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Summer Berry Pie

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A few weekends ago it has been decided that I was to make a pie. There is nothing simpler or more enjoyable than a fresh homemade berry pie in the summertime, even if it is slightly time consuming.

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We went to the store and I let my husband choose the filling. He chose blueberries and raspberries, which I thought at first was a bit of an unconventional combination (I was going to go just for blueberries or perhaps cherries). But he was set on those berries and I thought, well, why not.

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I took care not to use too much sugar as I didn't want the sugar to drown out the taste of the berries. Our berries were very sweet and I ended up using no more than about three to four tablespoons of sugar. I was also very careful when tossing the berries so that they didn't run too many juices and retained their shape. I used about 3 tbsp of corn starch to make sure the pie was not too runny. Lately I've been intrigued by using cookie cutter shapes to make fun and interesting pie tops instead of traditional lattice tops or just a dough-covered pie with vent holes (sorry grandma).

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I used a combination of white and whole wheat flours for this pie. The whole wheat flour I used was stone ground pastry flour, which worked well and made the crust very delicate, but also more substantial than when made entirely from white flour (and using all whole wheat, as my husband says, makes the thing taste like cardboard). This is a good, simple recipe, that I'd imagine we'd be using much into the fall as various berries come into season. Enjoy!

For other pie recipe variations you can also try our peach and blackberry pie, or for a gluten free version, a sour cherry galette.

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Summer Berry Pie

You will need:

For the crust
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (plus more for dusting)
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter (8 tbsp), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3-5 tbsp ice cold water

For the filling:
4 cups berries (e.g. half blueberries, half raspberries)
1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar (depending on sweetness of the berries)
1 tsp lemon zest
2-3  tbsp corn starch (depending on how juicy the berries are)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

1. In a bowl mix white and whole wheat flours, 3 tbsp sugar, and salt. Add butter and with your fingers quickly work the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles that of coarse sand. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough starts to form. Be careful not to overhandle. Form the dough into two equal balls, sprinkle with a bit of flour and cover with a towel and let rest 15-20 minutes as you prepare the filling. You can also refrigerate the dough for up to 12 hours. (If you refrigerate the dough, let it sit at room temperature for about an hour for the dough to become pliable again before rolling it out).

2. To prepare the filling, gently toss the berries with sugar, lemon zest, corn starch, and lemon juice. Be gentle handling delicate berries such as raspberries so that they don't become mushy and lose their shape (I gently toss them just once with a wooden spatula). Let stand for 15 minutes as you roll out the dough.

3. Dust a piece of wax paper with a bit of flour; rub your rolling pin with flour so it doesn't stick to the dough. Take one dough ball and roll it out into a sheet about 1/8 inch thick or less. Invert it onto a pie pan. Add the berries with all the juices. Roll the other ball into a sheet and use it to either form a lattice top or use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make about 12 shapes to cover the pie with to make the pie like in the photograph.

4. Bake at 425ºF for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

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Tuna and Egg Salad Sandwich

Sunday, March 1, 2015

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For lunch in Manhattan there is no limit to food options. In fact, in the financial district where I work, lunch food is the only option (it becomes a ghost town after work and a lot of places that cater to the lunch crowd close before dinner time with only a few Irish pubs open here and there). I have tried most places in the area, from various lunch chains that have lines outside the door to a sushi/udon place that is run by Indian cooks (my favorite is the curry udon), to a few classic delis where you can get a warm pastrami sandwich (no taylor egg on a roll, they might throw stuff at you). I was really excited when I found a ramen place, but was sorely disappointed because the noodles tasted like cardboard and the broth tasted like wet socks. So after a few more similar disappointments, I started bringing my own lunch.

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This recipe is similar to a typical deli style tuna salad (except it does not come from a metal tub where it's been living for long enough to acquire a crust). I added an egg, because I wanted both a tuna salad and an egg salad and couldn't choose.

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For other deli-sandwich type options (and if you don't want to mix tuna and eggs), check out our other version of the tuna salad, an egg salad, and a Norwegian shrimp salad.


