Saturday, November 26, 2011

Peach-Blueberry Pie with Reduced-Fat Pie Crust

There are certain foods I call “white shirt” dishes. These are foods that, like a white shirt, are a can't-go-wrong choice for almost any situation. In my view, a good fresh-baked fruit pie is one of these. Pie has been served by people in all walks of life for centuries, and with good reason: it’s basic, classic, delicious, and will be welcomed practically anywhere food is being served.

Another bonus: despite what you may think if you've never made one, pies are stunningly easy to make, even if you’re working completely from scratch. And even if you’re using a lattice top, simple step-by-step instructions for which are included below.

If all of that seems like a big responsibility for a humble baked good to carry, don’t worry. Pie can handle it, including the one I’m happy to bring to you today: Peach-Blueberry Pie.

A few cook’s notes:

Pie Crust: Use any you like, home-made or purchased, but to reduce the fat content I recommend a reduced-fat version I use on pretty much anything requiring a pie crust. The recipe, which is a slightly jazzed-up version of the one previously posted here under the title, “Impossible Pie Crust,” follows.

Fruit for the Filling: Although I’m not usually a fan of canned ingredients, for recipes like this I don’t at all mind using canned peaches if fresh, juicy ones are not in season. Similar to the reason canned tomatoes are often used in cooking by people who would otherwise never get near a can opener, canned peaches have a more consistent quality than fresh ones. (Just be sure to drain them very well, since they can bring a lot more liquid to your filling than fresh peaches will.) Fresh blueberries, however, are much better to use than the frozen ones. For reasons best left to the chemists to figure out, I’ve found that blueberries tend to toughen up when frozen and thawed.

Tapioca: While it’s possible to thicken with corn starch, using tapioca leaves a cleaner taste. For pie fillings, use instant tapioca; regular tapioca will still thicken but miniature tapioca pearls will be visible. Also, tapioca works best at fairly hot temperatures; I usually bake pies at 350 degrees, but with a tapioca-thickened filling I’ll bake at 425 for a shorter time. Letting your fruit come to room temperature before adding it to the filling also helps the tapioca’s thickening effect.

Thank you, Chef Alex: Credit to Alex Guarnaschelli for the simple but near-genius idea of adding preserves to pie filling.

Enough chit-chat…let’s make some pie! This recipe makes one 9” pie.

First, the low-fat pie crust. Since it’s just as easy to make four crusts as it is to make two, this recipe makes four crusts. (You’ll need two for the Peach-Blueberry pie, and can freeze the other two for up to three months.) Once you have the other two available in the freezer, you’ll think of all kinds of things to do with them!   

Combine 1 cup of apple juice, ½ teaspoon cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt and put into freezer until almost icy.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1-1/2 pounds of all-purpose flour, 8 ounces of cake flour, and 6 tablespoons of sugar. Blend in 16 ounces of firm-textured butter substitute (cut into cubes or chunks) until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with visible pieces of butter substitute.

Add the juice mixture and blend until the dough holds together when pinched.

Divide the dough into four equal parts and wrap each in plastic. Chill two in the refrigerator for one hour, and label and freeze the other two for future use.

Now let’s make our filling!

Preheat the oven to 425.

Blind bake pie shell. (If you’re not familiar with how to do this, fear not; click here for a short tutorial video!)

While shell is blind baking, combine the following filling ingredients: 3-1/2 cups room temperature peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced into wedges; 1 cup room temperature fresh blueberries; 3/4 cup light brown sugar; juice and zest of one lemon; 6 tablespoons instant tapioca; 12 ounces peach preserves; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let the mixture rest for 10 – 15 minutes so the tapioca can absorb liquid.

When the bottom crust is ready, put the filling in, using a slotted spoon and draining the each spoonful very well before placing it in the pie shell. (Reserve the liquid for use to glaze the pie later.) Dot with butter substitute. [Ed. Note: When making the pie in the photo, I confess to having forgotten to add the butter substitute. Fortunately, since this was a lattice-top pie, I was able to apply it later.]

