Making Pie Dough? Watch This Video. // Also, Two-Month Free Membership to Salted

just-baked chess pie

A few weeks ago I received an email from the founder of Salted, a recently launched online cooking school designed for home cooks, comprised of videos from over 50 master chefs across the country.

Jeff Appelbaum, the founder, wondered if I or you, my Readers, might find this type of content helpful, and last week, after watching just a handful of tutorials, I emailed him back immediately: yes, absolutely, who wouldn’t want to watch Roy Choi of Kogi Truck fame make a stir-fried rice-and-beef bowl? or the pastry chef of Gramercy Tavern make apple crisp and cream biscuits? or Daniel Holzman make meatballs?

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Ronnie Hollingsworth’s Most Excellent Squash Pie // A Few Ideas for Thanksgiving

butternut squash pie

May through September, it never crosses my mind to open a can of fruit to make a pie. But as soon as October rolls around, it never crosses my mind not to open a can to make my favorite pies and quick breads and muffins. Is this odd?

I hadn’t thought about it till last week, and the truth is that I had no intention of mastering pumpkin pie from scratch — using canned pumpkin never bothered me. Besides, last Thanksgiving I made Ina Garten’s pumpkin pie from Foolproof, and everyone, high on punch or otherwise, raved.

And I would have made it again had I not read The Dirty Life and been directed by one of you (thank you, Laurie!) to Ronnie Hollingsworth’s Most Excellent Squash Pie, one of four recipes printed at the back of the book. In the preface to the recipe, Kristin Kimball sold me: “Pumpkin shmumpkin, winter squash has more flavor and better texture.” She likes butternut best.

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Canal House Chicken with Preserved Lemon

chicken in pan

Remember those preserved lemons we made last fall? Well, I think I’ve found my favorite use for them yet: this five-ingredient chicken, a recipe which arrived two weeks ago in my mailbox — my real, outdoor mailbox — on a 4×6-inch recipe card.

Shortly after the card, one of three, arrived, I secured it to my fridge, and I made the recipe, chicken thighs with lemon from Canal House, a day later. And then I made it the next day and the next. I should know by now not to be so confounded when simple meets spectacular, but one bite of these thighs left me puzzled: How can this be? How can salt, pepper and preserved lemon alone produce something so tasty? Why have I never used this method — 30 minutes skin side down, 10 minutes skin side up — to cook thighs? How can such a simple method create the crispiest skin, the juiciest meat?

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AK Cookies

chocolate chip cookies

I need a cookie. You?

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“Balance is Overrated” — Wisdom from Charlotte Beers and Others at Martha Stewart’s American Made Summit

Martha

Upon being asked how she was able to find balance in her work-dominated life, Charlotte Beers responded:  “I think balance is highly overrated,” adding that “if you find your life is out of control, it’s probably a sign of being very alive and in the game.”

I loved hearing this and what Barbara Corcoran followed up with: “Don’t strive for balance; strive for anti-exhaustion.” 

And the gems kept coming: After admitting to being in her fourth retirement, Beers said: “You are going to work longer than you think, so don’t get too unglued about the first 15 years,” adding that it’s important to “think about why you work,” and noting that her work allowed her, “to grow, to create an ever larger self.”

I felt like Charlie Simms listening to Colonel Slade dish out pearls on the plane to NYC.

This was the last panel of the event, and while I found all of the speakers over the course of the weekend to be inspiring, I can’t stop thinking about this one. These men and women, all seasoned veterans of big businesses, spoke candidly about their lives, about failure, success, divorce, affairs, etc. But I loved the bit about imbalance because that’s how life feels right now, and it feels good. So often it seems that Ben comes home, and I run out the door, and vice versa. But, when I think about what Beers said — “think about why you work” — it puts the imbalance in perspective. We both want to be engaged in meaningful activities — teaching a cooking class, being on the Co-op board, volunteering at various farm share events — and we want to show our kids that it’s important to make sacrifices and to contribute to things we feel strongly about. But alas, when life feels so busy, I can’t shake the words of my YouTube yoga teacher: “Balance, in both practice and life, is the key to finding inner peace.” (By the way, I’m not complaining. I have a happy and healthy family, and we live in a beautiful town with access to apple cider donuts at every turn. Just feeling reflective, that’s all. )

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Farro Risotto with Squash and Kale | Also, Serial Podcast

farro risotto with squash and kale

So, I really want to tell you all about this farro risotto, made with homemade vegetable stock, roasted and puréed butternut squash, and a handful of thinly sliced kale, but I can’t right now.

