Sunday, October 31, 2010

And the Winner Is............Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake!!!

Today we celebrated Oktoberfest at our church. Yes, we know that Oktoberfest is actually held in September, but today was Reformation Day and we needed an (additional) excuse to potluck and eat sauerkraut.

One of the events of the day was a pumpkin dessert contest. I didn't have anything new up my sleeve, so searched the internet for some inspiration, and wow, did I ever find it!

At Finecooking.com there is a Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake that is absolutely amazing! Here is a copy of their post:


Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake
For the purée
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded
Tip: You can substitute canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like.
For the cake
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
For the topping
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger
For the frosting
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

Make the pumpkin purée Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9x13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.
Make the cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the topping Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.
Make the frosting Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
Assemble the cake
Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the purée up to 2 days ahead. The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.
nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 660; Fat (g): 36; Fat Calories (kcal): 320; Saturated Fat (g): 18; Protein (g): 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11; Carbohydrates (g): 80; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4; Sodium (mg): 440; Cholesterol (mg): 115; Fiber (g): 2;
photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 107, pp. 80-81
September 2, 2010
By the way -- this won First Place!!



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

With love to my sister!

Provender in tiverton 4 corners has the best ginger snaps ever.The weather is still frightful--cold, rainy, and windy. A good day to stay in a warm kitchen. For me, the aroma of sugar and spices is comforting and makes the whole house feel more cozy. So today I baked a batch of molasses cookies. This is a recipe I got from my dear sister Florence years ago. I wish I could share them with her now but 18 years ago this week she was diagnosed with an unstoppable cancer. I still miss her and think of her every day, but when I listen to hymns that she sang or bake treats that she enjoyed she seems a bit closer to us.

Molasses Cookies
1 cup sugar plus additional for shaping cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
3 T molasses
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl cream together sugar and butter; mix in egg and molasses. In another bowl sift together dry ingredients; add to butter/molasses mixture and mix until blended well.

Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Form dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven about 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The veggie you hate and the soup you'll love

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful..." We're in the midst of a huge storm right now--heavy rains, thunder, lightning, and the trees surrounding our farmhouse are swaying wildly. So, I'm going to do the only rational thing one could do at a time like this -- make more soup!

My favorite produce stand had large heads of cauliflower for only $2.00 each, so I selected the largest one I could find. It's waiting patiently in the back of my frig right now, so let's get started on cream of cauliflower soup. ....OK, I know what you're thinking--"cauliflower in a soup, seriously?" Trust me; this recipe will change your mind about cauliflower.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets (about 5 cups)
2 14 1/2-ounce cans chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives

Melt butter in heavy large pot over low heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add cauliflower and sauté 2 minutes. Add broth. Cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 25 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer soup to blender and purée until smooth. Return soup to pot. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate.) Bring soup to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with chives.
.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Colcannon, or Irish Mashed Potatoes (or I hope my doctor isn't reading this blog!)

I really like mashed potatoes. Actually, I LOVE mashed potatoes. And a few nights ago my husband was watching a travel show on Ireland; they featured a local cook preparing Colcannon and it looked.....amazingl! (I'll explain in a minute what colcannon is). Anyhow, husband turned to me and said "That looks really good. Could you make that for us?"


How could I possibly say "no"? Thanks to paternal grandma I'm one-quarter Irish. And potatoes are a daily dietary requirement, aren't they?

Now, for an explanation of Colcannon--simply put, it's buttery mashed potatoes swirled with green cooked cabbage and (occasionally) bits of pork in the form of Canadian bacon or ham.

Now, colcannon isn't exactly "health food". Potatoes and cabbage, on their own or together are certainly health-conscious additions to ones diet. But the smoked pork and AMPLE nobs of butter applied to the final product quickly reduce this recipe from a thoughtful dietary choice to a planned act of temporary insanity.

Call me crazy--I love Colcannon:

Irish Colcannon (4 servings)
2 pounds smoked pork neck bones
1 quart water
1/2 head cabbage
4 or 5 (depending on size) white new potatoes
1/2 milk
1/2 cup butter, divided

Place pork neck bones in crock pot (slow cooker). Cover with water and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender (3-4 hours on high). Remove meat from cooker and set aside to cool. Reserve water in crock pot.

Chop cabbage into small (1 inch) dice and add to water in crock pot. Cover and cook on low one hour. Drain cabbage and set aside.

When cool enough to handle, remove all bones and fat from cooked pork. Set aside.

Place potatoes in steamer basket in large saucepan with lid. Cover and steam over low heat until potatoes are done--a sharp knife should easily slide into the potato. When potatoes are cool enough to handle remove skins; place peeled potatoes in large bowl. Mash until no lumps remain; add 1/4 cup butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until all butter is incorporated. Heat milk in microwave; add to potatoes and continue to whip until potatoes are creamy.

