Friday, November 26, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Praline Pie

Hopefully you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. Before you drift off into a tryptophan stupor, I'd like to address a Thanksgiving debate of the best pie choice, if you are limited to a single one. I know some are proponents of the pecan pie, but with a corn syrup base, these can be cloyingly sweet. Others couldn't imagine a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, but I find that they can be a bit monotonous in texture. Instead, I have a favorite combination pumpkin pecan praline pie that is the perfect marriage of the two standbys. This recipe has special meaning because it comes from the pastry chef Christine Law who baked our wedding cake, and appeared in the San Jose Mercury News in the week before our first Thanksgiving as a married couple.

First you prepare a pie crust. You can do this in a food processor, but if you want to feel more like a Pilgrim you can attempt it by hand, cutting butter into flour and then mixing in just enough ice cold water to get the dough to come together. Then chill the dough before you roll it out and transferring it to a pie pan (a decidedly modern silicone mat makes this part manageable).

Before prebaking it, you cream some butter with brown sugar and pecans, and line the bottom of your crust.

As the crust cools, you can prepare the pumpkin filling. This is best with pumpkin puree from a freshly roasted pumpkin, but you can also use unsweetened canned pumpkin. I've modified the original spicing, omitting the nutmeg, which I dislike, and increasing the ginger, but you can adjust these to your taste. The final pie is delicious on its own, or with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Pecan Praline Pie
adapted from Christine Law

Pie crust
1 1/2 cups flour
8 Tbsp chilled butter (1 stick) or use part butter and part vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp salt
~5 Tbsp ice cold water

Praline layer
3 Tbsp soft butter 
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup pecan pieces

Pumpkin filling
1 sugar pie pumpkin (for 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, with more for other uses)
1 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1. To prepare the pumpkin, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast cut side down on an oiled baking sheet until the flesh is very soft, about an hour. Scrape out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. Reserve 1 1/2 cups for the pie and save the remainder for another use (pumpkin bread, pumpkin and ricotta ravioli, etc.).

2. For the crust, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and work into the flour with a pastry cutter until it has the texture of cornmeal. Add water gradually and mix with a spatula until it just comes together into a ball. Wrap in a silicone map or plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, and chill for an hour or freeze for 10 minutes. Roll out to fit into your pie dish. Prick all over with a fork.

3. To prepare the praline layer, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cream together the butter and brown sugar and add in the pecans. Spread over the bottom of the prepared pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely.

4. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. To prepare the pumpkin filling, heat the evaporated milk until scalding. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and spices. Mix in pumpkin puree, and then gradually mix in the hot milk. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake until the filling has set and does not jiggle, about an hour and 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My sister is spending the year in Berlin, which feels very far away (5277 miles or 8493 kilometers to be exact). This is a picture she sent me from her apartment window. Winter has set in there, which sounds chilly and gloomy at times, but she's discovered a new comfort food of filled flatbread, or gozleme. This Turkish street food is prepared on large griddles; the dough is rolled out, filled, and grilled  for eager patrons, who consume them standing up around crowded tables. I thought the distance between Eugene and Berlin might feel a little less vast if I could recreate gozleme at home. I search the internet for recipes and came up with an amalgam that most closely resembled her description, with a yeast dough and fragrant lamb and spinach filling.

I prepared a dough similar to a pizza dough, with some olive oil.

For the filling I sauteed diced onions and garlic with ground cumin, paprika, and cayenne, then added some ground lamb and a dab of tomato paste.

My eager assistants helped me roll out the dough into rectangles.

Then we layered on spinach leaves, the lamb filling, and crumbled feta on one half, folded over the top and sealed the sides. For a vegetarian version, you could use just spinach and feta, or include some grilled eggplant. My daughter opted to stick with the tried and true calzone and filled hers with tomato sauce and cheese.

We grilled the gozleme with some olive oil on a medium hot skillet until they were nicely browned on both sides.

And we ate them, according to my sister's instructions, hot off the griddle, sliced with a drizzle of yogurt cucumber sauce. They were delicious, but Berlin still felt very far away.

makes 8 filled flatbreads
For the dough
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp olive oil

For the filling
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
salt to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 lb ground lamb
baby spinach
feta cheese crumbled

Yogurt cucumber sauce
1 cucumber peeled, seeds removes, and finely chopped
1 cup Greek style yogurt
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
minced mint leaves and chives
salt and pepper to taste

1. To prepare the dough, combine the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup warm water and allow to dissolve. Mix in remaining ingredients, alternating flour and water until the dough is soft but not too sticky. Knead well. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for a couple hours until the dough has doubled in size.

