20 April, 2014

Creamy Roasted Asparagus Soup (without the cream)

Love it or hate it, it's asparagus season! Asparagus reminds me of my childhood and of Easter. Our family celebrates Easter at my maternal grandma's house. Grandma Betty serves scalloped ham and potatoes, crescent rolls or dinner rolls, asparagus (white when she can find it), and a huge bowl of fruit salad adorned with whole strawberries and slices of kiwi. For dessert, she used to serve a chocolate cake with whipped cream frosting but more recently has started serving pie. In honor of my grandma (today is not only Easter but also her birthday), I'll share a recipe for that one food I always hated to see on her Easter table: asparagus!

Before we proceed, a fun fact about me is that I can't stand foods that, for whatever reason, remind me that I've eaten them once I'm done eating them. Examples include garlic, corn, kidney beans, Chipotle's regrettably delicious hot salsa, and last but not least, asparagus. People get uncomfortable talking about asparagus-pee, but it's serious and it caused me to abstain from eating asparagus for a long time. However, C's two favorite vegetables are asparagus and Brussels sprouts, so I've had to get past my aversion to asparagus.

Thankfully, I no longer have to hold my breath in the bathroom. For those of you who, like me, were blessed with the ability to smell asparagus-pee, I'm going to let you in on my little sciencey-secret, Dilution. Dilution, dilution, dilution! The more water you drink, the more you dilute your urine. The lower the concentration of the volatile compounds, the harder it is to smell. Also, I've noted that the tip with the buds is the culprit. If I just eat the shoot, I have no problems. Now, I challenge you to eat enough asparagus this spring to test my theory and report back so that I can expand my data set from an 'n' of one.

With a bunch of asparagus in the fridge and red potatoes that were starting to turn, I decided to make soup. One of the links I gave you in my VegOut! Challenge post was for Kathryn Hill's Rutabaga Chipotle Soup (I made it as stated, but with 2 oz. cream cheese instead of 2 cups of cream). That recipe was my inspiration for this soup: an asparagus soup that's creamy from a starchy tuber instead of fatty cream!

Make a creamy asparagus soup without cream.

1/2 lb. asparagus, washed and trimmed (or use a full pound)
olive oil
1 tbsp. butter (or olive oil)
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper

Garlic toasts, to serve (optional):
large clove of garlic

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Lay the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 8-10 minutes or until the asparagus shoots begin to soften. When the asparagus is done cooking, cut off the top inch and set aside. Cut the remaining shoots into one inch-long pieces to add to the broth.
2. Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Stir in the garlic and cook a few minutes longer. Add the potatoes, asparagus shoots, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
3. Ladle most of the broth into the jar of a blender. Add half of the potato chunks, onion, and asparagus. Puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot. Stir in the asparagus tops. Stir in the cumin and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you feel like it's missing something, try adding a pinch of garlic powder. Keep warm while you prepare the garlic toasts.
4. To prepare the garlic toasts, turn the oven to broil. Slice the baguette into 1/2" thick rounds. On a broiler safe sheet, toast the baguettes. Slice of clove of garlic in half and rub each toast with the cut edge. Serve warm with the soup.

Incredibly creamy or maybe better described as velvety.  Tastes like asparagus with a hint of garlic.

Discussion and Future Directions
This isn't a spectacular recipe for wowing guests. Rather, this is a recipe for warming up on a cold spring day. It's a way to savor spring's bounty on those miserably cold days that in your heart you know to expect but nevertheless hope won't ever come. If you want to make it spectacular, stir in an ounce or two of cream cheese before you puree the soup. That will make it richer.

I like my soups a little chunkier so that there is some texture. Feel free to puree the whole soup if you prefer smooth cream soups. If you're going to puree it, feel free to add all of the asparagus to the pot at the beginning (or save just a few tips for garnish). Now, be sure to drink a full glass of water (a tall glass, not a short one) with your soup. See if my dilution method worked, and report back!

17 April, 2014

Vinegar Pie (or Lemon-Free Lemon Pie)

By now, you've probably realized how expensive limes have gotten. You probably know that it's due to a poor growing season and if you're really up on what's been happening in Mexico, particularly in Michoacán where limes are big business, you might know that the problem has been exacerbated by violence and the drug cartels. To avoid a rant about drug-related violence, let's talk about limes.

