Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pate Brisee

Yesterday I made some tomato pies. I intended to use a store-bought crust, since that is what I usually do, despite the fact that I think the store-bought crust has a weird bitter taste. However, I forgot, so I took a friend's advice and tried Martha Stewart's recipe for Pate Brisee (fancy French term for pie crust). You make it in the food processor, and making the dough was surprisingly easy.

Rolling it out was a bit tricky (hence me usually buying dough), but I managed. I still need some practice with fluting and accounting for "shrinkage," although someone has suggested that if I put a big more water in the dough I'll get less shrinkage. I'll happily keep practicing if it means I can eat more tomato pies.

Pate Brisee:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water (I just put mine in the freezer while I got out the food processor and ingredients)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8-10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 Tbsp at a time.

I would say I added closer to 1/4 cup than 1/2 cup.

Divide dough into 2 equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the fridge and chill at least one hour. Dough may be stored frozen up to 1 month. Makes 1 double crust or 2 single crust 10-inch pies.

You can use this crust for both sweet and savory pies and pastries.

Tomato Pie in Pate Brisee

Stop what you are doing and make this right now. Seriously. I made two. Some friends and I ate one last night, and the other is reserved for different friends on Thursday.


If it makes it that long.

I don't know how much I actually like those friends.

Not really. They're great. But that pie is in my fridge calling my name. I can hear it crying out to me through the aluminum foil.

Feel free to buy your crust pre-made. You'll still need to bake it first, but it will work just fine. If you're feeling adventurous, try this recipe for pate brisee.

Tomato Pie:

1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped OR 1 onion, chopped and caramelized*. I used a red onion and caramelized it, and I suggest you do the same, because it was GOOD.
3-4 tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, squeezed to remove excess juice, roughly chopped, to yield approx 3 cups chopped tomatoes. I used a variety of colors of heirloom tomatoes, but you can use whatever kind you like.
1/4 cup sliced basil (or about 1 tsp Italian seasoning). Tip: stack basil leaves, roll up (like a cigar), and cut into thin slices OR just use kitchen shears to cut thin slices.
2 cups grated cheese (I used 2% cheddar and 2% "mexican blend." The original recipe suggests sharp cheddar and monterey jack or gruyere or mozarella. I'd suggest using 2% because it tasted good, held together well, but didn't get too greasy, but the original recipe didn't call for that.
3/4 cup mayonnaise (I did not mess around with the light or low fat kind, but it might work.)
1 tsp hot sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place pie shell in oven and cook for about 10 minutes or longer until lightly golden. If I were doing this again, I would get some pie weights to prevent the center from poofing up and pulling the sides of the crust down. If pie browns too quickly, use a pie shield or place foil over the crust. It will not look "done" after this process, only lightly golden.

2. Squeeze as much moisture from the tomatoes as you can. The orginal recipe suggests using a potato ricer. Since I don't own one of those (although I'd like to, hint hint to The Big Geek), I just picked up handfulls and squeezed over the sink, then put the "squozen" tomatoes in a bowl until I'd squeezed them all. If you are using Italian seasoning instead of fresh basil, sprinkle it into the bowl and gently stir.

3. Sprinkle the bottom of the pre-baked pie shell with onion. Spread the tomatoes on top of the onions. If using sliced basil, sprinkle it over the tomatoes.

4. In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayo, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. The mixture will be the consistency of a gooey snowball. Spread cheese mixture over the tomatoes. I found it easier to spread with my fingers than with a spoon.

5. Place in the oven and bake until browned and bubbly, 25-45 minutes.

Cool for a bit and then enjoy warm. Try to save some for your family or friends.

*To caramelize an onion, melt some butter in a wide saute pan (you can also use olive oil, or a combination of olive oil and butter--about 1 Tbsp per onion). Add sliced or chopped onions and stir to coat. Cook for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to stir them enough that they don't burn, but not too much or they won't brown. Some cooks like to add a tsp of salt and a sprinkling of sugar after about 10 minutes. I, however, am lazy and just brown the onion in butter. I figure that if I use salted butter I don't need to add more salt. . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

from Simply Recipes

I was looking for recipes for zucchini bread and stumbled upon this. Since it involves chocolate, it sounded infinitely better than zucchini bread. As it turns out, I had enough zucchini for both this cake and muffins. The muffins were ok, but this cake--I still have half of it on my counter, but probably not for long. If you're in the area, come by for a slice!

2 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour, unsifted (I used unbleached)
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup soft butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp grated orange peel
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional--I didn't put them in, but they'd be good)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside.

With a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until they are smoothly blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini.

Alternately stir in the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition (if used).

Pour the batter into a greasead and flour-dusted 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth.

Drizzle glaze over completely cooled cake. I do this when the cake is still on the wire rack, with a plate underneath to catch the drips.


Everyone who has tried this has asked if it is healthy. I don't know that's the term I'd use--it's not low fat or low calorie--but I suppose it has more nutrients than a regular chocolate cake. If it helps you to call it healthy, then I go ahead and do so. :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Grilled Flank Steak with Avacado Relish

The Big Geek called this steak "phenomenal," although to be fair, he doesn't get that much red meat. At any rate, I like cooking flank steak because it's fairly lean and it usually tastes good. This dish is easy to make and requires no heat in your kitchen on a hot summer day. The meat and avacado relish would also make a good starter for burritos or tacos. If you like yours a bit more spicy, don't seed the jalapeno.

