Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Blueberry Peach Pie

Another pie. Is that all I do in the summer, make pies? Well maybe. There's nothing better than a delicious fruit pie in the summer, made with fresh farmers' market fruits from the Brooklyn Greenmarket.  I swear, I've been making other things too - its not like we have pie for dinner every night, you know. And I promise I will be posting some of those soon as well. Peaches and blueberries are in high season. I didn't have enough peaches to make a peach pie, but I had some pretty amazing blueberries from the farmers' market so I threw them together. The result was pretty spectacular, and one of my best pies to date. 
To make this pie, I used the exact same crust for apple pie, with my own peach and blueberry filling.

Sasha's Peach Blueberry Pie
2 1/4 cups flour
big pinch of Kosher salt
pinch of sugar
2 sticks of cold butter
1/4 cup of ice water, plus a but more if needed (this time I used about 2 T additional ice water)

21/2 cups of fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
2 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries, squished with your hands
1/2 cup of sugar
1 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 T cornstarch
2 egg yolks

To make the pie crust, follow the detailed instructions that I gave in writing about apple pie.  Basically, combine the salt, sugar and flour in a bowl. Cut up the butter into small chunks and gently incorporate with your hands into the flour. Splash the ice water into the mixture, and mold until it *just* forms  a ball of dough, adding more water as needed so it just sticks together (be sure to add the water slowly so not to overdo it). The key to a good pie crust is not to overwork the dough, so it is best to do this by hand. There will still be clumps of butter in the dough - don't worry about that, as it will make the crust more rustic and also crisper. Divide the dough and bring into two balls. Plastic wrap and refrigerate for exactly twenty minutes to allow the dough to firm a bit.

Roll out one of the balls on a well floured surface, rotating after each roll or two so it does not stick to your surface. Roll to 1/4 of an inch thick and place in the pie dish, before trimming the edges with a pastry scissor. Using a pyrex pie dish is best.

Combine the ingredients for the fruit mixture. You should peel the peaches before slicing, and squish the blueberries a bit with your hands. Add most of this to the pie - about four and a half cups total. 

Roll out the second ball of dough the same way and cut to form a lattice. I glazed the top of the pie using two egg yolks and sprinkled some granulated sugar on top. Bake the pie at 425 covered with foil for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 350 and remove the foil baking for another 30-45 minutes (my oven required about 35). The pie is done when it is tender when poked with a knife.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

From Amasea's Kitchen in Sun Valley: Cheap but delicious tilapia

Yeah. I got laid off on June 13.

Not much to say about that, except I understand industry-wise why it happened, it totally sucked, and there might be a nice silver lining in that I was planning to get a freelancing career started anyway so this could be the kick in the pants I need to do it sooner rather than later.

Another possible silver lining? I've been thinking about learning how to bake bread for several years now, and even got an excellent cookbook/explanatory book about it a few years ago for Christmas that I haven't used as much as I'd hoped. So with time on my hands, a good instruction manual, a lot of fear and a vanishingly small amount of pastry self-confidence, I may move forward with this project soon. Never fear, I'll keep you posted if I do.

Today, though, I cooked what may be the cheapest fully realized dinner of my life (assuming meals of ramen and reheated chicken wings aren't a fully realized dinner, that is).
It started when I went to Atkinsons' in Bellevue, which has quite the section devoted to those whose appetites are of the Hispanic persuasion. Whole (cleaned, scaled) tilapia were on sale. I bought two...for $2.42. Yep, you read that right; I could have bought four and still spent less than a Subway sandwich. How could I resist that, especially after having seen some excellent depictions of the cooking of whole fish on Top Chef and other such shows?

I pulled one out of the freezer two days ago, and have been researching recipes ever since -- although I have a small amount of whole-fish experience that primarily consists of catching, gutting and grilling little lake trout, these tilapia were slightly frightening. They did have clear eyeballs though, which I've heard is a good indication that the fish is fresh (or freshly frozen). And it didn't smell "fishy" even two days after defrosting (though I did cut the fish open farther than the way it came to me, because the open space wasn't big enough to hold much of the filling I had chosen for this first experiment -- I recommend a sharp fillet knife for this).

So this is the recipe I decided to start with. Because if I'm ever in a kitchen without butter, garlic and onions, shoot me. And I'm growing flatleaf parsley out back (it survived the frost that killed my tomatoes and peppers). I made a few substitutions, like the "tuscan-style" herbed butter+olive oil mixture I bought accidentally a few weeks ago, and oh, twice or three times the garlic. I was suspicious the garlic would be too much when I smelled it cooking, but actually the raw Vidalia onions I used were more prominent in the final product's flavor profile than the garlic. And can you really ever have too much garlic?
I will say that, for aesthetics, the broiling is pretty important. Though the fish was fully cooked when it came out of the 400-degree oven, it still looked like it did when it went in -- broiling gave it the lovely browned bubbliness you expect from some properly cooked fish.

As a side, I cooked some jasmine rice in our rice cooker, and some black rice on the stove, with a bit of S&P and butter. Topped the cooked fish with a little fresh chopped cilantro and a final light sprinkling of salt, and... was *really* good. I like tilapia's ability to take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with -- and I'm already plotting what I'll do with the other fish waiting in the freezer -- but seriously? Onion, garlic, butter, lemon and parsley on fish? How could that NOT be good? You do have to watch out for the bones, including both ribs and backbone, but they're pretty big so unless you eat super-fast or unregarding for unsavory bits they shouldn't be a problem.

I think there are more $1.21 whole tilapia in my future.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Summer Nectarine Salad

I love peaches, apricots and nectarines in the summer - especially ones from a farmers' market that are fresh, juicy and delicious. Nothing captures the flavors of summer better. I've now made this simple nectarine salad a couple of times, and it's an easy, satisfying and rewarding combination of flavors. I love Boston lettuce - it goes so nicely with almost any salad, and has such a lovely buttery flavor.

Sasha's Summer Nectarine Salad
head of Boston butter lettuce
3 nectarines, sliced
bocconcini mozzarella
balsamic vinaigrette (oil, balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of lemon juice)

Assemble the salad ingredients. If you wish, you can saute the nectarines before using them, but they taste better fresh and juicy in my opinion.

Sorry such a short post, but stay tuned for some new and delicious updates from my kitchen. This is just a simple recipe for a monday night.

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