December 18, 2011
It’s not that I don’t like butter, on the contrary. I just don’t want to clog my arteries or those of the people for whom I care and cook by using butter when it is not absolutely necessary.
Butter is quintessential to many basic recipes, such as béchamel sauce, and my view is that if you don’t want to or cannot make them with butter it’s better to stay away and make something else than coming up with a weird concoction that is neither fish nor fowl.
That brings me to my long quest for a low-fat piecrust. I cringe when I see recipes that call for 1 stick, or even 1½ sticks butter – for nothing but the crust! Sure, piecrust needs to have the right consistency, flaky at best, but oftentimes it is a mere receptacle for the filling. So why would I dump 56 grams of saturated fat into that shell?
I have been trying out all types of alternatives for piecrust with butter, from using organic shortening, which has a certain aftertaste and is still high in fat, to yeasted piecrust, which only works for savory pies and should be eaten very fresh.
In German cuisine there is a crust made with Quark and vegetable oil (called Quark-Öl-Teig). It is low fat, very pliable and tastes still good after a day or two. Quark is unfortunately rarely available in the United States but I have found that Greek yogurt can be a very suitable substitute.
When I made this piecrust today, I marveled again about how easy it is to roll out (rolling out piecrust is definitely not one of my strengths). Another advantage: this crust can be rolled out right away, no chilling required like for piecrust with butter or shortening.
Unless I flip-flop about butter one day, from now on I will make piecrust this way.
Piecrust with Greek Yogurt and Oil
For a 9-inch to 10-inch piecrust
3 ounces 0% Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons 2% milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar (omit in savory pies)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (omit in savory pies)
Pinch of salt
1 cup + 3 tablespoons (6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a spoon until they form a ball.
2. Transfer to the countertop and knead with your hands until smooth.
3. Roll out on a lightly floured countertop, or between two sheets of wax paper. Fill and bake according to recipe.
December 11, 2011
My first try with cauliflower yielded one (!) tiny head of cauliflower. I don’t know whether I planted the seedlings too late, did not fertilize or water them enough, or whether the extreme ups and downs of the weather this fall stunted their growth. Should I plant cauliflower again I will certainly have to educate myself better, which is perfectly all right, because gardening is lifelong learning.
Of course I had to do something special with that cauliflower. My favorite dish with cauliflower is a yogurt curry that I have often eaten at Curry in a Hurry, my favorite Indian eatery in New York City. I did not have a recipe so I experimented with the ingredients. The result came close to the original although the sauce curdled a bit (things to learn here, too…)
That lonely head of cauliflower was not the only harvest. I also picked the last radicchio and dug the last beets. My other trial crop this year, kale, is still standing. It is less finicky than cauliflower and thrives in cold weather, when the starch gets converted to glucose. That’s the only aspect of winter I look forward to right now – harvesting kale in the snow.
Yogurt Curry with Cauliflower
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 stick cinnamon
Pinch of asefoetida
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 bay leaf
8 ounces cauliflower flowerets
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a heavy medium-size pot to the point of almost smoking. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, asefoetida and cinnamon stick and fry until the mustard seeds pop, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the onion, garlic, turmeric and bay leaf. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions starts to soften. Add the cauliflower and 1 cup water. Mix well, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very tender and falling apart.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the buttermilk and yogurt. Heat throughly but do not cook, stirring. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the cinnamon stick and the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with basmati rice.
Makes 2 main course servings