Tuna and Egg Salad
(enough for 2-3 sandwiches)

You will need:
2 hardboiled eggs
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 can tuna, drained
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1/4 lemon, or to taste
3 tbsp your choice of mayo, sour cream, or greek yogurt

Directions:
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Carefully submerge the eggs and cook until hardboiled, about 10 minutes. Cool under cold water.
2. Peel and chop the eggs and place in a mixing bowl, add celery, tuna, scallion and dill and mix. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Add mayo (or sour cream or yogurt, whichever using). Mix well to combine. Serve as is or on toasted bread with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

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Mini Eclairs with Coconut Cream Filling

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Initially I planned to post this recipe before Christmas, then before New Year's. But time seems to always run away from me. So before another six months passes, let's just say I planned these in time for Valentine's day.

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The inspiration for these mini eclairs (about 2-3 inches in length) comes from a bakery we have nearby. It is a local staple, and the locals are completely addicted to it.

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To give you an example, the bakery closes at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Around 2:30 in the afternoon, there is a traffic jam around the small parking lot. Some patrons leave their cars running with emergency lights on on the side of the road while they run in to get their fill before closing time.

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Inside the store there is a frenzy; multiple store clerks shout out who's next! while the patrons frantically point in the direction of their favorite pastry, cookie or cupcake. These aren't people who are trying to get last minute cakes or pies for a get together. These are people who have no other purpose than to satisfy their sweet tooth before the bakery closes for the day. There is a lone grown man who buys two large sun-flower shaped sugar cookies and consumes one at the store and one on the way back to his car. There is a woman who runs out clutching a small bag full of mini cannolis which she eats in the parking lot in her car, her mouth covered with dusted sugar. This bakery feeds an addiction. Addiction to amazing, fresh, made-on-the-spot goodies.

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My favorite pastries there are mini eclairs. They are always fresh, with the chocolate glaze still warm. They are so hard to resist that sometimes when my husband and I get them, we eat them as soon as we reach the car, knowing to avoid eye contact with other patrons munching on their fare in theirs.

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Then I decided to make my own. The eclairs at the bakery are filled with an amazing egg custard, and covered with booze-infused gooey chocolate glaze. The eclairs I make here are filled with coconut milk based filling to make them slightly lighter. For the glaze, I went heavy on the liquor and light on sugar, substituting it with agave syrup.

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The pastry used for the eclairs is called pâte à choux, which is the same pastry used for cream puffs. You can read more about cream puffs here. The egg-rich batter creates an air pocket inside the pastry while it bakes, so that it can be easily filled with cream. The key to making the batter is just the right amount of eggs. Don't go by measurements but rather by consistency. Add the eggs gradually to see if the right consistency is reached (remember you can always add more eggs but you cannot un-add them if there is too much). If the mixture is resembling mashed potato texture (a bit too dry), whisk in another egg in small portions until proper consistency is reached. The pâte à choux should be easy to whisk, thick but not sticky, and glistening slightly.

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These mini eclairs are so small and light that you might not notice before half of them are gone!

Pâte à Choux

Makes about 32 mini eclairs (2 sheets)

You will need:
1 cup water
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
4-5 eggs, lightly beaten (about 1 cup)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Heat water, butter and salt in a small saucepan on medium heat until just boiling, stir to combine. With the heat on low, gradually add the flour, stirring constantly. Continue stirring, breaking up any lumps, until the mixture is thick and separates from the sides of the pan, about 1-2 minutes. The mixture should have the consistency of mashed potatoes.
3. Transfer to a large bowl and wait until the mixture has cooled or the eggs will curdle. Add eggs gradually, mixing quickly until well blended (the mixture will separate then come together). The final mixture should have the consistency of a thick custard and should be shiny and pipe easily.
4. Fill a piping bag with the batter. With a round tip, pipe 16 eclairs on each baking sheet (about 2.5 inches in length) spacing them about 1 inch apart.
5. Bake the pastries at 425ºF for 10 minutes. The pastries should puff up and turn light gold. Reduce the heat to 375ºF and bake for 20-25 minutes longer, until the pastries are golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Do not place in the fridge as they may collapse. Let cool completely before filling.


Coconut Cream Filling

Tip: For the filling you should use only coconut milk solids, otherwise the filling will be too runny. Refrigerate the coconut milk cans for several hours or overnight. This will allow the solids to be separated from the liquids; the solids will be on top. When ready, spoon out the solids into a bowl.

