Tag Archives: summer

Potato Salad of Peace

28 Jul

I love vinegar. Love it. It’s hereditary: family lore has my uncles fighting over who got to drink the pickle juice when the last dill was gone. So naturally the German potato salad my maternal grandmother made for every potluck and family dinner since forever will curl your hair. My paternal grandmother took it a little easier and was liberal with the sugar. My mother and I come down somewhere in the middle, and I expect my sister will do the same. But we all agree that mayonnaise, miracle whip, and their ilk have no business near the potatoes.

We vinegar-loving women, however, had the misfortune to marry men whose potato preferences are strictly of the mayo-based variety, or, in my case, run to no potato salad at all. This makes for some very tense potlucks and cookouts, and, depending on whose turf the potatoes are on, someone is either unhappily eating the wrong salad or eating none at all.

So I ditched the vinegar and the mayo (I also aced myself by not cooking bacon anymore) and came up with something that has the potential to please any of the vinegar- and/or mayo-haters in your family. The black beans can make it a meal (protein!), but if you want the focus on the potatoes, leaving the beans out and using 2 pounds of potatoes would be equally tasty.

Summer Roasted Potato Salad

  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, or a similar variety, quartered
  • 2 ears sweet corn, unshucked
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a baking dish large enough to let the potatoes sit in a single layer, toss the quarters with a little olive oil and salt. You’ll bake the potatoes for 1 hour, but after 30 minutes put the unshucked corn in the oven. You don’t have to do anything to it–the corn will sort of steam itself in the husks. (Hearing about this method was magical–nothing worse than standing in front of a big pot of boiling water in the summer.)

In a large bowl, combine the black beans, scallions, chile, cumin, about two tablespoons of olive oil, a good pinch of salt, and the juice from the lime.

When the corn is cool enough to handle, shuck and remove the silk. Place the wide end of the cob on a cutting board, and with a sharp knife gently slice downward to remove the kernels. Combine the kernels and the roasted potatoes with the beans. Season to taste with salt, extra lime, or a little more oil if the potatoes seem dry.

Serve warm, at room temp, or cold, and make everyone happy.

Black & Blue

19 Jul

Ever have one of those days that’s not truly bad, but not quite good either? One of those days when your plea to the universe is less “Why me?” and more “Come on, really”? A day when you realize that your grown-from-seed, vibrant-when-you-left pepper plants did not survive your weekend away? And the train pulls away the second you get to the platform, and you break the impossible-to-replace headphones you’ve used nearly every day for seven years, and your pizza crust fails for the fifteenth time? And the dryer is broken and you’re left with a pile of wet socks and underwear? Just one of those days when you’re feeling a little pushed around, a little bruised and black and blue?

Yeah, me too. Here’s some dessert to make us feel better.

Black & Blueberry Galette

for the filling:

  • 1 pound fresh mixed blueberries and blackberries (I used about 2/3 blueberries and 1/3 blackberries)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (3/4 cup if you prefer or if your berries are really tart)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

for the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup ice water

to assemble:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • coarse sugar

To make the crust, combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until it’s evenly distributed in pea-sized bits. Add the vinegar to the ice water and slowly pour in, stirring gently. Use just enough water to make the dough come together; it’s ok if it’s a bit crumbly. Divide the dough in two and place each pile on plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to shape the dough into discs. Refrigerate the wrapped dough for at least 1 hour. (This will make 2 crusts, so you’ll have one to freeze.)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Gently stir together the berries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, cinnamon and cornstarch.

Cut or fold a piece of parchment paper to the size of a rimless baking sheet. Lightly flour the parchment. Roll out the dough in a rough circle to 1/4″ thick.

Pile the fruit mixture into the center of the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a ring about 2″ wide. Working in one direction, gently fold up the sides of the crust over the fruit. Brush the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Slide the pastry onto the baking sheet. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Cool on a wire rack.

Cold Lunch For a Hot Day

7 Jul

There were several reasons why this recipe seemed like a Very Good Idea for lunch today:

  • Chicago has been flirting with 100 degree temperatures this week.
  • Turning on any heat-producing device (stove, oven, hairdryer…) seemed like a Very Bad Idea.
  • Cold lunches usually = sandwiches, and I don’t really care for sandwiches. (I know.)
  • I should eat more greens.
  • My basil needed pruning.

And lo, all my problems solved in a single recipe!

Cannellini Bean Salad with Spinach and Lemon-Basil Dressing
adapted from Heather’s Dish

I made some adjustments to fit my preferences and scaled down since I was the only one eating. Multiply as needed to serve as a main dish or as a side for a group.

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 3 good handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • juice & zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 small or 1 large clove garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • kosher or sea salt to taste

Combine the beans and the sliced scallion in a bowl.

In a blender, pulse the spinach a few times until it’s coarsely chopped. No need to worry if some whole leaves remain. Add the spinach to the bowl with the beans.

Put the rest of the ingredients in the blender and pulse until the dressing has emulsified. Pour over the beans and spinach, mix gently, and salt to taste. Eat, and be very, very glad you decided not to use the stove.

