Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Easy As Pie

For the record, only one of us grew up eating home made fruit pies, with the other set of parents using their oven as storage for woks and frying pans, so homemade baked goods is something only one of us experienced growing up. However we are here to say making is pie is easy.

This past weekend was a busy one with family in town for a wedding, it was upon us to entertain the whole southwest clan and for dessert we decided to treat everyone to our hand-picked cherries in the form of a pie!

Granted the beautiful local cherries we picked made the pie that more easy, but all in all pie is pretty easy. Yes, we were intimidated by the idea of making our own crust, but as I said earlier - pretty easy. The most unsure we were about the pie was when the recipe called for cooking the cherries to a soft consistency. What?? Cook fruit?? And such beautiful fruit too.

After cooking down the fruit to what we deemed "soft", we didn't want mush, but these plump cherries weren't going to go mushy in the few minutes of heat; we added a mixture of flour, corn starch, instant tapioca, sugar, cinnamon, and a small pinch of salt.

The heat from the cherries turned the dry ingredients into glossy gooey bowl of heaven!

At this point the smell of the sweet cooked sugared cherries was hard to resist. We could have easily poured this mixture over some ice cream or hell, just in a bowl and eaten straight up. But no, we wanted pie...

The pie cruist was the most difficult part, next to maybe pitting the cherries. If you use cold butter, cold shortening, and cold ice water and a cooler room in the summertime, you too can have 1/8-inch pie crust ready for a sweet fruit filling too!

We decided to bake the pie hours before everyone arrived for our jerk chicken bbq bonanza! Which worked out well since it gave the pie some time to rest and the filling to solidify.

The meaty cherries remained plump and the flour, corn starch and tapioca mixture allowed for a thick sauce that wasn't syrupy and sickenly sweet due to small amount of sugar added. It was delicious and made us think of other things we can stick inbetween two rolled out pieces of dough....hhhhmmmm.....

Grandma's Fresh Cherry Pie from Diana's Desserts

For the Crust
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) of cold unsalted butter, grated on a box cheese grater
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
5 to 7 tablespoons of cold ice water

For Cherry Filling

1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons quick-cook tapioca
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
6 cups of fresh pitted cherries
2 Tablespoons of vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Crust (we used a food processor) pulse together flour, salt, butter, shortening until mixture resembles course meal. Add 5 Tab;es of ice water, a little at a time, Mixture should form a ball. Divide into two equal halves and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

In the meantime, for the filling:

In a small bowl mix together sugar, tapioca, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon. In a large heavy skillet cook cherries over medium heat, stirring until slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Transfer cooked cherries to a heat proof bowl and add sugar mixture, stirring until thickened and well coated, about 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract and let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees and remove chilled dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll each disc into an 11-inch round circle about 1/8-inch thick. Line the pie pan with one layer of rolled out dough. Spoon the cooled pie filling into the pie pan with dough. Dot all over the mixture with butter pieces. Cover the top of the pie with the other half of the rolled out dough.

To flute and close up pie moisten the edges of the crust and flute the edges. (We just rolled the edges over each other for a clean seal) Cut slits into the top layer of dough to allow steam to release during baking.

Place pie on a baking sheet to catch any filling that may bubble and boil over. After 15 minutes, lower the oven temp to 350 degrees and foil any edges of crust that look as if it may be browning too fast. Continue to bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and the filling begins to bubble.

Transfer to rack and allow to cool (3-5 hours).

We served ours with both ice cream and whipped cream! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summertime Love

Summer makes us want to stop time and let it stand still for a bit. Since this year's summer started off late, it seems as if we're cramming everything summer has to offer into every free moments we have. With family & friends visiting, a wedding, daytrips and weekend events our summer calendar filled up fast.

Even after a long 6 day work week, with a few doubles thrown in, we got up early on our one day off and piled into the car and headed out to our local farms with one fruit in mind - cherries!

Cherry season is short and when its gone, it's gone. This year's late wet spring meant the fruit season may be short, but by the looks of the overflowing cherry trees there may be some hope for a long season of over indulging in these unbelievable fruit.

A few weeks ago we broke out the last of our frozen cherries and berries from last year and are ready to head back out to load up on several pounds of cherries. At 50 cents a pound it's a hard bargain to beat, especially when picking cherries is so easy and not far from where we live. We gathered all the cash we had in the house and managed to get around 50 pounds of fruit in about 40 minutes of picking.

The Schmerber family farms in Snowden, Washington was already sold out on the Teitan cherries (sweetest, plumpest, dark red cherries around), although we still managed to sneak in a few with the help of some strategically placed ladders. The Royal Anns were sold out also, a far superior white/yellow cherry to the Rainier, which was still in picking season but didn't look good. We ended up picking a majority of Vans cherries, some Lapins, some Lambert and some Bing cherries.

We leisurely drove home, enjoying the amazing scenery. But once we got home we immediately washed and began to pit/stone the cherries. As the sink filled up with pits and the large bowl of washed-ready-to-be pitted cherries didn't seem to get any smaller we realized we're gonna need a better system.

So we biked down the store and bought a fancy cherry stoner which made pitting a dream and much faster than we could have done with the individual pitter.

So what are we gonna do with these beauties? After bagging up a few for ourselves to eat immediately and for family and friends, we placed about a few dozen pounds of pitted cherries into the dehydrator. We were lucky enough to have dried cherries for over a year from last year's haul, but that took alot of discipline not to eat them in one sitting. This year we're not going to take that chance and did several rounds of dehydrating and storing for later in the year.

The remainder of the cherries will be placed in a pie, maybe a cream cake or a coffee cake, and we froze 2 quarts of each variety for later in the year. These plumb meaty cherries froze amazingly. Nothing like a cherry tart in the middle of winter!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Storming the Bastille & An Ode to Macarons

July 14th is France's Bastille Day, the infamous day when the citizens of Paris, fed up with King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette's indifference to the French people, stormed the Bastille Prison releasing those inside and then burning it to the ground as an act of defiance and sparking the beginning of the French Revolution, France's Independence Day.

And to celebrate this auspicious day our local patisserie (everyone should have their own local neighborhood patisserie) Pix threw their annual block party! The day started off with a scavenger hunt and a 5K French Run. We sat across the street sipping espresso and cheering the runners as they crossed to the finish line. This being a French themed run there were mime runners, french maid runners, wine grape runners, and even some Marie Antoinette runners.

New Yorker Magazine, along with Savier magazine declared gourmet cupcakes were so 2009 and 2010 is year of the macaron! So as everyone chanted "Fewer Cupcakes and More Macarons" people stomped cupcakes in exchange for a macaron of course!

If you didn't feel like having sticky syrupy cupcake goo on your shoes or bare foot as one person did, there was also a macaron toss that would reward you with a delicious macaron if you made it consecutively in the buckets.

Shortly after the macaron stomp Pix baking staff held a macaron making demonstration and answered questions about making these utterly addictive almond flour treats. We got many tips and the process was demystified about separating and aging egg white to how to tell if you've achieved the perfect smooth, chewy, buttery awesomeness that is the macaron. Can you tell we love macarons? And all we say is these are the skinniest bakers we have ever seen.

On the list of the block party events, which included live music performances all day, the macaron demo was the top reason we went, but also in the hopes of tasting some of the new flavors Pix wanted to introduce. No we didn't stomp any cupcakes or toss any macarons or even try any new flavors, but still enjoyed ourselves. Especially when we spotted the Bastille Tower ala cream puffs.

Cream Puffs! A tower of them! Hauled out into the middle of the crowd and then we were let loose to grab as many handfuls of cream puffs we could manage.

Macarons and cream puffs in one morning, now that's a celebration!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Storming the Bastille via Malaysia via Portland

Did those photos of macarons make you drool as much as they did for us? These gorgeous images are courtesy of Masak Masak blog from Malaysia. If we had known there were so many places in Kuala Lumpur to get French macarons we would have extended our stay in order to try every crispy, soft, chewy, sweet, buttery, sinful one! We can only imagine the tropical flavors these may be!

Fortunate for us our neighborhood patisserie will be celebrating Bastille Day with a block party consisting of a scavenger hunt, macaron madness and "Storming the Bastille" (4 ft. replica made entirely of cream puffs!) Now this is our kind of celebration! Cream Puffs! Oh and there's tons of bands and music, random contests and all things French.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

The image above pretty much sums up what we're doing this weekend, how we're feeling right now and how much we love summertime in Portland. There are so many reasons to get outside and enjoy the city. Its easy to feel connected to your community when you can spend much of your time in it. The parks in our neighborhood are hosts to weekly live music events, movie at dusk, adult league team games (aka kick ball/dodgeball) and impromptu reasons to picnic.

We recently spent an evening at the zoo seeing KoNoNo No. 1 a rhythm band from the Congo. The evening was perfect. There's not much to complain about when it's clear blue sky as far as the eye can see!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Delicious Vietnam 3

We are so excited to host this month's Delicious Vietnam Blogging Event. It was so great to read everyone's entries and we found some great new blogs too! We got so many new ideas and recipes.

The brain child of Anh of A Food Lovers Journey and Kim & Hong of Ravenous Couple created a great forum to share the love of Vietnamese food. So without further adieu here are this month's submission. Thank you everyone for participating!

