Monthly Archives: June 2010

Peach-bourbon hand pies

Me: “These pie crusts are made with sour cream. Do you think I can use creme fraiche?”

Mom: “Do they have butter?”

Me: “Yeah, two sticks.”

Mom: “Oh…how’s your waistline?”

My mom was joking, but the deliciousness in these little pies is no laughing matter. And I must say they are better a day or two after baking – somehow the crust is better flavored.

The combination of peaches, vanilla and bourbon is magical. The two-day process of making the crust is intolerable cruelty. But the end result will get you rave reviews from those who matter.

My reco: make these on a weekend, when you have all the time in the world. And bring them on your next road trip – they hold up surprisingly well!

This is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Peach-bourbon hand pies

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 16 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 c. creme fraiche (or sour cream)
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. ice water

For the filling:

  • 5 ripe peaches, skinned, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp bourbon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • One egg beaten with 2 T water

To make pastry… in a bowl, combine flour and salt. Put butter in another bowl. Put both bowls in freezer for 1 hour. Remove from freezer, combine and blend with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal – this took a while for me, maybe 10 min., because the butter is frozen! Make a well in the center. In another bowl, combine creme fraiche, lemon and water. Add  half to well and mix with your fingertips. Gradually add rest of the water mixture and mix/gently knead until a soft ball comes together. Cover in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

Divide cold dough in half. On a floured space, roll out one half to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 4.5-inch bowl (because I don’t have a cookie cutter that size), cut rounds in the dough and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out the scraps and continue with second half, then refrigerate rounds for 30 min.

Now, make the filling: Mix peaches with flour, sugar, salt, bourbon and vanilla. Taste it, so good…

To assemble: Let chilled dough rounds stand at room temp for 2 min., then spoon 2 T of the peach filling in the center (I put in as much filling as it could fit).

Brush a little water around the dough edge, then fold in half and seal with your fingers. Press edges with a fork; repeat with remaining rounds. Now, put these back in the fridge to chill yet another 30 min.

Finally…

Preheat oven to 375. Remove hand pies from fridge, cut small slit on each top, then brush with egg wash. Sprinkle sugar over the top and place in oven. Bake until pies are golden brown and just slightly cracked, about 35-45 min. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Look at those layers!

Amazing.

The only way these could be better is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce…but don’t go crazy!

Enjoy your taste of summer, friends! xoxo

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Guacamole with smoky tomatillo sauce

People make inexplicable mistakes when it comes to guacamole. Some I’ve seen: adding mayo (ew, ick, no), adding canned tomatoes (it turns the guac brown) and adding those seasoning packets you buy at the store (waste.of.money).

I am a guacamole purist: ripe Hass avocados, tomato, red onion (or shallot), garlic, lime, jalapeno, cilantro, salt/pepper. The only way I’ve seen this improved is with a rendition of a Rick Bayless salsa verde. Roasting serrano chiles, a bunch of tomatillos and garlic adds a deep and smoky taste to the rich avocado mixture.

This is so easy to make and cleanup is a breeze, thanks to foil-lined baking sheets. Talk about kicking a regular recipe up a notch!

Smoky Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 7-13 tomatillos, husks removed and washed
  • 2 serrano chiles
  • 4 cloves of garlic, in skins
  • 4 ripe Hass avocados
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • Juice from one lime
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Preheat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place tomatillos, chiles and garlic on sheet and broil, turning once, until all sides are blistered and brown in spots, approx. 10 min. Remove skins of garlic and scrape off skin and seeds of chiles.

Meanwhile, scoop out avocados into a medium bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Using two knives, cut the avocado into the other ingredients and mix to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When broiled ingredients are finished, place in a blender or food processor and blend until coarse-smooth. Add tomatillo mixture to avocado mixture and combine. Check for seasonings.

I made this as part of a spread that included black-bean salsa and mango-grilled shrimp.

