Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grandma's Fresh Lemon Pie

One of the things I love about food is the connections it creates between people.  Around Christmas I wrote about how our family celebrations center on food, but that is just one of the many ways that food keeps us close.  Another way I have been thinking about lately is that food connects us throughout generations- a family recipe can be passed down, and members from different time periods, geographic locations and more can enjoy the same comforting taste.  For example, a shared love of cooking connects me to our Grandmother, even though she and I couldn't lead more different lives.

Grandma is something of a legend in the kitchen.  She grew up during the Depression and raised three children in the post-WWII era on a military income, but still found ways to create recipes using the cheapest meat that were delicious enough to be passed down as family recipes to this day.  Having moved to Arizona for my college days, I have been lucky to be the benefactor of her talents in many ways.  First, as a lonely freshman living off of cafeteria food, I could drive a mere twenty minutes down the road and be certain to be filled with home-cooked, mouthwatering food, as well as lots of love and good conversation.  Second, as I have slowly developed into a cook myself, I've been hoping that if cooking magic is not genetically inherited, it would rub off on me by spending time in her kitchen. Over the years I have been working on gathering family recipes from her (to be sure they are passed down). This isn't as easy as it seems. Grandma has what she likes to call a "one-butt kitchen" (meaning there's not much room for an apprentice-or another master, for that matter). She also has her recipes so committed to memory that her sharing usually involves telling you to put "a bit of this and a dash of that and some of this other thing" in the oven "for about such-and-such amount of time", as most talented cooks tend to do.  My favorite part of getting recipes from her, however, is that each one comes with a story - this recipe came from this-old-friend, and they lived in such-and-such-place together and oh! how the children loved to go to their house and play.

I feel quite lucky, then, to have gotten her recipe for lemon pie for this citrus season.  I actually got this recipe from her twice (I was quite determined to have it in time for lemons) and it is evidence of how deeply rooted in her memory these recipes are that each version is slightly different, and evidence of her culinary skill that each is quite delicious.  I'll share one with you here.

With lemons picked from the tree in my yard (the thing that is currently bringing me the most happiness), this pie was bright and fresh in flavor, and only made more beautiful by my brand new pie pan that Sarah gave me for Christmas.  It was simple and quick to make, and today I called my Grandmother and we chatted about food for awhile and I thanked her for the recipe.  I'm so grateful to be connected to her in this way, and to have her nearby to continue teaching me about food and life and love.

Note: this recipe involves a microwave, but coming from a woman who makes everything from salad dressing to barbecue sauce from scratch, you better believe it truly makes no taste difference and is genuinely much easier this way.


1 pie crust

for the lemon filling:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cup cold water
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp. butter

for the meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

for the filling:
Mix and cook sugar, cornstarch and water in microwave 3 minutes at a time.  Remove, stir, and cook again until thick.

Separate eggs, set whites aside.  Beat yolks with a whisk and add filling by spoonfuls until all together. Back in microwave for one minute.  Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice, stir, add melted butter, stir, add to baked pie shell.

for the meringue:
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff and glossy, add sugar and vanilla just at the end.  Meringue should stay in shape if a spoon is swept through it, or not fall off the back of a spoon held in the air.

Add meringue to top of pie, shape into peaks.  Bake for 10 min.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Coconut-Ginger Pork

...... Yes, I am the vegetarian sister.... or I have been for the past 10 years and 10 months.   After a lot of agonizing that I won't go into here, I am reintroducing meat, or at least trying to.  I'm a bit cooking-handicapped when it comes to meat, though, having learned to cook only after I gave it up.  Although this mostly tasted like PORK to me, Chris loved it, so here goes...... a meat recipe.  (It comes entirely from here.)

**Ed. 8/29/13:  I did not succeed in re-introducing meat.  Animals, you are safe from me!**

Buy a 3-4 pound pork shoulder, on the bone or off.  Rub it with a mixture of 2 tsp each coriander, cumin, salt and pepper.  Put it in the slow cooker with an onion and sweet potato cut in chunks; 4 chopped garlic cloves; a 3-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced; and a can of coconut milk.

