Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blueberry Pie

This pie helped me win a bake-off once. This crust recipe is from Martha Stewart and is sweeter than a standard pie crust, but I think it works really well with the blueberries.

6 C fresh or frozen blueberries
2 C sugar
3 Tbs corn starch
1 Tbs lemon juice
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

2 1/2 C flour
3 Tbs sugar
1 C cold, unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
4 Tbs ice water

In a food processor, mix the flour and sugar. Add the butter and process until coarse, approximately 10 seconds. Add the egg yolks one at a time through the feed tube, while the machine is running and add enough ice water that the dough just holds together. Turn dough out onto two pieces of plastic wrap and press into flat circles. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, toss the berries with the rest of the filling ingredients. Take one of the pie crusts out of the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Line a deep dish pie pan with it and fill with the berry mixture. Roll out the second crust and cut into 1" strips. Weave a lattice over the top of the pie, tucking the ends of the strips under the bottom crust. Pinch the edges of the crusts together.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

"Frango" Mint Brownies

Frango Mints are a Chicago specialty, sold exclusively at Marshall Field's. My mother brought this recipe to California, and we make it with Andes Mints (any after-dinner style chocolate mint would do), for lack of Frangos. These are very rich, dense brownies, so don't be surprised if they don't rise very much in the oven.

2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 C butter
2 eggs
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C chopped mints (one package of Andes will do)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the baking chocolate and butter, and allow to cool slightly. Beat the eggs with the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture. Add the vanilla, flour and salt. Fold in the mints. Pour the batter into an 8" greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a shiny crust has formed on top. Be careful not to overbake!! Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Devilled Eggs

12 large eggs
1/2 C mayonnaise
2 Tbs mustard
1 Tbs ketchup
3 Tbs pickle relish
Salt and pepper

Hard cook the eggs with a tablespoon of vinegar in the water and let cool. Peel and slice in half, setting the yolks aside in a small bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients with the yolks, smashing with a potato masher or fork. Spoon the mixture into the egg whites and arrange on a platter. Garnish with paprika or sliced olives, if desired.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Filet Mignon with Green Peppercorn Sauce

My friend Jane lived in Italy for a year and brought back a wealth of cooking knowledge. This is a recipe she makes with tenderloin, but my butcher was all out, so I used filets, and I think it came out great.

1 Tbs green peppercorns
2 filet mignons
1/4 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, chopped
2 Tbs butter
1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 C beef broth
2 Tbs brandy or wine

Start by soaking the peppercorns in warm water for at least a half hour. Sprinkle the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. In a medium pan, cook the onions, garlic, and shallots in the butter until translucent. Place the steaks in the pan and cook on one side until the center of the meat on the top side feels warm to the touch. Turn over and cook until done. Set aside on a platter. Add the cream, brandy, broth, and peppercorns to the pan and simmer until thickened. Pour over steaks and serve.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Zucchini Bread Two Ways

Eric came home from visiting family in Redding this weekend with some wonderful garden-fresh produce, including one enormous zucchini that, when grated, yielded 4 cups. Naturally, I decided to make zucchini bread, and with so much zucchini, I thought I'd try two different recipes. The first comes from Martha Stewart, and the second is from Sheila Lukin's "USA Cookbook." As you can see from the photo, the first one came out much more dense (due to the brown sugar, I think), but they are both very moist. I think I prefer the fluffier lemon version, but both would be a great addition to any breakfast table.

Zucchini Spice Bread

1 3/4 C grated zucchini
1 C light brown sugar
2 Tbs granulated sugar
2/3 C vegetable oil (I used butter because I was out of oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the insides of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Grate the zucchini and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, oil, vanilla and eggs.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Add to the egg mixture, and stir to combine well. Fold in the zucchini and pour into the prepared pan. Bake about 45-55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

Zucchini Lemon Loaf

1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1/2 C vegetable oil (again, I used butter)
1 C granulated sugar
1/4 C sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
1 C grated zucchini
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices, and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and add the oil and sugar. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the zucchini and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let cool before slicing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wild Plum and Nectarine Jam

I made this recipe up, and I am so pleased with the way it turned out!! The nectarines add just a little extra something to the plums, and the vanilla bean just highlights the flavors. Best of all, it comes out the most beautiful color...

3-4 quarts of small wild plums, pitted
2 large nectarines, pitted and coarsely chopped
Juice of one large lemon
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half length-wise
Lots of sugar, to taste
12 half-pint jelly jars

Combine all the ingredients in a big pot and bring to a boil, while mashing the fruit with a potato masher. As the mixture boils, a foam should form on the top of the pot. Skim this off, being careful not to mix it into the fruit. After you've removed the foam, continue to boil for about an hour, stirring occasionally. To see if it's done, dip a spoon in the jam and place it on a plate in the freezer for a few minutes. When you take the spoon out of the freezer, run a fingertip down the back of the spoon. If it leaves a trail, the jam is firm enough. When in doubt, let it boil a little longer. Remove the vanilla bean and pour into jars.

Now for canning: I have a great steam canning pot that my father gave me, and it makes my job MUCH easier. These are pretty easy to find, and I think they're a worthwhile investment if you are planning to can a lot (and once you see how easy it is, you probably will!). However, it is also pretty easy to just use a big stock pot and boil the jars.

The most important things to remember are to make sure you wipe the rims of the jars after you fill them, and to not tighten the lids too much. Once you have the jam in the jars and the lids on, place them in your canning pot, or in a large stock pot with a wire rack in the bottom and cover with water. Make sure the jars are spaced at least an inch apart. Bring the water to a boil. If using a steam canner, wait until the steam comes out in long columns. Boil/ steam for about 10-15 minutes. Remove the jars from the pot with canning tongs (SO useful if you don't want to burn your arms), and place on a towel to cool.

Chicken and Biscuits

The great thing about cassroles is that they are easy to prepare, and they keep well. This recipe from my mom has always been a favorite of mine. It's an example of a classic product-inspired recipe, probably originally found on the back of a can or in one of the promotional cookbooks I collect.


3.5 lbs chicken tenders or (or abour 8 breasts, cut into pieces)
1 C flour
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom)
1 C cream or milk
1 lb pearl onions (canned or frozen are great)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 C sour cream
1/2 C sliced, green olives (optional)


1 C butter
1 C breadcrumbs
2 tsp poppy seeds
Pinch each of rosemary, thyme, sage
4 Tbs sliced, green olives (optional)
2 C flour
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C milk

Combine all the casserole ingredients except for the sour cream and olives. Pour into a large casserole dish and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for an hour.

Start the biscuits by melting 1/2 C butter, and mixing in the breadcrumbs, poppy seeds, herbs, and olives. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. Cut in the rest of the butter and add the milk to form a dough. On a floured surface, knead 20 times and then roll out into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the breadcrumb mixture on top, and then roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, sealing the edges with water. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until you're ready to use.

After an hour of baking, take the casserole out of the oven and stir in the sour cream and olives. Unwrap the biscuit roll, cut into one-inch slices and arrange over the top of the casserole. Turn the oven up to 400 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown.