Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pie on the Brain

In preparation for Thanksgiving, this past weekend I taught a class called "How to be a Pie Ninja".  30 people showed up and we had a blast sharpening our pie making skills and demystifying the art of pie dough. The best part of the class was watching each group of people decide on the spices, fillings and decoration for their pies. It was wonderful to see people getting comfortable with the process of making a pie from scratch, a task that can seem intimidating to some. Really, when it comes down to it, if you can follow a recipe you can make pie, and if you do it a few times you start to see what works and what doesn't. The best part is, pie makes people happy, and it doesn't have to look pretty to taste good. We donated these 6 pies to Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen for their holiday meal.
Here are some links to some of my pie recipes, and our pie party from last winter. My favorite pie dough recipe is linked below as well.

Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie
Peach and Raspberry Pie
Pie Party 2011

Life has been so busy this year, that I haven't been able to post the dozens of ideas I wanted to share about food for the Thanksgiving meal. For some Thanksgiving inspiration, check out our table from 2009, or 2010.

Here are a few wonderful links to pie obsessed bloggers that I have enjoyed, not to mention some excellent recipes:
A cool blog,, where a nyc family celebrated 'pie month':
A great article from Melissa Clark on pie doughs, and some great pie recipes as well.

The Best Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (1 cup white flour plus 1/4 cup or more whole wheat flour or wheat germ)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar (white or cider)

   1. Make the pie dough: Cut butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Measure and sift all of the dry ingredients. In a mixer, food processor or using two forks,  cut the butter into the dough until it is the size of larger peas. Some larger sized piece of butter are good, just pinch them flat. Add the ice water and vinegar and mix dough till combined, dough should be tacky, but not sticky. If the dough is crumbling apart, it is too dry, add a spoonful more water. Gently form the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour or longer until well chilled.

   2. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie dish and trim the overhang to 3/4 inch; fold the overhang under itself and crimp decoratively. Prick the bottom of the pie shell all over and refrigerate until firm.

   3. Line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edge. Remove the foil and the weights and bake for about 12 minutes longer, or until the pie shell is golden brown and cooked on the bottom. Cover the rim of the pie shell with foil when it starts to brown. Leave the oven on.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Braised Kale with Tomato

A few years ago I was shopping at the US 1 Caribbean Market and saw this woman stuffing huge bunches of kale into bags, filling her cart. At the time I had just finished the arduous process of collecting recipes for the New Haven Cooks cookbook and had been asking people across the city for their favorite recipes featuring vegetables and fruits. It was shocking how many people sent me a chicken recipe, dip, or fried seafood recipe with not a thought to vegetables, no less one in the ingredient list. So the site of a woman joyfully filling her cart with the largest bunches of kale I had ever seen made my heart race a bit, and I just had to know what she was planning to do with them.

She may have thought I was a little crazy, nosing around in her shopping cart, but she smiled and told me that she cooks her kale with lots of onion, garlic, tomato and a little hot pepper. I didn't get much more detail than that. I'd bet if I'd gotten to stand next to her at the stove, there might have been some other key ingredient like allspice berries, smokey paprika, or vinegar....I guess I'll never know, but she inspired me to start cooking my greens with tomato, and the rest I leave up to my imagination...

This is a great dish for fall and winter. You can use any type of kale, or even collard greens.

Braised Kale with Tomato
1 large bunch kale 
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 -15oz can diced tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 small hot pepper, seeds removed or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper - to taste

Optional ingredients: allspice berries, smokey paprika or ground chipotle, vinegar.

1. Wash Kale. Slice kale into 1/2inch strips. discard thick part of stem at the bottom of the bunch. Cut across the strips a few times to shorten the pieces. 

2. Cut the onion into a small dice or fine julienne, sauté in olive oil with salt and pepper over medium heat until translucent. Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. Add hot pepper or spices if using, sauté until fragrant, do not allow garlic to brown. 

3. Add diced tomato to the pan, bring to a simmer. If using vinegar, add it now. Taste broth and adjust seasoning. Add kale and stir to coat. Cover pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Check kale for tenderness and adjust seasoning.

I generally cook my greens for a short time to retain as much of their nutrients as possible. Taste the greens after 5 minutes to determine if you like them this way or want to cook them a little longer.

How do you like to cook kale?
Please share below!