May 31, 2011
I had wanted to make the Deep-Dish Rhubarb Pie from Sarah Leah Chase’s Open-House Cookbook for a long time. Yesterday I finally did it – it took several years for my two rhubarb plants to be strong enough to harvest at once the amount of rhubarb the recipe requires.
Chase’s cookbook is from 1987 and yet another proof that good cookbooks do not need stylish food photography, in fact, there is not a single photo except for the author’s, with an unmistakably 1980’s sweater and hairdo. The book came to me through my husband’s trousseau (he doesn’t cook). It was one of the cookbooks his mother must have given to all of her children because I have spotted it on the cookbook shelves of my husband’s siblings.
This rhubarb pie is an adaptation of the recipe.
For the lattice crust, I decided to take a shortcut. Or so I thought, because I am not really good at making lattice crust, and I wanted to avoid lengthy fiddling with strips of dough while there is so much weeding, planting and pruning to do right now. Instead I cut out small cookies and placed them on top. This might have taken just as long as producing a lattice! At least I could be sure of a decent result.
Rhubarb can make a runny pie so depending on the freshness and thus moisture content of your rhubarb, you need to increase the amount of cornstarch in the filling. My pie was a bit on the runny side but I thought the filling is yummy as is, so I wouldn’t want to cut back on the amount of cassis, and rather adjust the amount of thickener next time.
Rhubarb Pie with Cassis
2¼ pounds diced rhubarb (about 8 cups)
¾ cup Crème de cassis (black currant liqueur)
Grated zest of 2 organic oranges
A little less than 1½ cups (10 ounces) sugar
¼ cup (1 ounce) cornstarch, more as needed
2½ cups flour
6 tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup (2¼ ounces) shortening
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
Pinch of salt
About 4 tablespoons ice water, as needed
1. The night before mix the rhubarb with the cassis and the orange zest in a non-corrosive container. Cover and refrigerate.
2. Cut the butter in chunks and put it in the food processor with the shortening, sugar, ginger and salt. Process until the mixture is crumbly and pebbly, then gradually add tablespoons of ice water and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Place the ball in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
3. Drain rhubarb and pour the liquid in a saucepan. Set the rhubarb aside. Whisk the sugar and the cornstarch into the liquid and slowing bring to a bowl, whisking constantly. Cook until it turns clear and thickens. Add more cornstarch, a tablespoon at a time, until you get a very thick consistency. Cook to turn clear after each addition, and only then add more cornstarch.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5. Roll out half of the dough to a 12-inch circle to fit a 10-inch cake pan. Lightly spray the pan with baking spray and fit the dough into the pan, trimming the edges.
6. Mix the rhubarb with the thickened liquid and pour it into the pan.
7. Roll out the remaining dough and cut out small cookies of your fancy. Place them closely together on top the filling.
8. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 55 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool completely before cutting.
Makes 12 servings
May 28, 2011
Baking something that is so readily available is not obvious. But lately I haven’t been able to find our favorite crackers, the Kashi stoneground 7-grain crackers, in stores. Also, the rosemary plant that moved from its winter home in the guestroom to the patio is so full and bushy that not using rosemary often makes me feel guilty each time I walk by and inhale the wonderful scent. And, finally, I had buckwheat flour that needed to be used up, as it does not have a very long shelf life. Three good reasons to try my hand on crackers.
I used solid Amish farmer’s cheese but I doubt it is easily available outside Pennsylvania. Substituting it with well-drained Greek yogurt should work as well. The crackers might just end up a bit moister and might require a tad longer baking and a bit more salt, as Amish farmer’s cheese is saltier than Greek yogurt. I wanted the crackers to be even so I cut them with a ruler but that’s just me being a neatnik… For a more rugged look, just break the sheet in pieces after baking.
Buckwheat Rosemary Crackers
3½ ounces rye flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons + 1½ teaspoons cold butter (1¾ ounces)
3 ounces solid farmer’s cheese
1 heaping tablespoon Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons + 1 ½ teaspoons 2% milk (1¾ ounces)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1. Put the flours, baking powder and salt in the food processor. Dice the butter and the farmer’s cheese and add. Process until the mixture is crumbly.
2. Add the yogurt and milk and process until the dough forms a homogenous mass and sticks together in a ball.
3. Transfer to a bowl and quickly incorporate the rosemary using the tips of your fingers. Do not overwork the dough. Cover and let rest for 45 minutes.
4. Line a large (14×16 inch) baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust with flour. Roll out the dough directly on the parchment with a floured rolling pin. The dough should fill the entire sheet. You can patch the dough as needed but make sure to smoothen out the sutures.