In our household, we go through limes like you wouldn't believe. We're the weird people who go to the grocery store every day (sometimes multiple times a day) because we can walk there. Many a trip has been made solely for limes, sometimes for pico de gallo, sometimes for whatever variation of Moscow Mules we're craving. Because of lime prices (we buy them so often we have a special coupon at the grocery store for 17 cent limes that now cost 54 cents), I've been forced to substitute lemons.

Now, in case lemon prices ever sky rocket, let's talk about a substitute for lemons. Have you ever had vinegar pie? Sounds weird, right? Here's a recipe for a dairy-free, lemon-free pie that tastes just like lemon meringue pie (without the meringue). Thank the pioneers. Not only did they settle our country, they discovered that water, sugar, flour, egg, and apple cider could be made into a faux-fruit pie!

Make a crust-less vinegar pie in ramekins based on this Vinegar Pie from the Township of Springwater, CA. Shout out to Underbelly restaurant for the inspiration (they serve theirs in a thick pastry shell with salt brittle on top).

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten until frothy
1-3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (start with 1 tbsp and taste before adding more)
1 tsp. citrus extract (optional, I used orange)
candied lemon slices (for garnish, see supplementary materials)

1. Bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour until well-incorporated. Whisk the flour-sugar into the boiling water and continue whisking until thickened (like a custard, you want it to coat the back of a wooden spoon and not drip when you swipe it). Remove from heat.
2. Temper the eggs by whisking a little bit of the sugar-water mixture into the frothy eggs. Then whisk the tempered eggs into the rest of the sugar-water mixture. Continue whisking until the mixture looks smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Feel free to give it a taste (careful it's hot) to see if you need to add any extract.
4. Pour into four 4.5 oz. ramekins (if you have smaller ramekins, use them! If you want to make tarts, use baked mini tart shells). Chill the "custards" approximately 3 hours until set. Garnish with candied lemon slices before serving.

The color is subtly yellow from the egg yolk. The aroma is a bit acidic (read: vinegar). To me, it tastes like citrus but to C, it tastes like vinegar.

Discussion and Future Directions
First off, let's be honest. This should be way more than 4 servings (unless you like a dessert with ~45g of sugar). Plus, without a crust, the flavor is strong. I suggest sharing one ramekin. A better idea would be to chill the custard in pre-baked single-serving tart pastries. That would make the custard a thin layer and therefore decrease the serving. Or you could make a pie (I would make 1.5x this recipe for a 9" pie). A shortbread crust would be perfect.

Now, let' talk about the vinegar. I used the full 3 tablespoons which made it unpalatable for C. Clearly, a little less vinegar would be ok. A lot less vinegar would probably be fine. The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons (technically 6, but I halved the recipe). If I were you, I would try adding the apple cider vinegar tablespoon by tablespoon until it has enough flavor without tasting too vinegary. Alternatively, just go for 1 tbsp. of vinegar with 1-2 tbsp. lemon juice.

This unique little dessert is something to try when you're in the mood for something new and different. It's probably not the best dessert to try for the first time on guests. (Or depending on the guests, it may be the perfect dessert...)

Supplementary Materials

Candied Lemon Slices: Bring 3/4 cup water to a boil. Stir in 3/4 cup sugar until dissolved. Cut 1 small-medium lemon in 1/4" thick slices. Add the lemons in a single layer floating on the top of the syrup. Boil until the pulp of the lemon is translucent, about 10 minutes, flipping the slices half way through. Drain and move to a wire rack to cool. Want to know the best part? If you cool the syrup and put it in a glass jar, you get the added bonus of having just made homemade lemon simple syrup! (Just add vodka and some lemon juice and you've got yourself a lemon drop martini. Or, add gin and lemon juice and muddle some blackberries for a blackberry bramble)

10 April, 2014

Coleslaw, Two Ways

I just told you about my experience taking the VegOut! Challenge to eat 30 vegetables in 30 days. Did you find it a little annoying that I didn't share any recipes for all those vegetables? I did. Sure, I gave you links to a few good ones, but that's not the same. I felt a little guilty telling you how great of an experience it was to eat 30 vegetables without giving you suggestions for eating 30 vegetables on your own! My food blog has started to morph into a dessert or baking blog, so my new goal is to post more recipes for main dishes and sides. Bring on the veges!

