Green Chili Chocolate Pie

img_4199Ahoy there, Valentine’s peoples!  I come bearing reminders that it’s that most romantic of days coming up with alarming speed, and wether you are decidedly for or against such a holiday as this (with it’s mushiness and what-so), you could hardly go wrong with making a chocolate pie to share with someone.  Or lots of someones.

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Meyer Lemon Bars (and the merits of cryonically preserving seeds for the morrow)

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Lemon bars are the perfect winter fooooood!!! ><  I ate half of them!!!!  They are like lemon pie but without all the floooooff!   And they’re easy.  And when you have a cup of Meyer lemon juice sitting all fragrant on your kitchen counter, wanting to be showcased in a simple frame, bars are the answer, yo.  Continue reading

Summerfruits Destiny: Tropical Upside Down Gingerbread, Mango Crisp and Raw Lime Avocado Pie

If I can make something tropical I will do it.  If I can cook something great without picking up a thing outside what I have in the kitchen already, I will verily  do it.  And, when the kitchen contains fruit, I am a happy sun-cheeked girl, and making sweets that are all colours of the rainbow and – although pining just a bit for the promised million kinds of fruits that are available all the time in Vietnam ^^;;;;; – making my kind of worship to the varieties at my disposal here in Quebec, which is still a riotous bounty, truth told.

Any kind of upside down cake is good (yes even, and maybe especially the kind with those little canned cherries) and almost any kind of gingerbread cake is good.  Anything with tropical fruit on it is irresistible, so how could I stop myself from jamsing all these properties together into one moist-tastic clove-kissed flipped-over gemdisplay?  Ya, I couldn’t, and the roommates benefitted.  Vegans benefit too, because I bet you could probably omit that egg, and I know that replacing the butter with Earth Balance works fine ’cause I did that – partly out of necessity and partly because I rather like using high quality solid alterna-fats in certain desserts instead of dairy.  Coconut oil would have been epic!!

Tropical Upside Down Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe in Ready for Dessert.

  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 cup of pineapple slices (you guessed it, 1/2 thick)
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • two pinches of salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup of room temperature milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place the butter for the fruit topping in a 9 inch round cake pan and set it directly on a burner. Melt the butter over low heat, then stir in the brown sugar. Remove from the burner and let cool while you prep the fruit.
3. Evenly distribute the fruit over the brown sugar/butter mixture, taking care to place things artfully in overlapping circles.
4. Make the gingerbread cake: whisk the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3-5 minutes (until it is light in texture and color).
6. Beat in the molasses, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
7. Mix in half of the dry ingredients from the bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the rest of the dry mix until just incorporated.
8. Distribute the cake batter over the fruit, evening it out with a spatula.
9. Bake the cake for about 45-55 minutes (be careful not to let the top burn). Test for doneness by inserting a wooden toothpick into the center of the cake (if it comes out clean, it’s done).
10. Let the cake cool slightly before running a knife along the edges and inverting it onto a plate.
11. Serve warm, with homemade whipped cream.

I like apple crumble okay, and with pecans involved I’m SO there, but really – in the summer anyway – my heart belongs exclusively to only one variety.  You could give me mango crumble every day in the warm months and I’d be happy as a bug with a mouthful of crispy coconut-laced nugget chunks.  (strawberry-plum is a close second, but another story).  One day I’ll write down my exact recipe for this mango thing, I promise, but for now, the guidelines are…

Mango Crisp (a rough guideline)

Serves 4

Take 2 fat mangoes and diced them up.  Toss them with 2-3 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, the juice of 1 lime, and if you have fresh ginger lying around, you could add a little grate of that, too.  You want it to be just a touch sweet, super mango-y, and tart from the lime juice.  Sploosh that in a baking dish and figure out the dry goods.  What I do is take about 1 cup of oats, 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut, 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder – an indian seasoning, and optional), a good pinch of salt, and enough flour until it is wet enough to hold it’s shape firm when you squeeze it, but still crumbly enough to be, well, a crumble by definition.  Sprinkle over the fruit making sure there are big and little chunks, and bake in a relatively warm oven – 375 F maybe, for about 30-40 minutes until the topping is browned and the filling is bubbling stickily at you.  Serve warm with ice cream, obviously!  Vanilla, or coconut, or green tea, or honey, or fudge ripple or whatever.

Then again, if your fruit collection contains avocados and you have some dietary restrictions to consider, a raw lime pie might be the way to go.  It is way way WAY easier to make than you might think, with only one heavy machinery requirement, and not-very-heavy one at that, since I can attest to a stick/immersion blender’s ability to replace something more serious like a blender.  Even if you don’t have a food processor for the nuts, well….. rolling pin and sturdy plastic bag them!  Excellent stress relief, actually.

