Blueberry Pie

20170607_190952AWhether you’re great at making pies or not, there ought to be at least a few pie recipes in your book that you’re able to make with some confidence. I am no pro at pies and stick mainly to the non-fruit kind, since they’re not so messy — key lime, chocolate pecan, and buttermilk coconut pie are my favorites.

But fruit pies are pretty easy, too, and they’re classic. I make Rose Levy Beranbaum’s apple pie and this blueberry pie. The filling spills all over the place when I serve them, and I’m still working on that (suggestions are welcome), but I seem to be the only one who minds. Everyone always just digs right in.

(That’s why I’m only showing you the picture of the whole pie and not the slice, since it wouldn’t look like a slice at all.)

Makes one 9-inch pie

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
5 cups fresh blueberries
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 tsp. granulated sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 400F (200C) degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients, tossing gently with a rubber spatula. Fit one pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions, carefully cutting off the overhanging crust. (Save the scraps.) Spoon blueberry mixture into pastry shell.

Use the scraps for the lattice on top of the pie. Gather them into a ball, then roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into strips and arrange in a lattice design on top of the pie. I cut my strips to fit inside the pie shell; if you have enough dough, you can lay the ends over the edges of the pie shell and press them in. Then crimp or pinch the edge of the pie in whatever design you like.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of sugar on top of the pie, then place in the oven. Bake 40-45 minutes until golden, shielding the edges with strips of aluminum foil halfway through to prevent excess browning.

(Credit for this recipe goes to a lady named Nan Ferguson of Sandy Springs, Georgia, who submitted it to the newspaper about 20 years ago.)

Rainbow Birthday Cake

rainbow birthday cakeHere’s a way to dress up a white cake for special occasions. The layers are colored and the frosting is white, so when slices are cut it’s the inside that stands out.

I was inspired by a picture I clipped from a magazine ages ago that showed four layers in graduating shades of blue. There was no recipe, if I recall — just the picture. But it was easy to copy using my existing recipes for white cake and buttercream frosting.

My son requested this cake for his birthday with four layers, each in one of our favorite colors. That was orange, green, red, and pink. I can foresee making this on holidays — shades of red and pink for Valentine’s Day, pastel colors for Easter, or red, white, and blue (maybe with another layer of white containing sprinkles?) for Independence Day.

The white cake recipe above yields two 9-inch round layers. I made the recipe twice to get four layers. Each time I made the recipe, I divided the batter evenly into two large measuring cups and tinted them with gel colors before pouring into the baking pans.

I also doubled the buttercream frosting recipe above.

Now, you’ll see from the picture that the cake is missing the red layer my son requested and has a brown one instead. That one counts as a lesson learned. I decided to use some red beet powder as a natural red food coloring — I had used it before to tint frosting — but this time, the cake turned out the color of whole wheat bread. I looked it up and it seems that the baking process, and maybe a reaction to the baking powder, turned the red beet powder brown. Oh, well. I know for next time.

A note on the frosting: For this cake, you want the colored layers to stand out, so you shouldn’t put a lot of frosting between them. Put just a small amount to act as a glue to hold the layers in place. The thin ribbon of white you’ll see between each layer when you cut the cake is also just enough to show off the colors.

Hard-boiled Eggs

There isn’t much to say about this recipe, but it’s a basic one that ought to be in your cookbook somewhere. I’ve been making more of these lately so we can dye them for Easter eggs.

1. Wash eggs to be hard-cooked in warm soap and water.

2. Place eggs in a single layer in an enamel, glass, or steel pan.

3. Add enough tap water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs.

4. Cover the pan and rapidly bring the water to a boil. Then turn off the heat. If you’re using an electric range, take the pan off the burner.

5. Leave the cover on the pan. Let large eggs sit for 15-17 minutes; medium eggs about 3 minutes less; extra-large about 3 minutes more.

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6. Heat retained in the water will continue to cook them, so remove eggs with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Cooling helps prevent the green rings that sometimes form around the yolks.

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Notes:
Don’t worry if the eggs crack a little during boiling, because they are still cooked and perfectly edible. If you dye them, part of the egg underneath the shell will be colored, but since most egg dyes are food-safe it won’t matter.

To eat them, tap the eggs gently on a hard surface to make cracks, then gently peel off the shell.

