Georgia Peach Pie

16 07 2009

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This is why I run three miles a day!  I love SUGAR!!  I’m an addict.  I can’t get enough of it.  Just ask Steve, he has to deal with this on a daily basis.  So when I was at Whole Foods a few days ago, and I saw fresh Georgia peaches, I decided it was time to try making my first peach pie.  And another attempt at making a homemade pie crust.  The results were spectacular!

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For the filling, I peeled five medium peaches.  I’m using a 10-inch Le Creuset pie dish so I should have used twice that much, but it was my first time, right?  The easiest way to peel a peach is to 1) grab a saucepan to boil some water and a grab a big bowl and fill with ice and water, 2) throw your peaches into the boiling water for 30 seconds, 3) immediately transfer the peaches into the ice bath, and 4) the peel will practically fall off the peach.  Cut each peach into segments and mix with flour and sugar, a few spices, and you’re golden.

For the crust, I decided to follow my idol Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa) pie crust recipe.  I’ve watched her make it a hundred times, but I’ve always been a bit nervous.  Well, as usual she didn’t lead me astray.  It was as easy as can be and it was the best crust I’ve ever tasted.

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When I put the pie into the dish, it looked a bit “rustic” (that’s a pastry chef’s term for ugly), but who cares it was my first time.  But the taste was fantastic!  I invited a small gaggle of folks over to try it.  It was a hit!!

Georgia Peach Pie

Makes one pie

Ingredients

2 9-inch pie crusts (recipe follows)

1 egg, beaten

5 cups sliced peeled peaches (8-10 medium peaches)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons butter

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts. Brush with some of the beaten egg to keep the dough from becoming soggy later.
  3. Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour over the peaches, and mix gently.
  4. Pour mixture into the pie crust, and dot with butter. Cover with the other pie crust, and fold the edges under. Flute the edges to seal or press the edges with the tines of a fork dipped in egg. Brush the remaining egg over the top crust. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble through the vents. If the edges brown to fast, cover them with strips of aluminum foil about halfway through baking. Cool before serving.

Ina Garten’s Perfect Pie Crust

Makes 2 9-inch pie crusts

Ingredients

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening

6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

  1. Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture.
  2. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix.
  3. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas.
  4. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball.
  5. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board.
  7. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.
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Rudy’s BBQ

15 07 2009

One of the first things that popped into my head when I found out we were moving to Austin was Texas BBQ.  Yes, I know that’s kind of sad.  The fact that out of all the amazing wonders of the Lone Star state, I focused on food is pretty telling of my state of mind (and waistline).  But it’s always on my mind, what can I say?!?  People are very passionate about their BBQ here.  And each person has their favorite.  But a consistant favorite here is Rudy’s.

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The first thing about the Rudy’s near my house…  It’s not a restaurant, it’s a gas station!!  Seriously!  Some of the best BBQ in Austin is attached to a Shell station.  Awesome.  But once you’re inside, you’re immediately transformed into a country cookin’ extravaganza.  It’s like a big church picnic inside.  There’s even a winding line (like you’re waiting for a rollercoaster).  There are rows of soft drinks, beer, cole slaw, potato salad, banana pudding, and huge pickles.

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Once you get to the counter, you order your meat by weight.  “I’d like 1/2 pound moist brisket and 1/4 pound smoked turkey.”

After you get your 2 lbs of meat, you have to use their famous BBQ sauce.  The sauce comes out of the dispenser like lemonade from a Igloo cooler.  Even more awesome.

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When you’re finished eating, they even have a hand washing jacuzzi that shoots warm sanitized water on your hands and gets rid of all the sauce and meat that may be sticking to your fingers.

Rudy's Hand Washer

One of my favorite things is the cole slaw here.  It tastes sweet and tangy, just like KFC but fresher and more delicious.  I’ve tried to recreate the recipe and I think I’ve got it pretty close.

Sweet Cole Slaw

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 small head green cabbage

3 carrots

1 c mayonnaise (can substitute light)

1/4 c sugar

2 T apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Grate cabbage into small pieces using a box grater or the grating blade on a food processer.
  2. Grate carrots using box grater.
  3. In a big bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar with cabbage and carrots.