I'll start by sharing recipes for cabbage and fennel which I made into coleslaw, two ways. At the end of our 30 vegetables challenge, we had red, green, and Chinese cabbage in the fridge plus a giant jar of sauerkraut. I figured coleslaw would be the easiest way to use cabbage. Both of the recipes that I'm about to share make a reasonable amount that could easily serve 6-8 people. For a larger crowd (it's almost BBQ season), scale up. You won't mind having leftovers.

The first slaw is coleslaw with fennel. Fennel is an anise-flavored bulb-like stem supporting bushy leaves and tiny yellow flowers. Fennel seed is commonly used in Middle-Eastern and Asian cooking. You've probably bitten down into a fennel seed while eating sausage pizza. I thinly sliced the bulb-like stem and added it to my shredded cabbage and onion. The bulb provides a crunch and a sweet, licorice-like flavor. I left fennel seeds out of the dressing (I've never liked the texture), but feel free to add them for additional flavor.

Coleslaw with Fennel
(adapted from Simply in Season)
1/4 green cabbage, shredded
1/4 red cabbage, shredded
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, pieces of core removed
1/2 white onion, chopped
4 carrots, shredded

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. cilantro
1/2 tbsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. fennel seed (optional)
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions: Whisk together the dressing and pour over the salad. Toss to mix. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

The second slaw is a family favorite. It's calls for a boiling oil-and-vinegar dressing that was originally poured over just two ingredients: green cabbage and onion. I added red cabbage and carrots for color and added nutrition (bring on the antioxidants and vitamin-A precursors!). My grandma got this recipe from Cam Hubanks at the Avenue Bar in Madison, Wisconsin, one of our family's favorite spots to go for a Friday fish fry.  

Oil-and-Vinegar Coleslaw
(Adapted from Cam's Coleslaw)
1/2 green cabbage, shredded
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced (optional)
1 white onion, finely sliced
2 carrots, shredded

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. celery seed
1/2 tbsp. sugar

Directions: Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the cabbage and vegetables. Set aside. Combine vinegar, oil and spices in a saucepan. Heat until boiling. Pour over the cabbage. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate. Keeps well. Please note that if you use red cabbage, the color will bleed. If you're making this a few days in advance, either replace the red cabbage with green or stir in the red cabbage immediately before serving.

The Avenue Bar no longer serves Cam's oil-and-vinegar coleslaw. Instead, they serve a traditional creamy, celery seedy coleslaw that's also very good.  Regrettably, I don't have that recipe to share with you. Instead, you'll have to try these two non-traditional versions. Enjoy!

03 April, 2014

Almond Milk Horchata

Horchata is that thick, sweet, cinnamony drink you'll find in a large jug at most Mexican restaurants. It's generally  made with ground rice or sometimes nuts like almonds. It often has a thick, chalky texture (kind of like Pepto-Bismol), especially when made with rice. I keep trying to order it, but have finally given up. For me, horchata is too hard to drink. It's a little too sweet and thick to swallow.

Have you heard of RumChata? RumChata is a delightful rum-based cream liqueur from Wisconsin that tastes like horchata. Unlike traditional horchata, RumChata is made with real cream. (Of course it's made with real cream! It's produced in the state that has previously banned the use of margarine to protect butter/dairy sales). I don't know if RumChata has become popular throughout the United States, but it's definitely a popular drink among my friends and family back in Wisconsin. One of my friends even used it to make RumChata cupcakes, which she said were delicious!