Using a large spoon stir cooked cabbage and cooked pork into mashed potatoes. Divide mixture among 4 serving bowls. Using a wooden spoon, make a well in the middle of each serving. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in each well.

Luxuriate!!

Oatmeal Batter Bread

As the days become shorter and a chill clings to the air, we tend to seek comfort foods--warm, aromatic, filling morsels (I'm starting to think about hibernating). For me, oatmeal bread is one of those comfort foods. This one requires no kneading so can be prepared in the early afternoon and ready in time for supper.





Oatmeal Batter Bread
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 egg
2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Stir together the first 5 ingredients (boiling water through salt) in a large mixing bowl. Cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in the 1/4 cup warm water. Add the yeast/water to the oatmeal mixture along with the egg and flour. Beat 2 minute at medium speed with an electric mixer. Spread evenly in a greased 8"x4" loaf pan.

Let rise in a warm place until batter reaches top of the pan--about 1 1/2 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the loaf for 50-55 minutes. Remove from pan immediately.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms

According to the dictionary (and Wiki) gnocchi (N'YO-kee) are a small dumpling made from flour, bread, or potato. What an uninspiring definition of such a heavenly creation. Today I made potato gnocchi for my daughter's birthday--tender, feathery little puffs gently simmered in water and then briefly sauted in butter and olive oil with mushrooms and herbs. 
Many cookbooks (and Italian grandmothers) will tell you to start with russet potatoes, boil them in their jackets, allow to cool slightly, peel, dice, rice, mash..............I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Maybe Italian grandma can always get it right, but I've found that a potato isn't always a potato. Some are more or less starchy. And when are they properly "done"? A bit too firm, or cooked too long?.....well, you get the idea. 

So I use mashed potato flakes. They are consistent--always the same and my gnocchi turn out perfectly every time:

Potato Gnocchi
1 1/3 cups dry mashed potato flakes
1 1/3 cups boiling water
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Place the mashed potato flakes in a large mixing bowl and cover with the boiling water. Stir just to moisten and let sit for about 10 minutes. Add the salt and 2 eggs and beat on low speed with mixer until smooth. Add the flour and beat just until the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Don't overmix--this makes the gnocchi tough.

Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each one, one at a time, on a clean work surface* into a rope about the thickness of your thumb. Using a sharp knife cut 1/2-inch thick slices from the rope of dough. 

Next, roll each piece against the tines of a fork--this creates the characteristic grooves and help the sauce cling to gnocchi. To cook them, drop your gnocchi into simmering (not boiling) water--no more than about 20 at a time. They are done when they bob to the surface.
Remove the gnocchi with a skimmer and place on a clean towel.

     *I roll my gnocchi out on a large piece of freezer paper (waxed side  up) so that I don't have to use any additional flour to keep them from sticking to the work surface.

Gnocchi can be served with your favorite spaghetti or creamy alfredo sauce. Here's what I did:

Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound chanterelles, sliced
1/4 pound cremini (button) mushrooms
1 batch cooked gnocchi (see above)
1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream
2 tablespoons wild huckleberries (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

Saute onion and hazelnuts in a large pan with butter and olive oil until the onions become translucent and hazelnuts begin to turn golder brown--careful, they burn easily. Remove from pan and set aside.

To same pan add chanterelles and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until mushrooms are tender--about 5 minutes. Add the cooked gnocchi and reserved onions and hazelnuts to the pan and continue to stir (gently) until the gnocchi are heated through and the juices from the mushrooms have reduced a bit. Stir in the heavy cream and continue to heat gently for another minute or two or until sauce thickens.

Sprinkle huckleberries and rosemary on top and serve.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

My daughter loves peanut butter, and today is her birthday. Last year she asked for a peanut butter pie. This year--it's peanut butter and jelly cupcakes.

I had never made those before, but it sounded like an interesting experiment. The part I'll share with you is not the cake (it's just a simple yellow cake), but the peanut butter frosting and the "jelly" part of the cupcake.


Peanut Butter Frosting
*1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter (not margarine) at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cream

Cream together peanut butter and butter in large bowl until smooth. Add vanilla and then powdered sugar. Start at slow speed (so you don't end up in a cloud of sugar dust) and increase speed to medium until all of the sugar is incorporated and mixture is smooth. Add cream and beat until light and fluffy. Set aside.

How to Fill Cupcakes:
With the tip of a sharp knife ut a cone shape from the top of each cupcake. It will be about 1-inch across and 1-inch deep. I used a grapefruit knife--it's small, pointed, and the serations slice through the cake without tearing. After you cut the cone shapes, remove each cone, and slice off about 1/2-inch of the "point". Place the top back on the cupcakes.

So now you have cupcakes with a hollow spot in the middle. And that empty middle needs jelly inside.

