Meatless Monday in a Book

The past few months have flown by in a confetti tornado of many more activities than my introvert-self typically likes, but I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed myself…most of the time. In true hermit fashion however, I’m settling back in at home for the winter–if it ever actually arrives–and thinking about all the comforting meals I’d like to create.

Tonight’s meatless Monday meal was simple and delicious, yet unnoteworthy. But one of my Christmas 20151228_212206-1.jpgpresents is absolutely worth talking about. The beautiful book by Hugh Acheson, The Broad Fork. It’s an entire collection of recipes for fruits and vegetables broken down by season. I try to eat seasonally as much as I can, so I instantly appreciated the set up of this book.

Apparently, the idea all started with his neighbor asking him, “What the hell do with kohlrabi?” Great question. Although I know what kohlrabi is, I’ve wondered before what I would do with it were I to bring some home. In the contents lists, kohlrabi was among a few others I was drawn to learning about such as salsify, sunchokes, fiddleheads, and yacon.

20151228_213904-1.jpgI will delve into those “oddities” later, but what caught my attention most immediately were the recipes for Brussels sprouts. Being that we are in the season for them, and I adore them, I went straight to that section. My eye quickly found the fried Brussels with a lime vinaigrette recipe, and I plan on making that as a side for my New Year’s eve meal.

It’s hard not to sit here and read through this entire book tonight. The photographs are20151228_214204-1.jpg gorgeous and the recipes are the perfect instructional length. Look at that radicchio! I don’t even like this stuff, but I want to tear this page out and chomp it. The pictures throughout bring on the uncontrolled drool factor. I love vegetables, so I don’t need help with eating and preparing them in all the ways, but I can see how someone who is leary about what to do with them would find this book inspiring.

I’ll be starting with the Brussels recipe, but I’m sure that I will be trying many more throughout the seasons.

 

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Sunday Pie Day: Deep Dish Peach

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Today, I officially added pie making to my list of therapeutic activities. I’m not a huge sugar/dessert fiend, I prefer salty/savory foods on the whole, but pie is an exception. If there is a pie around, I will eat it. Regardless of type or time of day, pie trumps cakes, cookies, ice cream, or any other sweet treat for me.

This is only the sixth pie I’ve made, being new to baking, but I’m addicted. I like the way the process slows me down, forces me to be patient. I’ve always loved cooking for the creativity and flexibility of it. You have to keep moving, keep dishes timed and rolling, instinctively knowing measurements because you don’t have time to dilly dally with all that. Working in restaurant kitchens taught me almost everything I needed to know, but it definitely did not teach me patience. Baking is showing me how to slow things down and still be creative.

Summertime is the time for fruit pies, so this Sunday pie day I decided to take on a deep dish peach pie. A few months ago, I found a recipe for a deep dish cherry pie and knew I had to try it because of the crust. It’s all about the crust for me with pies and this recipe called for a 9″ spring form pan to make the pie in. I knew it would be true love when I saw the picture of that thick, flaky crust.

It turned out to be a less than stellar experience. Hours and hours and me with little to no patience. I thought at numerous points that I would just lose it and throw the damn thing out into the yard for the critters. But it ended up being pretty darn good. By the end of it, I had made mental notes on what to do differently and knew I would attempt it again. Since peaches are now in season and abundant here in the south, peach pie it is this time around.

I used this recipe for the crust and this recipe for the peach filling (although I adjusted the sugar amount and added a secret ingredient). I recommend always reading reviews before starting a recipe. There were quite a few important changes suggested in the reviews and those were a big time help.

wpid-wp-1440348463994.jpgFirst things first, the dough. I put the dough together the night before. The dough recipe I used has a lot of butter in it, so it’s very important to chill it between each step. Prepping the dough the night before cut out one of the chill periods, which helped with the patience aspect for me. Once rolled out and pressed into the spring form pan, it went back into the fridge for at least 30 mins., but I just left mine in for as long as it took me to peel, pit, and slice the peaches.

Oh, the peaches. When using these deep dish pans, you need a lot, I mean A LOT,  of fruit to fill it up. I think I ended wpid-wp-1440348466825.jpgup with somewhere between 6-7 pounds of peaches (and probably could have used another pound easily). This is why I stick with fruit that is in season…and usually on sale. The prep of the peaches left my hands achey, but the smell of their sweetness got me through this phase smoothly.

Sugar & spices time. I cut the amount of sugar from the recipe by a quarter cup because I like the natural sweetness and flavor of the fruit to be apparent. Another change I made was to only use brown sugar instead of the mix. I added the fresh lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and a secret ingredient…I like to add a little something to each baking recipe to bring in my love of the creativity of cooking to the process.

