Monday, September 24, 2012

let’s make salsa!


My single tomato plant has produced a dozen smallish, red, ripe...fruits. Fruits? Sort of. Tomatoes are the fruits of the tomato plant, but when they’re used in cooking, they’re vegetables. (Thank you Google for that information.)

A dozen tomatoes will not make enough sauce to carry us through a cold winter.

For now, let’s make salsa!



Start with 9-12 medium sized ripe tomatoes
Cut them in half and take out the seeds.
Chop them coarsely and throw them into a food processor
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup of cilantro
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 spicy pepper (I used an ‘Italian Roaster’ because there were some ripe ones in my garden, but you could use jalapeño or serrano, if you want extra spice)
1 teaspoon coriander (you could also use cumin if you like the flavor... I don’t)

Blend until the salsa is a slightly coarse consistency. Not too chunky, not too pureed. Perfect for scooping up with a corn chip. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight so that the flavors have a chance to mingle.

Easy huh?

After all the salsa ingredients have gotten to know each other, call a few good friends, blend up some margaritas, grab a bag of corn chips... and enjoy!


Monday, September 10, 2012

apple pie

Lightly spiced slightly tart apples, crisp streusel, flaky pastry...

I’m taking a break from my gluten-free cooking to share a fabulous pie with you.

As an escape on the day before school started, my daughter and I took a drive out to Sauvie Island. This small, lush island is just 10 miles north of us with plenty of small rural farms selling their fresh, organic fruits and veggies. My ambition was to pick up lots of ripe tomatoes to churn into sauce, since the ones growing in my garden are still green. In the warm humid countryside, red tomatoes were scarce. “Come back in two weeks,” the friendly farmers all told us. 

We did find fresh honey... and apples. Gravensteins! 

This means one thing...pie!


The neighborhood where I grew up, a charming place called Garden Home, was once upon a time an apple orchard. Everyone in the neighborhood had at least one Gravenstein apple tree in these oversized suburban yards. We were lucky to have two. The trees were old and very large. Perfect for a tree house, but the apples were well out of reach. So we gathered fallen fruit for pies, and my dad used a homemade picker for reaching the non-bruised variety we ate whole. I love the crisp texture and tart flavor of Gravensteins!


The pie I decided to make is a several step creation. Pick up apples, prepare the pie crust, refrigerate it for two hours, prepare the streusel, roll out the chilled dough, peel and slice apples, make the filling, bake, cool. But don’t let the seemingly long recipe scare you. Many of these steps can be done ahead. You can then assemble, bake and enjoy on the same day, and serve it warm.





Take a closer look. That streusel topping really is incredible!


The recipes...

Flag-raising Apple Pie
(slightly modified from the book, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker)


(Makes one 9-inch crust)
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, like Crisco, chilled
3 Tablespoons ice water
Pour the flour and salt into a food processor and blend for 10 seconds just to mix. Divide the cold butter into 6 to 8 pieces. Pulse blend for a few seconds until the mixture is the texture of bread crumbs. Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and blend until the mixture hold together. Gather the dough together and place onto plastic wrap, flatten into a round disk, wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
Combine the sugars in a small bowl. Break up any lumps. Add the flour and mix until combined. Cut the butter into 8 pieces and scatter over the surface. Work the butter in with a fork (or blend in a food processor) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
You will have more than you need for this pie, but no worries, you can put it on coffee cake, ice cream, or ??...
(Note: This can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a week, or frozen for up to one month).

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 Tablespoons unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 pounds (about 7) apples (gravenstein, granny smith, or pippin)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions: Melt the butter; set aside. Mix the sugars, flour and spices in a small bowl. Peel the apples with a vegetable peeler, cut them into halves, and core them with a melon baller. Cut 1/8-inch slices. You need 9 cups of apples, sliced thin. Pour into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with the dry mixture, and gently toss. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and melted butter, tossing again to combine.
Assuming you’ve already rolled out the crust, spoon the filling into the pan, spreading the apple slices evenly. They will mound higher in the center. Pat out the streusel to form a thin topping over the apples.
Bake in a preheated 450°F oven for 10 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 350°F, and bake for 40-45 minutes more.
Cool on a cooling rack before serving.
Serve warm or room temperature with a scoop of ice cream.