Sunday, July 8, 2018

Celery leaves? Are they even really edible?

During warmer days, one of my favorite snacks usually involves celery sticks. They're so full of water, they match melons for cooling effect and as a bonus provide a nice crunch. Celery sticks with tuna salad, celery sticks dunked in ranch dressing or peanut sauce - I love them all. But it didn't occur to me that I really should've figured out what to do with the tops a long time ago. Mine have always headed to the compost pail, except on the very off-chance I was making stew, where a a few obligatory pieces could be tossed in for frugality points; but I could never use it all due to celery's strong (and for some, hated) flavor.

This time I did a quick search on the internet. I learned that basically anything you can do with parsley you can substitute with celery leaves, or so it was claimed. One of the favorite ways recommended was to make a pesto. Leery, I thought I'd try to make it and ended up being quite pleased with the way it turned out. I first pulsed a mix of walnuts and mostly pine nuts, several cloves of garlic and a little salt into the food processor; then added the pale, inspid celery tops and leaves until a paste formed, added fresh ground pepper and a squirt of lemon juice; then drizzled in the virgin olive oil. No one had mentioned lemon juice; I just thought it might add a bright undertone. My pesto was a little thin, but I was surprised to find the celery flavor not that intense at all (it was mitigated a lot by the pine nuts, I think); it did retain some of celery's peppery-ness which I liked, and the lemon turned out to be a good choice. It's a different twist on the usual pesto and will probably be dynamite on pasta with chopped tomatoes and shreds of parmesan cheese or, of course, used as a dressing for pasta or chickpea salads, where you might already have celery as an ingredient.

It's funny where internet searches can take you. I almost got off track with this story about a man who fancied himself a cook but was brought to his knees by a recipe instructing fried celery leaves. Although more appropriate for winter, it's still good fun to read. Check it out: Chowderhead: The New York Times recipe that unmanned me, and also turned me into a man.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Goodbye, Trixie

May 22, 2006 - July 4, 2018

The house is so sadly quiet now.
Thank you for sharing your spunky, barky, alpha
little terrier self with us for too short of a time.
We'll never forget you, pretty girl.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Three Pie Crusts

I basically use just three pie crust recipes - one is super easy, firm and great for tarts and custard pies (ATK All-Butter Tart Dough). The second is a super flaky crust that is wonderful for fruit pies; the crust is so full of butter and puffs up so much it isn't good for cutout shapes or detail; the fluted edge will need support (Serious Eats Easy Flaky Pie Dough). The third falls somewhere in the middle and is a fantastic all-around crust for sweet pies with its subtle spices (Land O'Lakes Pie Crust). BTW, a sturdy blade-type pastry cutter is an awesome tool for cutting and cubing sticks of butter for dough. Remember to make extra batches of dough to keep on hand in the freezer; pie crust freezes beautifully and keeps for months!

adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Makes 1 crust for 9" tart or pie

1-1/2 cups (6.25 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3-4 tbsp ice water

Process the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor until combined. Scatter the butter pieces on top and pulse until small bits of butter remain. Add 3 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse. If the dough doesn't clump together after about 10 pulses, add the remaining tablespoon of ice water and pulse to incorporate, then keep pulsing until dough starts to come together. Press the dough into a tart pan. (Note: I flatten into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least several hours before rolling out for pie crust).

from Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (my gram conversions)

Makes 2 generously-sized crusts

12-1/2 oz. all-purpose flour (236g/118g)
2 tbsp sugar (25g)
1 tsp kosher salt
2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pats (284g)
6 tbsp cold water (88g)

Combine 8-1/2 oz. of the flour, all of the sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse twice to incorporate. Spread butter chunks evenly over surface. Pulse until no dry flour remains and dough just begins to collect in clumps, about 25 short pulses. Use a rubber spatula to spread the dough evenly around the bowl of the food processor. Sprinkle with remaining 4 oz. flour and pulse until dough is just barely broken up, about 5 short pulses. Transfer dough to large bowl. Sprinkle with water then using a rubber spatula, fold and press dough until it comes together into a ball. Divide ball in half. Form each half into a 4-inch disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and baking.

adapted from Blue Ribbon Apple Pie, Land O'Lakes Treasury of Country Recipes

Makes 2 crusts for 9" pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup butter or margarine (2.7 oz)
1/3 cup shortening
4-5 tbsp ice water

In a food processor, pulse ogether the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until crumbly. Dribble ice water into the bowl and pulse until dough comes together. Divide dough in half; shape into 2 balls, flatten into two fat disks, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours before rolling and baking.