2. To prepare the filling, saute onions in olive oil over medium low heat until quite soft. Add the garlic and cook a little longer. Add in the spices, cook for a minute, then add the tomato paste and ground lamb and continue sauteing until the lamb is thoroughly cooked.

3. Divide the dough into eight pieces. Roll into very thin rectangles. On one half, layer on a handful of baby spinach leaves, a heaping spoonful of lamb, and a handful of crumbled feta. Fold over the dough and seal the sides.

4. Heat a skillet to a medium temperature so that the gozleme can cook without burning for about 7 minutes per side. Slick the surface with olive oil and place the gozleme on the hot surface. Once the first side is nicely browned, flip and cook the second side. Serve hot off the griddle, sliced, with a generous drizzle of the yogurt cucumber sauce.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Apple Pandowdy

My son asked that we make a cake for his friend Raiko's third birthday. Since he has not yet formulated a rigid definition of cake, I suggested we make an apple recipe I'd been wanting to try from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. It's called a pandowdy: baked right in a pan with no claims to elegance or beauty. 

The recipe suggests using a mixture of apples. I used granny smith and braeburn, peeled, cored, sliced, and tossed in sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and lemon juice.

We piled these into a cast iron skillet and dotted them with butter.

The pastry was a simple biscuit dough with butter cut into flour and then just enough milk stirred in to bring it together. We rolled this out to just less than the size of the pan.

Then we carefully inverted the dough onto the apples (a silicone baking mat comes in handy for this) and my daughter cut three steam vents.

The pandowdy baked for 35 minutes until the top was golden.

I was expected the final product to be a kind of lowbrow tart tartin, an upside down tart with caramelized apples, but it is really more of an apple crumble, with the apples remaining quite firm. Still, it was really delicious, especially with a scoop of Prince Puckler's vanilla bean ice cream. And it was sturdy enough to hold up three birthday candles and withstand two toddlers' huffing and puffing.

Apple Pandowdy
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts

1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk or buttermilk

Fruit Filling
8 large apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 16 slices (3.5 lbs. prepped)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1. To make the pastry, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces, add to the flour mixture, and toss evenly to coat. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until completely broken down into the flour mixture. Add the milk a couple tablespoons at a time, stirring well after each addition to evenly moisten the dough. Add only enough milk for the dough to come together in a relatively dry mass. Gather the dough into a ball, then pat it flat. Wrap the dough in a silicone mat or plastic wrap and refrigerate it while you make the filling.

2. To make the fruit filling, toss the apples, sugar, cinnamon, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla together in a large bowl, then transfer the mixture to a buttered 10 inch cast iron skillet or baking dish. Cut the butter into small cubes and scatter over the apples.

3. Roll out the pastry just a bit smaller that the size of the pan. (The small gap between the pastry and the sides of the pan will allow steam to escape.) Carefully drape the pastry over the apples, then cut 3 stem vents in the pastry.

4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling bubbles up around the edges. This pandowdy is best served warm, topped with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Roasted Purple Cauliflower

With the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market over for the season, I made the pilgrimage downtown to the Saturday Market to stock up on SLO Farm apples. While there, I procured a spectacular purple cauliflower. It looked beautiful next to some darker purple onions, and reminded me of a roasted cauliflower recipe from my friends Tory and Lauri. You toss cauliflower florets and onion chunks with spices, olive oil, and vinegar and roast them in a hot oven. The recipe calls for curry powder, but for this magnificent cauliflower specimen I decided to simplify the flavors and colors, and just used cumin seeds and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

These were roasted, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower was soft and has started to brown and the onions had caramelized. This makes a delicious accompaniment to the red lentils in the previous post (if you are lucky enough to have some leftovers).

Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower (preferably purple), chopped into florets
2 medium or 3 small red onions, peeled and chopped into eighths
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the cauliflower florets and onion with the rest of the ingredients in a baking dish. Bake for about 3 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the cauliflower starts to brown and the onions start to caramelize.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Harvest's End

The Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market is officially over for the year. Many, many thanks to all the people who made it possible: DeeAnn Hall of Eugene City Bakery for getting the project off the ground, Ned Forman for organizing it, Sun Automotive for generously donating space, Zambuko Marimba for their vibrant music, Allea Martin, Dan Armstrong and Lynne Fessenden for help and advice, and most especially the farmers and vendors who brought delicious local, sustainable food to our neighborhood. I look forward to seeing everyone back again next spring. In the meantime, I'll have a regular supply of heirloom beans from Lonesome Whistle Farm's CSA, which will be the inspiration for recipe postings through the chilly winter months.