You will need:
solids of two 15 oz cans of coconut milk (about 2 cups)
1.5 cup confecitoner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:
1. In a bowl, add the coconut milk solids, confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 2-3 minutes, until ripples form and the consistency is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate immediately until needed.
2. To fill the eclairs, puncture two small openings with a knife or a skewer on the bottom of each eclair, spaced about 1.5 inches apart to accommodate a small round tip. Fill the piping bag with the coconut cream filling. Using the small round tip, pipe the filling into the pastry through one opening, then the other (this will ensure the pastry is filled evenly). Wipe away any excess cream. Refrigerate until ready to glaze.


Chocolate glaze

You will need:
4 oz semi-sweet baker's chocolate
2 1/4 tbsp butter, softened
1 1/4 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 oz rum
1 oz agave syrup

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (or carefully in a saucepan over very low heat). Remove from heat into a bowl and add the butter. Mix until the butter is melted.
2. In a separate bowl whisk together cocoa, rum and agave syrup. Stir into the chocolate and butter mixture. Let stand to cool until the mixture has thickened and is of spreadable consistency. Then, with a pastry brush, brush each eclair with the glaze. Serve or refrigerate.

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Liquid Smoke

Sunday, December 7, 2014

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Liquid smoke was invented in the late 19th century as a convenient alternative to the smoke house. The product is derived from actual wood smoke, which is cooled and condensed to give a liquid, rich in the compounds that give the characteristic smoked wood flavor. When wood burns it doesn't do so completely, and while it burns it releases certain compounds - a process called pyrolysis - that can be used to season and cure food and give it a smokey flavor. Liquid smoke effectively does the same thing - it contains the same compounds released by smoldering wood and is essentially wood smoke in liquid form.

The story has it that sometime in the early 1890s a guy named Ernest Wright, a Kansas City pharmacist, made the first liquid smoke to prepare a ham for his friends, who could not distinguish the soaked ham from an ordinary smoked one.

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Indeed, soaking meat for 1-2 hrs in a liquid smoke solution imparts the same smoky flavor as actual smoking and can be done much more easily than actually smoking it! This is not to say that we would not want to smoke our meat in a traditional charcoal/wood smoker, but it is simply not practically possible for many apartment-dwellers such as ourselves.

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You can find liquid smoke in specialty shops or large supermarkets (in ours it was filed under "condiments"). Try following the directions on the bottle as they tend to be pretty accurate (diluting one part liquid smoke in X parts water). If you taste the liquid smoke/water solution, it will taste very bitter. So I was skeptical the first time, and I insisisted that we use half the amount of liquid smoke, since I thought the meat would come out bitter as well. That was not the case. The meat still came out delicious. The tenderloin tasted like ham (the smokiness flavor was subdued). The second time we used it we used the full amount, and the meat came out tasting like it's been smoked.

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You should allow at least an hour or two for the meat to soak in liquid smoke solution (two hours is better). Also allow enough water and a container large enough for the meat to be completely submerged. Once the meat is done marinating, discard the liquid and pat dry with paper towels. Lay on a lightly greased baking sheet and either season with spices to your preference, or (an option we prefer) use a dry barbecue rub.

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Roast in oven at 350ºF. Any time we have any meat or poultry that needs to be roasted, I like to use old trusted sources for temperature and time. For this one, we used the Joy of Cooking magic formula: cook at 350ºF for 30 minutes per pound of meat. We had two pounds, so an hour was perfect (however, keep an eye on it as pork tends to dry out easily even if slightly overdone).

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Liquid Smoke
(serves 6-8)

You will need:
About 2 lb split pork tenderloin
liquid smoke (proportion as instructed on the label)
water
dry barbecue rub (check out our recipe here)
canola or other high-heat oil

Directions:

1. Rinse the tenderloin and pat dry with paper towels. Prepare a bath of 1 parts liquid smoke for 8 parts water (or as instructed on the label) in a container large enough for the tenderloin to be submerged completely. Soak tenderloin, refrigerated, in liquid smoke solution for two hours. Remove, discard the liquid, and pat dry completely with paper towels.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil with a little oil. Generously rub the two tenderloin pieces with barbecue rub.
2. Place in oven, uncovered, and roast, for about 1 hour for two pounds or until done.* Let rest for about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy with a choice of barbecue sauce, horse radish, mustard, or whatever condiment you prefer.

*Add half an hour for additional pound of meat
 

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