Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

You read that right - DAIRY FREE PUMPKIN PIE.

First, though, happy almost Thanksgiving and happy Hanukkah to all my friends for whom tomorrow will be Thanksgivikkah.

Everyone in my family loves pumpkin pie. Of course, we can no longer eat it here, what with Em's dairy allergy. A couple of years ago I made one with soy milk. One word: yuck. Soy milk just doesn't bake well - it gets sweet, plus it has a weird, slightly plastic after-taste no amount of ginger and cinnamon was able to cover. We did not love it. I don't know what happened last year - I think I was just too busy to bake, but this morning, as I was sitting around thinking about how much I missed pumpkin pie, I had a thought: rice milk.

Good idea, yeah? Except the rice milk you can buy at whole foods and other such places is produced in a factory that also produces almond and hazelnut milk. Guess what else my daughter is allergic to? Yep, you got it.

But, as I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that it would be pretty easy to make my own rice milk.

Which is what I did:

It's not that hard, actually. Never occurred to me before. Here's how you do it (this makes quite a bit):

2 Cups of long grain white rice
8 cups of water
1 tsp table salt

Get out you Dutch Oven or a stock pot and heat it up on the stove. When it's hot, toast your rice in the pot until it becomes fragrant, but before it browns - about 1-2 minutes. Then, add your 8 cups of water and bring it all to a boil. Put a lid on it, turn it down and let it simmer for 15 minutes, then turn the whole thing off and let it sit another 10 minutes. 

This is what it looked like when it was
finished blending
Remove the lid and give it a stir. It should be pretty watery. Put two cups of this rice into a blender, I have a Vitamix knock-off which does a pretty good job of whirring things up - add another 1/2 cup to a full cup of water if your rice is too thick to blend - but it will make your rice milk taste a little watery. Add 1/4 cup of honey to this and blend again. A lot of websites suggest you strain this mixture, however, I felt like it was all nice and thick the way a can of condensed milk would be. Put this batch aside, and then repeat the process with the remaining rice. Put all in a container in a fridge except  about 1 of cup which you'll use for the pie. The rice milk should last a week or so. Not sure if you can freeze, but I don't actually see why not. I'll experiment and let you know.
OK, now for the PIE.

 Here's what you need:

For the crust:
2 Cups finely ground ginger snaps*
4 TBLSP grape seed oil
1 TBLSP honey
*(do this in your food processor - the number of snaps you'll need will vary by the size of the snap - I used vegan snaps from Whole Foods - but most ginger snaps are vegan - and you can get packages of them from the grocery)

For the filling:
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp of cinnamon (you can use 1/2 a tsp if you don't like your pies too cinnamon)
1/2 tsp table salt
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup of rice milk
1/2 cup of maple syrup

Here's what you do:

This first part is for the crust - 

Place your gingersnaps, oil and honey in a food processor and whir it up. Turn the mixture out into a pie plate and press into place.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Then, in a large bowl, stir the pumpkin, spices, salt and sugar together. Whisk in your eggs, then whisk in the rice milk followed by the maple syrup. Pour all into your prepared pie crust. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then turn your oven down to 350 and bake for 40 - 45 minutes. 
While it's baking clean your kitchen: 

Dear Lord, what a mess.
After 40 or so minutes, check the pie, if it's really jiggly, give it another 5 - if it's not, take it out and let it cool. Once my pie is cooled off, I'm putting my pie in the fridge because we will be eating it tomorrow, on Thanksgiving. 

Enjoy - Happy Turkey Day!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I'll Take Manhattan

Last week when I posted about my husband's perfect Manhattan - what I didn't post was the recipe for it.

I'm still apologizing to so many people for that -

So, to redeem myself, here goes:

This is for one drink - double everything for two.

First, you need 2 oz of Rye.  We are fans of Bulleit.  If you don't have, or can't find Rye, Bourbon will do.  (Personally, I'm a fan of a Rye Bourbon combo - but I'm not a purist like my husband...)

Then you need sweet Vermouth - 1 oz:

I just realized that in these pictures my husband is making 2 drinks.  I'm going to stick with my recipe for one though - mK?

Next - the all important Maraschino Cherry.  Drop one in the bottom of your glass along with a smidge of cherry marinating liquid.

