Unprocessed

Art of the Pie...and Life by Anne Livingston

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If you would like to know how to make the best pie on the planet, the kind that makes chefs cry out with joy, there is a pie class for you. It’s called Art of the Pie, and it’s taught by the warm and delightful Kate McDermott.

Yesterday I went to Kate’s Pie Cottage in Port Angeles and took this class. She keeps her groups tiny so that each of us students can have her full attention when we need it. The intimate nature of the class also helps us feel relaxed, which is important, because her Pastry Tip #1 states, “Keep everything chilled…especially yourself.”

When I was a kid, I first made a pie using a recipe from a cookbook. I had no pastry cutter and used two knives to cut the flour into the butter to make those pea-sized nuggets. Even that first step filled me with angst, worrying I wasn’t doing it right. I was the antithesis of “chilled.” So was my butter, by the time I was through with it.

Remembering my first pie-making moments and then watching Kate in action was a truly freeing experience. She tossed ingredients in, measuring with her hands, laughing and chatting with us. “Every pie is different,” she told us. She showed us how to measure ingredients by eyeballing it.

My inner kid, anxiously trying to get everything right, just relaxed and went along for the ride in her presence. We made pie, and we were chilled. I was actually a little overheated with excitement, but at least I wasn’t filled with angst.

In case you haven’t figured this out yet (I didn’t, at first), her pastry tips are also life tips. Her other two tips are just as vital to an awesome pie--and life.

Kate's Pastry Tip #2: Keep your boundaries.

Kate's Pastry Tip #3: Vent!

Kate showed us how to make these three Pastry Tips a reality. I think my "boundaries" were a little iffy (my pie dripped a bit in the oven), and this class helped me understand how to work on that, at least with my pies. I wonder if working on pie boundaries will help me with boundaries in life. I could see how making pie is a great activity for life meditation. 

This particular class was actually a gluten-free pie class. She teaches the gluten-free ones every once in a while. Making pie without gluten requires a different set of approaches and techniques. For example, using plastic wrap between yourself and your dough is key to working with it.

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It also helps to use two different rolling pins: a roller with handles works best for rolling out, and the more slender French rod makes it easiest to transport the dough to the pie plate.

Since I’ve only made pies with wheat flour before, it was especially fun to learn gluten-free pie strategies. Gluten-free baking is a relatively new field, and I felt like a baking pioneer working with these techniques. One of the women in my class experimented with different flours. I was impressed with her baking bravery! Just realizing yesterday how many flours and starches are available to us gives me a sense of many possible adventures with piemaking.

My husband, not a pie-lover, tasted some of this pie and, surprisingly, loved it. Remember, this is gluten-free pie, too. As for myself, many times I have enjoyed a slice of pie, only to leave the crust on the plate. I figured I was not a big fan of pie crust. However, this pie? While eating a slice, I would cut a forkful from the tip, then take a bite of that flavorful crust from the edge. At that rate, the crust was gone before the filling. What magic was happening, here?

If you want to know, I recommend learning with Kate. In addition to her classes at Pie Cottage, she also teaches pie camp! There’s one coming up on Whidbey Island this November in case you want to become a complete pie ninja and, you know, have a transformative life experience. Thank you, Kate!



Winter Jeweled Meringues by Anne Livingston


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These crisp and bright cookies are simple to make.  My friend’s grandma calls these “forgotten cookies,” because in dry climates, you can throw them into a pre-warmed oven, turn the oven off, and forget about them overnight.  This is Seattle, however, so a wee bit of remembering is necessary after a couple of hours in a low oven in order to dry them to a perfect crunch.   Decorating the cookies with toasted nuts and zesty dried fruits makes a wintertime treat that tastes fantastic with tea.  They taste best on the day they are made, but they keep fairly well for about a week.


Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup superfine sugar (you can make this by whizzing sugar in a food processor for 1 minute)
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • Dash of salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  •  2 T each of assorted nuts and dried fruits, (such as hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried sour cherries, dried cranberries, candied ginger, and candied citrus peel)

Instructions:

  1. Separate refrigerator-cold eggs, setting aside the egg yolks in the fridge for another use, and letting the egg whites sit at room temperature while working on the rest of the preparations. 
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Preheat oven to 200°.
  3. Chop the dried fruits into about 1/4 inch pieces, keeping them separate if you want to arrange the "jewels," or mixing them together in a bowl if you plan on sprinkling them randomly. 
  4. If using hazelnuts, toast them in a skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, moving the nuts constantly in the pan, until the toasted aroma wafts from the pan.  Watch carefully to avoid burning the hazelnuts.  Pour the nuts onto an unfolded dishtowel, then gather them together in the towel into a bundle, twisting at the top.  Then squeeze and twist the towel's contents  to rub and coax the hazelnut skins off.   Open the towel, and dust off the nuts.  Chop them until they are about the same size as the fruits. 
  5. If using pumpkin seeds, leave them whole.
  6. To make meringue:
  7. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, whip egg whites with cream of tartar and salt on medium-high speed, until they reach the soft peak stage, about 3 minutes. 
  8. Still whipping at medium-high, begin adding the sugar, a slow spoonful at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated into the whites. 
  9. Continue to whip egg whites until they reach the stiff peak stage.  You can determine this if you lift the beater whisk out of the bowl and turn it upside-down, and the egg whites stand straight up. 
  10. Add the cardamom and briefly whip it into the egg whites.
  11. Drop the meringue by the teaspoonful onto the cookie sheets, briefly swirling them smooth and into round cookie shapes.  Placement can be close together, because the cookies will not spread.  
  12. Either carefully arrange or randomly scatter the fruits and nuts all over the cookies to your liking.
  13. Put the cookie sheets into the oven, and bake for 2 hours, moving the cookie sheets to trade positions on the oven shelves after an hour.  At this point, after cooling a cookie and testing for crispness, you can turn the oven off and leave them on their cookie sheets for hours (or days!).  They can also be stored in an airtight container. If they become less crisp, they can be re-dried a bit in a 200° oven for 10 minutes, or until crispness is restored.


Easy Sexy Garlic Quinoa by Anne

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If you're an avid quinoa lover, you might know how it's almost nutritionally perfect--a vegetarian source of complete protein.  In ancient times the Incas regarded quinoa to be sacred, using it as an offering to the sun god, Inti.  Some Incans even worshipped quinoa itself.  So I sure do feel like an a-hole when I get bored eating it.

This is more of an idea than a recipe, but it blows my mind every time.   My 5 year old kid even loves it, and that's saying something.  When I eat this luscious, full-bodied version of quinoa, there is no boredom, only love.  Make it even better by adding some minced veggies, fried egg, or even leftovers to have some fried-rice-style goodness.

Ingredients (amounts vary depending on your taste. Don't be shy with that garlic) :

  • Quinoa
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Water
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Cook up a batch of quinoa (or use leftovers).  
  2. Warm some olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  
  3. Briefly cook several cloves of minced garlic in the pan until the seductive aroma of garlic fills the room (no more than 15 seconds--DO NOT LET IT BROWN).  
  4. Immediately dump in the quinoa.   Pour in a few tablespoons of water or stock to avoid scorching, and stir completely.  Adding a small amount of water is very important and adds a surprising feeling of luxury to the texture.  
  5. Allow water to evaporate and soak in, about 1 minute.  
  6. Sprinkle with Maldon's sea salt (or other flaky salt).  
  7. Enjoy thoroughly.  Thank ancient Andean peoples.

The Whole Tomato by Anne

tomatoes.stockThe less food I waste, the better I feel -- it's more economical, and it is better for The World At Large.  Saving energy by buying less.  It's so difficult, though!  It takes strength of will, organization, and some ingenuity to keep yourself from buying too much.  Whole corporations are built to strategize how to get us consumers to purchase more food.  Those tricks sure work on me.   What a weird problem we have in this country--so many of us have so much food we don't know what to do with ourselves, or it. I'm by no means an expert conserver-of-foods, but it gets better the more I work at it.  Someday I will be the proud owner of a fridge with no science projects lurking in the crisper.  At the moment, though, I've still got things like the tired lime wedges, some mopey moldy strawberries, and the leftover oatmeal that "could" become fodder for future pancakes.

So, here we are, at the end of fresh tomatoes for the year.  On one of the last warm days of fall, I celebrated with a round of gazpacho.  The heirloom tomatoes from Billy's Gardens at the farmers' market were way redder and readier than my own garden's, so I bought a bunch of seconds and got to it.   As I blanched and peeled the tomatoes, though, I started thinking about the tomato tops and skins.  They were beautiful and gemlike, in their various colors. Sure, they would go into compost, but what if I could do something with them?

This time, I put them into a vegetable stock to see what would happen. I used chopped carrots, celery, onion (including the toughest-yet-edible outer shell of a red onion), thyme sprigs, and yes, the tomato tops and skins.  The tomato flavor definitely dominated the stock, probably because there were so many of them, but maybe sometimes that's okay, depending on the stock's purpose.  I could use the stock in a tomato based soup, for example, or maybe in a pasta dish or risotto that had lots of related flavors. 

At any rate, it felt good to use the whole thing, and the leftover cooked parts will compost all the quicker. 

Last week in school our teacher taught us about making proper stocks, using the best part of fine ingredients.  He said, "If you want to make garbage stock, then make stock with scraps."  That really made me think.  It's a good point, especially for a restaurant.  Meanwhile, back here at the house, I'll go with the modified philosophy of, If I would eat it anyway (and I usually do eat tomato skins), then it's good enough for a home stock. 

Next I'm going to try to make tomato-skin powder.  Apparently you take your just-peeled tomato skins and either put them in a food dehydrator or a low-heat oven until they are dry and crumbly.  Then grind them up with a spice or coffee grinder.  I've never had this powder before, but it sounds like it would look and taste wonderful.  Tell you later if there's anything to report on that.

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Unprocessed October Guest Post by Anne

cherry tomato duo You may have read one of my recent posts talking about joining up for an "Unprocessed October," organized by the intrepid Andrew Wilder over at Eating Rules.  I've committed to a month of unprocessed foods and have written a guest post on his site for today.  Check it out!  If you were wondering, here is Andrew's working definition of "unprocessed.

 Also, he told me yesterday that this project has made the LA Times and the NY Times!  Very exciting!

Would you like to take the challenge?