Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pie Crust

This is a basic pie crust demonstration, to make a double crust pie or two single crust pies or tarts (8 - 10.") The recipe is adapted from Martha Stuart's classic Pies and Tarts. For this demonstration I'm making an herbed crust for savory tarts. For a dessert pie, leave out the herbs, and add 1 teaspoon sugar if you wish.

Before you begin, read through the recipe at least once. Then get out all of the ingredients and implements called for. One key to success in cooking is to have all of your ingredients on hand (by that I mean out and on the counter) before you begin a project. Nothing is more frustrating than starting a cooking project only to find out that the bottle of vanilla is empty, or the can of baking get the picture.
Here you go:

2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme and oregano (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (two sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
2 lightly buttered pie or tart pans
Place the dry ingredients, including the butter, in the food processor and pulse or process til the mixture has the texture of coarse meal. You could also use a pastry blender to combine the ingredients to the coarse meal stage.

Add the ice water drop by drop through the feed tube with the machine running, till the mixture just holds together. (No more than 30 seconds.)

Squeeze a bit of dough in your hand: if it doesn't stick together, add a bit more water by the same method.

Turn dough out onto a piece of (unbleached) wax paper and divide into two parts. Clump each part into a ball like you are packing a snowball. Then flatten it into a disc shape, each on its own piece of wax paper

Wrap each disc in wax paper, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When dough is chilled, roll it out on a well floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 of an inch.

Fold dough in half to make it easier to place into the pie pan. Lift and move it with a metal spatula such as you would use to flip a burger.

(If you are making a two-crust pie and your two dough balls are not exactly the same size, use the larger one to line the pan, and the smaller one for the top.)

Unfold your dough and voila! a perfect pie crust! Tidy up the edges and crimp by hand to build up the sides in whatever pattern pleases you.

If you're not going to use the pie shell right away, wrap or bag and refrigerate for up to one day. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Consider Celeriac

It's not the prettiest of vegetables.

Chances are good that if I asked you, you couldn't even name this chubby little root vegetable with all these tiny roots and root hairs abounding upon it.
(At least not before you read the title of this article.) 

But it's late January, and time to be ordering your seeds. So I am asking you to consider growing celeriac this year.  Also known as "celery root," celeriac is somehow related to celery, and has a very similar flavor.  One reason I grow celeriac instead of celery is that you can overwinter it just as you would carrots: buried in sand in the root cellar, or in the drawer of an extra refrigerator. 
And secondly, truth be told, any celery I have ever grown was too tough to be edible, and I love the flavor of celery in my soups.  

This little guy has been in a plastic bag in the spare fridge since late September.  See the little sprout coming out, he's ready to grow!  Sorry, dude, but you're headed for the soup pot. 

Celeriac at the Willi Food Co-op.
(Thank you, iPhone!)

If I'm going to convince you to grow some celeriac, I have to show you how easy and versatile it is to cook with.  So let's make some mushroom barley soup!  You can find some celery root at your local food co-op or grocery store.  At the latter venue it may be wrapped in saran wrap so that you don't know...dirty.

Before we begin to prepare the vegetables, set a kettle of water on to boil.  If you don't have a large kettle, put 3/4 cup barley, a bay leaf, and 3 quarts of water in a soup pot and place on high heat to begin cooking the barley.

Now, the celeriac you see on the cutting board in a prior photo has been trimmed of roots and leaves and sprayed blasted with the garden hose to remove as much soil as possible, but clearly, some soil still clings to the roots.  So, under running water, pare down the outer skin, removing all roots and any dark areas.

Now, set this little beauty aside and prepare your mushrooms.  I have here organic white button mushrooms from the Willimantic Food Co-op.  To wash mushrooms, run each one under tap, gently brushing away any dirt that you see.  Set on a comfy fabric towel to drain. 

The stem of the mushroom is usually quite tough; I like to slice the stem into little discs, then proceed to slice the caps.
Set these aside and chop one medium onion and three cloves of garlic.  Also chop the celariac.  Celariac has the consistency of a carrot, so it is harder to slice than, say, a mushroom.   Begin by cutting off the top and the bottom.  Then cut in half so you have a flat side to use as a base.  Now just cut into dice.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons butter or oil and saute the onions, garlic, and chopped celeriac.  I had some fresh cilantro on hand, so I threw that in as well. At this time I also add about one teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano. Add salt if you use it, and freshly ground black pepper. 
Toss in the mushrooms and cook and stir until the onions are golden and translucent.

Add to the barley and water in the stock pot and cook at a slow boil until the barley is soft, about 45 minutes to an hour. Enjoy!!
If you enjoy "Preserving the Harvest's" tips on growing, cooking, and preserving your own food in order to walk more gently on the planet... buzz on by the Patchwork Living Blogging Bee and find other blogs that will help you move towards the personal independence gained by achieving a more frugal and sustainable lifestyle!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Liebster Blog Award

Thank You Nichole!