For the rub:
1 tsp grated lime rind
2 tsp avocado oil or EVOO (I used evoo)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (1-lb) flank steak, trimmed

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Score a diamond pattern on both sides of the flank steak. Rub both sides of the steak with oil mixture. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours.

For the avocado relish:
1 tsp grated lime rind
2 tsp avocado oil or EVOO
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup diced peeled avacado (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped plum tomato (about 1)
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp finely chopped seeded jalepeno pepper (about 1 small)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until use (you can use it immediately if needed).

When you're ready to grill:
Over medium-high heat, grill 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.

From Cooking Light

Honey Mustard Pork Chops

I'm going out for dinner tonight with friends, but I threw this together for The Big Geek and the little geek anyhow. He just gave me a bite and it was GOOD.

Mustard is one of The Big Geeks other favorite flavors (lemon being another, and then beer of all kind), so this recipe was perfect for him. It was also really easy, especially considering that all I do is put together the marinade and let the pork chops sit in the fridge and TBG has to grill them.

1 cup beer or ginger ale (I used Sam Adams Summer Ale)
1/2 cup prepared mustard (just the regular yellow kind)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp pepper
6 pork chops (recipe calls for boneless 1/2 inch thick, but I used bone-in pork chops because that's what I had).

In bowl, combine all ingredients except pork chops. Place pork chops in ziplock bag. Pour 1 cup marinade over the pork chops, seal bag (squish air out) and turn to coat. Place in fridge for at least 1 hour, turning when you think of it.

Reserve 1/2 cup of marinade for basting. Use remaining marinade as a sauce for cooked pork chops.

Cook pork chops (discard marinade from the ziplock bag) over medium heat for 15 minutes or until juices run clear, turning and basting occasionally with 1/2 cup marinade. Serve with reserved marinade.

It's tangy and sweet and really good!

I think this is from Taste of Home

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill's Lemon Chicken

Every now and again we get a magazine, courtesy of our realtor, Bill. It's mostly ads and some articles about home stuff, but it also includes recipes. That's where this came from, so although Bill didn't write it, I'm calling it Bill's Lemon Chicken anyhow.

The Big Geek LOVES lemon chicken. That's pretty much the only thing he ever orders from Chinese restaurants. I figured that if I could learn how to make it, he'd worship me.

I didn't read the recipe carefully, because if I had I'd have noticed the part where you fry the chicken in oil. I don't generally fry stuff. It's messy, and it's not all that healthy, and I always assume it will be greasy. Well, this was not that messy, and it didn't taste greasy at all. In fact, I liked it better than most of the Chinese take-out I've had. And it was really quick and easy to make.

You need:

For the chicken:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast (you could easily use more chicken--there was PLENTY of the flour mixture--but then you might need to add oil before you got all of it cooked)
About 1/3 cup vegetable oil (for frying--enough that you have maybe 1/4 inch in the pan)

For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger (or the kind in the tube if you're lazy like me)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in large ziplock bag or bowl. Cut chicken breasts into strips. Coat with flour (I put mine in the bag and shake). Set aside.

2. Pour oil in large pan/skillet and heat over medium heat while you make the sauce. Up it to medium-high when you're about finished.

3. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine chicken stock, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, and stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Stir in the lemon juice, and as soon as the sauce is boiling again add the cornstarch (stir it again just before adding it). (note: this is a good time to up the heat on the oil.) Cook, stirring often, about 1 minute until sauce thickens and shines. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm while you cook the chicken.

4. Test the oil by placing a pinch of flour in it. It should "blossom." Shake excess flour from chicken and place pieces into oil (it should sizzle instantly), with enough space to turn pieces. Cook 1-2 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through (yes, it really only took a couple of minutes per side and mine was cooked through). Remove to plate/serving platter and continue to cook chicken. I had plenty of oil for my chicken (I used 3 breasts). I don't know if I'd have had to add more if I'd cooked more chicken, but I probably would have.

5. Pour lemon sauce over chicken. Serve with rice/grain.

Amazingly easy and VERY good. The Big Geek did NOT worship me, but I had to remind myself that "good dinner, dear" is the most excitement he ever demonstrates over food. Plus, this is the man whose only response, if we ever win the lottery, will probably be a slight smile and one word: "sweet."

Since it's fried, we won't have it that often, but I bet this sauce would be good on a grilled or broiled chicken breast, too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Peach Caprese Salad

One of my geeky friends shared an entire "bundle" of food blogs with me on Google Reader. I've been overwhelmed with everything from recipes to restaurant reviews, and as a result have only read about 25% of what people have posted.

However, somehow I stumbled upon this idea, and I tried it tonight.

I am so glad I did!

The basic idea is a caprese salad--tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, evoo, and balsamic vinegar. However, in this version, you replace the tomatoes with fresh slices of peach.

Yes, it sounds a bit odd. But trust me. It is GOOD. If you live in a place where peaches are in season right now (this week they were $.69/lb at my Safeway), buy some and make this.

Simple, easy, and quick, it was a hit with the little geek and the baby geek (sans basil and oil/vinegar). Apparently the big geek had never eaten a traditional caprese salad and was unfamiliar with the texture of fresh mozzarella, which he didn't love. Oh, well, more for me--next time he can just have peaches and basil, because I WILL do this again.

Fresh ripe peaches
Fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar

Slice peaches and mozzarella. Arrange slices, alternating fruit and cheese, overlapping on a plate. Stack several basil leaves together. Use kitchen shears to slice little "ribbons" of basil over the top of the fruit and cheese. Drizzle with EVOO and Balsamic vinegar.