Monday, August 25, 2014

Feeding Body and Soul: Salmon Salad and Sour Cherry Pie

And so it came to pass that after six months of low-carb, healthy eating (including trip to Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, including trip to the Covered Bridge of Madison County), Claudia thought we could introduce carbs once a week into our dinner. Husband-who-is-allergic-to-dieting found that he now fits into his absolutely favorite suit he bought in his 40's - was dismayed. He's not done! So I guess I'm not either. (Although I may sneak out for a trip to local once cream store for a cone - what flavor?)

So I bring you a healthy summer dinner and then I dynamite the entire process with this exquisite sour cherry pie. Balance is key, correct?

I found the salad on Pinterest and even carb-deprived Claudia thought it sounded good. It's from a blog called Gimme Some Oven and it couldn't be simpler. I bought the smoked salmon (about 8 ounces) and tossed it with spinach, blueberries, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, red onion and an avocado.

The blog suggested blue cheese and walnuts which would be good but weren't in my kitchen!

Dressing: 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I used Sherry vinegar), 1 tablespoon honey, salt and pepper.

Allergic-to-dieting-Paul loved it and he is of the Midwest-farm-mindset that dinner should always include something warm or else it's lunch. Of course, he also used to think dinner must have a carb - but I guess I cured him of that. Be careful what you wish for....

On to the pie.... because that's really what you're here for....

In the five years I've had Pippin, he has never climbed counters, never helped me bake. Never. Ever. In fact, when Luce did ALL those things, Pip would tattle on him. He'd come get me. Now he helps me bake. By sitting on the recipe. You have to give him credit for filling in the space.

Sour cherries (amarene cherries) are very popular in Italy - some are preserved in wines and other hard liquors. A lot of amarene cherries go into jams which are later used as condiments for meats or a jam crostada. Recipes and more information can be found here.

In Des Moines, there were just-picked sour cherries at their expansive Farmer's Market - downtown - complete with farm breakfasts (all carbs) and entertainment - such as the Mimes. That talked. Which made me wonder if they flunked out of Mime School.

When I saw the cover recipe from Bon Appetit - showing a sour cherry pie in all it's glory (bonus for the addition of almond flour in the crust), I knew that some tasty were carbs were in my future.

And they were. And the crust was as tender as I imagined. And the filling spilled all over the pie - just as it did in Bon Appetit's cover recipe. I felt virtuous. As virtuous as one can feel eating carbs. In a carb-stricken life.

And I made an absolute mess pitting the cherries. Next time I will put on a beekeeper's suit when I pit cherries. We won't discuss other alternatives.

And it disappeared so I only had one piece. If you can get your hands on some sour cherries, make this summer dessert. Worth. Every. Calorie. Every. Carb. I have some extra in my freezer.... in case I need a taste of summer during Evil Polar Vortex Season.

Recipe is here: Bon Appetit Sour Cherry Pie.

I didn't change a thing.

Minnesotans are lake creatures. Maybe part Druid. And a big thing is to go "up north" to Lake Superior - to the Boundary Waters, to Mille Lacs, Brainerd, Crow Wing... and it's funny because sometimes we don't appreciate what is in our backyard. Two blocks away is White Bear Lake (the photo above is what greets me from the parking lot of my favorite grocery store) ... I walk it, I meditate to it, and I watch it freeze and thaw with the seasons. And yes, I have even ice-fished on it.

And the Twin Cities boasts many lakes - including Lake Calhoun above - which is part of a chain of lakes. A walking and biking trail spans per 35 miles taking you around many lakes - including Mary Tyler Moore's Lake of the Aisle walk. In a sense, I find a piece of the Mediterranean when we go walking. For six months of the year.

I am investigating Amarone wine. Worth the expense? If you really just intended to soak cherries in it? (Trying to recreate an Amarone Manhattan.) If you have information, opinions - please share with me. Hope you all have a lovely end-of-August week!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Journey with Pie

I've been thinking about this journey that I have taken with the blog. As well as "where should the journey be going now?" What began as documentation in 2007 turned into stories and the grandest part - evolved into friendships with bloggers. Some whom I have met - and some that I feel I have (met).

I garden a lot. In 2007, I kept plants alive. But in 2014, I garden. I've been grappling with a number for 2 years. The number is 60 - and what does that mean? (Aside from cheaper meals at places I don't usually go to.) I bird watch. Is that what 60 means - you morph into a bird-watching gardener? Do I find binoculars and a safari hat?

I'll be transplanting these babies next spring. To make room for more shrub roses. See - that's gardening. How did this city gal from Queens, NYC become someone who plans for next spring's garden? I grew up with a cement backyard! (Have the photos to prove it.)

After 4 years, we finally harvested more than three blueberries. And I was out there at sunrise, picking them, eating them and beating the early birds to their berries! Claudia "theatre person who would go to work in the eves" is out between 5:30-6 a.m. Is that what 60 is?

The raspberries are on steroids. Which is good - because the beetles seem to like them. I have been at war with the beetles for two years and quite frankly - they're winning. In addition to being a bird-nerd, gardener, and early riser - I am now a beetle warrior. (Or I've been reading to much of Game of Thrones and it has affected how I see myself.)