Raw Lime Avocado Tart w/Blueberry Swirl

adapted, more or less, from the Crudessence recipe

Coco-Macadamia Crust

  • 1 cup macadamia nuts (I used almonds)
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 2 tbsp water (or more, as needed to make a pliable but stiff dough)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

First grind the nuts, either in a food processor or by putting them in a bag and smashing them with a rolling pin.  Then, process the dates – either with machinery or with your fingers.  If the dates are hard, you can soak them in warm water for 30 minutes (discard the water afterwards).  Moosh the nuts and dates together with the rest of the ingredients until it’s a uniform paste, and then press into the bottom of a greased 9″ pan.  It helps to use a tool like a metal measuring cup or a mug to press the mix firmly into the corners!  Shape a pretty crust around the edge with your fingers and put in the freezer to set.

Lime Filling

  • 300 grams ripe avocado flesh (about 3 medium avocats)
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut butter   OR  1/2 cup raw cashews soaked in warm water for an hour and then drained.
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Blend all the ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender until very, very smooth and creamy.  Spread into the pie crust and smooth the top.

Blueberry Sa-wirl

  • 1 cup aromatic juicy blueberries
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar

Blend together until smooth (you can strain it at this point if you want a perfectly smooth sauce, or leave the pretty purple skins in).  Pour the sauce in a circular swirl on the top of the lime cream, then drag a toothpick or a knife through the lines to form a spiderweb pattern.

Chill the pie for at least 2 hours, then slice and eat!  It might be cheating to suggest whipped cream, but I’d do it!  ★ ★

Finally, if you’re faced with a surplus of luscious manic-coloured summerfruits, and not feeing the need to break out measuring tools, you could always just cut them all up into wee pieces and have a juicy salad, tossed with a bit of citrus and golden syrup.  It’s how I was raised, and sometimes, simplicity counts.

Summer Peach Galette: In which ripe fruits jump at my command into a shell of butteriest crust.

Not that it takes much coaching.  Peaches are pretty much designed (to the benefit of us fire-wielding humans) to take like perfection to being transformed by a bit of heat into a pie – the juicy become juicier, or something like that.  Or, in this case, a galette (a kind of lazy pie with only a bottom crust that’s folded up around the fruit in a way that’s rustic and *I* think even more celebratory of the ripened innards). I made it in honour of a good friend dropping by from out of town, and I think it’s becoming a tradition that I bake a peach pie in the midparts of summer, started three years ago when I first moved into this wonderful house that I live in now and will soon be leaving.  There are, usually, no less than seven people under this roof, and I wouldn’t be who I am without these beautiful folks.I always have mouths to feed, and there is usually dessert on the table.  The first peach pie I made here was about a foot tall, a sliceable bucket of sweetened bourbon fruits in a burnished coffin of a shell – I had to use a spring-form cheesecake pan just to fit it all in.  The year after was a Pi Pie and I learned the first-hand way exactly what happens when impatience prevents me from chilling an unbaked dough enough – it does get a little… misshapen and less fantastic to eat.  But no matter!  This year was different.

raw and ready.

This year I figured I would see how fast I could turn a lump of frozen butter and a smudge of salt and sugar into a pie-like device.  This took half an hour maybe?  I even had Amaretto still in the pantry.  Really I hardly touched the fruit at all, just tossing with sugar, cornstarch and liqueur, then arranged onto crushed Amaretti cookies & ground almonds.  It doesn’t mess with the flavour of peach, just enhances.  The crust was shatteringly crisp and flavoursome, and held the fruit beautifully.

Anyway, my lovely friends, this is for you.  Merry August, and shine on like adamantine in the wind.

PS. White beer goes FANTASTIC with this.  Just saying’.

For more photos, check out the Flickr set.

Summer Peach Galette

Adapted, loosely, from Smitten Kitchen‘s adaptation of Alice Water’s Apricot Tart

Serves 8

Crust:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2–inch pieces

Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretti cookies, pulverized — or — 1 extra tablespoon ground almonds plus an extra teaspoon sugar
  • 10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds ripe peaches (about 4 large)
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 sliced almonds (optional)
  • Peach or nectarine jam (optional)

Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Cut in six tablespoons of the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Dribble four tablespoons ice water over the mixture, using a rubber spatula to pull the mixture together. Gather the dough into a mound (either in the bowl or on a counter) and gently knead it together, for just a few seconds. If it’s not coming together, add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. Wrap dough in a flat disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disk and let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before using.

Make the galette: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour, one tablespoon of the sugar, and pulverized amaretti (or mix of extra ground almonds and sugar) together.

Remove the prerolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 to 2-inch border uncoated. Cut peaches in half, removing pits, then each half into thirds (you’ll get six wedges per nectarine). Toss the peaches in a bowl with the amaretto liqueur and cornstarch.  Arrange the fruit, skin-side-down, in concentric circles on the dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly over the fruit.

While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the fruit. Pinch or trim off any excess dough. (Make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak.) Brush the border with melted butter, and sprinkle it with two tablespoons sugar.

Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. If you wish, sprinkle sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and extra-crisp. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it onto a cooling rack, to keep it from getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes. If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach (or nectarine, if you have it) jam. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt.

Do ahead: This galette keeps at room temperature for at least two days, and even longer in the fridge. The unbaked dough, wrapped in plastic, will keep in the freezer for a few weeks, the fridge for a day or more. Rolled-out dough may be frozen and used the next day.