Get yourself some ice in your shaker

And shake that puppy up.

That's all there is to it.  

Now, excuse me, I need to drink it while it's still ice cold.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Good to Go Retro

You wanna know what that is?

THAT, my friend, is a perfect manhattan.  She's a beauty, isn't she?  This is what my husband had waiting for me when I got home after a long weekend of talking about writing at the Philadelphia Stories Conference.  Yes, I had a glass of wine at the final cocktail party, which was cold and good - but coming home to a super icy one of these babies is exactly what the doctor ordered.  (Mixed cocktails = mixed metaphors - everyone knows that)

It's so perfectly shaken you can't even see the lovely little maraschino cherry nestled at the bottom. 

Do you want to know what goes great with a perfectly shaken manhattan with a lovely little maraschino cherry nestled at the bottom?

That's right - Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt.  You know what I love about this stuff?  They got the apostrophe right, yet still went with the "K" instead of the "C" in "KRAZY" If that doesn't scream 1970s I don't know what does. 

That's because it's retro man!  Just like my perfect little manhattan served in my wee cocktail glass I bought last year at the flea market.

Right now we are having a Jane's renaissance in our household.  I didn't realized how much I missed this seasoning until I started using it again.  Mixed-up salt was our go-to seasoning in the 1970s when I was a (extremely little, seriously, very young) kid.  We called it Krazy-Janes and it had pride of place on the avocado green lazy-Susan in the middle of the dinner table.  I have no idea why we stopped using it.  There's nothing at all in it that offends: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and "herbs".  Recently I found it on the spice shelf at Acme - and now we put it on everything.  Forget that $14 jar of fleur- de - sel!  Krazy-Jane's is about $1.99 and lasts forever!

And can I tell you something else about Krazy-Jane's?  It hales from Overbrook PA - Is that the same Overbrook that is less than a mile from my home?  I don't know, but I hope so.  Click on "Overbrook" to see the most charming picture of Krazy-Jane's creator Jane Semans.  

Jane's is good on everything - scrambled eggs, lasagne, roasted chicken, bacon.  (Of course, bacon!) - but this is what I consumed when I got home, a little parched, a little peckish from a weekend talking about writing:

Perfect manhattan, heirloom tomato, goat cheese, water cracker and a sprinkling of Krazy Jane's.  Comfort, man, that's what it's all about.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vegan! (except for the bacon)

I feel like I've written posts like this before.  I so want to be vegan - I do! Really! It seems so virtuous - so healthy - like all my past sins will be atoned for if I could just eat kale and tumeric not much else...

Then I open the freezer and I find the Wegman's bacon I stashed there in July just before our European Vacation and I loose all control.  Before I know it, I'm defrosting it in the microwave and heating the cast iron skillet in a 400 degree oven...

It was a beautiful evening at the farmer's market.  The organic veggie farmer and I discussed the stunning Swiss chard, with it's emerald city leaves and citron stem.  He had garlic too - and an heirloom style tomato, and oh-my-god: Swiss chard pesto spaghetti with a fresh tomato sliced on top.  I couldn't get home fast enough.

Roughly chopped chard, dropped into the Cuisinart, along with a small handful of cilantro I happened to have.  3 cloves of rough chopped fresh garlic.  Half a lemon squeezed in, half a lime, 1/4 cup of olive oil, pinch of sea salt, two or three grinds of pepper and a pinch of sugar to cut the bitterness.  Whirred it all up.

I thought it was great.

Smith took a taste - and he was - polite- but not enthusiastic.

That's when I heard the call of the bacon.

The thing to do is to cook the bacon in your big cast iron skillet then take the bacon out, let it drain on a paper towel, and when your pasta's ready, drain it and drop it into the skillet to soak up all that beautiful bacon fat.  Then stir in the pesto, slice the tomato and throw it on top.  Almost vegan!  Seriously! Almost!

Finish it with another pinch of fleur de sel and a dash of really good balsamic vinegar.  You won't regret the bacon.  Chard and bacon kind of cancel each other out - don't they?  I think they do.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dairy and Tree Nut Free PESTO with cauliflower and roasted Cauliflower (or, the best meal I've made this week...)