I first learned about RumChata from my mom when I went home to visit during graduate school. After dark, with our bare feet resting on the bricks of the firepit, gazing over the placid lake, we chatted and drank RumChata on ice out of yellow plastic cups with smiley faces that my mom bought "to make you feel happy in the morning!" A few months later, she gave me a bottle of RumChata as a gift. It was mostly full when I moved to Houston, but I finished it a few months ago. I contemplated buying another bottle but decided against it because I didn't want the pressure to finish it by August and it definitely won't last in storage for a year. So, I decided to try to make my own. That was a failure (to me, rum, even high quality rum, kind of tastes like plastic, so it was not at all enjoyable), but the horchata alone was delicious. I'll leave the RumChata to the experts.

Make a simple horchata with less sugar than the real thing.

4 cups vanilla almond milk (or plain + 1 tsp vanilla)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
splash of vanilla
ice cubes
cinnamon (for garnish)

1. In a blender, combine the almond milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pulse a few times to mix or until the sugar dissolves. Alternatively, whisk until the sugar dissolves (this works particularly well for a single serving so that there is less cleanup).
2. Pour 1 cup into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Strain into a glass with a fresh ice cube. Repeat with 3 more glasses to serve 4 or store the rest in the fridge.
3. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon prior to serving. To be extra fancy, garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Yum! This is not at all thick. As you would expect it's the consistency of almond milk. The flavor isn't too sweet with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. Though a little more creaminess would be ok, this is my ideal horchata!

Discussion and Future Directions
I've definitely had my fair share of horchata since I first made this recipe. I've also been good about sharing it with others. C was skeptical to try it after our first attempt at homemade horchata (we started with rice) failed miserably. This one, he was happy to sip!

I used almond milk because I like the flavor and texture. This could easily be made with other alternative milks like soy or rice. To make it richer and creamer, you could use dairy (maybe 2 cups almond milk and 2 cups whole milk or  3 cups almond milk and 1 cup half-and-half). Use whatever you've got on hand. Cheers!

25 March, 2014

VegOut! 2014 with Recipe for Success

I'm going to mix things up again this week to tell you about an organization in Houston that is important to me.  Last week, I was telling someone about an experience I had volunteering.  Their eyebrows raised and their eyes got bigger, "You volunteer?" they asked, "That's really impressive.  How do you find the time to do it?"  I was surprised by their response.  "It's important to me, so I make the time," I explained.  In truth, one of my favorite parts of the week is the time I spend volunteering with an organization in Houston called Recipe for Success. 

Recipe for Success is a program for elementary school students that takes a seed-to-plate approach to nutrition.  Students plant seeds, tend the growing plants, harvest vegetables, fruits and herbs, and turn their harvest into nutritious dishes that they get to eat.  They learn about gardening, cooking and nutrition, all while having fun.  The goal is to instill life skills that will give these students the upper hand against childhood obesity.

Once a week, I spend two hours volunteering at a local elementary school.  I help the gardening teacher, Tommy, with the after school culinary program.  We get to teach each grade from preK-5 for three weeks on a rotating schedule.  I've had each of the groups at least twice, so by now, I know most of students in the the after school program.

There's no greater feeling than walking into the cafeteria to pick up our class for the afternoon and noticing the students' faces light up when they see me.  "Abigail!" one of the kindergartners always yells before running over to give me a hug.  The first time we met, he was picking on another student for being homesick.  I told him that there was nothing wrong with being homesick and admitted, "I miss my mommy too!" "You do?" he asked, not quite believing me.  The third grade girls excitedly ask, "Do we get to go with you today?" If I say yes, they jump up and down and fist pump a "Yes!"  If I say no, they look dejected and grab my hand or give me a hug.

Every once in awhile, I see one of our second graders who is working hard on his English skills.  He gives me the biggest smile of all of the students because once I realized that he only spoke Spanish, I brought in a list of all of the plants we had growing in the garden written in both English and Spanish.  Finally, I could give him answers instead of saying "No sé como se dice en español" when he pointed to a vegetable and asked me, "¿Y esto?"  With that list of words, he had the opportunity to get to know the garden like all of the other kids.