I'm pleased to announce that recently I was honored with The Liebster Blog Award!  

"Liebster" is a German word which can be translated as "beloved" or "dearest" in English. This award is given by one blogster to another to acknowledge the excellence, beauty, funniness or "sparkliness" of their blog.

Thanks to my fellow blogger Nichole at Born in the Wrong Century for choosing my blog!! The timing of this award could not have been better!!

I was feeling a bit under appreciated this week because my painting, "Nichole in the Poppies" had been rejected...excuse me...declined from a juried art show.

But to follow my train of thought, you must hear the back story:  Nichole Joyce, along with her mom, owns and runs All Things Italian, an Italian specialty store in Bozeman, Montana.  We met online.  Not only did I love her blog, there was a photo of Nichole in a field of poppies that really appealed to me. 

Now, one of my vocations is that of an oil painter to be specific.  And I never tire of painting my favorite flower: the poppy.

Long story short: Nichole sent me a jpeg of her profile pic on facebook along with her permission to interpret it as an oil painting. Here it is: "Nichole in the Poppies."

Do you see where I'm going with this?? First Nichole gifts me with the inspiration for a painting.  Which I happen to like, but the jury doesn't. 

Then she gifts me with the Liebster  Blog Award, a sign of appreciation!  Today I feel appreciated... the heck with the art show!!

I'll be making a THANK YOU card of the painting to send to Nichole in Bozeman, Montana.  And then I'll be presenting the award to some other bloggers.

For the rules to the Liebster Award are as follows:
  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogger that presented said award to you.
  • Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  • Present this award to 3 to 5 blogs with under 200 followers that are beautiful, funny, good, and or sparkly. (See?  Sparkly. I bet you thought I made that up.)
  • Let them know they have won by commenting on their blogs.
I admit that many of the blogs I follow have large subscription bases. Though I'm not sure of their sizes, here are three that I follow that I think are on the smaller side.

My first award goes to Sandi and her blog The Dirt.  Sandi is a Master Gardener, but humbly assures the reader that she is still learning!  Sandi gardens in Moorhead, Minnesota and offers a wealth of gardening and cooking advice. I think you'll find that she is plenty knowledgeable, and I love it that she gets so excited about the color of her vegetables and that she can't wait to photograph them!!

My second presentation goes to City Sister, Country Sister, an informative and well written blog about cooking, gardening, and home centered life, both in and out of town.
I fell in love with this blog when I found City Sister's tutorial on making tomato sauce without having to peel the tomatoes...just bake them and go at them with the stick blender!

Another blog I thoroughly enjoy and admire is The Gardener's Table. Here experienced cook and gardener Linda Ziedrich shares her enthusiasm for gardening, and for cooking and preserving the bounty of the land.

If you have any blogs you think I'd enjoy reading please link to them in the comments.  You can also check out other blogs I follow on the list on the right side of my page.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Leek and Spinach Pie in a Savory Herbal Crust

                                                           This savory pie makes use of frozen leeks and dried tomatoes, and the herbal pie crust shown in a previous post. In the summer months, by all means use fresh vegetables, but in the dead of winter you can rely on your frozen foods. The colors and aromas of this pie will warm your heart!
I begin by pouring out about 3/4 cup of frozen leeks and 1/2 cup of frozen dried tomatoes into a colander to thaw. If I am using a frozen pie shell, that comes out to thaw at this point as well.  While these things are thawing, I will prepare my other vegetables.   
 We grow spicy greens in our solar greenhouse all winter, so I will chop some of them to add to the pie. Feel free to substitute whatever colorful vegetables you have on hand. 

Since I'm using frozen foods, I begin by putting them in a pan with no oil, because the oil and water will splatter when heated. I will watch very closely while I heat the vegetables on medium heat: I want to complete the thawing process and evaporate all excess water. 

When vegetables are all looking soft, and water is nearly gone, I will add some butter or cooking oil and throw in the chopped greens and some chopped garlic. Stand back, stir constantly, and watch out for splatters.  This is a good time to season with salt and pepper and any favorite herb, such as basil or oregano. 

 When the greens are wilted, I'll add all the vegetables to my freshly made or thawed pie crust.  To make the filling, beat 4 eggs with 1/2 to one cup milk or half and half.  Pour the filling over the vegetables and sprinkle with one cup of grated Jack or cheddar cheese. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg or paprika over all and bake at 350 degrees  for 45 minutes.  Bake right on a cookie sheet, to make it easier to handle and to catch any drips.When fully cooked, the center of the pie should look solid, not runny.  If you're not sure if it's done, put it back in for another 10 minutes.

 Crust should be lightly browned.  Allow to cool a bit before serving.
As usual in my tutorials, this is a basic framework for how to build a vegetable pie.  I encourage you to use what you have on hand and have fun.  I recently read a quote about quiche pie: that it was not invented to be a measure of one's manhood.  It was invented to use up leftovers  :-)