It's difficult to convey how high this is -
however, this is the highest shelf in my
kitchen.  I also feel I need to let you know
I am 5'2"
A Cuisinart food processor is a very large appliance when you have a smallish kitchen.  I've seen people who have actual "sheds" for this appliance - little cubbies with roll-down fronts kind of like old fashioned roll-top desks.  Others have fancy-pants lower cabinets with a little lift that magically glides the heavy Cuisinart from the lower shelf to a spot that's counter level.  But I do not have such a kitchen.  I have a simple apple green kitchen with butcher block counters and my Cuisinart stays out on said counters for weeks at a time until I get sick of looking at it at which point I take it apart and stick it in an upper cabinet because clearly if I haven't used it in weeks, I'm not going to use it for more weeks.  The damn thing is heavy and the only free cabinet space for it is way up high and involves a step stool.  Yesterday, I put it away.  Today, I thought of a recipe and needed to use it.

Isn't that always the way it is?


One of the more difficult thing about being a dairy and tree nut/seed free home is proper basil pesto.  I do make basil/olive oil/garlic pesto - and it's fine - but I miss that wonderful grittiness that parmesan and pine nuts add.  Without them, well, it's just sauce.

So I was thinking about it this afternoon when I should have been grading papers.  And it suddenly occurred to me that I could get that grittiness if I used uncooked cauliflower or broccoli.  Not a lot - but you know how when you chop cauliflower up for roasting and there's always these little bits left, too small for the roasting pan, but it kills you to throw them away, because it's horrible to waste that much food but unless you let the dog eat it, how else are you going to use it?

Well, I propose that you scrap all that yumminess up and deposit it right into that Cuisinart you just struggled to get down from that upper shelf.

Then add some garlic and basil, maybe a little cilantro and some lemon juice and spin it up  and throw it on top of some pasta and you will have some pesto that is a lot like the traditional kind - but without all the things that gives your 16 year old daughter violent stomach aches and hives.

YUM - but - I know what you're thinking - what about the rest of that large head of cauliflower?  You toss it with olive oil and sea salt and a turn or two of pepper and roast it of course.  While it's roasting, prepare your pesto, cook your pasta, put it all together in a bowl and


One of my most favorite meals this month:

Here's the recipe:

1 clove of garlic
1 large bunch of basil (about 2 cups of leaves)
1/2 a bunch of cilantro (about 1 cup - stems removed)
1 large head of cauliflower chopped into large pieces except for 1/4 cup of florets chopped very small and all the little crumbly bits left on your cutting board
juice from 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon
1 tsp of sea salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste

1/3 cup  + 2 TBLSP of extra virgin olive oil

1 lb of spaghetti or angel hair pasta

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Put a very large pot of salted water on the stove to boil for the pasta.

Toss cut cauliflower (except for the 1/4 cup of small pieces) with 2 TBLSP of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and a turn or two of pepper from a pepper mill and put them on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment, or into a large cast iron skillet and put into the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the cauliflower bits, garlic clove, basil, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the Cuisinart and whir it all up until it is smooth.  (Stop and scrape down the sides if need be.)  When the pasta is cooked, drain it reserving about 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Return pasta to pot, add the pesto and the pasta water and stir until everything is all incorporated.  Put the pasta and pesto in a bowl and top with your roasted cauliflower.  Season to taste - and squeeze a little lemon on top if you like.

Everyone loved it tonight - and it was truly one of the best dinners we had in a long while.  (It's been a tough semester...)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cookbooks I have known...

I have a friend, a wonderful guy and an excellent cook, who eschews cookbooks.  He believes it isn't cooking, it isn't creative, if you're not figuring it out or making it up as you go along.  And I like his perspective, I do, and he makes some really delicious food and it's always a lot of fun to talk to him about food, and technique.

However, about the cookbooks?


That's not even all of them.  There's more.  So many more.

I also collect essayists and food memoirists such as MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David, Mark Kurlansky, Harold McGee, Judith Jones, Ruth Reichel, Gabrielle Hamilton...

(Years ago, my husband said to me, if you come home with one more pair of shoes, I'll know you want a divorce - He really could say the same thing to me about cookbooks these days. )

(not that I'd be able to stop - more likely, I'd hide my addiction a bit better...)


