you to pick up the slack. I don't mean to say that this isn't a good pie, because it is. It's a very good pie. But, that's all it is - a very good, basic, homey fruit pie with no bells or whistles or fancy techniques. It is a refreshingly honest pie. What you see is what you get. In this day and age, where few things are ever what they seem, I think that's a very good thing.

The recipe for Dorie's pie is very straightforward. I pretty much followed it to the letter, with only one minor tweak. I added about a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger to the filling. Rachel from Coconut & Lime had done this with her Blueberry-Ginger Ice Box Pie and it sounded like a great addition. The ginger combined with the lemon already in the recipe gave the filling an extra pop of flavor. It went so beautifully with the tart/sweet blueberries. I really liked it a lot!
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This pie was quite a departure from the desserts that I've made lately. There was no booze, no ganache, no Swiss buttercream....... But, you know what? My family enjoyed it more than any of those other fancy concoctions I've made recently. The crust was flaky and tender. The filling was juicy and delicious. What more could I ask for?

Many thanks to Amy of South in Your Mouth for selecting this great recipe. The recipe for this pie can be foud in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. If you'd like to see some other interesting and creative takes on this pie, stop by the Tuesdays with Dorie site and make your way down the blogroll.

UPDATE: I am submitting the above photo for the September '08 edition of CLICK!


Monday, July 7, 2008

Drunken Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream

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One of the few things I really love about living in a tropical climate is the fact that I can inconspicuously eat ice cream almost the whole year long. That's right. Nary an eyebrow is raised when I stroll my Haagen Dazs laden shopping cart through the checkout line at the grocery store in the middle of a balmy 75 degree February afternoon. Sure, it gets cold here sometimes, but not nearly enough to make much of a difference. It's a good thing too, because if I had to go without my favorite treat for months at a time, I probably wouldn't be a very pleasant person to be around. In fact, I think I'd be downright bitchy! I've always considered ice cream to be one of the major food groups. And, well.....a girl has to keep up her calcium intake, you know!

When it comes to ice cream, I've always been kind of a purist. My hands down favorite has always been good old vanilla. While I do like a lot of other flavors too, I've never been a fan of chocolate. I also don't like anything crunchy in my ice cream. That means no nuts, no chips, no cookie bits. I know that some of you may find this sacrilegious, but that's just the way it is. Swirls are allowed, though, as long as they're fudgy, caramelly or better yet, fruity.

I'm really big on fruit-based ice creams, because fruit is another one of the major food groups and I can kill two birds with one stone. I'm very efficient that way. A few weeks ago, I shared the recipe for one of my favorite ice creams with you and today, I'm going to share another one - Drunken Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream.
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This ice cream is a perfect one to make this time of year when fresh, sweet, juicy, ruby-hued Bing cherries abound. The vanilla base is one that I've borrowed from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. It is a Philadelphia-style ice cream, which is one that contains no eggs yolks, instead, relying heavily on cream. This type of base is foolproof and is my preferred method for making fruit-based ice creams.

The drunken aspect of this recipe comes from soaking the cherries in alcohol, specifically a cherry brandy. The most well-known of these is kirschwasser, which literally means "cherry water" in German. It is a is a clear brandy distilled from cherry juice and pits that is often used in both savory and sweet cooking. Kirschwasser, or kirsch for short, is a popular ingredient in fondues and is a signature ingredient in Cherries Jubilee. I love Cherries Jubilee! We had it flambeed tableside at our wedding. If you don't have kirsch, you can certainly substitute another kind of cherry brandy or liqueur. If you don't want to use alcohol at all, you can just swap out the brandy for fruit juice or just plain water.
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Now, before you run around telling everyone that I'm a lush who puts booze in ice cream, let me explain that I do this because alcohol is supposed to prevent the ice cream from freezing too hard, thus retaining its creamy scoopability. Of course, by cooking it, I probably have defeated the purpose, but it does taste great, so I stand by my decision.

With or without the brandy, this is a luscious, creamy ice cream, and a great way to use up cherries that are past their prime. Give it a try. Go on.....you know you want to.

Drunken Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup fresh Bing cherries, pitted and halved
1/4 cup cherry brandy, such as kirschwasser
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine cherries, brandy and 2 tablespoons sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer a few minutes until sugar is dissolved and liquid is absorbed. Chill until ready to mix into ice cream.

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a medium saucepan and add the sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the saucepan and add the pod to the pot. Warm over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and add the remaining cream, the half-and-half, and the vanilla extract.

Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, for at least eight hours or overnight. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla pod, then freeze in your ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Turn ice cream into a freezer proof container. Mix in cherry mixture and freeze until firm.
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Enjoy!
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If you like fruity frozen desserts too, check out these other great recipes:
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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Birthday America!


Independence Day honors the birthday of the United States of America and the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Each year on July 4th, Americans everywhere celebrate their freedom and independence. It is a national holiday marked by various patriotic events, including parades, concerts and thrilling fireworks displays. The 4th of July is also a chance for family and friends throughout the country to gather for picnics and barbecues.

Whether you'll be hosting your own "fun in the sun" event or bringing a dish along to someone else's holiday bash, here are a few ideas from the SGCC recipe archives that you and yours might enjoy.






















































Have a great (and safe) holiday weekend!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple Cheddar Scones

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I'm going to tell you right up front that this post is going to short and sweet. Today is Tuesday, and we all know what THAT means. It's time for another edition of Tuesdays with Dorie. Since this week's baking adventure comes right on the heels of the latest Daring Bakers challenge, (which was a doozy of a process), I just don't have the time or the energy to be verbose!

The first thing I have to say is thank heaven for Karina of The Floured Apron for choosing a recipe that could be whipped together in about ten minutes flat! Her choice of Apple-Cheddar Scones was a godsend after two days of rolling and rolling and rolling laminated pastry dough with a dislocated elbow! I started making these scones at 7:30 this morning and by 8:30, I had fresh, hot and delicious scones to enjoy with my morning coffee.
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As soon as I read the name of the recipe, I knew that these would be a hit at my house. Mr. SGCC will eat anything that has cheese in it. He is a big, fat cheesehound! In fact, he will not touch a burger or sandwich of any kind unless it has cheese on it. What can I do? I married him for better or for worse!

The instructions for this recipe were very straighforward and easy to follow. My dough came together really easily. I must warn you, however, this is one hell of a sticky dough! It stuck to everything it touched, including my fingers, like Krazy Glue. If you try these, make sure you have plenty of extra flour for dusting. Instead of scooping them out or free-forming them, I baked the scones in a non-stick scone pan, because I happened to have one.

I stuck with the original recipe as written, mostly because I really didn't have time to experiment. I'm glad I did, though, because these scones are really wonderful just as they are. They turned out very moist with a dense, but light crumb. I wasn't sure how I'd like the apple/cheese combination, but it really worked. The sweet and savory components were well balanced. The scones were quite delicious and with the melted cheddar laced all through them, they looked pretty too.
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We enjoyed our scones with some luscious creme fraiche and a drizzle of orange blossom honey. They were the perfect complements. If you're ever looking for a quick easy and tasty addition to your brunch table, this is it. I will definitely make them again.

Now, get on over to the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll and check out what everyone else has done with this recipe. I'm sure that you'll be inspired!
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Enjoy!