5. Cut the dough into 1.5-inch squares using a ruler and a sharp knife. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack of the cold oven. Set the oven to 375 degrees F and bake until the crackers are lightly browned. Depending on the time it takes your oven to reach the set temperature the crackers might already be done at that point (mine were).
6. Transfer the parchment with the crackers onto a cake rack and cool slightly. Break the crackers apart and completely cool on the rack. Store in airtight tin containers.
Makes about 80 crackers
May 25, 2011
It made me cringe when I pinched off two handfuls of flower buds from the 70 strawberries I planted in the new patch in April. But that’s what you are supposed to do in order to get stronger plants and a good crop next year. Alas, no strawberries this year! For now I can only dream of Rote Grütze, one of my favorite German desserts (later in the season I will make it with raspberries, red currants and blueberries).
The word “Grütze” is anything but appealing in German, meaning something like “grits”. Hence as a kid because I loved the dessert so much but disliked the name, I renamed it “nostalgia pudding”, as it was a very old-fashioned dessert back then. Rote Grütze has since made a huge comeback in Germany and is now available in all types of weird concoctions such as Rote Grütze tea. I stick with the classic.
2 pounds mixed berries (fresh or frozen) and pitted cherries, washed and picked over
1/4 cup bottled fruit syrup or a good fruit juice (raspberry, strawberry, or any other of the fruit you are using)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1. For the pudding, bring the blueberries and cherries to a boil in a large saucepan until they pop or release their juice. Hull the strawberries and cut very large ones into quarters. Add the more delicate fruit like strawberries and raspberries last. Stir in the syrup and sugar to taste.
2. Dissolve the cornstarch in at least ¼ cup cold water. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the cornstarch into the fruit mixture, and cook briefly over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Make sure not to undercook the pudding, otherwise it will taste chalky. When the pudding turns clear and thickens, remove the pan from the heat immediately. Continue stirring for another 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Pour the hot pudding into a glass serving bowl or individual dessert bowls. To prevent the glass from cracking when you pour the hot pudding into it, put a damp dishtowel underneath the bowl. Refrigerate for several hours until set. Serve the pudding cold, but take it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving, so it can develop its full flavor. Serve with homemade vanilla sauce, vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream.
Makes 6 servings
May 6, 2011
As a gardener, you experience all types of failures. What just happened to me with the cucumber, summer squash and Charentais melon seeds qualifies for the funny category although it is also rather annoying, because I started the seeds late already due to cold weather, and now I have to buy seedlings in order to get an early summer crop.
After the seeds showed no sign of germination after more than a week, I put the tray with the jiffy pots in the oven with the light turned on, and a heating pad underneath to speed things up. A big red sign said, “Do not use oven and leave light on”. The oven smelled like a greenhouse but except for a couple of lonely melon seedlings, no results.
So this morning I decided to start all over again, emptying out all the pots and sifting through the soil. I found several melon seeds that had not germinated, I suspect due to lack of heat. But I could not believe my eyes when the rest of the pots contained no seeds whatsoever! Then it dawned on me – one sunny day last week, I had put the tray outside on the patio table, and the birds must have eaten them.
A small consolation: there is still one jar of Golden Zucchini Chutney in the pantry. I made it for the first time last year instead of the Zucchini Relish I usually make. The recipe is adapted from Preserving by Oded Schwartz. We eat the chutney with any type of Indian food.
Golden Zucchini Chutney
3½ pounds golden zucchini
3½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon corn oil
3 tablespoons black mustard seeds
1½ tablespoons freshly ground coriander
1 dried medium-hot red chili
1½ tablespoons turmeric
4 large onions, halved I thinly sliced
7 large carrots, peeled and grated
8 ounces candied ginger, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
5 cups apple vinegar
1¾ cups sugar
You also need:
A canning pot, or a very large stockpot
6 1-pint canning jars
6 new (unused) lids
1. Cut the squash (do not peel if using organic) in half lengthwise and scrape out any seeds. Cut into ½-inch cubes.
2. Place the squash in a colander and sprinkle with half of the salt. Let stand for one hour. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
4. Heat the oil in a large non-corrosive pot. Add the mustard seeds, coriander and chili and fry until the mustard seeds pop and the spices release their flavors. Add the turmeric and stir.
5. Add the squash with all of the remaining ingredients except the sugar and the remaining salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
6. Add the sugar and salt and simmer for 1 to 1¼ hours, until most of the liquid has disappeared and the chutney as a thick consistency. Remove the chili.
7. Fill into sterilized canning jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let sit for 2 months before opening.
Makes 6 1-pint jars