Friday, July 24, 2009

My favorite blues

I love the blues. I know it's not a universally loved song style, but putting problems to music is one of the best ways to deal with them.

But the blues I love most aren't songs - they're fruit. And I'm still seeing lots of blueberries in the markets, so I thought I'd offer this recipe from Food and Wine.

Blueberry Pie

For the filling:
8 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar (if using fresh blueberries, only use 1/2 cup sugar)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of salt

For the pie crust:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup lard, frozen and cubed
1/2 cup ice water

For the egg wash:
1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water, whisked together

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make the pie crusts first: In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the butter and lard and pulse until you get a crumbly texture. Pour in the ice water and pulse just until the crumbs are moistened. Press the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one slightly smaller than the other. Flatten into disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

While the pie crusts are chilling, start on the filling. In a bowl, toss the blueberries with the 3/4 cup of sugar, the cornstarch, the lemon juice, the lemon zest and the salt. Set aside. Once the pie crust is appropriately chilled, roll out the larger dough disk to about 13 inches. Drape it over a pie pan like so:

Crimp the edges, removing any excess dough as you go along. My finished bottom crust looked like this:

Pour the blueberry filling into the pie crust:

Roll out the second dough disk to about 12 inches. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pie crust already in the pan with water. Then place the second crust over the top of the blueberry filling. Crimp the edges together, forming a good seal around all of the edges of the pie:

Brush the pie with the egg wash and then make a cross in the center of the pie with a serrated knife.

Bake the pie until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Allow the pie to cool for at least 5 hours before serving.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A cheesy substitute

Do you know what milk protein concentrate is? MPCs are created when milk is ultra-filtered through a process which drains out the lactose and keeps the milk proteins and other large molecules intact. And why should you care about that? Well, for one thing, since late last year, a lot of this foodstuff has been coming in from China, Ukraine, Poland and India, and has been ending up in processed cheese (go ahead, take a look at what's in that Kraft Single you're putting in your grilled cheese sandwich).

I don't think most of those countries have a good track record on processed food safety.

And the other bad thing is that by using MPCs, the price of real milk is affected and dairy farmers are taking it on the chin. So just say no to that easy melting processed cheese and enjoy the real thing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shooting for moon menu

With the anniversary of the moon landing this week, NASA's been in the news a lot, but one of the stories you may have missed (being that it ran the day after the anniversary, at the bottom of the Health page in the Washington Post) was how the astronauts on that mission were the first to have hot water to prepare their meals. The article also pointed out a lot of the problems NASA's science and food people had with getting meals put together not only to sustain the astronauts, but that the astronauts actually would enjoy.

To read the article, click here.

Chefs hit paydirt

Restaurant News, a usually pretty dry compilation of propaganda and industry updates, had a a pretty good story on a new trend in dining: Using foodstuffs to mimic dirt on dinner plates. It was interesting to see what various chefs' "recipes" for dirt. To read the full story, click here.

But I wonder what's next. Will faux grass replace foie gras?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday morning kitchen tips

Tips (Week 2)

  • When cooking a dish with both vegetables and meat (i.e. in stir frys and stews), reduce the amount of meat by 1/3 and increase the amount of vegetables by 1/3 for better nutrition.
  • Use olive oil for cooking when you can.
  • A low-calorie solution for high-fat frying of corn tortillas is moisten the triangles with water, put on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt and bake at 350 F to desired crispness. When they are crisp, they will come off the pan easily. If they are sticking, keep them in the oven a little longer.
  • Be aware that bacteria on food will rapidly multiply when left at temperature between 45 F and 140 F. Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
  • Try using a hand blender to puree the soup... it's easier than transferring to food processor.
  • To slice meat into thin strips, partially freeze and it will slice easily.