Use your favorite jam or jelly flavor I think it has to be strawberry, but I acknowledge that other people might prefer grape. (Don't try to use preserves. They are too chunky.) Place about 1/2 cup of your jam or jelly of choice in a small zip-top bag. Snip off one corner. You have now created a piping bag. Remove one cupcake top at a time and squirt a tiny bit (a generous 1/2 tsp.) of jelly into each hole. Replace the "top" on each one.

Now it's time to put a generous helping of peanut butter frosting atop each filled cupcake. I used a piping bag but you could simply use a frosting knife.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meaty, Meaty Spaghetti (...with apologies to my vegetarian daughter)

Spaghetti Bolognese Royalty Free Stock PhotoToday I asked my husband "what would you like for dinner?" I'm not sure if I ask out of politeness, or because I'm in the mood for spaghetti. The result is always the same!

He LOVES a meaty spaghetti sauce, and so this is how I create a little bit of Italy at home in our kitchen:


Meaty, Meaty Spaghetti Sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. pepper flakes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Crumble ground beef and sausage into large saute pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until no pink remains. Add onions and garlic and continue to cook until onions become soft and meat begins to brown. Form a "well" in the center of the pan by moving the meats and onions to the edge. Drop the tomato paste into the well and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Stir 3 tomato paste cans full of water into the pan; stir. Add the canned tomatoes and pepper flakes. Lower the heat to simmer; cover and cook for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary if the mixture appears to be dry. (You don't want it to stick to the bottom of the pan and burn).

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook an additional 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cheesy Herb Biscuits

grated cheddar cheeseToday the sun is shining but the air is cold and crisp--a perfect day for a pot of stew simmering in the oven. And stew must be served with biscuits! Here's a recipe I made up a few years ago:




Cheesy Herb Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
*1 tsp. dried herbs
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar or other assertive cheese
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and dried herbs in large mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like small crumbs. Stir in the cheese and toss until coated with the flour mixture.

Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour. Pour in the milk and toss gently until all of the flour is moistened. Don't overmix.

Drop by tablespoonfuls on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven 8-10 minutes or until nicely browned.



*any combination of the following--oregano, parsley, chives, poppy seeds, cilantro, dill weed, basil

Ravioli "Lasagna" (or, lasagna so easy even a caveman can do it)

Today I wanted to make lasagna without all of the time or drama. Here's the "caveman" version of lasagna in our house:

Ravioli "Lasagna"
*Frozen ravioli
cooking spray
1 jar spaghetti sauce (any flavor)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 egg
2 cups shredded mozarella cheese

* (about 2 dozen pieces or enough to create two layers in your chosen baking dish.)


Cook ravioli in simmering water about 5 or 6 minutes (you want them to be slightly undercooked). Drain and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a square baking dish with cooking spray. Pour a small amount of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the pan--just enough to coat. Place one layer of partially-cooked ravioli in the pan. 

Combine ricotta, spinach, and egg in small mixing bowl. Spread this mixture on top of the ravioli. Sprinkle on one cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Add a second layer of ravioli; cover with the sauce and top with the remaining cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is lightly browned.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Old Country Rye Bread

My home made bread... pumpernickel at the bottom, and rye at the top.Yesterday I posted a recipe for my mom's split pea soup. You can't eat that soup without a slice (or two or three) of mom's rye bread. She didn't bake it very often because rye flour is more expensive than wheat. But we always knew that if split pea soup was simmering on the stove there would be a loaf of rye bread in the oven too.

Mom's rye bread isn't the traditional dark loaf studded with caraway seed. I don't think we ever had caraway seeds in the house. Her bread was more dense and earthy, and I'm sure it's exactly the way her mom made rye bread in their village near the Caspian Sea, and her mother before her, and so on, and so on.

Old Country Rye Bread
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 pkg dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
2 cups rye flour
3 cups white flour

Place water and milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave at full-power for 45-60 seconds or until warm (NOT hot) to the touch. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over liquid in bowl, stir to moisten, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir in salt, sugar, shortening and flours. Knead on well-floured surface for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Grease a large bowl with shortening or cooking oil. Place dough in bowl, turn to coat on all sides. Cover with waxed paper and set in a warm, draft-free place until double in size, about 1 hour. (Here's a hint--the dough is doubled and ready to shape if, when you gently press two fingertips quickly into the dough 1/2 inch, the indentation remains).

Gently punch dough down. Divide in half and form each half into a round ball. Place on a greased cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan and let rise till doubled in size again (about 1 hour).

Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mama's Split Pea Soup (warm comfort on a cold day)

The weather is definitely becoming more and more autumnal, and so it's time to prepare another batch of soup. Today I dug back into my roots and prepared a wonderful, comforting soup that my mom used to make for us. My mom was German-Russian and was brought up in very frugal conditions. Soup wasn't just a first course, a thin broth with a few vegetables floating around the rim. Soup was a stick-to-the-ribs hearty meal, and this soup is no exception. In fact, I submitted this recipe to a Progresso Soup contest and received honorable mention. I'm sure mama would have been proud:

Split Pea Soup
2/3 cup dry navy or white beans
6 cups water
2/3 cup dry lentils
1 1/2 cups dry split peas
1 medium onion (about one cup), finely chopped
2 medium carrots (about one cup), thinly sliced
1 small stalk celery, finely chopped (no tops)
3 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 medium potato, diced (about one cup)
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and sort navy beans. Heat beans and water in 3-quart saucepan. Boil 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Return saucepan to heat; bring beans to a simmer over low heat; cook for 90 minutes.

Add the next 6 ingredients, stir gently, and allow to simmer for one hour. Stir in diced potato, cover and simmer 10 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Little Ears" and "Baby Butts"

An odd title indeed for a very yummy pasta dish. Today I made a one-dish vegetarian meal for my family. I used orecchiette (which in Italian means "little ears") pasta and chickpeas/garbanzo beans.  (Years ago I met someone who told me that, to her, chickpeas look like "babies' butts.........and I've never forgotten that.)


Photo http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/
So, what can you do with pasta and chickpeas? Well, of course, pasta needs no explanation! But chickpeas are great too. They are a great source of protein and dietary fiber--and you can buy them already cooked for about a dollar (or less). So, here's what is happening in my kitchen:








Orecchiette/Garbanzo Casserole
1 cup (uncooked) orecchiette pasta
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 cup vegetable broth*
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, cook carrots in covered saucepan or steam until crisp/tender. Drain and set aside.

In large pan saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Add carrots and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to turn golden brown. Add minced garlic and garbanzo beans and cook another 5 minutes.

Add pasta to pan along with vegetable broth and seasonings. Turn heat to low and simmer until almost all of the broth is absorbed and pasta is tender. Sprinkle on feta cheese, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

     *I actually used mushroom broth. You could use vegetable or chicken

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Apple Pie

http://www.sunset.com/ (Photo by Thomas J. Story)

The town in which I live hosts an annual "Apple Squeeze". It's one of the big events of the year with 20 vintage cider presses converting apples into jugs of fresh cider and a street fair devoted to "everything apple". Fritters, jars of apple butter, pie by the slice, and arts and crafts are all for sale. In honor of "The Squeeze" as we call it here, I baked an apple pie for my family:








Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Apple Pie
Pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (depending on the tartness of your apples)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
6 cups sliced Granny Smith apples
1 T softened butter

Mix the sugars, spices, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the apple slices and toss to coat the apples slices evenly with the sugar/flour mixture. Let sit for about 20 minutes or until the apples begin to release their juices and the sugar/flour mixture becomes moist.

Mound the apples in the bottom of a pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan. Dot with butter and then add the top crust. Crimp the edge and cut several slits in the top of the pie to release steam (or use a pie vent).

Place the pie on a pizza pan or cookie sheet to catch any drips of spillovers.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Cool in a draft-free place.






Friday, October 1, 2010

Wild Mushroom Tart




Spring is my favorite season--trees are starting to bud out and spring bulbs are rising from their winter slumber, filling the garden with color. Everything is fresh, new, and alive. On the other hand, autumn is depressing at times--flowers are fading, trees are bare, and the days are growing shorter. But today I am happy that Autumn has arrived--today I went to the produce stand and found chanterelles!

Chanterelles are wild mushrooms; they are yellow to bright orange in color, firm, meaty, with a fruity smell reminiscent of apricots. They can be a bit pricey (as you can see), but as with aged cheese a little bit goes a long ways. I purchased 1/4 pound and made a "Mushroom Tart".

Wild Mushroom Tart
Ingredients:
1 9-inch unbaked piecrust
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onions, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Chanterelles
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream (I use non-fat)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Use a fork to prick the bottom and sides of the pie crust all over. (This will prevent the formation of bubbles.)  Line the bottom of the crust with pie weights. (This too will help prevent bubbles which weaken the crust). Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove the pie weights and set aside.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese in the bottom of the pie crust.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Wipe chanterelles and mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. (NEVER wash or soak mushrooms!) Roughly chop the chanterelles and slice the mushrooms. 

we used a variety of dried wild mushrooms from foraged and found ediblesSaute onions in butter and olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to turn golden. Add chanterelles and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, about 6-8 minutes more. Add wine and broth and simmer until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in sour cream and continue cooking until liquid is almost evaporated.

Spread mushroom mixture evenly in pie crust. Sprinkle on remaining 1 cup parmesan. Bake until crust is golden and tart is bubbly, about 20 minutes.