Cape Breton trip Pt 1: Sangria muffins & brined chicken sandwiches

Staring out the window, nestled with my whole spinal region melting into a backseat pillow, bumping and floating my way towards Cape Breton… yet another time (a gifted time) where the rigeurs and the rigidity of everyday life are left behind like so many un-needed sneakers and bargain books on silly things like the Kabbalah I’m never going to read anyway.  Not to mention, my job, my house, the city of Montreal, and a regularly scheduled program.

Hello Cape Breton!  Well, hello Edmunston, so far.  I’m here with my love and his brother who’s been so kind to drive us the whole way and have the good taste enough to play Guided By Voices, and Monty Python and CBC.  We left yesterday afternoon, after a good 3 hours of Food Packing (read: AWESOME FUNTIME LIZ-INDULGENCE CAR-PIC-NIC CHEFFERY) and 20 minutes of Regular Things Packing (yes, I remembered everything.  Underwear, computer,

not vanilla pods but BEANS! Magic garden beans.

toothbrush, check).  On the road, I’ve already discovered that dairy creamers stolen from highway cafes are a cereal addict’s best friend, and that flakey varieties of cereal are verily muncheable out of anything kinda resembling a bowl, and with chopsticks no less.  I have dreamy plans of making a sticky toffee pudding for my BF’s toffee loving mom-with-a-birthday-on-Tuesday (which will bring the heritage score to Brits: a zillion / Scots: well, also a zillion).

The trick is to use cardboard as a plate. S.M.R.T.

But, being a food-centered blog, I’d be remiss to skip a bit of recap on the car-picnic making action.  It wasn’t hard at all, really.  I needed to rescue some things, so I harvested the last of our current vegetable garden production to twizzle together some ace & spicy peanut noodles with fried peanuts and summer beans and mint.  Haven’t even cracked that yet (it’s still in the motel fridge), but we for SURE started into the mega pesto chicken sandwich of Awesome.  The pesto was also a bit of a garden rescue, after I plucked all the tops off our basil plants and cradled the crunchy leaves in my fists all the way to the kitchen to make that most luridly green spread.  I brined two chicken breasts overnight in a salt and sugar solution.

PS, How to Brine a Chicken Breast:

take: 1 quart of water / 4 cups

1/2 cup sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds, bone in, but really whatever will fit in the water)

…. let it sit in the brine solution for 6 hours, or overnight, then cook as usual.  SO MADNESS JUICY, OMG.  Thank you Serious Eats yet again for your so useful secrets.

Once chicken is roasted, get all the meat parts off the bone, then mix with the fresh pesto, spread a big rosemary foccacia on both sides with thick herbed tzatziki, and mound things in this order: Bread, spread, 2 tbsp finely chopped kalamata olives, 3 tbsp finely diced marinated red onions, 1 big avocado sliced thick, salt & lemon, pesto chicken, tomatoes, and fresh spinach dressed with a bit more lemon & salt & olive oil.  Wrap the whole thing tight in plastic and press it tight for a while (I just packed it on the bottom of the bag, under a flat book that ended up doubling as a totally essential cutting board).  YUM.

I threw some meat pies I made a long time in the oven, too (I love my freezer stash).  They were kind of a riff on a pastilla pastry, which is usually made with chicken (I used lamb instead), but the idea of finely shredded meat cooked with lots of butter, fried almonds, cumin, cinnamon and onions, until it tastes like something sultans should eat, then that’s tucked into a crisp-but-sturdy cornmeal pastry shell, and these are so addictive, man, seriously… wow.

Also convenient: I invented a muffin! Well, sort of.  It’s got a cute name.  I ran out of milk while making blueberry granola muffins so I subbed in some sangria I made the other day and it worked SO WELL.  Yes, there is technically rum in those muffins.  And, 80% whole wheat flour, although you’d never be able to tell, they are fluffy as heck.  I’m a huge fan of using granola in muffins, it just seems to give it a texture and taste that totally distinguishes it from cake in any form – craggy and hearty and toasted-sweet, and it never gets claggy the way using straight oats does sometimes.  I even have the recipe memorized, oho.

don’t forget to bring your road-knife!

Blueberry Sangr-ianola Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup granola

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups sangria (you can use orange juice instead, of course!)

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup mild oil

1 1/2 cups blueberries, or a mix of blueberries and peaches

3/4 cup granola (for topping)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line a muffin tray with papers, or grease the cups.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the wet ingredients (sugar through oil).  In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through granola).  In another bowl, put all your fruit in that, and toss with 1 tbsp of flour – this ensures that the fruit stays suspended in the batter and doesn’t sink to the bottom.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just enough to combine.  Fill 12 muffins cups high with batter – there will be lots – sprinkle with the 3/4 cup granola and bake until they are firm, golden and toasty.  18-22 minutes perhaps, but check after 15 minutes because every oven is different, and don’t forget to rotate the pan.

Guess that’s it for now.  Now I’m just contemplating the wonders that is the potential complementary breakfast at a motel, and if I should maybe with pour myself another nice bowl of Frosted Flakes and eat it outside in the surprisingly chilly pre-dawn air in the parking lot overlooking the vista of Edmunston.   More updates later!