Vietnamese Beef Fondue by Trina (aka Forager) of The Gourmet Forager - Sydney, Australia

Salmon with Nuoc Cham Glaze by Lynne of The Hicken Family - Utah

Asian Noodle Soup by Jennifer of Delicieux - Brisbane, Australia

Asparagus and Crab Egg Crepes by TS & JS of Eating Club Vancouver - Vancouver, BC

Vietnamese Stuffed Squid by Hong & Kim of Ravenous Couple - Arizona/California

Buttery Fried Corn Kernals by Anh of A Food Lover's Journey - Melbourne, Australia

Pull Apart Monkey Bread with Vietnamese Coffee Glaze by Bonnibella of Chrysanthemum/Bonnibella - San Francisco, California

Flourless Cassava Cake by Penny (aka Jeroxie) of Jeroxie/Addictive and Consuming - Melbourne, Australia

Shredded Pork and Pork Skin Rice Paper Rolls by Yen of Food For Four - Sydney, Australia

Crab-Tomato Noodle Soup by Rebecca & Julie of Meat Loves Salt - Orange County & Washington DC

Tamarind Squid by Anne & Mike of Buddha Bellies - Portland, Oregon

Again, thank you to everyone who participated in this installment of Delicious Vietnam. Next month's Delicious Vietnam Blogging Event will be hosted by Bonnibella of Submissions are due the second Sunday of the month by 7pm Pacific Time. For more information on Delicious Vietnam go to either Anh of Food Lover's Blog or Hong & Kim's blog Ravenous Couple. Happy cooking!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tamarind Squid

Summertime means lots of meals cooked and eaten outside. With our month long diet of only seafood/fish as protein we were more than happy to find other items to toss on the grill besides our usual hotdogs and burgers. We began looking for recipes and inspiration for some grilling ideas and immediately remembered two items we loved during our travels.

Phu Quoc, a tropical island off the southern coast of Vietnam near the border of Cambodia, has gained a reputation for it's famous fish sauce. The island is slowly gaining notoriety for its seafood and in particular the squid. All the squid we had eaten in Vietnam was tender and juicy compared to the often times chewy and unpalatable squid we get in U.S., making battered fried salted pepper squid the preferred method of cooking. While staying on the island of Phu Quoc we had such a memorable meal that we ended up eating the exact same meal twice! One of those memorable dishes we had was the tamarind squid. The whole baby squids were marinaded in a pungent tart and tangy tamarind sauce and pan fried.

While in Bangkok, Thailand we stumbled upon a make-shift food court outside of the Phetchaburi Market. A man was grilling all kinds of meats on stick and we were absolutely amazed by his butterflied squid skewers. We've hadn't seen anyone grill squid like this and we enjoyed the simplicity of the whole idea.

We decided we wanted to try and combine the tamarind squid we had in Phu Quoc with the interesting grilling method of Bangkok. We found some beautiful squids at a Korean grocery store and went home and quickly began cleaning out the squids for the marinade.

The most difficult part of this whole dish is cleaning the squid. First we removed head and the tentacles from the body. Then we removed the exoskeleton from the body. In Phu Quoc the exoskeleton was left in the squid, allowing the squid to keep its shape during the pan frying. We decided to remove the semi-hard pieces so we could split and have more surface area for the marinade. We scored the body pieces of the squid to give it more texture and so that the squid would curl up when grilled.

Next we prepared the tamarind marinade by simmering together raw tamarind pulp, light soy sauce, water, ginger smashed into chunks, garlic, fish sauce, & pepper. Simmer until combined and thick, we then strained through a sieve to remove the tamarind pulp, chunks of ginger and garlic. We let the tamarind sauce cool and then marinaded the prepared squid for a few hours.

Since we had cut up the squid and not left them whole, we decided laying them in a grilling basket would be the best way to grill them. We continued to apply the remaining marinade on the squid while grilling, which added to the tender and juicy flavors. We grilled the squid for only a few minutes on each side, flipping the squid only once. Cooking time was about 5 minute total!

We quickly plated up our squid and ate it in the evening sun with some sugar snap peas and rice. The super fresh squid and the acidic marinade made for terrifically tender squid that was tart and tangy from the tamarind, sweet and salty from the soy sauce and splash of fish sauce and a bit spicy from the ginger and garlic. This is a dish we'll be grilling up for the rest of the summer!

Buddha Bellies Tamarind Squid

For one pound of baby squid (cut and body slitted)

2 Tablespoons Tamarind Pulp with seed and any peel removed

1/2 cup light soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1 clove garlic smashed

1 large chunk of ginger smashed

1 tsp fish sauce

1 generous pinch black pepper

Simmer in a sauce pan on low heat until thick and thoroughly combined. Allow to thoroughly cool and place prepared squid into marinade and allow to marinade for at least 1 hour.

To grill place in grilling basket, foil, or on skewers and apply any remaining marinade to squid when placed on the grill and again when flipping the squid. Cooking time is very short so don't walk away. Should only take a few minutes on each side - a total of 5 minutes or less total cooking time. Enjoy with your favorite light summer time vegetables and rice!

This is our entry into this month's Delicious Vietnam Blogging Event, hosted by yours truly, Buddha Bellies. A food blogging event started by Anh of A Food Lover's Journey blog and Hong and Kim of Ravenous Couple.

Stay tuned all the entries for Delicious Vietnam Blogging Event to be posted right here shortly.