Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sweet Cherry Pie with Streusel

With the end of cherry season upon us, it’s time to bid it adieu in fine fashion, by turning the last of the plump, delicious bings into a toothsome cherry pie.  Despite the many and varied pies that I have featured on this blog, largely I am a pie baking novice.  I had never made a cherry pie prior to this one, not even using canned cherries or cherry pie filling.  I must say that I was enormously pleased with this one.  Instead of having mushy, overly-sweet-to-the-point-of-cloying cherries, these tasted as if I had just popped a fresh one into my mouth to enjoy; the streusel topping adds the perfect touch. I do believe this is going to become a summer ritual.  Join me, won’t you?

Sweet Cherry Streusel Pie
Adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

1-2/3 cups streusel to top pie (recipe below)
1 small baking apple, peeled and shredded
5 cups sweet cherries, pitted
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Your favorite pie crust

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Have ready and refrigerated one partially pre-baked pastry-lined 9-inch pan, crimped as desired, and streusel to top.  Position racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack.

Place shredded apple, pitted cherries, lemon juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell and evenly distribute the chilled streusel on top.

Place the pie on a baking sheet on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F, move the pie to the center of the oven and continue to bake until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling juices are bubbling throughout, about 30-35 minutes longer.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, about 2-3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Streusel Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugars, and salt. Pulse until mixed. Add in butter all at once and pulse 10-12 times until mixture resembles coarse meal. Chill 15 minutes before using.

For those without a food processor (and if you do not have one I recommend them for making scones alone), this topping can also be made by sifting together the dry ingredients, adding in the butter, and rubbing it together with your fingers until chunky, but not homogenous. I prepared it both ways, and found the processor method superior.

The streusel will keep refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for 1 month.

My mother was the pie baker in the  family.  Today would have been her 88th birthday.  Happy Birthday, mom.  I miss you more than I can say.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Clean Snax™ A Truly Healthy kidding!

What's the first thing that comes to mind when I say healthy snack (after you stop laughing, that is)? Impossible?  Non-existent? Tasteless? Cardboard? Or worse, perhaps?  If you, like me, have always found snacks that fall into the healthy category to be sorely lacking in everything from taste to texture to true nutritional value, let me tell you that this problem has been solved. 
Melissa's Produce, a name synonymous with good health and quality, has recently introduced four varieties of their Clean Snax (Isn't the name alone a comfort?  Clean.) Square morsels of crunchy goodness, gluten free Clean Snax contain both chia seeds (that alone pack a powerful nutritional punch), and flaxseed (a nutritional Amazon, with some evidence that they may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes). That's a lot of benefits in a snack food!
They come in four tasty varieties to suit every palate (though I find them all equally yummy): Almond, Cranberry, Coconut, and Pumpkin. Most importantly, they are good, very good. Mr. O-P had no idea that he was eating something good for himself when he popped open the lid on the convenient plastic container of the cranberry variety, and started noshing away. Considering he has been known to run from healthy food, if you don't tell him how good these are for him, neither will I.
A great snack to keep in the car for a boost of energy on a long drive, or to revive kids after a hard day at school. The perfect take along for camping, or for getting some protein into that afternoon coffee break.  These crunchy nuggets also make a great breakfast food crumbled a bit and drizzled with milk. Use them to top yogurt or pudding parfaits, crumble them into pancake or waffle batter, stir them into cookie dough in place of chocolate chips, or use them in place of streusel on baked goods. You are limited only by your imagination. But here's a tip: If you can, buy these by the case. You'll thank me later.

Disclaimer: I was provided with these snacks to sample from Melissa's Produce in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, you will love them.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Lemon Glazed Blueberry Scones

Remember all of those blueberries that I bought?  I am still chipping away at them.  I don’t regret buying those four GIANT containers, but they are starting to challenge my creativity. After using them in a savory dish here, I decided to go for something sweet with these fresh blueberry scones.If you have never made scones with fresh blueberries before, then you are in for a real treat.  They absolutely burst with freshness with every bite.  The additional moisture in the scones, however, prevents them from keeping for a long time, so be prepared to gobble them up on the same day that you make them, or package for the freezer where they will keep for up to three months.

Lemon Glazed Blueberry Scones

For the Scones
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of two Meyer lemons (reserve
¼ tsp.)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into
½” cubes
1/2 cup sour cream
1 extra large egg
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the Glaze
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (reserved from above)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse together sugar and lemon zest until blended and fragrant.  Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream and egg until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and pulse until dough forms, 5-6 pulses. 

Turn mixture into a bowl and fold in blueberries.

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut into 6 wedges.  Carefully place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden, about 17 to 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, remove to a wire rack under which you have put a sheet of waxed paper, and prepare the glaze.

In a medium bowl mix together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the tops of the warm scones once, then allow five minutes to set, then drizzle again, and let harden.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Sorrel & Watermelon Salad with Feta

I always enjoy my little deck potager, but never so much as when the vegetable drawer in the fridge is relatively bare and I'm looking for a refreshing starter for dinner. I'm growing sorrel this year -- a first for me -- and was delighted to find that, unlike many leafy greens, its growing cycle extends well beyond spring. In fact, it seems to thrive in summer weather. 
I made great use of it last evening when I created this cool and refreshing watermelon and feta salad. Talk about easy!  Three ingredients, attractively layered on a plate, and drizzled with homemade poppyseed dressing. If you're short on time, a purchased poppyseed dressing would work just as well. It was well received at dinner, but would also make an excellent side salad for a special lunch. Cool, crisp, and easy, it's the perfect summer salad.

Poppyseed Dressing

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon grated yellow onion
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, vinegar, salt, mustard and onion and process for 20 seconds. With blender or food processor on high, gradually add oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in poppy seeds. 

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hatch Chile Tablescape

I love setting a seasonal table; any season, any holiday, is reason enough for me.  I truly believe in taking joy in little things, and letting my home reflect that joy.  One season that I find particularly enjoyable is one with which you are probably unfamiliar, and that is Hatch Chile season. 
What are Hatch Chiles, you ask?  Considered to be one of the most flavorful peppers in the world (and the official state vegetable of New Mexico), this species of the genus Capsicum is grown in the Hatch Valley.  The soil and growing conditions in the area contribute to the unique flavor, enhanced during roasting.  I had my own hatch chile roast last weekend, where I scented the air (and myself) with a woodsy deliciousness.  Melissa’s Produce is a distributor of these chiles and have produced an amazing cookbook using these peppers that they were kind enough to send me, and that I cannot wait to try.  Spread the word on these tasty chiles!
Hatch Chile Powder allows for the taste of these chiles all year long.  A great enhancer in Mexican food, I pretty much use it for any dish where I want to inject a lot of taste.
I love these placemats that I bought a number of years ago at Pier One (They are still available if you love them too. Plus, napkins to match!  I don’t have those, but they are on my list.)  With all of the colors they contain, it is just impossible not to have something to match. I have used them in many a table setting over the years, but find them particularly lovely with the bold colors of Fiestaware.

This lovely napkin fold is shockingly easy to do.  It does require two napkins in two different colors, but think of the possibilities here.  Pastels for Mother’s Day, springtime, or Easter, earth tones for autumn, patriotic colors for the Fourth of July, or red and green as I have used here for Christmas, or anything boldly festive.  You can find a step-by-step tutorial here.
Plunk a pepper in each mug at the table to add a touch of whimsy, and spread the hatch chile joy.
 I use this yellow flatware in more table settings that you can possibly imagine.  I have had it for decades and never knew the pattern, but someone recently told me that it is Radiant by Noritake, available occasionally from Replacements.

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