Slice or cut them into chunks, sprinkled with a little salt. Chop them for an egg salad sandwich or crumble them for a salad. Or make them into deviled eggs — see my recipe here.

Candied Pecan Popcorn

20170128_162714This is a recipe that could earn you a lot of friends. I brought a container of this to work, and it was soon gobbled up by colleagues who asked me not to bring it in again because they didn’t need the temptation.

The original recipe came from the Food Network magazine, which always seems to have recipes that just simply work. It was the creation of Marcela Valladolid, who called for the addition of chipotle seasoning, but I leave that out in my version. Here is the recipe, with a few more changes from the original.

11 cups popped plain popcorn (very important: inspect carefully and remove all unpopped kernels)
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Heat oven to 250F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and butter the foil.

When oven is hot, put popcorn on the pan and scatter the pecans on top. Place in the oven while you do the next step.

Place the sugar, butter, and honey in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally. When the sugar and butter have melted, increase the heat and boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly stir in salt and baking soda.

Remove popcorn from oven and pour the syrup on top, then mix gently with a rubber spatula to coat as much of the popcorn as possible. Bake for 1 hour, stirring with the spatula halfway through to coat more popcorn.

Remove from oven, stir once more, and let cool. To remove cooled popcorn from foil, lift it up at each end, gently moving the foil around to ease the popcorn off.

White Bean Soup

20161203_134150This easy soup looks and tastes like it could be served in a restaurant. I love the creamy base, which you get not from cream, but from pureeing some of the beans. It’s a trick I didn’t know before, and I love it because it keeps the calories and fat content low.

The recipe came from Dallas chef David Holben and was served at his former restaurant, Mediterraneo. I clipped it years ago from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The original recipe called for cooking bacon, then using the bacon fat to cook the onions. I omitted the bacon and replaced the fat with olive oil.

Makes 4 servings

Olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 15-oz. cans white (Great Northern) beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
1 heaping tsp. dried thyme
1 heaping tsp. dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent.

Add beans, sugar, garlic, stock, and herbs. Simmer 20 minutes or so, checking to make sure the beans don’t get too soft. (You may also have to simmer longer.)

With a slotted spoon or ladle, remove half the beans and place in a food processor or blender, then puree. You can also place the beans in a bowl and puree with an immersion blender. Stir the puree back into soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

Black Bean Chili

This is one of my favorite vegetarian meals. You can be creative with ingredients, adding corn kernels, chopped bell pepper, or extra seasonings depending on what you like or have on hand. For a non-vegetarian version, you can add shredded chicken — I will use most of the white meat from a rotisserie chicken, shredding it right over the chili as it cooks in the pot.

This is easy, quick, and easy to double.

6 15-oz. cans seasoned black beans (drain 4 cans and keep the liquid from the other 2)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for serving
1 red onion, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2-3 celery stalks
2-3 medium red tomatoes, chopped

Ideas for garnish: sour cream, plain yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, extra chopped cilantro

Stir everything together in a large saucepot. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed throughout, about 12 minutes. Use the liquid from two cans, diluted with a little water, if the chili is too thick.

(This is yet another recipe clipped from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, sometime in the late 1990s. I have made several changes but the original came from a book called “Tonics” by Robert Barnett.)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Forget any thoughts of those cookie cakes at the mall, because the only thing they have in common with this recipe is the name. Rather than looking simply like one big cookie (as delicious as that sounds), this is a cookie in a cake pan — thick and chewy in the middle with a crispy, buttery straight-sided crust. The slices could even be eaten with forks. (But don’t do that. Cookies are too much fun to be eaten with utensils.)

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The recipe comes from a recent issue of Southern Living magazine, where it was called a “skillet cookie,” baked in a cast-iron skillet. I swapped the skillet for a 10-inch springform pan, greased it well with butter, and followed the recipe as written.

 

If you ever want to serve cookies for dessert, this is how. And there will be no quibbling about who gets how many.

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz.) butter, softened
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (about 9 oz.) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) degrees. Lightly coat a 10-inch springform pan with butter.

Beat brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, beating until bended.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add to butter mixture gradually, beating at low speed until combined.

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Add 1 cup of the chocolate chips, beating until combined.

Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Bake in preheated oven until golden and set, about 50 minutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges.