Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mile-High Strawberry Pie

For a time while I was a child, my family lived in Macon, GA, and that place, more than any place I've lived since coming to Memphis, defined what I feel when I think of "hot summer nights."  It was sticky and humid and gross and there were mosquitoes and we were outside all the freaking time.  If was, of course, wonderful.  I have great memories of summertime there there, playing kickball on my safe, safe cul-de-sac (member of Gen-Y here), running around in the woods, and, most importantly, raiding my parents' deep freeze for ice cream sandwiches, orange sherbet push pops, and, best of all, my mom's mile-high strawberry pie.  She recently scanned and sent me the recipe for this frozen delight of my childhood and now, o interwebs, it is my gift to you.

It should be noted that I recently made this twice in one week - but, in my defense, the first pie was devoured at a Grizzlies watch party.  For the second pie, I have no defense.

Jones Orchard strawberries here.  Strawberries are starting to dwindle at the market, but you may have been lucky enough to snag a basket from either Jones or Whitton Farms early this morning.  On the other hand, blueberries should start coming in in a couple of weeks, and blackberries are trickling in now.

Mile-High Strawberry Pie

1 9" baked pastry shell or crumb crust (I used a simple graham cracker crust recipe)

1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar - adjust to your preference.  The original recipe calls for 1 cup, but that seems like too much.
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, partially thawed, and sliced
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream, stiffly whipped

Combine sugar, egg whites, strawberries, vanilla,  lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl. 

Beat at high speed for 15 minutes until thick, fluffy, and voluminous.  Fold in whipped cream and pile mixture into pie shell (baked if using pastry shell). 

Cover with plastic wrap or foil and freeze for several hours (you'll need at least 3, and 4 would be better).  To serve, remove from freezer and eat immediately.

There are some adorable handwritten notes under the recipe card, penned by my grandmother.  They say, "Susan [that's my mom] - use a 'spring form' pan like you use for your cheesecake.  This is one of Marie's [my French great-great grandmother] recipes. You'll love it. So will the kids."  And we do.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Scallion Crepes with Stir-Fried Greens

Ahh. I took a hiatus to Move, Take Care of Some Drama, Replace the Grad School Furniture, Replace the Car that Died, Go to California, and Start Looking for a Post-Clerkship Job, and Blogger changed the layout on me.  Anyway, that was a lot of stuff to do, but the market season is opening now, and it feels weird to be cooking but not blogging. So here's a spring post. I used scallions, bok choy, and sugar snap peas from Vu's Homegrown Produce from the Memphis Farmers Market.  I only had three baby bok choy, so our crepes were less filled than they could have been, but were still delicious.

Scallion Crepes with Stir-Fried Greens
From Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

For the crepes:
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark sesame or roasted peanut oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for the pan
1 cup water
3/4 cup milk or soy milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup AP flour
1 bunch scallions
1/4 cup toasted black or white sesame seeds

The filling:
6 baby bok choy
1 cup snow or sugar snap peas
[a few handfuls of pea greens, optional - the only vendor I've seen with pea greens so far is the Gracious Gardener]
sea salt
1 tablespoon roasted peanut oil (I used a sesame/vegetable oil mix here)

To make the crepes:
Combine the first 6 ingredient in a blender or food processor on high speed.  Add the flour; blend again for 10 seconds, then stop.  Scrape down the sides and blend briefly once more. Pour the batter into a bowl and set aside to rest.  Note, I filled my mini-prep food processor above the liquid fill line and found out what happens when you do that, which explains why dinner took 10 minutes longer to prepare than it should have.