Apply solid or lattice top. To make a lattice top:
  • Roll out the dough for the top crust large enough to fit over the pie shell. (This is the same as you would do if you were using a solid top.)
  • Slice the rolled out dough into strips. (I use about ¾” wide strips, but you can make them however wide you like. Many people make a lattice top with strips 1-1/2” to 2” wide strips.)
  • Place an odd number of strips across the top of the filled pie shell. The center strip should go right down the middle of the pie, and the other strips should be spaced evenly on either side of it.
  • Fold down every second strip as shown, and lay another strip across the unfolded strips as shown.

    • Unfold the folded strips.

      • Fold down the strips that weren’t folded the first time and lay a strip across the unfolded strips as shown.

        • Repeat until half the pie has a lattice top.

          • Working in the opposite direction, form the lattice top for the other half of the pie.

            • Using a kitchen scissor, trim the excess length from the strips. (Don’t pull it off by hand, which can overwork the gluten in the dough and make it tough.)

            Wet a finger with cold water and rub it along the edges of the crust to make a smooth seal between the top crust and the bottom crust.

            (Shown here with the finished edge.)

            Place the pie in the oven.

            After about 35 minutes, brush the reserved liquid onto the top crust as a glaze, and continue baking until the top is golden brown, about another 10 minutes. (Check the pie periodically during the entire baking time and, if the edges start to brown before the rest of the pie, cover the edges with foil or an aluminum collar.)

            Let the pie cool before serving to allow the filling to thicken properly.

            All that’s left is to put up a pot of coffee and invite some friends over to share your delicious pie! (Just don’t tell them how easy it is to make.)

            Come back next week for another reduced-fat, easy-to-make, home-tested recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

            Saturday, November 19, 2011

            "Gobble and Squeak": Pan-Fried Thanksgiving Leftovers Patties

            Posting a recipe for enormous amounts of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, or some other traditional Thanksgiving food might seem an easy choice only a few days before the big day. However, I realized while planning this week’s recipe post that anyone who’ll be cooking Thanksgiving dinner probably already has their recipes in place and isn’t likely to change them at this late date. So I started thinking about recipes you’d want and, truth be told, the choice wasn’t all that difficult.


            There are a lot of directions in which one can take Thanksgiving leftovers: sandwiches, of course. Casseroles, pot pies, and hash are just a few more that come to mind. Today I’m happy to give one of my favorite leftover recipes the Thanksgiving treatment.

            I’ve posted on a traditional Bubble and Squeak before. Briefly, it’s a style of cooking that originated in England during World War II, when the British mainland was being hit hard and food shortages made it necessary to make the fullest use of everything they had. One result was made by chopping up whatever meat, potatoes, and vegetables were left over from the previous night’s meal, mixing them together to form a patty, and pan-frying it. Mostly likely as a result of the sound the patties seemed to make in the pan, the dish came to be known as “Bubble and Squeak.”

            This week’s recipe takes a similar approach with typical Thanksgiving leftovers: turkey, vegetables, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Appropriately (I hope), I call it, Gobble and Squeak. And if you don’t have all the ingredients exactly the way they’re described in the recipe, feel free to improvise. This is more of a general method than a recipe calling for precise measurements. (In the photo above, I've served it with a simple Caesar salad on the side.)

            So have some fun with this tasty, and just a bit different, way of serving those leftovers.

            This recipe makes about 8 burger-size patties.

            In a bowl, stir together 1-1/2 cups of leftover vegetables; 1 clove of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of mustard (I used spicy brown mustard); 2 tablespoons fresh chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried) sage; and 1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) tarragon. Let the mixture rest for five minutes while the flavors blend.

            Chop 1 pound of turkey into small pieces and mix with the other ingredients in the bowl till combined.