Serve with your favorite chips and enjoy, friends! xoxo

Peach and creme fraiche pie

Peaches and the Sunday Times

On the eve of Summer Solstice, I found myself curled on a wooden garden bench, looking up at delicate paper lanterns strung like glowing peaches hanging from a young tree. The terraced garden sparkled with glass-held candles expertly placed between geraniums, hostas, hydrangeas and others. A few cicada cries competed with the swaying summer music and fireflies burned green-yellow blurs near the grass’ edge.

Nights like these are well met with a juicy glass of wine and a thick slice of fresh peach pie cradled by the flakiest of crusts. You’ll want a crust so flaky that the fork competes with it, as if the crust wants you to work for that perfect bite of buttery pastry, sweet peach and creamy creme fraiche … but of course, you’ll be eating a peach and creme fraiche pie. And once you have this pie, you won’t go back to normal peach pies, which are often too sweet and with “soggy bottoms,” as Julia Child would say.

In all honesty, a lifetime of bad peach pies had turned me against the beauty of a really perfect peach pie. A pie unlike the others. A pie for non-pie-makers. A pie from Martha Stewart.

So came Smitten Kitchen, whose food pictures flirt with me daily. Smitten is very sensitive to people plagiarizing her recipes, so I’ll let you print it off yourself by clicking here for the crust recipe. All-butter pie crust? Lord! I’ve never had a crust like this before. Maybe I toasted it a bit too much, but it was so nice to have a crust with some integrity.

Once you make that, preferably the day ahead, prepare the pie filling with streusel topping. You will think that the creme fraiche has made it too watery, that it won’t set up. Have faith – it works like a dream, and the creme is such a perfect, slightly sour friend to the peaches. Like peaches and cream, but better.

Before you do anything, you must get really great peaches that are nice and ripe.

We traveled down to peach country, on the way to the Carolina beaches, through small towns with names like Wind Blow. While you’re at it, stop at one of those road-side stands for peach ice cream. The treat is worth standing in line behind 12 children in various stages of temper tantrums.

Peaches you get off a farm are covered with a much thicker fuzz. But don’t worry, you’ll remove it before you make this…

And slice it into this…

Flaky, flaky flaky!

Eat it, and feel all peachy, friends! xoxo

Oh, the ways to use tomatoes

Heirloom cherry tomatoes

The quality of tomatoes down here never fails to woo me. They are big, they are beefy and they come in a rainbow of colors.

At least three times per week, I make the simplest of lunches or snacks: sliced tomato, salt and pepper, layered with fresh mozzarella and basil clipped straight from my garden. Finally, drizzle with olive oil. Sometimes, I make toasted baguette slices rubbed with olive oil and garlic to catch all the juices.

And then there are the BLTs. My favorite summer sandwich. Simple and easy to jazz up with avocado, spicy lettuces and the best bread you can find. The secret is really in the bread. Here’s how I made mine recently:

  • Two thick slices of sourdough bread from Ollie’s, toasted with a little butter
  • Thick slices of heirloom tomatoes, peppered
  • Sliced avocado, salted
  • Two thick slices of bacon, crisped
  • Mixed greens (I just used leftover salad from the bag)
  • Mayo (add a little lemon zest for fun)

While the bacon is cooking, make yourself some iced tea. This was a combination of black tea, raspberry tea and fresh ginger (plus Kentucky mint from my garden!). Sweetened softly and served with lemon wedges.

Layer up your sammich, pour yourself a drink and dive in, my friends! I like the peppery arugula from the salad mix cutting through the richness of the avocado. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the bacon was smoky and salty. Just wonderful. And oh, the mayo and butter are key.

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend! Mine involved baskets and baskets of peaches…xoxo

Rhubarb fool

Final Rhubarb Challenge! I don’t know about you all, but I am totally over rhubarb. It doesn’t grow well in The South, so I apparently can’t find it fresh. As my Arkansas aunt once said, “Rhubarb? That’s Yankee food!”

Alas, it will always hold a place in my heart, which brings me to the rhubarb fool. This recipe came from Cook’s Illustrated. I still have no idea what a “fool” is in regards to food, but it seems fitting that I am ending this challenge with a dish that points a finger at me and laughs.