Trim and wash the scallions, including an inch or more of the greens.  Slice them very, very thinly on the diagonal.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a large nonstick pan with a little vegetable oil.  Spread it around with a paper towel.  When the pan is hot, add 1/3 cup batter and swirl it around the pan. Scatter some scallions and sesame seeds over the top and cook until golden on the bottom, about one minute.  Loosen the crepe, flip it over, and cook the other side until it's dry, then slide it onto a piece of aluminum foil on a plate.  Continue making crepes until all the batter is used, stacking them as you do. You'll need to oil the pan at least every other crepe; my stove runs crazy hot, and I had to re-oil between every crepe to keep them from sticking.  Oh yeah, and the first crepe is always a test crepe.

Wrap the crepes in foil and put them in the oven when you start the vegetables.

Vegetable Filling:
Cut the bok choy lengthwise into quarters, or sixths if they are on the plump side.  Sliver the peas on the diagonal (note, I left my sugar snaps whole) and wash the pea greens.

Bring a wide nonstick skillet of water to a simmer; add salt and the bok choy.  Simmer for 2 minutes, then drain (this can be done ahead of time, but if so, rinse the bok choy to keep it from cooking as it cools).

Return the skillet to the stove and turn the heat to high.  Add the peanut oil, swirl it around the pan, and add the vegetables.  I added the peas first, then the bok choy.  Stir-fry until tender-crisp and bright green.  Season with salt and turn into a serving dish.  Present the crepes in a stack, the greens in a dish, and let each person assemble his or her own.

This recipe made ten crepes for the two of us -- a filling dinner.  I liked these a lot, and it's a perfect recipe for mid-spring.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Gratin

Or, Winter 2011: Era of the Sweet Potato. Because I maybe bought 25.5 pounds of them from Dodson Farms at the Tsunami Winter Market last weekend (hey, at $12 for the box, that worked out to 47 cents/lb, which was better than the 98 cents Kroger was offering at the time... sometimes local can be cheaper, especially with respect to in-season vegetables).

Anyway, so now I will be getting creative with my sweet potato dishes. I've got plenty of recipes for them on the blog already,* but if anyone has a main-dish idea, send it my way.

With literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of sweets on my hands, I made this awesome smoky, savory dish for an impromptu dinner party last weekend, and people loved it, so much so that I think I am going to make it again tonight for Friendsgiving (that is, the pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, the one you celebrate with your friends and more wine than you would have at Family Thanksgiving). I'm also planning to make this caramel apple bundt cake in the new bundt pan I got for my birthday - thanks, Mom & Dad!

Anyway, onward to the gratin. Sweets are from Dodson Farms and onions are sweet Granex from Bennett-Burke Nursery. The garlic is my homegrown German Extra Hardy. Changes I made from the original recipe: I used rubbed sage instead of fresh, and I used 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper instead of chipotle pepper powder. I think tonight I will use a little more than 1/8 tsp because this dish benefits from a little heat.

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Gratin
adapted from The Kitchn

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
3 pounds sweet potatoes (3 or 4 large ones), peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tablespoon rubbed sage
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup heavy cream (to be used and not thought about)

For the topping:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
another couple teaspoons of rubbed sage
1/2 cup fine dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil

Two minutes

Ten minutes

Fifteen minutes - dark brown (but terrible light)

Heat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9X13 casserole dish (NOTE: I forgot to grease my pan, and I think it was only 8X11 or something, but everything ended up fine). Heat butter in a heavy skillet and when it foams up, add the onion. Sprinkle them lightly with salt. Slowly caramelize them over medium heat, stirring every now and then. This will take about 15 minutes.

Tile half of the sweet potatoes in the casserole dish, overlapping them in tight rows or spirals. I did two layers of sweets on the bottom. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.

When the onions are dark brown, add the garlic and cook until just golden. Add the sage, cayenne pepper, and cream. Bring to a simmer and cook until the cream is slightly reduced, then remove from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions from the cream and layer over the sweet potatoes. Layer the remaining sweet potatoes on top, forming a tight spiral or row. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and black pepper. Pour the cream over the top.