Meanwhile, the pie crust needs to be par baked. Parchment paper and dried beans, into the oven for 15 mins. at 425 and then another 10 mins. without the beans to get the liquid on the bottom cooked off. While the par-baked pie crust cooled to room temperature, it was time to roll out the extra third of pie dough and cut it into lattice strips for the top.

wpid-wp-1440348458655.jpgWith the pie crust cooled and the lattice strips done, I pulled out the sugared & spiced peaches from the fridge, poured off a little of the liquid, and added the cornstarch. Many of the reviews said to add more cornstarch than the recipe called for, so I added two extra tablespoons. The extra cornstarch helped, but the real trick is to let the pie cool completely after baking, which is the hardest part of the process…waiting to try.

The lattice was brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with granulated sugar then in went that deep dish peach pie at 425. I put a ring of aluminum foil around the edges so they didn’t overcook and put it on the second to bottom oven rack with a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack underneath to catch any liquids that dripped out. I learned this the hard way when I smoked out the entire house with the deep dish cherry pie drippings. The recipe called for a baking time of 45 mins., but using a spring form pan, I knew it would have to be longer. I did 50 mins. at 425 and then lowered the temp to 375 for another 30 mins., taking the foil edges off at that time. These deep dish pies are heavy mofos, so be careful when placing in the oven and when taking out.

*Recommended song to play as you’re about to pull this beast out of the oven and fall in love in a big way…Big Lov

And here’s that bad boy fresh out the oven…

wpid-wp-1440357950969.jpgIt didn’t get the full recommended six hours to cool completely, but the extra cornstarch held it together pretty well. Still a bit warm on the inside and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was delicious. The amount of sugar was perfect to allow the taste of the peaches to carry their own and the crust was buttery and flaky goodness. Another pound or so of peaches would have been nice since they cook down quite a bit and there was some fall to the pie. Really need to pile the fruit above the top of the pan to start. Overall, the people were pleased.

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As summer comes to a close, hopefully soon, I’m thinking next up will be some sort of chocolate pie. The patience that is demanded from this process is good for many aspects of my life from work to writing to gardening. I am definitely a new addict to the art and science of baking. Time to start looking for the next recipe to make my own!

Cabbage Cabbage Cabbage

It’s National Cabbage Day and I’m celebrating!

I love cabbage. I love it in the garden, and I love it on my plate. If I could? I would marry cabbage. Yes, yes I would.

In my veggie garden it dutifully grows without any special attention. The large leaves fanning out from the center on the classic cabbage add textural interest to the garden and can be cut and enjoyed like other greens while waiting for the cabbage head to mature.

Classic cabbage
Classic cabbage
Tatsoi cabbage
Tatsoi cabbage

The dark green, spoon-shaped leaves of the Chinese cabbage, Tatsoi, are adorable clumps of yum. Their slightly spicy taste is delicious raw in salads or quick-cooked in a stir fry. I threw some leaves into my bean and potato soup at lunch and it was just the kick the soup needed.

For dinner I had cabbage two different ways…that’s how fond of it I am. First, I roasted some Brussel sprouts. Have I mentioned my passion for Brussels? These mini-cabbages are one of my favorite foods. They are so versatile in the kitchen and are an eye-catcher in the garden.

Brussel sprouts
Brussel sprouts

Before roasting, I cut them in half, tossed them in some olive oil and leftover bacon fat, and sprinkled them with cumin and garlic powder. Popped them in the oven at 350 for eight minutes, flipped ’em and put back in for eight more minutes. While that was going on, I made the bourbon smoked paprika aioli from this recipe. HOLY YUM.

Brussels with aioli
Brussels with aioli

Meanwhile, I reheated some baked chicken and topped it with another type of cabbage–SLAWSA! This cabbage-based relish is amazeballs. I sometimes just eat it straight from the jar, but I’ve also tried it on hot dogs, hamburgers, spicy sausages, and even fish. It’s truly a delectable condiment that can be used in many different ways and it was the perfect topping for my chicken tonight.

As you may have noticed, I celebrated the crap out of cabbage today. It deserves such celebration on a regular basis. Cabbage is one of those foods that is beneficial on so many levels. From its cancer fighting, immune building, anti-inflammatory properties to its ability to lower cholesterol and make your skin glow, cabbage is a superhero of the veggie world.

CABBAGE. GO GET YOU SOME.