            Stir in mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and stuffing in equal amounts, starting with ½ cup of each and adding more of each in equal amounts until the mixture has a texture that can be formed into patties. (For 1 pound of turkey I used a total of 1 cup of each.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

            Optional step: If desired, mix in 2 egg substitute eggs and let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before forming the patties. (This will make the mixture a little more cohesive while it’s cooking.)

            Divide the mixture into 8 burger-size patties.

            Coat a large skillet or grille pan with olive oil. Working in batches, cook the patties on both sides till browned. (I cooked mine about 3 minutes per side.)

            Serve on a plate or a bun, topped with leftover cranberry sauce and optional cheese, add a salad or favorite side dish, and you've got a delicious meal that's easy to make!

            Bonus Recipe: Just in case it turns out you do need a recipe for your Thanksgiving dinner, click here for a delicious Pecan Pie with Cranberries and Bourbon recipe I posted a while back.

            Visit again next week for another good-tasting, kitchen-tested recipe using ingredients that are easy to find! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and kiss somebody you’re thankful for. After that, always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

            Saturday, November 12, 2011

            Bruschetta Chicken

            It’s probably unusual for an idea for a recipe to originate with a disappointment. This one did.

            Earlier this year, while having dinner at a popular chain restaurant, I ordered a dish they called Bruschetta Chicken. It sounded good and, truth be told, it was, but there was nothing about it that said bruschetta to me. Deconstructed bruschetta? Maybe. But not bruschetta. I decided, right there in the restaurant, to create the Bruschetta Chicken I saw in my head when I first read the name: a comically large but otherwise normal bruschetta, a seasoned chopped tomato mixture on a toasted slice of good Italian bread normally served in much smaller portions as an appetizer, except topped with chicken. A kind of “Bruschetta a la Flintstone.”

            It took awhile to get around to, but I’m happy to present the recipe below for what I have to believe is the world’s largest bruschetta. (To give a sense of scale, one Italian bread, which normally makes a dozen or more appetizer size bruschettas, is used here to make four meal-size ones.) A few comments before we get to the recipe itself:

            • Although this could be made with boneless chicken breast or chicken tenders, I used drumsticks and trimmed the meat off after they were cooked. This took longer than using one of the boneless chicken parts, but also gave me the advantage of cooking the chicken bone-in, which enhances the moisture and flavor, and also allows the person doing the cooking to decide whether to keep the skin on or go skinless.

            • I would be remiss not to acknowledge the braising liquid as being based on one created by Anne Burrell, my favorite culinary mad-woman, and the idea of roasting the tomato topping mix (instead of just using it cold as in the usual bruschetta method) as being from Rachel Ray. The shoulders of giants, and all that…

            This recipe makes 4 meal size bruschettas.

            Using paper towels, dry the outside of 1 pound of chicken breast or tenders, or two pounds (about 6) drumsticks. Season the chicken with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

            Add just enough olive oil to a large, hot pan to coat the bottom. Add the chicken and cook till browned (usually about 6-8 minutes per side), turning as each side is done. When the chicken is browned, set it aside.

            Pour 2 cups of dry white wine (I use chardonnay) into the same pan and simmer till reduced by half. Add 4 cups fat-free chicken broth; 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme; and 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary to form a braising liquid. Stir to combine and add the browned chicken. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. While the chicken is browning and braising, prepare the tomato mixture and bread as described below.

            To cut the Italian bread into large bruschetta pieces:

            • Working length-wise, cut away just enough of the top and bottom crusts to expose the soft bread inside.

            • Cut the bread in half along the short dimension.

            • Cut each of those pieces in half horizontally. The result should be four similar pieces, each half the length of the original bread and with exposed bread on the top and bottom and crust on three of the four edges. 

            Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven pre-heats, combine the following in a bowl: one 28 ounce can diced plum tomatoes (drained but not rinsed); 2 tablespoons of olive oil; 1-1/2 tablespoons of dried basil or 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh; 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar; 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion; 2 cloves finely chopped garlic; and salt and pepper to taste.

