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Rye Pie

October 6, 2011
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Ever read Dreams of Victory by Ellen Conford?  You know, the author of The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations? Or the Annabel the Actress series?  Jenny Archer?  How about If This Is Love, I’ll Take Spaghetti?  Okay, I admit the three in between are ones I’ve never heard of or read, but the Wikipedia article on Conford makes it seem like those are her best known works.  The first and last, though, were books I read and reread when I was, oh, 10?  Ish?

Sadly, I’m pretty sure Dreams of Victory and If This Is Love, I’ll Take Spaghetti are out of print.  Well, sad for me.  Probably not for kids and teens who want to read something current.  Publishing moves ever on.

How on earth does Ellen Conford relate to rye pie?  And what is rye pie anyway?

“What kind of pie are you making?”

“Peach, ” she said proudly.”

. . .

“Hey,” I said. “Why is that crust gray?”

“Oh, well, I ran out of regular flour, and I had some of that rye flour left from the time I tried to bake rye bread so I’m using that instead.”

“Rye pie?” I gulped.

“Rye pie!” She grinned. “That’s funny.”

. . .

“Where’s the top crust?” I asked.

“Oh, well, I didn’t have enough flour for two crusts.  This is a one-crust pie.”

“Why don’t you make one of those crisscross tops?” I suggested. “You know, with the strips going back and forth? I bet you have enough lef over dough for that.”

“Listen,” my mother snapped, wiping her fingers on a dish towel, “you’re lucky to get a one-crust pie. I have enough trouble making the bottom crust without standing here and cutting out little strips and weaving them back and forth —”

“Okay, okay,” I said apologetically.  “It just looks kind of naked that way.”

So I made a rye pie.  With peaches.  And was reminded of Victory’s rye pie–which she couldn’t eat.  Mine was delectable.  (And nearly naked . . . my lattice failed, failed, failed.)

Inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Flaky Rye Pie Crust, I used half rye flour and half whole wheat.  While I loved the texture, the lack of gluten made it really tricky to work with.  Next time?  Whole wheat bread flour or straight up all purpose.
mixing pie crust of rye and whole wheat flours
Rye Crust (originally a vegetarian version of on Alton Brown’s pie crust with inspiration from a Heidi Swanson):

  • 6 Tablespoons butter, chilled
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, chilled
  • ½ Cup rye flour, fine
  • ½ Cup whole wheat flour (bread flour recommended)
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ Cup ice water
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Place the butter and coconut oil in the freezer for 15 minutes.  When ready to use, remove and cut into small pieces.  Mix the vinegar with the ice water and set aside.
In a food processor, mix the flours and salt and pulse a few times.  Add the cut, frozen butter and pulse 3 or 4 times.  Add the frozen, cut coconut oil and pulse 3 more times.  Drizzle in about half the I water/vinegar mixture.  Pulse 5-6 times.  Add more water if necessary to form a cohesive mass.  If it holds together when you pinch it, remove it from the food processor, mush it intoa  ball and, press it flat and refrigerate it for, oh, about as long as it takes you to put the filling together.

Peaches cooking for pie filling

Peach filling:

  • 4-6 underripe peaches, sliced
  • ¼-½ Cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ Cup of water
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • ¼ teaspoon powdered cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons tapioca
  • dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Combine the all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium to melt the sugar and butter and make sure all the ingredients are well mixed.

When you’re finished making the filling, take out the pie dough and roll into as much of a circle as you can manage.  I’d recommend doing this on a silicone baking mat or parchment.  You’ll most likely need to stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to be able to peel it off.  Invert the chilled circle over your buttered & floured pie plate and peel off the silicone.  If it tears, patch it with some dough.  Remove the excess and crimp the edges if you are able.  If you have extra, roll it out on your mat or parchment and pre-score it for lattice.  If not, just make a naked pie.  You’ll likely need to refreeze this portion as well.