The way the students respond to me is how I know that Recipe for Success is making a difference in their lives.  They love going to culinary.  "Are we going to cook something today?" they ask as we walk to the classroom.  "No, today we're going out to the garden," I tell them.  They haven't quite figured out that every day that Mr. Tommy and I are there is a gardening day, not a culinary day.  "Do we get to plant something?" someone asks with excitement.  "Do we get to taste something?" a wide-eyed student wants to know.  "Can I carry the watering can?" asks one of our students who always wants to help.  "This weekend, we planted in our garden at home," another student is eager to share.

In an effort to get kids eating vegetables at home, Recipe for Success started the VegOut! campaign to challenge kids (big kids included) to eat 30 vegetables in 30 days.  At first, I thought, "piece of cake!"  We're healthy eaters and we eat vegetables every day.  If you've been following my blog, you know how I love to sneak vegetables into baked goods.  But, as I looked at the vegetable log, I realized that we definitely don't eat 30 different vegetables a given month.  Since my boyfriend does a considerable amount of the cooking, I asked him what he thought about the idea of taking the VegOut! Challenge.  "Let's do it!" he said.

At the beginning of the month, we were doing great!  We hosted a pizza night with our friends and used four different vegetables.  A few days later, we had a big salad loaded with veges, adding four new ones to our list.  A week passed and I realized that we'd only eaten one or two new vegetables.  We had onions and bell peppers in at least four dishes and zucchini in a few others.  Carrots and celery were wasted on salad instead of being used for something more delicious like soup.  The cucumber in my Greek wrap didn't count because it too had been in the salad.  I made colcanon by adding cabbage to my mashed potatoes, so it would have been double-dipping to add sauerkraut to the list.

I was starting to panic!  There was no way we'd be able to eat 10 more vegetables with just 10 days left!  I couldn't even name 10 more vegetables without cheating.  I needed to stock up, so I went to the Urban Harvest Farmers Market.  I picked up rutabaga, a daikon radish, broccoli, and a red cabbage.  What I really wanted was rhubarb (there was no rule stating that my vegetables couldn't be made into dessert).  I knew H-E-B had stocked it all winter, but wouldn't you know, they were out.  Instead, I picked up an artichoke.

With just 5 days left, I went to our local grocery store looking for 3 more vegetables to get us to 30.  I didn't look in the frozen vegetables, but in the produce section, there wasn't much left that we hadn't already eaten!  While jicama would have been a good addition to a slaw I was planning to make for fish tacos later in the week, it stunk and was oozing sap, so I decided not to get it.  There were beets, but we've had so many bad beet experiments that they have been banned in our household.  We also aren't crazy about greens (Swiss chard, collard greens, the kind of greens you eat cooked).  I selected a few baby bok choy cabbages for stir fry and grabbed a handful of green beans.  I decided to count garlic and ginger as vegetables since one is a root and the other is a bulb.

With a few days to spare, we made it to 30 vegetables!  I even had a few extras that I didn't get to add to the list: sugar snap peas from the garden at school, Chinese cabbage in a Vietnamese chicken salad, and raw green beans!  I plan to make a slaw later this week with daikon and red cabbage, so I might even get to 35 vegetables by the end of the 30 days!

The most memorable experience of this challenge was my boyfriend's response to rutabaga.  When he got home from work and opened the crisper he exclaimed, "Wow, that's a lot of vegetables!  Artichoke, turnips, rutabaga..."  I explained that what looked like a turnip was actually a daikon radish.  A few nights later, we were discussing what to have for dinner.  I asked him to boil the artichoke while I looked up recipes for rutabaga.  He looked deflated and said, "Rutabaga? Do we have to have rutabaga?"  I ladled rutabaga chipotle soup into bowls while he toasted crostinis and rubbed them with garlic.  I wish I'd made him say what we say with our students at Recipe for Success, "One, two, three!  Bon appétit, now we eat!"  I didn't have to ask him to rate the soup with a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.  He promptly admitted, "This is really good."

The most unique vegetable dish I tried was avocado sorbet.  We're friends with a French couple that makes delicious food.  One night, they hosted a Mexican meal: corn chowder, mushroom and poblano tacos, and avocado sorbet.  The sorbet was incredibly creamy.  It was lemony with a hint of avocado.  "It tastes like frozen gaucamole!" someone exclaimed.  I wondered how it would taste with lime instead lemon.  I worried that it might taste even more like guacamole!

