Thursday, October 27, 2011
Teeny, tiny, easy. Did you know how easy it is to make pumpkin pie? I think that might be an expression: “easy as pumpkin pie” or am I making that up? I think it's actually "easy as apple pie" but that's ridiculous because compared to pumpkin, apple pie is a pain.
Anyways. The short story on these little guys is that I have some mini muffin tins that had never been used and I had a can of pumpkin in the pantry and some pie crust in the freezer. I’ve wanted to make miniature, bite-sized pies for a while and it seemed as though the stars had aligned.
PUMPKIN PIE BITES
1 (15 oz.) can unsweetened pumpkin
1 cup light cream
½ cup milk
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 packages Pillsbury pie crust, or two homemade pie crusts, chilled
Heat oven to 375.
Follow the directions for pumpkin pie filling on the back of your can of pumpkin. I used a can of pumpkin from Trader Joe’s and their recipe was simpler than any of the others I’ve seen online. Here is the classic pumpkin pie recipe if you want to use that.
While I am usually an advocate for homemade things I have to say with this pie using the store made pie crust makes things a LOT easier. It’s much more pliable and forgiving than my homemade would be.
My measurements here might not be perfect because I naturally, didn’t take notes. If I were you I would cross check this recipe with the actual measurements on your can, because I can’t be trusted entirely.
Mix together all of the filling ingredients. Treat your mini muffin tins with a spray of olive oil or butter and lightly dust with flour. Roll out your pie dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into rounds (use a cookie cutter if you have one, I used a round glass). Press the cut circles into each muffin cup, trimming the excess off from the edge, taking care not to poke a hole in the bottom of the pie crust.
Carefully pour the pie filling into each little crust and set the pan on the middle rack of your preheated oven.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, checking for doneness after the 25 mark. They will puff just slightly, the crust will be golden and if you shake the pan, only the slightest jiggle happens in the filling, if any.
The finished product will be a bit cragged and rustic, but when they’re cooked up, they look so delicious it really doesn’t matter. These are so, so, so perfect to bring to Thanksgiving or a Halloween party. I have never been a huge fan of straight up pumpkin pie (too much pumpkin, not enough pie), but these minis up the crust to filling ratio and make pumpkin pie exponentially more delicious. Plus look at them, they’re adorable.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Friday night I went out with some girlfriends to celebrate me making Major Changes and Exciting Life Decisions. I anticipated a few glasses of wine, some food and fairly early night in bed; maybe midnight at the latest. Heck, I even planned on getting up early Saturday to exercise. Somehow we ended up dancing like a maniacs to gangsta rap, showing off some poorly choreographed dance routines and doing enough deep knee bends to sufficiently hurt myself. My joints are still recovering. My tootsie doesn't roll like it used to. Even though I think it does. Getting old is tough. Saturday night our friends hosted an Octoberfest-ish party, our attendance at which is why I made this recipe. Fall is SO fun.
My goal here was to make a *better* version of the traditional party onion dip. Think Lipton Soup Dip goes to finishing school. To do this I deeply caramelized a few types of onion, along with some fennel and shallots and thinly sliced garlic. For the better part of two hours. Is that mental? “All this for dip?” Paul inquired. I knew it would be worth it though. And I was right. He should probably get used to that.
Though the time stamp on this dip seems long, it’s largely hands off. Closer to the end of cooking you will want to tend to the onions more, as they start to get a little sticky. But really, this is the kind of thing you can leave slow and low on the stove while you get laundry done and relax around the house.
CARAMELIZED ONION DIP
(a party sized portion; half the portions for less people)
Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
Fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced
White or purple onion, thinly sliced
1 lg. or 2 sm. shallot(s), thinly sliced
5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp. herbes de Provence (or dried basil, sage, fennel seed and marjoram)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. sugar
Sour cream (one 16 oz. container)
Cape Cod Chips for serving. Carrot sticks if you feel like it.
Heat equal parts olive oil and butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium to med/low heat (about 4 tbs. butter and oil combined). Add onions, fennel and shallots and stir well to coat in butter and oil. Reduce heat to med/low. On my stove, I kept it about at a three, but every stove is different. Keep the hear low and cover the mixture letting simmer for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have purged their juices. Remove cover, add sugar, salt, pepper and dried herbs. Continue to sauté, with the cover off, for another 15 minutes. The onion mixture will just continue to wilt down, the juices will reduce and the whole pot will slowly take on a more golden color. Add garlic and stir to coat. Continue to cook on low heat, stirring a bit more towards the end of the process until the whole mixture is deeply caramelized. This last part probably was almost 40 minutes. So be prepared to be patient. And be prepared for your whole house to smell deliciously of slow cooked garlic onions for at least a day or two. Personally, I don’t mind that so much.