Cherries Jubilee

11 07 2009

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So the first thing you’ll notice is that this dish is on fire.  Literally.  With fire comes alcohol.  So if you are against cooking with alcohol, this dish will definitely need to be altered for you.  We’ll discuss that later.  First, let’s talk about how incredible cherries are.

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I was on a mission to make a banana pudding dessert, but when I got to the grocery store, I quickly changed plans when I saw these red babies.  Any dessert that includes bing cherries will be a favorite of mine.  So it was a no-brainer to combine flambed cherries and vanilla ice cream.

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This is a fairly simple dessert.  Cherries, cornstarch, cherry extract, nutmeg, and brandy.  For me, I decided to replace the cherry extract and water with cherry-flavored vodka.  Other recipes use Kirshwasser (a cherry brandy from Germany) but I actually really like the flavor of the cherry vodka in this dish.  Most of the alcohol will cook off, but not all.  So if you don’t want to cook with alcohol, just make this with cherry extract and water, and skip the flambe part.  It will still taste delicious!

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One of the main tools in this dessert is a cherry pitter.  This will run you about $10 and unless you want to slice each cherry in half and pit it yourself, it’s a lifesaver.  Once the cherries are pitted, putting this dish together is easy.

Cherries Jubilee

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 lb bing cherries

1/2 c cherry vodka or water

1 T cornstarch

1/4 c white sugar

1 t cherry extract (if not using cherry vodka)

1/4 c brandy

1 t nutmeg

Directions

  1. Rinse, stem, and pit cherries.
  2. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and vodka or water in a wide saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking until thickened. Stir in the cherries, return to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the cherries from the heat, and stir in the cherry extract. Pour in the brandy, and ignite with a long lighter. Gently shake the pan until the blue flame has extinguished itself. Spoon the cherries over the bowls of ice cream.




Southwestern Salsa

11 07 2009

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Is it a salsa?  Is it a salad?  What about a relish?  I guess you could say it’s all three.  But the best part about this is it’s healthy and really good.  And without a hint of oil or fat (with the exception of the avocados) this is virtually health food!

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When you are shopping for the ingredients, make sure they are really good and fresh.  I’d encourage you to buy all organic for this dish, if possible.  Not because I’m a hardcore organic fanatic, but since there’s no cooking involved, it’s probably better to choose things that have the least amount of pesticides and other foreign stuff.

Salsa

If you have a serrated knife, that’s the easiest thing to use to cut tomatoes.  You can get a cool red one for about $12 at any cooking store.  Make sure you dice all the vegetables the same size so you don’t have any huge chunks in your salsa.  Just throw everything into a big bowl and stir a few times.  That’s it!

Southwestern Salsa

Serves 8 one-cup servings

Ingredients

5-6 roma tomatoes

1 sweet onion

2 small avocados

2-3 tomatillos

3 jalapeno peppers

2 anaheim peppers

2 ears sweet corn

2 cloves garlic

1 15-ounce can black beans

1 T cumin

1 T chili powder

1 T chopped cilantro

1 T white sugar

1 lime (juiced)

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Remove seeds from tomatoes and dice. Dice onion and avocados.
  2. Remove wrapper from tomatillo and dice.
  3. Remove seeds from jalapeno and anaheim peppers and dice in small pieces.
  4. Boil corn in water for 2 minutes only. Cut corn off cob with sharp knife using a bundt cake pan to hold end of cob and catch the kernals.
  5. Chop garlic in small pieces.
  6. Rinse canned black beans under cool water in a colander.
  7. Add cumin, chili powder, cilantro, sugar, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  8. Mix in large bowl.




Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

8 07 2009

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If you’ve ever dreamed of eating a little bit of heaven, in the shape of a orange and brown pillow, then you’ve dreamed of a pumpkin chocolate-chip cookie.  I grew up with these all over the place.  Utah is the land of cookies.  You know those frosted sugar cookies you see at the grocery store?  Flip them over and see where they are made.  Yep, you guessed it.  Utah.  I guess since people don’t drink there, they need another vice to get through those tough evenings after work.  Sadly, cookies only add to my vices.  But these are worth it.

