Saturday, September 19, 2009

Still With This Pie Thing?

Look, I told you I was craving pie crust, ok? Apparently the veggie pie just didn't do it. But, as luck would have it, the Missus was going to be celebrating her birthday, and since she has the sweet tooth in the family, I thought it would be fun to make her something to honor the occasion. And after a long, hard week, wouldn't it be nice for her to come home from work, welcomed at the door by a dozen long stemmed roses, to find her loving husband slaving over a ball of pie dough and a bowl of sweet, sugary peaches?

The process behind this sweet pie is actually a great deal simpler than the veggie pie. Once you have the crust down, all you will need are about 4 - 5 ripe but firm peaches, about 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 a stick of unsalted butter, and about a table spoon of brown sugar. If you missed the pie crust extravaganza, hop over to the Veggie Pie post and have a look. It's ok, we'll wait for you.

I strongly recommend baking the crust before you put the filling in to bake, otherwise you may not get that beautiful, crispy, golden brown crunch that makes pie worth eating and life worth living. Peel the peaches, remove the pit, and slice into slender crescents about 1/2 in thick at the widest point. In a bowl, stir the peaches with the 1/2 cup of sugar, and allow to chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to a 1/2 hour.

Once the peaches have had time to adjust to their new sugar coating, gently spoon them into the pie crust. Spread the peaches around the crust so they are even. Then, using a small paring knife, cut small chunks of butter over the peaches, and sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. At this point, if you are wanting to put a second crust over the top, now is the time to do it.

Put the pie back in the oven at 375 degrees. Let it cook for, oh, about 15 minutes or so, until the butter has completely melted and the filling is piping hot. If you did add that second crust, cook it until the top crust is a beautiful golden brown. Let the pie cool on a rack for another 15 minutes or so to let the liquid come together. Slice, and serve warm with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream. This pie is perfectly sweet with just a touch of tartness, and the crust should be crispy and buttery and all around delicious. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dining By The Bay

Last night I had the opportunity to dine with fellow foodies at the Foodbuzz Community Table dinner at Epic Roasthouse on the waterfront of San Francisco.  Epic is a swanky, stylish space situated right along the Embarcadero against the glittering water of the San Francisco Bay.  It really makes for an impressive view during dinner.

A small group of food bloggers and food enthusiasts gathered for amazing food, fantastic wine, and even better company.  The evening began on the patio outside of Epic's banquet room overlooking the bay (and directly across from Waterbar) where we sipped champagne and munched on tasty hors d'ouvres.  Once it was time to sit down, we were given a choice of entree of either wood fire rotisserie pork rack chop with asparagus flan and roasted chanterelle mushrooms, the steak n' cake, a petit beef filet with a spicy crab cake and ragout of summer tomatoes, or the cedar plank smoked wild king salmon with a ragout of baby butterball potatoes.  I went with the steak n' cake ( a fun play on surf & turf), and it was phenomenal.  The steak was tender and juicy and wonderfully flavored while the crab cake was crispy and perfectly sweet.

Desert was a fabulous duo of sweet with a warm chocolate banana cake topped with caramel sea salt ice cream and dark chocolate shavings and a bread pudding with ricotta cheese and fresh peaches.  Yeah, amazing.  For not being a sweets guy, the desert portions were perfect and balanced with a sweet desert wine.  We finished the evening sipping coffee and raving over the meal we had all just enjoyed, discussing our favorite places to eat, and all the fun foodie things we have planned. 

It was an amazing meal and an unforgettable evening.  Thanks to all my foodie friends and the folks at Foodbuzz, Visa Signature, and of course Epic Roasthouse for making it all happen.  You all sure know how to throw a party.