            Place the tomato mixture in a baking dish, and spread the bread out onto a baking pan in a single layer. Place both in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes till the bread is crisp, turning the bread over half-way. Keep an eye on the bread so that it doesn’t burn.

            Rub the tops of the bread with two whole garlic cloves (using ½ clove per bread slice), and drizzle the tops lightly with olive oil.

            Divide the chicken evenly onto the bread slices. (If using drumsticks, cut the chicken off of the bone before putting the pieces on the bread.)

            Cover each with the tomato mixture, and top with a pizza-type cheese mixture. (I used a packaged Kraft reduced-fat Italian cheese mixture of mozzarella, provolone and parmesan, but anything along those lines should do as well.) Be careful not to overdo the cheese; remember, the finished dish should resemble a bruschetta, not chicken parmesan.

            Put the baking tray back in the oven only until the cheese melts, being careful not to burn the bread. Serve warm or hot with side dishes of choice. (In the photo at top, I served the chicken bruschetta with mini rotini pasta and tomato sauce, and a tossed salad. To tie all the parts together, the wine is the chardonnay used to braise the chicken.)

            Bonus Recipe: I recently started including with each week's recipe a link to a previous Kissing the Cook recipe so that folks who weren’t “in the family” when it was first published can get a look. This week’s bonus: Fluffy (and Reduced Fat!) Blueberry Pancakes with Fresh Made Strawberry Syrup.

            Hope you enjoy having these very special bruschettas! And don’t forget to visit again next week for another easy, delicious, kitchen-tested recipe. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

            Saturday, November 5, 2011

            Cranberry Chutney

            Welcome to new subscriber, My Loaves of Love. (Don’t you just love that name?) Great to have you here!

            Chutney is a condiment originating in India but affectionately embraced in the United States and elsewhere. It has a jelly-like consistency, but firmer and chunkier, and can be sweet, hot and spicy, or a wonderful sweet-sour-savory flavor mix. (Today’s recipe, Cranberry Chutney, is an example of the sweet-sour-savory kind. In the photo, it's shown on fish with asparagus bundles and herbed roasted potatoes.)  The best part is that, for all their deep flavor, chutneys are very easy to make, a simple reduction of a few basic ingredients in a single saucepan.

            Chutneys can be made from many combinations of things, many of which you might not ordinarily think of going together well. (The first chutney I ever tasted was made with mangos and artichokes.) Most are a combination of fruit, vegetables, sugar, herbs, spices, and an acid (usually vinegar). I chose cranberries (fresh ones, not the dried kind), but Cranberry Chutney should not be mistaken for cranberry sauce. Both have a sweet-sour quality, but the savory character of chutney really sets it apart as a great complement to pork, poultry, and fish. (It also works well as a spread on bread or cheese!)

            This recipe makes about 2-1/2 cups.

            Place a small, glass plate in the freezer for use later in checking the real thickness of the finished chutney. (This is for a great trick from the world of jellies and jams, and that regular KTC readers have seen before in recipes for fresh syrups.)

            Set aside ¼ cup of raisins. Optional, but enthusiastically recommended, is adding just enough brandy to cover the raisins and letting them soak for at least 30 minutes.

            Put 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon ground ginger (or 2 tablespoons fresh), 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.
            Add ½ cup of cider vinegar and stir to mix. Turn the heat on medium until the cider mixture just begins to boil.

            Add 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, 1 medium onion (diced) and 4 cloves of garlic (minced). Stir to mix. When the mixture just starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer.
            Simmer the mixture uncovered till thickened, about 25 minutes.

            Check the texture by putting a small amount onto the frozen plate.

            When done, if necessary add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

            While we’re at it, here’s a bonus recipe you might like from an earlier post you may not have gotten to see: fresh-made three-cheese ravioli!

            I hope you enjoy making and using Cranberry Chutney! Visit again next Saturday for another easy, kitchen-tested, low-fat recipe. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)