Once the mixture is ready removed from heat and let cool a bit. Combine the onion mixture with the sour cream in a blender or food processor. If you have an immersion blender, you can combine them in a deep bowl (but not a jar like I did it was a messy nightmare). Process or blend until well combined and then generously season with salt and pepper. When I say be generous with the salt and pepper at the end, I mean it. Because the fennel, onion and shallot have been deeply caramelized, they take on an almost sweet flavor. The sour cream (I believe you could also make this with Greek yogurt- worth a try) adds tang and then you just need a good amount of salt and spice to round it out. This dip is so delicious you will want to eat it with a spoon. All this for dip indeed.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
My life has been a little crazy lately. I have been making Major Life Decisions and having Adult Conversations. Admittedly, two intimidating things that I hesitate to act on due to my very nature. I am leaving my job, where I have been, quite comfortably for the past five years. So what, big deal? Well, I work for my brother and I have helped him through these years to organize and build his business, which is a small but busy law firm and when you work for family you have an allegiance and loyalty beyond the normal employee realm.
I’ve known for a while now that this is not where I want to be. I don’t knock the legal profession by any means, but I knew, inside of me, that using my brain power to draft lawsuits and order toner was not exactly in line with what I want for my life. For a few years I stayed bolstered by the thought that I “work to live, I don’t live to work” and that’s fine. “My job is not who I am” I would tell myself as I arm wrestled the Xerox machine and took out the garbage. That being said, there have been very clear pluses to being here: I have been able to pursue amazing things in my personal life, I have been able to teach yoga, to write this blog, and for those things, I really am so thankful for my time here.
After I got back from my vacation though I knew it was beyond time for me to have an Adult Conversation with my brother. I cried, because well, I’m a giant baby and that’s what I do and he laughed and told me, in the nicest way possible, to get the hell out of here. So we are interviewing replacements, and I have a new job lined up; a part time one that will allow me to learn more about food and wine and allow me to interact with people on a daily basis. Which is good, because I love people (and did you hear the part about wine?). This transition will allow me to teach a bit more, learn a lot more and maybe write some more and increase the amount of recipes that come up here on a weekly basis. But much more than this, this transition will actually make me work towards a career path that is in line with the things I love most. It will give me the gift of time, which is precious: time to figure out if I can make a living out of the things that give me life.
I’m scared. If we’re being completely honest, I’m scared shitless (pardon my French). I’m essentially hacking my income in half during the worst recession in our time. But I am so supported. I mean SO supported, in every possible way. Not one person in my life has questioned my decision. It has been met with enthusiasm and excitement and support. I am extraordinarily lucky to have the people I have in my life. They know what I am slowly figuring out, that sometimes even if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, that you just need movement, in one direction or another. I’ve realized through the past few weeks as I’ve worked through the steps to make this big change, that the only thing that has held me back until now has been me. It’s a potent thing this realization that we’re in charge of our lives. A little bit scary, a lot bit intense, but ultimately, completely right, completely mine and absolutely wonderful.
So I was thinking, how do I share this story and not make it just some random rambling about me, me, me? Because let’s be serious, you come here for the food. That’s why everyone in the history of time does anything, because they have heard there would be pizza, or cake. I realized that all this does in fact, tie in to cooking and specifically, this delicious dish I made this weekend. In the kitchen, we tend to hold ourselves back from making things that are unfamiliar or seemingly difficult. I know that my phobia of baking bread is rooted in the fear of failure and waste that might occur if I screw it up. And I know that I’ve never attempted to make a real homemade curry sauce because how could I possibly have all the ingredients for something so complex? But you know I had this acorn squash and I had these sweet potatoes and I just knew that they would be delicious in a coconut milk curry. So I looked up a few recipes and realized that everything I needed, had been in my pantry this whole time. Nothing to hold me back indeed.
FALL VEGETABLE CURRY
(adapted just slightly, from this recipe)
1 acorn squash or ½ butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin rounds
1 onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can chick peas, drained
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce, or 1-2 red chilis
2 ½ tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime (I used half a lemon instead)
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tbsp. rice vinegar (or substitute apple cider vinegar)
1 tbsp. ground coriander seeds
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. fennel seed
1/3 purple onion, sliced (I used a white onion)
1 can coconut milk (I used light)
Scoop of Greek yogurt
Combine all curry ingredients in a blender, or large jar (if you have an immersion blender). (You can grind the turmeric, fennel seed, cumin and coriander seeds in a spice grinder first if you like, or with a mortar and pestle. I don’t think it’s 100% necessary, but I did because I didn’t want crunchy seeds in the end result). Blend together all the ingredients until smooth and set aside the sauce. You can refrigerate the sauce for a couple days, as I did this I thought that would be a great idea to have it in the fridge ready to go for a quick weeknight dinner.
Chop your vegetables and heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Sauté onion until fragrant and translucent, then add all of your vegetables and the curry sauce to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and let cook until vegetables are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes, maybe longer. Taste the sauce and adjust spices if necessary, if you want more heat, add more Sriracha, more salt, add more soy sauce, a little sweeter, add a pinch of brown sugar.
Serve over basmati rice, jasmine rice or cous cous. Garnish with chopped cilantro or Thai basil if you have access. I added a dollop of Greek yogurt to cool the heat, but this is also optional. This curry gets better each day you reheat it, just like a good soup.