I am, by the way, the lamest food blogger that ever blogged.  Unlike every other blogger at the table, I neglected to bring a camera to document the this wonderful meal.  The picture at the top of this post was "borrowed" from the Epic Roasthouse webiste.  (Uh, thanks guys.)  For some delicious photos taken by food bloggers better prepared than I, visit Beer & Nosh and Food Wishes Video Recipes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Veggie Pie

So I have been craving pie for a while now... okay maybe not pie per se, but pie crust more specifically. Flaky, buttery, crunchy pie crust. Done right, the crust is the very best thing about a pie. Done wrong (and it can go very, very wrong), and it will be tasteless, tough, and do nothing more than hold the pie filling on your plate for you and look embarrassed next to your scoop of vanilla ice cream. Pie crust is a relatively simple recipe: Some flour, water, shortening, a pinch of salt and sugar, and magically you have the world's greatest accompaniment to fruit filling.

The challenge I was facing in my quest to consume pie crust was to think of a excuse to make a pie, with no special occasion and for only two people. But what about veggie pie? That might almost be considered healthy. And bonus, we can eat it for dinner! So with a fridge stockpiled with squash and eggplant from our CSA box, we had our filling, and I just needed to make that golden cup of goodness to put it all in.

First, the important part. Like I said, in principal pie crust is pretty simple. But it can be infuriatingly difficult to get right. When you're working in small spaces trying to roll out an uncooperative pie crust, it can be down right maddening. A couple tips to get started: First, put all the tools you will be using to handle the dough in the freezer for maybe 1/2 hour. This means your rolling pin, silicone mat, etc. Make sure they are good and cold before they touch your dough. This will save you a lot of screaming and cursing.

Second, the dough is all about ratios. How much water to flour, flour to shortening, you get the picture. Mix things together slowly at first, testing the mixture to make sure it has the right consistency and texture before rolling it out. Too dry? Add a little water, a teaspoon at a time. Too wet? Drop a tablespoon of flour in at a time to thicken it up. The right amount of shortening can be a little difficult to gauge, but about 1/2 a cup for a single crust should do the trick. Here's a super basic recipe for the crust, and by all means change the amounts as you see fit. It's your pie:

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon of salt
2 - 3 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 cup of water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and shortening. Blend together with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until crumbly. You will see little chunks of shortening throughout the mixture. This is a good thing.

Add the water slowly, mixing with a pastry cutter until completely incorporated. Roll into a ball, and chill the dough for about 15 minutes, or until you are ready to use it. Then, on a flour covered surface with your frozen rolling pin, roll it out to fit the size of your pie plate. Roll one edge over your rolling pin so the dough will drape over it. Gently lift it and set it into your pie plate. Push the dough to the edges, cut off the excess across the top, and using a fork or a small knife, poke little holes in the bottom of the crust. Place in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

So now you have your delicious crust. Resist the urge to eat it all by its self, and lets put something in it.

For this veggie pie, we used a mandolin slicer to slice a medium eggplant and several green and yellow summer squashes. In a heated skillet, melt about 1/2 a stick of butter and begin adding the slices of eggplant. As they begin to absorb the butter and brown, pull them out onto a plate so they don't get too soggy. If they soak up all of the butter in the pan, add more.

Once you have cooked the eggplant slices, melt more butter, (or drizzle in some olive oil) in the same pan. Saute the squash, seasoning with salt, and after a minute or two add a splash of white wine. Once the wine has been cooked off / absorbed, season with dried oregano, and remove from the heat.

Line the pie crust with the slices of eggplant so they cover the bottom and go up the sides. Spoon the squash into the pie, pushing them around to make sure they are even and level with the top of the crust. For an added bit of color, cut a red bell pepper into slender slices and lay them across the top. Place your pie back into the 375 degree oven for another 2o minutes or so, or until you are just so hungry you just can't take it any longer. Top with Parmesan cheese, and then allow it to cool for a minute or two.

This pie was a nice surprise for a weekday dinner, and it made fantastic leftovers. Try it out with different vegetables if you like, or if you are feeling really frisky, maybe a crust over the top, too. Enjoy!