Rhubarb Fool

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into cubes (we all know I used frozen)
  • 1/3 c. juice from one orange
  • 1 c. plus 2 T sugar
  • Pinch table salt
  • 2 c. cold heavy cream

Bring orange juice, 3/4 c. sugar, salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rhubarb and return to boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer, stirring twice, until rhubarb is tender, 7-10 min. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Beat cream and remaining sugar until soft peaks form, 1-3 min.

To assemble, spoon 1/4 c. rhubarb into a glass, then layer whipped cream and then more rhubarb. Finish with whipped cream. You can serve this in bowls, parfait glasses, wine glasses … or you could be ridiculous like me and buy mini trifle dishes just for this purpose!

Yes, it was yummy. Like eating the inside of a rhubarb pie, mixed with cream. Tell me how that could be bad?

Until the next challenge, friends…enjoy! xoox

Best breakfast sandwich

My old neighborhood was so extremely D-list that I almost moved away before experiencing the awesomeness that is Dioli’s Italian Market. Located awkwardly next to a Starbucks, T-Mobile and McDonald’s, this place has my favorite sandwiches in Winston-Salem. And I mean the BEST meatball subs, full of spicy marinara, sausage and provolone. Then there is the prosciutto and arugula sandwich, the Italian … and everything else you could want from an Italian deli, not to mention the tarts, cookies and cakes…and various antipasto and side salads.

Dioli’s also makes my favorite breakfast sandwich in Winston-Salem, which I try to order every time I go to the north side of town. All I can say is you know a sandwich is fresh when they get out a new slab of pancetta to slice for your sandwich. It comes on focaccia bread and also includes an egg and cheese, if you please.

I recently went there for brunch and read my Martha Stewart Magazine and watched a long line of cars waiting for McDonald’s…if only they knew that a comparably priced and much higher-quality sandwich existed just across the street.

Here’s to breakfasts!

Seared kale with chorizo

I admittedly am not a “dark greens” lover, but this is amazing. Whenever kale is looking fresh, I grab a few bundles of the curly dark-green leaves. They are great mixed into soups, baked with pastas or grains or simply cooked with a little fat until tender and bright with flavor.

I originally planned on making this with leftover sage sausage from the farmers’ market, but the chorizo in my fridge wooed me. The chorizo’s spicy, smoky flavor really sang with the kale – a surprising depth with each bite.

Seared kale with chorizo

  • 1 bunch kale, washed and torn from the stem
  • 4 oz. chorizo (or more!), chopped into chunks
  • EVOO
  • kosher salt
  • cracked pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. chicken stock (or water)

In a large skillet, heat a scant 1 tsp EVOO over medium. Add the chorizo and brown lightly 2-3 min. Add the kale and step back while the moisture spits in the hot oil. Allow the kale to wilt down – this will give you a nice seared edge on some pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste, then a few shavings of nutmeg (my mother’s trick). Toss with tongs, then add a bit of chicken stock to help things along. Check for seasonings (mother also adds vinegar to her dark greens, but I don’t think these needed it) and take off the heat as soon as the kale turns bright green and is wilted.

Hey, ma, it's healthy!

Like I said, kale surprises me. But I suppose if you mix any vegetable with sausage, the results will please you. Serve up and enjoy, friends! xoxo

Rhubarb-raspberry sauce

This episode of the Rhubarb Challenge (No. 4) is a bit of a cheat: the boiled-down syrup from when I made rhubarb-ginger bread pudding. Alas, it is a delicious ice-cream topper, as I found out…

Rhubarb-raspberry sauce

  • 1/2 c. seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1 lb. rhubarb, fresh or frozen, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 T orange zest
  • 1/2 c. sugar

Combine preserves, water and sugar in saucepan and heat over medium until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Stirring occasionally, boil until rhubarb breaks down, 10 min. Strain into a bowl, then pour liquid back into saucepan and boil, reducing to 1 c. Let cool or drizzle it immediately over vanilla ice cream.

Go on, indulge.