Grandmothers and the Internet (Mostly) Can’t Be Wrong

5 Jul

So the first item on my Summer 2012 list  is a lattice crust pie. I didn’t set out to go in order, but you know what’s really good? Cherry pie. And you know what’s in season in the Midwest? Cherries. Nearly every stand at the farmer’s market last week had pints and pints of shiny purple-red Michigan cherries.

Choosing the fruit was the easy part. Now I had to decide on a crust recipe, and oh my goodness is that a touchy subject. Butter, no butter, all shortening, some shortening, egg, no egg…

I immediately rejected any recipes that included egg. That just ain’t right. And I would have sworn that all pie crusts used vinegar as a tenderizer, but the internet reveals this is not so. Well then. I hoped Smitten Kitchen could clear things up. Pie Crust 101 is Deb’s take on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. While CI is one of my favorite resources, they can be a little fussy, and I did object to their inclusion of vodka. I wanted a classic crust—the kind of thing someone would find on a brittle, yellowing index card in grandma’s recipe box, including my own. (I don’t know, maybe more grandmothers than I think keep vodka in the freezer? For pie crusts.)

My preference for streamlined recipes also steered me away from any that called for both shortening and butter. I wanted one or the other. In Pie Crust 102, Deb comes down firmly on the side of butter. In most things I usually defer to her wisdom, but…well, I decided I wanted to use shortening, for two reasons. Shortening simply seemed right. Something about Crisco strikes me as particularly American, something that sets pie apart from tarts and galettes. My grandmother’s kitchen always had a can of Crisco in the cupboard, and so does my mother’s. As I sat wondering if I had been unwittingly taken in by patriotic branding campaigns, I remembered that one of my other Summer 2012 list items is a fruit galette. I plan to use a Martha Stewart pâte brisée recipe, and pâte brisée is always an all-butter crust. (Crisco in a French kitchen? I think not.) So why not give myself the chance to play with two different doughs?

What you’ll see below is a composite recipe, the ingredients and measurements chosen from among what seemed to be the most common. Many recipes called for 2 ¼ cups flour, many for 2 ¾ cups flour, so why not try 2 ½? But maybe that 2 ½ cup recipe didn’t include vinegar—now it does. And so on. I’m not going to tell you this is the perfect pie crust, the quintessential crust, the epitome of flakiness. It might not be. But my taste-tester-in-chief was happy, so who am I to argue.

On to the pie!

Lattice Crust Cherry Pie

recipes and procedures are for a 9” double crust pie

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold shortening
  • ¾ cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the shortening until pea-sized chunks remain.

Add the vinegar to the water. Stir in gradually until the dough just begins to come together—don’t overwork it. You still want to be able to see streaks of shortening. Divide dough into two pieces and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least an hour.

When your dough is nice and cold, flour your rolling surface and the rolling pin, and keep a bowl of flour close by to dip into as needed. Roll out one crust, keeping it and your pin well floured, until it’s about a ¼” thick and the diameter is at least 2” larger than your pie pan.

Carefully drape your crust over the pan. If you get a few tears, just patch them with the excess crust you’ll trim from around the sides. Pop the pan back into the fridge while you make the filling and roll out the top crust.

And for that filling…

  • 5 cups pitted tart cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • coarse sugar like demerara or turbinado (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the cherries, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with just enough water to make a thick slurry – about a tablespoon or so. Stir into the cherries and set aside until you’ve decided what to do about the top crust.

And about that top crust…

You’ve got several options here. You can roll out the remaining piece of dough just as you did the first, drape it over the pie, trim the excess, crimp the edges, and cut a few slits in the top to let excess steam escape.

Or you can be an overachiever and make a lattice crust:

Roll out your dough just as you did for the bottom crust: ¼” thick, 2” larger than your pie pan. With a pasty wheel or pizza cutter, slice the crust vertically into even strips. You can make the strips as wide as 1” or as small as ½”—I’ve settled on ¾”. They really do need to be the same size though, so if you’re like me and your first freehand attempt looked like a drunk toddler’s work, find a plastic ruler, mark off each cut, and then use the edge of the ruler as a guide.

Now that you have your nice, even strips, go to your computer, click this link, and print Smitten Kitchen’s extraordinarily helpful illustration. I’ve tried typing out the method several times, but honestly, you’ll want a visual aid the first time. It’s really not as hard as it looks, I promise.

A third option would be a mock lattice crust. Still very pretty, but a little less time consuming, as you’re skipping the over-and-under part. Roll, measure, and cut your crust as in the full lattice procedure. Evenly space every other strip vertically across the pie, and then evenly space the remaining strips horizontally across the pie. Trim the excess and pinch together the edges.

So! Now that that’s settled…

Fill the bottom pie crust with the cherry mixture. Place the bits of butter over the cherries. Top with your chosen style of crust. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the crust.

Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. This bubbling part is important – thickeners like cornstarch need to reach a minimum temperature to do their thing. If the crust looks done before the filling bubbles, cover the perimeter with aluminum foil to keep it from browning any more.

Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?