What I learned from this challenge was that we need to add more variety to our diet.  Sure, we eat a lot of vegetables, but we eat the same vegetables over and over (tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, lettuce, spinach, and cucumbers).  During squash season, we eat a lot of squash.  In the springtime, we eat a lot of asparagus.  Seasonal eating is great for many reasons, but it can be tricky to remember to add variety.  Also, spending more time in the produce section made me realized how little fruit I've been eating.  While I stocked up on veges, I grabbed a few kiwis and a mango.  I bought bananas for the first time in months.  I grabbed some small tangerines to make into an adorable little 4.5" Clementine Mousse Cheesecake.  I even bought an apple to pair with cheese, but ended up eating it raw.  It wasn't hard to add variety, but it took intention.

Thanks to Recipe for Success for encouraging healthy eating and reminding me to practice what I teach our students!  If you're interested in learning more about Recipe for Success, volunteering, or donating to the organization, please visit www.recipe4success.org.

21 March, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

After I graduated from college, I moved to Crested Butte, Colorado where I spent the summer doing field research on bumblebees. At the end of July, both of my roommates were preparing to head home because they were finished with their research. That week, a family of bears started breaking into cabins looking for food. I was terrified that my roommates were leaving and I was gong to be spending the next few weeks by myself in the cabin. Jamie, who'd been living in our cabin every summer for the past 8 years, told me that the tares in the screen of our "patio" door were from a bear trying to get into our fridge. I believed her because she had no reason to lie about it and because it looked a lot like slashes made by a bear paw. I thought that surely I was going to have a late night run-in with a bear! (Thankfully, I didn't.)

Anyway, to celebrate the end of our time living together, we donned the nicest clothes we had in our lopsided, dusty cabin and headed down the mountain for a nice dinner. Jamie and Rebecca were deciding which appetizer to order and suggested hummus. They were shocked to learn that I was 22 and had never tried hummus! The waiter placed the platter in middle of the table and my roommates looked at me, expectantly. I grabbed a slice of cucumber, dipped it in the hummus and took a bite. It was good, a little garlicy, but good! My roommates explained that there were other, less garlicky flavors of hummus that I might like better.

At the end of the summer, I moved back to Wisconsin to work for a year while I applied to graduate school. I started cooking and baking nonstop! One day, I decided to make homemade hummus. Following the suggestion of my roommates, I made roasted red pepper hummus. I have no idea where I got the recipe, but I've spent the past 3+ years optimizing it. I promised my mom this recipe years ago, but I don't think I ever sent it to her! Here it is, optimized to be flavorful with a slight kick. I often serve this hummus with crackers and veges but it's also delicious in a wrap with cucumber, tomato, spinach, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1 roasted red pepper (feel free to use one from a jar)*
2 tbsp. lemon juice (fresh-squeezed if you can)
2 tbsp. lime juice (fresh-squeezed if you can)
1 1/2 tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 tbsp. olive oil (or more)

1. As annoying as it is, slip the skins off of the garbanzo beans. Gently pinch each bean, and slide off the skin. If this is too tedious for you (I hear you), leave the skins on, but know that your hummus won't be as smooth as it could be (you'll still enjoy it, I promise).
2. Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in the blender. Pulse a few times to combine. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Once the hummus is whirling and looks moist, stop adding olive oil.
3. Continue to pulse until smooth and well-bended.
4. Refrigerate and serve cold.

*Alternative: use 3-4 roasted piquillo peppers

15 March, 2014

Strawberry Pi Pie

Did you notice people acting a bit irrational yesterday? You can't blame the full moon (that's tomorrow). You can't blame Friday the 13th (it was off by a day). No, yesterday was Pi Day, 3.14159 day. Today is the day after Pi Day, which means that everything is rational again. That's why I started the day with a slice of a leftover Strawberry Pi Pie before yoga. I'm sure it was the pie that gave me the extra energy I needed to kick up into my forearm stand!