Pour the peaches into the pie shell.  Top with lattice (if using).  It will most likely break and melt and look really funny.  Brush the edges of the pie crust with milk.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, until peaches are soft and crush is firm.

peach pie with a rye pie crust and broken, partial lattice

The rye flour gives the crust an amazing little sour zing, much the way buttermilk or sour cream does.  And the crust was wonderfully flaky.  The tang of the rye offset the sweetness of the peaches perfectly.  Will the rye crust work with other flavors?  Heidi of 101 Cookbooks does her with a mixed berry pie


(anyone else singing “Million of peaches, peaches for me . . .”?  Well, now you will be!)


what do you eat for breakfast?

September 29, 2011

The past two days I’ve made burritos for breakfast, inspired by some quickly-pieced-together quesadillas for dinner the other night.  It had been one of those evenings where no meal was planned and we hadn’t done any food shopping—grocery store or farmer’s market—and we ended up at the grocery store trying to buy ingredients for dinner.  Quick and easy quesadillas were our savior, though there was a tense moment when we tried to find tortillas without forty ingredients, many of which are unpronounceable.  The following conversation possibly occurred:

Me: *resigned, looking at shelf-stable tortillas* We’ll just have to get our own tortilla press.
E: *slightly incredulous* And make our own?
Me: *nodding, serious* and make our own tortillas.

Ultimately, I settled on a refrigerated store brand that still had some preservatives, but was mostly just flour.  But I still think a tortilla press might be the way to go.

In any case, for a flavorful breakfast, try these burritos—you get your healthy eggs and veggies mixed up with some darn tasty guacamole, sour cream, and cheese (or change it up with your favorites: salsa, pickled jalapeños . . .).

breakfast burrito fillings: scrambled eggs, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, on a tortilla

Breakfast burritos

serves 2

  • 2 large flour tortillas
  • more butter than you’d care to admit were in them (2-3 Tablespoons, divided)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 glug of milk (cow or soy works; cream is lovely, too; about ¼-1/3 Cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • sprinkle of powdered garlic (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-5 baby portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 Cup diced onion
  • 1/3 Cup diced red pepper
  • a few pieces of pickled jalapeno, minced
  • ¼-1/3 Cup shredded jack cheese
  • 2-4 Tablespoons guacamole
  • 2-4 Tablespoons sour cream
If you’re like me, you’ll ignore the note on the tortilla packaging and heat up your tortillas in a skillet lightly greased with butter, because it tastes good.  Just a sliver or two before each tortilla works fine.  Toast them for about 20 or 30 seconds per side, just enough to lightly brown bits of them.  Put them aside, under a warm, damp towel if possible (keeps them moist and warm).
Beat your eggs, milk, and spices until well combined; set aside.

Melt about half your remaining butter in your skillet over medium high.  Add mushrooms and fry until browning nicely.  Add onions and peppers and fry until onions are slightly translucent.  Add remaining daub of butter and stir to melt.  Turn down the heat to medium-low and pour in the egg mixture.  Stir frequently with a spoon to create small, fluffy curds.  Cook to your scrambled egg done-ness preference.  Remove from heat.

Sprinkle half your cheese mostly in the center of one of the tortillas.  Top with half the egg mixture, again staying mostly in the center and forming something resembling a line more than a blob.  Spread half the guacamole on one side of your egg line and half the sour cream on the other.  Fold over as you would a burrito.  Google folding burritos if you have trouble with this or have never attempted to do so.  Or just fake it.  Repeat for remaining ingredients.  Devour.
breakfast burrito on a plate

Pick a peck of pickled peppers

September 22, 2011

Or perhaps just three half-pints.  A peck’s a bit much, particularly of jalapeños, at least for me!  I like spicy food, but not too spicy.

Home preserved pickled jalapenos; three pint jars

While I searched valiantly through my favored Complete Book of Home Preserving by Ball (the canning jar), I couldn’t find any recipes strictly for pickled jalapeños or any other hot pepper.  I might try the jalapeño pepper jelly some other time, though.  Instead, I checked out The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp from the library.  That book has both a recipe strictly for pickled jalapeños and a jalapeño variation under pickled ginger.

The small-batch approach of this book initially appealed to me, but, alas, the instructions and recipes are lacking in precision.  Since I’ve canned before, and with the comprehensive Ball instructions, I was fine.  Beginners, though, would do well to steer clear of Topp’s cloudy directions and ingredients.  The recipes each refer you to the specific instruction page and tell you how long to boil them; each chapter has its own set of instructions at the beginning of the chapter that tells you how to hot water bath that particular preserve.  Simple, yes?  Nope.  Her full directions on preparing jars and hot water bathing are actually in a different section.  As in, directions for hot water bath canning are incomplete unless you flip to the introduction and read through all of that.  If you just follow the instructions on page 133 as the recipe I used instructed me, I would have been sorely lacking major portions of process.  Who doesn’t read the whole book?  Well, I’m guessing a lot of people wouldn’t.  I just flipped open to the recipe I wanted and read through a few times.  If I hadn’t canned before and didn’t know I needed a rack a the bottom of my canner, I could easily have put glass jars directly on the bottom of the pot and wound up with shattered glass because she only covers canning racks in the introduction.  The pickle canning instructions also didn’t cover letting the finished jars sit in the hot water bath once the heat is off even though she mentions it in the introduction.  Sloppy.  Either use complete instructions in each section or tell your reader that they should review full instructions on the early pages before proceeding with the directions on the later pages.

Then there’s the ingredients list.  She mentioned pickling spice without noting her recipe for it is on page 136 and fails to illuminate whether one weighs the peppers before or after you’ve seeded them.  The way it’s written, you’d think she meant post-seeded, which is how I proceeded.  Except I ended up with enough chopped jalapeños for thee half-pint jars instead of the two half-pints her recipe claims to make.  I had to make a double batch of her brine to fill my jars properly.  Finally, though she notes that salting vegetables before you pickle them will help draw out moisture and produce a more perfect pickle, she fails to include this as an actual step in her recipes.  It is only mentioned in the beginning of the chapter on pickles and condiments.

Overall?  The book is not joining the elite cooking shelf of my bookcase and I will likely not use it again.  The Ball book is better set up to simply flip to one recipe and cook that one through; tips, hints and reminders are included on the same page and there is no unnecessary flipping back to the introduction or chapter heading to make sure you’ve remembered to salt your vegetables or wipe your rims or rest your jars for five minutes for taking them out.

The pickled peppers, though?  Lovely to look at!  I’ll be sure to report on the taste when I crack a jar open.

detail of pickled jalapenos

I adjusted the spices (I didn’t want to make a full pickling spice mix when I only needed a tiny bit of it and I’ve got pickling spice favorites) and swapped out white sugar for honey and made twice as much, but here’s my version of Ellie Topp’s Pickled Jalapeños:

  • 2 Cups apple cider vinegar
  • ½ Cup water
  • 6 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 bay leaf, torn into small pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon whole peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon pickling salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, halved
  • ½ lb jalapeño peppers seeded and thinly sliced*
I’m not including full canning instructions here; if you’ve never canned, consult the Ball book!  Be sure to follow all instructions.  Or, if you must, use Tapp’s book, but read all of the introduction, the beginning of the pickling chapter and the recipe.  I’m just including basics below for those who know what they’re doing.
Bring vinegar, water, sugar, spices and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.  Turn off heat and let stand.  Fill preheated jars with peppers, placing 2 garlic halves in each.  Return pickling liquid to a boil; fill jars with brine, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Place lid.  Finger-tighten bands over the lids.  Place in canner (on rack!) and return to a boil.  Once you’ve got your roiling boil, start timing–10 minutes for half-pint jars (as pictured) if you live from sea level to 1,000 feet.  Once you’ve hit time, turn off the heat and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing them to a wooden cutting board or counter covered with dish towels.  Let cool, listening for satisfying, tell-tale pings of the jars sealing themselves.  When cool, remove the screw top lids, label, and store in a cool, dark cabinet.
Most canned pickles taste best when allowed to age for a few weeks (at least) before opening.
* the easiest way (I’ve found) to seed hot peppers is to roll the whole pepper firmly under your palm several times.  This loosens the seeds from the wall of the pepper.  Then cut off the top of the pepper and use a paring knife to cut the membrane still attached away from the wall.  You may need to encourage the membrane and seeds a little at this point, but the majority should come out together.  Turn the pepper upside down and knock the sides or tap it against your cutting board to remove remaining seeds.

Tempeh, bean and zucchini tostadas

September 12, 2011

Who doesn’t love a good taco?  Crunchy shell, saucy, spicy filling, crisp peppers and lettuce, cool, tangy sour cream . . . .  How about this double-whammy of tempeh and bean filling with fried onions and garlic, sweet purple peppers, spicy jalapeños, tangy green tomatoes and creamy zucchini?

Another lovely recipe with the Rancho Gordo San Franciscano beans: tempeh, bean and zucchini tacos:

  • 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 small onions, diced 1/4 inch
  • 2 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 spicy jalapeños, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt; or so to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  • 10 oz tempeh (I used a flax seed-studded version)
  • 1 1/2 Cups cooked beans and their cooking juices
  • 3 small green (unripe) tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 1 purple pepper (or bell pepper or similar), 1/2 inch dice
  • 1-2 small zucchinis, 1/2 inch dice
Heat the peanut oil on high or medium high in a large skillet; fry the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and jalapeño; fry until aromatic, no more than 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the salt, oregano, paprika and cinnamon and stir for 30 seconds.  If the spices stick to the pan, deglaze with a couple of tablespoons of water or cider vinegar before the next step.
Crumble in the tempeh by hand.  (I like this better than chopped pieces–more interesting texture, more approximating ground beef).  I prefer smaller pieces that soak up the spices and juices more quickly, but if you prefer big hunks of tempeh, go for it.  Fry the tempeh until well-coated with the spices, onions, etc.  If the pan starts to burn or things start to stick, use a few more tablespoons of water and scrape them up with a spoon–that’s good flavor!
When the tempeh’s looking spice-covered and darker, add the beans and their juices and heat through.  When that mixture’s a-bubblin’, add the chopped green tomatoes.  Diced zucchini can follow right on their heels.  Cook until the zucchini is soft and cooked through.  Remove from heat; stir in purple peppers.  (Purple peppers unfortunately turn green when cooked–the purple pigmentation is water soluble.  So while I like them heated up, I don’t like to miss out on eating something purple and only toss them in at the very end.  But if you like your peppers more cooked, feel free to cook them on the heat.
 Tempeh, bean and zucchini tostadas
Serve in taco shell or on top of tostadas (I got mine free–Deals and Steals always has a give away at the countertop for spending $XX and a few weeks ago was tostadas!) with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, a sprinkling of diced red tomato, or whatever other toppings make your taco-loving heart sing.

Combat a rainy fall day with leek and bean soup

September 10, 2011

Since I only used a couple cups of beans for the bean and corn salad, I still had quite a bit of cooked and seasoned San Franciscano beans left.  That and a few leeks in the fridge sent me searching for leek and bean soups as I’m sure you all remember Wednesday nights are soup nights!  I toyed with the Leek and Bean Cassoulet from the Veganomicon, browsed blogs and recipes online and decided to wing it, as I often do.  This time with ringing success.  I will certainly make this simple and hearty soup again, especially as autumn’s cooler evenings descend.

Leek and bean soup

  • 3 leeks, washed carefully, roots and rough tops discarded, sliced into ½ in rounds
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon – 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Cups San Franciscano beans (kidney, black or navy are fair substitutes) with cooking liquid (or can liquid)
  • 2-3 Cups water
  • 1-2 carrots, sliced into thin crescents
  • ¼ Cup fresh basil, finely chopped or chiffonade
leek and bean soup with bright orange crescents of carrot
Heat the olive oil over medium high; add the leeks and salt.  Sauté for 10 minutes until leeks are soft and aromatic.  Add cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, using your spoon to scrape all the good brown flavor from the bottom.  Add the beans and water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and salt if necessary.  Turn heat to low and add carrots and basil.  Serve with whole wheat crackers.
carrots and basil being added to leek and bean soup

Apple Cornbread

September 9, 2011

Cake-y New England style cornbread, molasses-darkened cornbread, soft as pie Texas style cornbread, spoonbread, sesame cornbread, yeast-raised cornbread, cornbread with fresh corn, cornbread with jalapeños: I’ve baked and eaten a lot of cornbread.  But I’ve got a new favorite cornbread (though the soft as pie version may still be my favorite breakfast variation): apple cornbread.  Sweet-tart early fall apples stud this crumbly quick bread.

I used a Paula Red apple, since it was either that or Ginger Gold.  Both are mostly sweet, but I liked the little pockets of sweet apple among the cornbread.  You could also use a tart cultivar for a more sophisticated flavor.

Apple Cornbread (very nearly Judith and Evan Jones recipe from The Book of Bread with minor changes, really.  Even the apples were their suggestion in the recipe notes):

  • ½ Cup white cornmeal, fine ground
  • ½ Cup yellow cornmeal, fine or coarse ground
  • ¾ Cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons honey or molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • ¼ Cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • ¾ – 1 Cup apples, ¼ – ½ inch dice

apple cornbread in a cast iron skillet

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Combine & mix dry ingredients.  Beat the egg thoroughly; add honey, sour cream, milk and melted butter and beat.  Add dry ingredients and apples to the wet ingredients.  Stir until moistened.  As with all quick breads, don’t over mix.  Pour into (if you have one) a cast iron skillet or a greased oven-proof baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife in the center comes out clean.
cornbread and beans with sour cream
Excellent with beans for dinner or with yogurt and peaches for breakfast or dessert.  Also delightful split open and toasted with butter.
crumbly, apple-studded cornbread

The triumph of the heirloom

September 6, 2011

Dear Rancho Gordo,

I love your beans.  They are delicious.



Truly, these beans are worthy of praise.  I soaked, cooked, and made salad out of the San Franciscano beans last night.  As Rancho Gordo attests, these beans were made for salad–they hold together, have a firm, meaty texture, and even retain (faintly) their stripes.  The latter impressed me.  I’ve always hated when pinto turn one uniform shade, shedding their unique pebbly spots for homogenous pink.

Bean & corn salad

The beans--they're still striped!

The soaking was fine; you just need to know ahead of time you want to make dried beans.  Even soaking from around 8 or 9 to 4 is plenty of time.  Better, of course, is soaking overnight, but I don’t always plan so perfectly.  I can’t actually attest to length of cooking time, but it wasn’t three hours (their advice on beans–cook ’em low and slow; takes 1 to 3 hours).  Probably a bit more than one?

How I’ve been winning at dried beans, though, is with my rice cooker.  No, not the fabulous rice cooker extraordinaire with fuzzy logic and all.  No, this one is a simple, one-lever, two options (cook or warm), cook enough rice for your whole commune sort.  And it’s perfect for dried beans (and steaming; it’s got a nice little steamer tray that fits in).  Which is why I’ve gotten away with have TWO of the same kitchen gadget.

I soak the beans in the bowl of the rice cooker (1 to 1.5 pounds at most; 1 works best), rinse them and the bowl before I want to cook them, add enough (but not too much–boil-over is possible) water, plug in the cooker, and flick the switch to cook.  The beans will then cook merrily until I remember to check on them and attempt to crunch and undercooked bean.  I leave it to cook some more and when they’re soft enough to eat or very near, I’ll add salt and let them cook 5-10 minutes longer.  So simple, even I don’t screw it up.

beans boiling in a rice cooker

Rancho Gordo recommends adding minced & sautéed onion, carrot, and celery when you start cooking.  I had onion and carrot, so I used those.  And I threw in the typical bay leaf.  What are dried beans without a bay leaf, after all?  When they were close to soft, I added soy sauce (left over from soaking zucchini chips–more about that later) and some salt.

fresh corn and chopped bell pepper

What did I make with these exquisite beans?  Rancho Gordo’s Bean and Corn Salad.  With a few small modifications, of course.

  • 2 Cups cooked San Franciscano beans
  • 2 Cups fresh corn kernels (2 – 3 ears)
  • 1 green bell pepper, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • juice & zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted/smoked paprika
  • 1/8 – 1/4 Cup chopped basil
Mix all ingredients together.  The original recipe recommends chilling it in the fridge for 2 hours, but I served mine with the beans still warm from cooking.  Perfectly divine.  Serve with apple cornbread and a dollop of sour cream.

Heirloom bean and local corn salad