The recipe fusses about not adding extra cream and trusting that there is enough, but, I'm sorry, as soon as I see DO NOT ADD EXTRA CREAM, some alien being takes over my hand and makes me add extra cream. It is something I cannot control. Guess what, the dish was made awesome-er for it. But if you are more restrained than I, congratulations, you have just saved yourself some money on cream

Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender and the cream is golden brown and bubbling.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet and toast the breadcrumbs, plus more sage, until golden and fragrant. Remove from the heat and toss with the Parmesan. Sprinkle this over the top of the gratin and drizzle the top lightly with olive oil.

Return the dish to the oven for 15 minutes or until brown and crispy. If you need to travel with this thing, you can do all steps until this one and finish it in the oven of the host's house to ensure maximum crispiness.

Let cool for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

This one will have a lot of fans!

*other sweet potato recipes here:

Snapshots from the Memphis Farmers Market Harvest Celebration 2011

Alright! The only-a-couple-weeks-overdue Memphis Farmers Market Harvest Celebration post! (Check out last year's here.) The HC is one of the best parts about being an MFM volunteer, and I look forward all season to seeing people, eating delicious food from some of the best restaurants in town, and supporting the market.

My post at the check-in table.

The vols maybe started drinking before the guests arrived...

Pretty dining room at Central Station.

If money were no object, this is what I'd bid on: a retreat in the cabin on Jim and Gail Tanner's Bonnie Blue Farms + a chance to milk goats.

Or maybe a gorgeous bowl from MAC Woodworks.

Hah, enough with spending imaginary moneys; onto the main attraction: the food! Clockwise from top left, that's a lady pea and purple hull pea salad from McEwen's, Neola Farms brisket spring roll with basil, mint, arugula, and pickled peppers from Rizzo's Diner, and baby greens salad with feta, dried cranberries, and candied pecans from Cheffie's.

Best thing I ate: goat cheese grits (more goat cheese than grit) with mushroom fricassee from the Elegant Farmer. And if you haven't been to the Elegant Farmer yet, do yourself a favor and go. The SO and I went after I found out I passed the bar, and I've been haunted by my sweet corn/okra/cherry tomato hash ever since.

A hard-earned Ghost River Oktoberfest after the madness of checkout.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pear and Red Wine Sorbet

This little experiment was born out of an abundance of Jones Orchard Keiffir pears, a magnum of Italian red wine, and access to an ice-cream maker. And now I'm pretty sure I need one of those little contraptions in my life. Which would, of course, be dangerous for the diet, but also really fun. Since making this sorbet, I also have made avocado ice cream, which was a little strange to eat, like frozen guacamole.

I made this for a Halloween party, and it went over really well. Of course, that could have also just been the house punch talking.

Pear and Red Wine Sorbet
from this recipe in the New York Times

2 1/2 lbs ripe pears (about 4 large)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 2- or 3-inch cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Peel, core, and quarter the pears. Place them in a medium saucepan with the sugar, red wine, water, cinnamon stick, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until pears are soft and translucent (about 20-30 minutes). Add the pepper.

Using tongs, remove the pears to a bowl. Remove the cinnamon stick from the poaching liquid, and discard. Turn up the heat, and reduce until the mixture has the consistency of thin syrup. (This may be unnecessary depending on how long you cooked the pears and how juicy they were.)

Place the pears, in batches, in a food processor (or all at once, if you have a big food processor. I have a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, so I did this in batches). Puree until smooth. Slowly add the poaching liquid and lemon juice and blend together. Transfer to a bowl, and chill.

Freeze according to the instructions of your ice cream maker. Transfer to a chilled container and freeze at least two hours before serving.

The cinnamon flavor of this is pronounced and very tasty.