This weekend is sandwiched between two holidays: Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day. Last night, we made spontaneous dinner plans with our good friends, The Brown Family. We decided that the only way to celebrate properly would be to have sandwiches and pie for dinner. C made Ruebens with leftover corned beef from our premature St. Patty's Day dinner and I made a strawberry pie. I hemmed and hawed over what kind of strawberry pie to make. My go-tos are strawberry rhubarb sour cream crumb pie and strawberry balsamic galettes, so I decided on a plain and simple strawberry pie. To sweeten the pie, I chose to use apricot jam (because we have a lot of it and I'm sick of looking at it in the fridge).

To make a very simple strawberry pie.

2 oz. rye flour
2 oz. whole wheat pastry flour
4.5 oz. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
pinch salt
a couple shakes of cinnamon
12 tbsp. butter, cold and cut into small cubes
4 oz. ice cold water
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 lbs. fresh strawberries, de-stemmed and sliced
2 tbsp. granulated white sugar
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

coarse sugar

1. To make the crust: combine the flours, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the apple cider vinegar to the ice cold water. Continuing to pulse the food processor, slowly pour the water through the feed tube. Only add as much water as it takes to bring the dough together. Pour the dough out of the food processor onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to squeeze the dough together into a ball. Flatten and chill (1 hr in the fridge or about 15 minutes in the freezer).
2. While the dough is chilling, slice the strawberries and toss them in a medium-sized bowl with the granulated sugar. Set aside to macerate.
3. Remove your dough from the fridge/freezer. Gently roll the dough out to a small rectangle. Fold in thirds, then gently roll the dough back to a small rectangle. Fold again. Cut the dough approximately in half with one half being a little bigger than the other. Flatten into 1/2"-1" thick circles. Chill again until the butter is cold (30 minutes should be sufficient).
4. In a small saucepan, combine the apricot jam and the juice from the macerated strawberries (a strainer is the easiest way to collect the juices). Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let it boil for a few minutes until it begins to thicken. Pour over the sliced strawberries. Add 2 tbsp. flour and stir to combine. Set aside.
5. Preheat the oven to 375º.
6. Remove your dough from the fridge. Roll the bigger piece to a circle that fits in a 9" pie plate with 1/2" overhang. Gently lay the dough in the pie plate. Fold the overhang under the dough to create a lip around the edge of the pie plate. Using a fork, prick the sides and the bottom of the pie crust. Pour the strawberry concoction, juices and all, into the unbaked crust.
7. Roll out the remaining piece of dough to a circle that lays flat on top of the filling and meets the edge of the crust. Pinch the edges of the crust into whatever pattern you prefer (click here for ideas), being sure to seal the top and bottom crust together. Use a sharp knife to slice air vents in the top crust (be creative: if it's Pi Day, maybe write "Happy 3.14159 Day" or simply "π"). Brush the pie with cream and sprinkle it with sugar.
8. Before placing the pie in the oven, set it on a large baking sheet in case the juices bubbles over. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown. (If it's getting late and you start to get impatient, you can crank the heat up to 400º to help the pie along.)
9. Let the pie cool for an hour or two to allow the filling to firm up (or slice into it hot and flood the bottom of your pie plate with juicy filling. Slice and serve with freshly whipped cream.

A happy Pi Day, indeed. Delicious crust, slightly tart filling easily sweetened with a dollop of whipped cream.

Discussion and Future Directions
To be totally honest, I think strawberry pie and berry pies in general are kind of strange. Growing up, we only had pie for holidays. Cream pies and pumpkin pies were standard. We never had a fruit pie (unless you count coconut cream). I was 22 when I had my first berry pie. It was a delicious homemade raspberry pie. I got the "recipe" (if you can call a list of ingredients with amounts like "a few cups of berries" and "as much sugar as it takes" a recipe) but I never made it.

So, if I think berry pies are strange, why did I make one for Pi Day? Because I was being irrational. Luckily, it turned out beautifully. It even started an intellectual debate about how to calculate the volume of a pie. People were throwing around ideas like "calculate the volume of of cone, then subtract the volume of the small cone that is taller tan the pie." I offered calculus. Use integrals and the disc method and rotation around an axis. Needless to say, we decided the pie was better eaten than measured, so we left the math for another day. Happy (belated) Pi Day!

Supplementary Materials