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When you add the wet ingredients to the bowl, you’ll first notice there’s no butter.  That’s because there’s oil in there.  Sounds sort of cakey, right?  Well that’s because these are as much cake as they are cookies.  Just think… little individual portions of delicious, soft cake.  Are you kidding me??

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The dough is very sticky, almost like a sweet bread dough.  I use a small ice cream scoop to get the dough on the cookie sheet.  Notice I use a Silpat liner on my cookie sheet.  A Silpat is made of silicone (nothing sticks to it) so I use this instead of greasing the cookie sheet.  You can also use parchment paper if you like the bottom of the cookie a little browner.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
  2. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.




Baked Macaroni and Cheese

6 07 2009

 

Baked cheese goodness.

Baked cheese goodness.

I’ve always been a huge fan of macaroni and cheese.  I mean who wouldn’t be?  Cheese, pasta, butter, milk, buttery crunchy on top.  YUM!  But I have this uncanny knack to ignore the traditional recipe to make something even more naughty.  Normally you use cheddar cheese in mac and cheese, but that’s just not enough.  I need more flavor.  More cheesy goodness.  So I add extra sharp cheddar and/or gruyere and/or parmigiano-reggiano.

Or all of them!

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So that’s it.  I made macaroni and cheese tonight.  It was easy and it was delicious.  The gourmets make their mac and cheese with all of my favorite cheeses too, but they add all sorts of herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, whatever.  I like mine simple, they way grandma’s make it.  Cheese, pasta, butter, milk.  And then instead of a bread crumb crust on top… saltines!  Butter covered saltines.  Hungry?

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 lb pasta (macaroni or any other short stubby pasta)

4 T + 3 T unsalted butter (divided)

1/4 flour

2 c whole milk

4 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese

4 oz gruyere cheese

2 oz parmigiano-reggiano cheese

10-12 saltine crackers

1/2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees and butter 8×8 baking dish.
  2. Boil pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
  3. Melt 4 T butter in small saucepan.  Add flour and stir for 2 minutes to remove raw flavor of flour.  Add milk and stir until thick and bubbly.  Add salt and pepper to sauce.
  4. Grate cheeses and add to white sauce.
  5. Add pasta to cheese sauce and place in baking dish.
  6. Crush saltines.  Melt 3 T butter and add to crushed saltines.  Place crumbs on top of pasta.
  7. Bake in 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until topping golden brown.




Flank Steak Marinade

3 07 2009

I just returned from an amazing weekend at my friend Ross’ ranch.  As is usual with my crowd, I was assigned dinner which a wholeheartely accepted.  This was partially because I don’t have ready access to a BBQ grill while living in a high rise building here in Austin.  Any chance I have to use a grill, I will gladly jump at the chance.

On the ranch.

On the ranch.

I decided to try a few summer salad dishes and then grill marinated flank steak.  Dessert was easy because there were fresh strawberries at Central Market, so I decided on vanilla pound cake with strawberries.  Because I am fairly social, I hate spending all evening in the kitchen cooking while everyone else has fun.  So I prepared the food beforehand, and then just put it all together at the ranch.

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It's easier to prepare food before a party!

Everyone raved at the flank steak that we grilled.  It’s such an easy recipe that I originally got from my friend Becca (who got it from an old mission companion of hers).  There are only a few ingredients and you just need to marinate the steaks for 3-4 hours.

Flank Steak Marinade

Marinates 1 large steak (double if you are using more than one steak)

Ingredients

1/2 c soy sauce

1/4 c water

1 t ginger (peeled and sliced)

2 cloves garlic (smashed)

2 T white vinegar

1 T olive oil

1 T sugar

1/2 t black pepper

1/2 t red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Put flank steak in 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag.
  2. In small bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour marinade over flank steak and seal bag squeezing out as much air as you can.
  4. Allow to marinate for 3-4 hours.
  5. Grill steak on hot BBQ grill for 4-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare (6-7 for medium).  I refuse to cook any red meat past medium!