Other fall delights: roasted acorn squash from Willow Oaks Farm stuffed with quinoa and sauteed onions, plus some cinnamon for spice. Also more buttered cabbage, because, dude, it is good.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Apple Yogurt Cake

If you're facing the prospect of feeding a small army of people sometime during the next two months, I've got a recipe for you. It uses apples (seasonal!) and cinnamon (comforting!) and is equally good for breakfast and dessert because it's not tooth-achingly sweet. The roomie and the SO and I did a pretty good job of putting this away over the course of a week, but its true usefulness would show if you had to bring a dish to a holiday get together, or if you wanted to pull a warm breakfast treat out of the oven for overnight guests. It's also excellent if you hate doing dishes, because you mix everything together in one bowl.

My apples here are Arkansas Blacks from Jones Orchard. There are several other varieties of apples at the market (I think Bennett-Burke has Galas and Golden Delicious), but I like the Arkansas Blacks because they are small, so perfect for a snack, and tart, so good for baking. They also keep all winter long in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

If you didn't want to make enough cake to feed a ravenous horde, I'm sure you could halve the recipe and bake it in a 9X9 or similar pan.

Apple Yogurt Cake
adapted from

1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt
2/3 canola oil (the original recipe suggests olive oil; I had no problem substituting for something less expensive)
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 small, tart apples
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch ground nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13 baking dish with butter or canola oil.

Whisk together the yogurt, canola oil, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl.

Peel and core the apples, and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. This should yield 3 1/2 - 4 cups apples. Stir the chopped apple into the liquid ingredients.

No wet team/dry team here: Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon right into the liquid ingredients. Stir just until no lumps remain.

In a small, separate bowl, mix together the remaining 2 teaspoons of cinnamon with the brown sugar and butter. (Use your fingertips to squish it together.)

Pour half of the batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle the batter with half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, add the second half of the batter, and sprinkle the rest of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture on top.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, covering with foil at the end if the top is browning. When a knife inserted comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack to cool. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it, or else it will be too gooey. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

This lasted a week with three of us nibbling on it, and, true to the recipe, it stayed moist the entire time. Just make sure to cover it with plastic wrap or something.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kale and White Bean Soup

Welcome back, o kale! While you've not exactly been absent from the market until now, it really isn't until the first cold snaps hit that I crave your deeply-flavored leaves. Ok, no more apostrophe; it's starting to feel a little contrived.

Kale is one of those foods that is so nourishing and satisfying that it almost has to wait for winter. Yeah it's good for you, superfood, yada yada, but given some time, I also think you can come to love kale on its own terms - try it sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes and served over rice. You're welcome. And if you're trying to save money, it's a lot of nutrition for not much money. (Pro tip: steamed, it also freezes well.)

Here I used onions from Ly Vu Produce, red potatoes from Bennett-Burke Nurseries, and kale from Whitton Farms. The recipe made enough for three meals for me.

Kale and White Bean Soup
adapted from a recipe on The Kitchn

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 small red potatoes, skin left on and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/4 lb kale, halved and chopped into thin ribbons
2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme (recipe, when halved, recommends 1/2 tablespoon, which I found to be too much)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 rind Parmesan cheese, if you have it
1/2 can great northern beans OR 1/2 cup of dried beans, soaked overnight, then cooked
salt and pepper to taste

Put a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat and add oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute until translucent, and then add the potatoes, about five minutes. Saute until the edged of the potatoes start to go transparent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add 1/4 cup vegetable broth and the kale to the pot. Stir to coat everything with broth, then cover with the lid. Stir the kale every three minutes, until it is barely tender, adding more broth as needed if the pot becomes dry, for a total of about 12 minutes.

Add the rest of the broth, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cheese rind, and 2 teaspoons of salt. If the veggies aren't quite covered, add extra broth or water. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the kale is completely tender and the potatoes cooked through. Add the white beans. Remove bay leaf and cheese rind. Taste for seasonings and salt - mind definitely needing some liberal grindings of pepper.

Serve this soup with some more Parmesan cheese on top, and crusty bread would be awesome as well. I had this with butter-braised cabbage, also from Ly Vu Produce.