This would also be delicious over pancakes, waffles or in a milkshake. The rhubarb is tart and the raspberries are sweet – quite a nice combination.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chicken on an oven rack

One of my Southern Belle friends, Miss Valentine, told me a tale about a chicken that you roast by placing it on the bare oven rack. That’s right – no roasting pan or dish holding the bird. Just flesh and metal. It’s genius, she says, because the chicken juices drip onto a pan of potatoes placed below, essentially FRYING the potatoes! I’m so glad someone finally figured out how to make chicken juices even more magical: using them to fry things!

I’ve never met a roast chicken that I didn’t like, so I immediately requested the recipe.

The dish is quite simple, as all roasts really are. You season the bird and let it roast with other vegetables for an hour or so while your house fills with that mouth-watering aroma. A simple, hearty and thrilling dish to make for company or even a date!

I recently did just that, and here’s how I made it mine…

Write Gal’s Unusual Roast Chicken

  • One 4-lb whole chicken, giblets removed and skin checked for pin feathers
  • One lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked pepper
  • Two sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Four sprigs fresh thyme, chopped (use any herbs you like)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced, separated
  • EVOO
  • 2.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400.

Wash and dry the chicken, then season the inside well with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in half and place inside the chicken. Mix 4 T EVOO with 2 crushed cloves of garlic and rub all over the chicken. Sprinkle the skin well with salt and pepper, then tie the legs together.

Cut the potatoes into thick chunks and spread on a large baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil (I also added one sliced onion here, but use your imagination! Fennel? Carrots? Parsnips?) and salt and pepper. Place the potatoes on the bottom rack of the hot oven and place the chicken directly above it, so all juices will fall on the potatoes.

Roast for 45 – 50 min., or until juices run clear when you pierce between the thigh and body. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and tent with foil. Sprinkle the potatoes with the remaining garlic and herbs. Continue roasting until they turn a bit golden and are sizzling. Remove and prepare to eat!

Carve yourself big slices of the tender-as-all-get-out meat and spoon up the veggies, topping with parsley, if using. I highly recommend using an organic chicken because the taste is so much better and it is way juicier.

I’m sure you’re wondering if this made a huge mess in the oven. I have no idea … do I look like a girl who does her own dishes? 😉

Another night, another bottle...

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Rhubarb Mojito

I have this very stylish and sophisticated friend. She almost always wears silk or some other luxe fabric. She has an insanely white carpet that seems to never collect dust or dirt. She can pull off ridiculously large earrings and tunics of every color and pattern.

And she can think of a way to turn almost anything into a mojito.

So, in honor of my dear Krissy, I give you Rhubarb Challenge #3: Rhubarb mojitos!

Krissy suggested this after I explained my challenge to her one night over ginger-beer cocktails at Tate’s.

But of course, I thought, I can boil the rhubarb down into a sugary syrup, strain it and then add it to a classic mojito with rum, fresh mint, lime and club soda.

These were quite yummy and incredibly refreshing. I think the secret is in the rum, not the rhubarb. Get good rum, people, and you won’t feel like you’re drinking something out of your boyfriend’s dorm room freshman year.

The rhubarb adds a nice tart sweetness that matches the minty bubbles of the drink. I recommend enjoying it on someone’s back porch on a warm afternoon, with a little Frank or Ella playing in the background.

WriteGal’s Rhubarb Mojitos

Makes roughly 10 drinks

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. rhubarb, fresh or frozen, cut into chunks
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. fresh lime juice
  • GOOD white rum
  • Club soda
  • fresh mint, as much as you can cut from your garden

Add rhubarb, sugar and water to saucepan and boil until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Strain into a container and press.

In a tall glass, add five or six mint leaves and muddle with a spoon.

Add one shot of rum, one shot of lime and one shot of rhubarb syrup. Fill the glass with ice and finish with club soda. Stir to combine and taste to see if you need more rhubarb syrup or lime juice. The drinks will be a light pink flavor, so wear a little pink to match. : )

And yes, we matched our drinks…and the napkins and plates. (Note: I normally wear mismatched socks) Enjoy, friends! xoxo