For now, I wanted to share a few more recipes inspired by the bountiful produce from the Fairmount Farmers Market and motivated by my desire to master some Indian dishes. My friend Vidusha taught me this recipe for red lentils with coconut milk that has become a household standby, and is especially delicious when prepared with farm fresh roma tomatoes and onions.

Following Vidusha's directions, I simmer red lentils with water and coconut milk.

After they have cooked for about 20 minutes, I add chopped tomatoes and onion, and cumin, coriander, and tumeric.

While these cook down, I saute more chopped onion in butter with mustard seeds. If I could track down some fresh curry leaves, I would add these as well. Once the lentils are very soft and the onions nicely caramelized, I stir in the onions to finish off the dal.

At the last Fairmount Farmers Market, SLO Farm had some lovely kale, as well an tomatoes and onions. I decided to try adopting a recipe for quick palak paneer from  Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian Recipes, using kale instead of spinach. 

My husband was skeptical, but he had to admit that it was really tasty, seasoned with garlic, chili, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek

After cooking the kale until it was tender, I finished off the dish by stirring in diced paneer cheese (which you can find in the cheese section of the Market of Choice), ground corinader, and garam masala.

To accompany our meal, we prepared naan, following a recipe from Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian Recipes. The dough is made with some yogurt, which gives it a nice soft texture, and it's good to let it rise for 3 or more hours. Then my daughter rolled out ovals, while we heated a cast iron griddle under the broiler.  

When it was good and hot, we placed several pieces of dough onto the skillet, 

and within a minute, they puffed up (it seems like magic every time).

They just need to bake a couple minutes on each side and are delicious brushed with melted butter.

Together the dal and kale with paneer made a delicious feast.

To finish off the meal, we had rice pudding, or kheer, which is the simplest dessert ever when prepared in a slow cooker, and was lovely with fresh figs and toasted almond slivers.

Vidusha's Coconut Milk Masooar Dal

1 ½ cup red lentils
1 ½ cup water
1 can coconut milk
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium or 2 small onions, diced
1 tsp each coriander ground, cumin, tumaric
salt to taste
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp black mustard seeds
fresh curry leaves

1. Simmer lentils with water and coconut milk for about 20 minutes.

2. Add chopped tomatoes, half of the chopped onion, and coriander, cumin, and tumeric. Keep simmering for about another 20 minutes until very soft, adding more water if it gets too dry.

3. Meanwhile saute the rest of the chopped onions in butter over low heat with the mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves (if you can find them) until they become very soft and caramelized. Stir into dal and serve.

Kale with Paneer Cheese

1 bunch kale, washed, stripped from stems, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 fresh hot chili, diced
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbsp grape seed or canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
8 ounces paneer cheese, chopped into small cubes
2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp garam masala

1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek and let them sizzle for a few seconds until fragrant. Add chopped onion, garlic, and chili pepper and cook, stirring for a couple minutes. Then add the chopped tomato and cook down a couple minutes longer. 

2. Add the kale and cook until softened, about 7-10 minutes, adding a little water if necessary to prevent it from getting too dry. Stir in the paneer cheese, coriander, garam masala, and salt and keep cooking until the kale is the desired tenderness. If you would like to make a quick palak paneer, substitute two bunches of spinach for the kale and reduce the cooking time.

Tandoori Naan
from Neelam Batra

2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup yogurt
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups flour (I use 1 cup white and 1 cup whole wheat white flour)
1/4 tsp salt

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water and let sit for 5 minutes. Mix in yogurt and oil. Gradually mix in flour and kneed the dough until it is soft and elastic. Cover the dough (I like to wrap it up in a large silicone mat) and let it rise until it has doubled in volume, at least 3 hours.

2. Heat the broiler and place a cast iron skillet directly under the heating element. Divide the dough into 10 or 12 portions and roll into flat ovals. Place the dough onto he skillet and bake for about a minute until it puffs up. Flip and bake for about a minute on the second side, until they are slightly browned. Brush with melted butter.

Slow Cooker Kheer

1 quart whole milk
1/3 cup rice
1/2 cup sugar
6 cardamon pods
generous pinch of saffron

Combine in a slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours until all the milk has absorbed and the pudding has thickened. If a skin forms on the top, you can just stir this into the pudding at the end.