I think I've said this before, but I often take a cookbook to bed with me and read it like a novel.  I love them, especially chatty ones.  My first chatty cookbook was that famous one by Peg Bracken, "The I Hate to Cook Book" - which was out on the counter in my mother's kitchen throughout my childhood.  I remember sitting belly to counter on the creaky old yellow stool skipping the recipes, but completely engrossed by Mrs. Bracken's practical, funny and self deprecating take on life as a woman in the 60s and 70s' suburbs.  My mom swore by her recipes.  I swear by her voice:

"Speaking of cooking, incidentally, and I believe we were, one of its worst facets is grocery shopping.  When you hate to cook, a supermarket is an appalling place.  You see so many things that they are all a blur, and you finally end up with a glazed look and a chop."

Though I don't hate to cook, certainly anyone who reads this blog with any regularity can see from the above quote why I love her.

That said - I tend to use a cookbook (or two) as a jumping-off place for my own creations.  I believe I mentioned in my last post that I'm currently addicted to The Smitten Kitchen -by Deb Perleman.  She's apparently addicted to pizza - and I recently made pizza with her dough recipe (although I used 2 tsp of sea salt instead of table salt).  This dough is very easy to double or even triple - which is what I did.  But since we don't eat cheese these days, I decided to make calzones.  Meatball calzones because, in honor of Emma's dairy allergy, I recently bought a book by Silvana Nardone called, Cooking With Isaiah-  and she'd put a large sticky on the page with meatball subs.  And meatball subs are good - but -

meatball calzones are better.  MUCH better -

You don't need cheese for meatballs - although a lot of recipes have you drowning the breadcrumbs with a splash of milk and adding parmesan for flavor and binding.  I've made meatballs without these ingredients for a while now.  You do need breadcrumbs and eggs for texture/binding and something that has some moisture in it - which is why people add milk.

I don't.  I add sautéed frozen spinach.

If you want to make Silvana's meatball subs, here's her recipe.

Ritz Crackers are nice because they have a fairly unique flavor -
which gives the meatballs an extra depth one wouldn't expect.
Mine are similar - except no milk, and since we aren't gluten free (yet) - and since I rarely have Rice Krispes in the house - I used Ritz Crackers instead of breadcrumbs.   (This is where I get all Peg Bracken-y.  I feel strongly that one should never, ever, rush out into the cold for an ingredient not in the pantry when another perfectly good substitute might be lounging around.  If you don't have Ritz, use saltines and cut back dramatically on the salt.  If you don't have saltines toast some bread and crumble it up - if you don't have toast then - god bless you.... )  And, of course, I'm way too lazy to add tomato sauce.  My best friend is a jar of Rao's.

Wow.  I've really been going on here - time to wrap this up and get to the food.  The last thing I'll say - when you are making the pizza dough for your calzone - make lots extra.  Cut the dough into 3rds and wrap two of the portions up in plastic, put them in a large ziploc or container and let them hang out in the refrigerator.  Then, check out my next post - I'll tell you what I did with my extras.  This dinner takes some time - therefore it is best made on a Sunday afternoon - a glass of wine at hand and a decent playlist going.

First: make the pizza dough. You can make Deb's, or you can do this:

1 cup of pretty warm water
2 tsp of yeast
1 TBLSP of brown sugar
3 cups of bread flour
1 TBLSP sea salt (I use fleur de sel) or 1 tsp of table salt
1TBLSP olive oil

Heat your oven to 200 degrees for 10 minutes then turn it off.  Dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the warm water.  Whisk flour and salt in a large bowl, dump the yeast mixture in along with the olive oil and stir it up with a rubber spatula.  Or you can put everything in the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook and let it all run.  Either way, mix it up until everything is incorporated and comes together in a ball.  If it's in the mixer, let it run for 5 minutes.  Otherwise dump it out on a floured counter and knead until it is smooth - 3-5 minutes.  No need to get fussy with this.  If kneading annoys you, don't do it.  Wipe out the large bowl, spray it with oil, put the dough back in, spray the top of the dough, cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the warm oven for an 1/2 an hour to an hour (or more - I am often distracted by shiny things such as George Takei posts of Facebook or Kelly Oxford tweets)

Meanwhile... make yourself some meatballs

Saute the following:
1 stalk celery diced
1 small yellow onion diced
1 clove of garlic diced and crushed
1 cup of frozen spinach

Let this mixture cool and put it in a bowl with
1 cup of crushed ritz crackers

1lb of ground turkey or hamburger (if adding turkey, use a mix of thigh and breast)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 TBLSP of sea salt or a tsp of table salt.
Grind in some pepper
1 egg lightly beaten
Squish it up with your hands.

form a bunch of small meatballs - whatever you like.  I sometimes use a 1 inch ice cream scoop so they're all about the same size.
Saute the meatballs in a pan with a few swirls of oil so that the outsides brown a bit.