If any of you have listened to one minute of Serial, you understand. I just got to the part in Episode 4 where Sarah Koenig says: “If you want to figure out this case with me, now is the time to start paying close attention, because we have arrived, along with the detectives, at the heart of the thing.”

And, Friends, I do! I am on edge! I will not be able to sleep until I hear more. But before I leave you, let me share a few thoughts: risotto is something I feel moved to make about once a season — it’s delicious, everyone loves it, and when it’s made with whole grains and lots of vegetables, it’s healthy to boot.

But it takes FOREVER to cook. I used pearled farro, which still cooked for over an hour before it became creamy. My mother and I gobbled up the whole pan sitting by a roaring fire, which made every effort worthwhile, but, just to be clear, this isn’t something to whip up at the end of the day. You kind of have to be in the mood to make risotto, right?

Anyway, have you listened to Serial? A friend told me about it over the weekend, and I have spent every spare second since streaming it over my phone, completely gripped by each detail that emerges. It makes me realize I haven’t explored the wonderful world of podcasts enough. Any suggestions? What are you listening to? Would love to have a few more podcasts in queue.

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween.

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Leftover Grain Bowl with Teriyaki Sauce, Quick-Pickled Carrots & Daikon and Soft-Boiled Eggs

wheat berry bowl

I had high hopes this week for posting about a two-bowl wonder, a baked mix of wheat berries and butternut squash topped with bacon and parmesan. Unfortunately, the steamed butternut squash disappeared in the mass of wheat berries, leaving us with an irresistible bacon and parmesan crust atop a heap of grains and mushy, tasteless squash.

We ate the top third then stashed the remainder in the fridge. The following evening seemed like a good time to get in on all of the “whole grain bowl” fun, to unite our leftovers with a few bright elements — some sort of pickle and a tangy sauce. We would top it all off with soft-boiled eggs and call dinner done. Before starting, I revisited Melissa Clark’s recent piece in the Times to make sure I had my boxes checked: whole grains (wheat berries!), greens (sautéed kale and steamed broccoli), some sort of pickle (yet to be determined), protein (eggs), dressing (yet to be determined). Continue reading

Butternut Squash and Cider Soup served with Rosemary and Sage Flatbread

soup and bread

The trouble with the butternut squash soup I make again and again every winter is that it takes so much time: 45 minutes to roast the squash, 30 minutes to simmer it with the stock, and 15 minutes here and there for prepping. Although much of the time is hands off, I never feel I can whip it up on a weeknight.

So when I saw this recipe for butternut squash soup with cider and sour cream, which apparently could be “made in a flash,” a few things caught my eye: In step 1, onion and garlic simmer in a small amount of water — not butter or oil — for about five minutes. In step 2, the squash cubes steam in stock for 20 minutes. In step 3, the soup is puréed with apple cider and sour cream, and then it’s done. Continue reading

Homemade Fluff, Bruléed or Not

hot cocoa with bruléed fluff

Upon returning from NYC, I headed straight to Lowe’s to purchase a blowtorch and a one-pound tank of propane gas. On my way home, I stopped at the Co-op for Fluff and a pint of dulce de leche ice cream.

Lest you worry I’m embarking on some sort of dark, emotional journey, let me remind you about that sundae my friend and I split at Ichabod’s a few weeks ago: homemade vanilla ice cream, pretzel bits, salted caramel, bruléed marshmallow. The bruléed marshmallow, it turns out, was Fluff, which got torched just before serving.

As you might imagine, I felt a little tormented purchasing the Fluff. I avoided looking at the ingredient list for days, choosing an ignorance-is-bliss approach to enjoying my daily -Fluff topped hot cocoa and ice cream sundae. Continue reading

Parsnip & Pear Soup | Also, How to be a Better/More Efficient Soup Maker This Winter

pear and parsnip soup

Let’s get right down to business: soup season has officially arrived, bringing with it bowls of warm, comforting goodness, smells that permeate the house, the nourishment we crave on chilly days, and blisters to our little, out-of-practice fingers.

Whenever I make soup, I immediately think back to my time at Fork, when I spent the better part of a year prepping carrots, parsnips, onions and celery, the four vegetables that went into every hot soup chef Thien made. Almost every other morning began with soup making, with the stovetop lined with cauldrons, with a constant sprint up and down the basement stairs, in and out of the walk-in, a large aluminum bowl in hand, hours of peeling and chopping before me. The blisters made haste, but soon calloused, making the work less painful, physically if not mentally.

So many soups require a lot of chopping, but the time dedicated to the process almost always pays off: quantities that feed a crowd often at little cost. Thien liked to remind me that soup was how restaurants made money.

OK, in an effort to make soup season go a little more smoothly, I’ve compiled a few thoughts below: Continue reading