The thing about 60 - is Weight Watchers doesn't work anymore. I took off 28 pounds before going to Italy and never did finish the last 12.

So this winter Paul and I resorted to the apocalypse of dieting when you're Italian - low carb. Yes - little-to-no pasta, risotto, breads, polenta, dolci ... no wonder I haven't blogged! I have thrown my frustrations into plays - where I have detailed Italian food scenes. 

Everything's food. Ever notice that? Even Saint's have feast days. We feast. All the time. Then we gain weight and get criticized - 
I don't gain weight. 
No. You don't. There's something unnatural about that. You clearly are adopted. 
I actually eat all organic and watch the intake of carbs. 
How can you be Italian and watch your intake of carbs? We grew up with carbs in every shape and form. Stuffed carbs. Sauced carbs. Sauteed carbs! Braised carbs! Carbs with 
vegetables. Carbs made from semolina wheat. Carbs made from potatoes! And that's just the pasta! Don't get me started on the risotto! We celebrate with pasta. We mourn 
with pasta! We nourish, deal with stress, and end the day with carbs. We are genetically programmed to be carbed to death! No wonder I resemble a stuffed manicotti! 
Don’t forget the polenta! 
I did! How could I forget the polenta! And the breads! 

The cruelty of low-carbs - it works. Slowly - but it works. I am down 10 of the last 12 pounds and of course Paul is down twice that amount (because weight loss is sexist). 

And I've taken to baking pies. If I can't eat the carbs, I can dig my hands into them.

Bird-watcher, gardener, early riser, beetle battler and pie baker. 

The sixties are starting to scare me. 

I barely eat the pies (that carb thing). But I am compelled to bake them. Some wind up in the garbage when I'm mad at the crust (while family says, "I'll eat them"). I have a nice family.

So, I've been baking pies for two years grappling with 60. I long-ago came to terms that my inner ballerina will stay inner. And I won't be going to the Olympics except as a spectator. But I thought - I know! I could bake pies! (In 60+ years, this is the extent of my problem-solving ability - bake pies?)

You do a lot of thinking when you bake pies. I highly recommend it.  And this is easy (more and more I look at ease.... nah.... I always did - there's a slug inside of me).

Blueberry Hand-Held Pies - makes about 12 in a muffin tin
From Handheld Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton

Flaky Butter Crust
1 cup cold, unsalted butter
2 cups flour (little more for dusting)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt
3-5 tablespoons ice water

Blueberry Filling
3 cups (340 g) fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Pinch of fresh nutmeg (optional - Ive done with and without and the nutmeg seemed to get lost)

Flaky Butter Crust (Double if you are doing a double-crust pie as I did)
1. Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes and freeze them while you measure the dry ingredients.
2. Combine flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse briefly to mix. Take butter from freezer and scatter over dry ingredients. Pulse until mixture forms pea-like clumps. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse to mix - add just enough water for the dough to come together. When it does - you've added enough! (When it's humid here - I need less water. I have added to much and the crust just fell apart during baking. That's when I want to throw it out!)
3. Turn the dough onto a clean, floured work surface. Knead it a few times to smooth it out. Divide in half and press each half into a circle, square or rectangle - depending on how you will use it - I put mine in muffin tins so I form two disks - but you could also make them in the shape of pop tarts.)
4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Blueberry Filling
In a bowl, combine all ingredients and gently mix. Use immediately.

1. Roll out dough on lightly-floured work surface. Flour top of dough lightly.  Roll into a circle - about 1/8 icy thick (mine were thicker). Using a round biscuit cutter or glass, cut out as many 4-5 inch circles as possible.
2. Gently life circles and press into muffin tin leaving an 1/8-1/4 overhang. Gather scraps and cut out more circles! You should have 12-14 circles.
3. Put 3-4 tablespoons of blueberry mixture into prepared muffin tin.

If doing a double crust (and you can lattice it if you like), gently lift circle and place on top of filled pies. Crimp the edges (you had an overhang) together.  If doing a single crust - just crimp your overhang. You could brush with a whisked egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Slash some little holes in the top of the crust.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake for about 20-25 minutes - until the tops are browned.

Let cool on a baking rack for one hour before serving. (The pop out pretty easily - run a knife or a soup spoon under the pies after they've cooled for a little bit.)

You can go the whipped cream or ice cream route on top - but they're awfully good with a schmear of mascarpone!

My plays are taking me to more places. La Bella Cinderella was one of three plays honored by the Unpublished Play Reading Project at the American Alliance for Theatre Education.  So Paul and I followed it to Denver and then took a road trip out west. So "sixty" may not be as nerdy as I think.

Your sixties. If your lucky, it'll happen. And things are different. I write differently. I explore darkness (even with youth plays) and who-in-the-world would have guessed that "Claudia-who-is-allergic-to science" would be writing plays using physics as a portal? I visit worlds that are a touch more complicated than they used to be in my plays - with an eye to coming to grips with the time we have here on Carl Sagan's "little blue dot."