Then slow-cook on low for 8-10 hours.  I was pretty fascinated by the transformation.... that big chunk of solid raw meat, basically dissolving into juice and falling apart!  The coconut milk flavor is not strong by the time cooking is through.  Made the house smell great.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Beets & Their Greens with Orange-Pistachio Topping

Just another beet-citrus combo:

At the store, pick up a bunch of 4 smallish beets with nice tops (or, if you can't find any with tops, beets and a nice bunch of chard, which is the same thing).  At home, separate the beets from their greens and roast the beets in a covered baking dish in 1/2 cup of water at 400 for 30 or 40 minutes, until they are well and truly soft.

In the meantime, clean the beet tops and throw them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, just until they get dark and a bit limp.  Strain them and chop them a few times with a knife.  

Then make the orange mixture (what is the cooking term for something like this?  A relish?):  Peel a large orange or blood orange (or two small ones) and remove what pith you can, then chop each section into thirds.  Throw the orange chunks into some heated sesame oil in a skillet. Add a handful of shelled pistachios, crushed a bit with a mortar and pestle.  Add about 1 TB of capers.  Cook until the oranges look a bit... well, cooked... but no longer (just a few minutes).  

When beets are cooked and cooled, peel and slice them.  Toss it all together in a bowl and eat with nori salt (a great idea from the blog post that inspired this dinner).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Almond-Meal Tortilla Chips

I am giving up all kinds of foods this month (trying out a form of paleo eating), and I expected the hardest to be sugar and cheese.  Not so, actually - what I am missing like the dickens are tortilla chips, to dip in greek yogurt, salsa, guacamole.... but this recipe completely fills that hole, and they're so yummy I think I will bring some with me if for some reason I should ever attend a Super Bowl party.  

I started with this recipe but found I needed more eggwhite and (perhaps as a result) a lot more baking time - here's what I did exactly:

Mix together 1 cup almond meal (this only made 25 chips, so it might be wise to double everything), 2 eggwhites, 1/2 tsp each of cayenne, cumin, coriander, and orange peel (or whatever other spices you like), 1 TB of dried "Just Onions," and 1 tsp salt, until they cohere into a "dough." 

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Plunk your dough on there (split in 2 if you doubled the recipe), cover with more parchment, and roll out as thin as you can. I didn't get mine quite to the edges of the sheet, and I think I could've gone a little thinner, so aim for the edges.  

Remove the top sheet of parchment, and score the dough into a grid with chip-sized squares with a wettened knife.  Be gentle so you don't "drag" hunks of dough along with the knife blade and ruin your chips.  

Then just put the sheet into a 350-degree oven and bake, removing chips that are done with a spatula.  My "edge" chips were done after about 15 minutes and center ones, more like 20, but this will depend a lot on thickness, so just watch for them to begin to brown.  

Harissa Butternut Soup

Thick, well-spiced, smooth winter soup.

1 butternut squash and 1 sweet potato - roast the smithereens out of them ahead of time (like, till squash has brown bubbly skin and starts to lose its shape), peel and deseed.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Harissa paste or spice mix
1 can diced tomatoes
1 TB orange juice
4 cups veggie broth

Sautee onion and garlic in ghee until onion is translucent.  Add everything else.  Puree with immersion blender, taste & adjust flavors.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa

This is from Mark's Daily Apple and it's yummy!  (I forgot to take a picture till I'd nearly drank it all...)

All you do is, heat a 15-oz can of coconut milk on the stove with one chopped date.  Boil gently for a few minutes, then let sit to soften dates.  Blend in blender with 2 TB cocoa powder and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Top with cinnamon.  

Eggplant-Lentil Mole

This is another recipe of Theya's, adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and it is amazing.   Great texture, great heat, perfect winter dinner.

One diced onion
One diced red pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
1 peeled, cubed eggplant
2 minced dates
1 cup pink lentils
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups veggie broth
2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TB chili powder
2 tsp ea cumin, coriander, oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Coconut oil or olive oil

1. Sautee the onion and red pepper in oil until translucent, then add garlic, sautee for one more minute, and add spices (except cocoa) and salt.

2.  Add 1/2 cup of broth and cocoa powder, cook a minute to dissolve.

3.  Add lentils, remaining broth, eggplant and dates.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes.  Garnish with greek yogurt.