TAKE YOUR DOUGH OUT OF THE OVEN (I cap this because I have forgotten to do this many times myself.  If you are one of the lucky people who have 2 ovens, obviously you don't need to do this) -

And preheat to 350

Pour your Rao's or any other kind of sauce you have - (or a can of crushed tomatoes if that's all you have) and  put it in a 350 for 20 minutes.

When the meatballs are cooked, and your dough is all raised, you're ready, take the dough out of the bowl, cut it into 3rds, wrap 2 of the thirds in oil sprayed plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator for another day.

Roll your dough out flat and sprinkle a little olive oil on top.  Pick it up and flatten it out again on a  parchment lined jelly roll pan.

Put your meatballs right in the center.  If you don't have a dairy allergy, this is when you can add

1/2 cup of mozzarella
1/2 cup of ricotta or crumbly goat cheese (my preference)
1/4 cup parmesan

Fold the dough in half, and squish the edges together.  Cut a few slits in the top so steam can escape and stick it back in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until it is all a lovely brown and crusty.  You'll have to let it sit a bit before cutting into it - but this should be easily sliced into 3-4 calzones depending on how hungry your horde is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Honk If You Like New Drivers

So, I have one of these now:

When my nephew started driving, my sister cried.  The first time he left the driveway for a solo outing, she felt nauseous, a little shaky, and even though I wasn't there at the time, I like to imagine she ran to the liquor cabinet and thew back a bit of tequila once her son cleared the fence posts.

Many of my friends have new drivers in their households these days.  Many of my friends a just a little freaked out by this fact.

But not me.  I'm ecstatic.

Why?  Because when I first got my driver's license I was very happy to drive anywhere my mom wanted me to go.  And that anywhere included the grocery store.  I think you see where I'm going now.  Once she has her license, I figure I've got about 2 months before she figures this out.  Two months where I can casually say, hey, feel like driving to the store for me?  And then equally casually, hand her a list...

Today, after reading a facebook message from an old high school friend that I've recently reconnected with, I began to long for lunch.  He wrote beautifully about the lunch he'd made himself - and, because he lives is Switzerland now he ate all sorts of delicacies I can't get here.  Well, that's not true, I can get them here, but they won't be the same.  Years ago when my husband and I were on our honeymoon in, yes, Switzerland, we became completely besotted with the cafe au lait we were served with breakfast every morning at out hotel restaurant.  When we got home we went immediately to McNulty's - down on Christopher Street and bought a pound of Swiss roast beans which we lovingly ground ourselves, placed in our French Press, and over which we poured water just off boil.  After waiting the required four minute brewing time, we heated a little milk, poured the coffee, gently added the hot milk and prepared to relive our exquisite Swiss breakfast experience.

It was very depressing.  The coffee was too bitter, the milk too weak and we realized that what we had was nothing like our honeymoon - (not going to make the pun I could easily make here) - coffee.  Why?  BECAUSE WE WERE NO LONGER IN SWITZERLAND.  Sure, this is an easily made point, but what I'm really saying is that the coffee we were served was probably roasted nearby, the milk was full fat, unpasturized, and we could see the cow grazing out the hotel window.  Things taste best when they are locally obtained.  I'm just saying.  I love the local. (and JJ, I know you agree)  If my daughter were home (and if she had her official license - which she won't have for another few months - not until she's gotten at least 60 hours of driving under her belt) - I'd send her out for some locally made goat's milk cheese from the cheese shop downtown.  (You thought I'd never get back to that original point didn't you... ) and I'd make myself a local version of what my friend ate.

But, it's starting to do this:

And I am just too lazy.  

I've got eggs, I've got some lettuce, I've got a bit of dijon with some tarragon.  I've got a hoagie roll which I can toast. 

 And now, I've got lunch: