Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tomato Pie and a Tiger


Last night my book club gathered for a discussion of our most recent book pick, Life of Pi by Yaan Martel. Our book club meetings are potluck, and we usually have a food theme. This time it was easy: pie (or something else relating to the book).
I decided to make a tomato pie. My Mom used to make these, and I've always loved them! I was a bit surprised when I began looking up recipes online and found that most of them included a cup or more of mayonnaise. I know that's what adds all the great flavor to the tomato pies I'm accustomed to, but I wanted to go for the same richness without the mayo. Thus, Kasie's Tomato Pie was born. For the record, I did not achieve the flavor-packed creamy goodness of my Mom's tomato pie. Just the same, I was pleased with what I turned out. My tomato pie was fresh and light. It's probably closer to a tart than a pie, but I'm not changing the name.
This is a great way to use up delicious summer tomatoes from your garden. My tomato plants haven't produced a tomato yet, but I'm sure they're coming! :)

Kasie's Tomato Pie

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 medium ugly tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
3 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll out the pie crust and fit into a pie plate so there is a one inch overhang.  Place a sheet of parchment paper over the crust and weigh down with pie weights or dry beans.  Blind bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Don't be like me!  I got in a hurry and didn't thaw my pie crust.  What a mess!  I had to throw it away and start over.


While crust bakes, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Gently saute the sliced onions until caramelized and sweet.  Remove the crust from the oven.  Put onions in the pie crust.  Top with 2 layers of sliced tomatoes.  

Sprinkle goat cheese, mozzarella, whole grain mustard, and basil on top.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent burning.  Bake an additional 15 minutes and serve warm.




The tomato pie really is summery and fresh.  I think I'll make it again, perhaps tinkering around with other cheeses.  A salty feta would be delicious.

And finally, my friend Hannah is a fabulous baker.  She must have tremendous reserves of patience  with piping and the like because her cupcakes are always perfect!  For our book club meeting she prepared Richard Parker Cupcakes.  (Richard Parker is the tiger's name in the book.)  They were too cute not to share.


Aren't they cute?!  Delicious too.  

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's personal now...

This has been a difficult year for my family. My older brother suffered a traumatic brain injury in March, and things changed for every member of my immediate family in a number of different ways. My brother, of course, has tremendous challenges ahead of him. Already he's fought so hard and has beaten the odds, but there is much more ahead for him, his wife, and his two daughters. Books have been written about such challenges, and I'm not here to dwell on them. He has always been a stubborn person, for better or for worse, and now is the time when that hardheadedness becomes useful.

Origionally I didn't plan on writing about this at all. It hasn't appeared in any of my status updates on facebook, I haven't sent out an email, and have only vaguely mentioned a disruption on my blog. It felt exploitative at first, but as time has passed I see that this event is part of my life too. I'm not exploiting my brother by discussing how his illness has affected my life. I'm not asking for pity or *hugs* (I hate that). So, from time to time there may be a reference here. It has changed the way I live, and it has changed the my family.

So, what does this have to do with food? Plenty, I believe. For starters, I've used cooking to relieve a lot of stress over the past few months. Baking bread, in particular, soothes me. I'm certainly not the first to say this, but kneading can be a highly therapeutic activity. It's rhythmic and gently feeds a lot of senses. Concentration and patience are required, but not so much that one's thoughts can't wander. And, oh, the metaphors...

Over the course of this experience Charlie and I have had a lot of company, mostly my family. All of our visitors have been very kind, and it's a comfort knowing such loving people will step up in times of need. Charlie, too, has been remarkable. We are still in our first year of marriage, and I've asked a lot of him this year. Not once has he failed me, and I know what a lucky woman am to have him. And, I'm drifting...back to my point. We cooked for a lot of people, in March and April especially. Many people were concerned about the amount of work that meant for Charlie and me, but what a wonderful escape it has been! After hospital visits all day it was a good thing to gather for a family dinner and discuss what was happening. A lot was sorted out around the table.

Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a personal journal about my feelings. :) It's still a food blog, and here's a recipe to prove it. My brother and I made these chocolate chunk muffins for my Dad for Father's Day. Making the muffins with my brother was a strange experience. For a while I didn't think we would ever have that opportunity again. He's made such progress, and I'm so proud of him.'s sounding like a feelings journal again, isn't it? I'm turning into a sap. :) Let me just get to the recipe.


Chocolate Chunk Muffins
*perfect for Father's Day

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsly chopped
10 oz semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Melt unsweetened chocolate and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring. Remove bowl from heat and cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk vanilla into milk in another bowl.

Beat butter with brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate and beat well. Mix in flour and milk alternately in batches, scraping down side of bowl and beginning and ending with flour. Fold in remaining chunks.

Divide batter among lined muffin cups. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool muffins in pans on racks 15 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool.


These are a delight. They are muffins rather than cupcakes simply because they are not frosted. Don't expect a breakfast muffin from this recipe! The chocolate chunks contrast texturally with the cake, and all of the ingredients really work together. My Dad loved these, and I did too. :)

Rye Bread: Part Two (Pastoli)


Pastoli!  Do you know what that means?  I didn't either because Charlie made up the word.  :)  I needed a name for the filled rye sandwiches I made with leftover rye dough, and he came up with pastoli.   I decided to keep the name when it passed the google test (it doesn't mean anything terrible and it isn't any sort of brand name as far as I can tell). 

This is a loose recipe for pastoli with salami, provolone, pickles, and spicy mustard. The ingredient quantities aren't exact because of the playful nature of this dish, and a zillion variations are possible. I think rosemary bread with brie, sliced turkey, and granny smith apples would be tasty. Maybe something with pesto? If anyone tries these at home please let me know what fillings you used and your level of success.

Rye Pastoli

1/2 recipe rye dough
8 slices provolone cheese
12 thin slices salami
spicy mustard
sliced pickles
1 egg
kosher salt

Make the rye dough and allow to rise for approximately one hour (first rise).
Take a large handful of rye dough and stretch it into a small square. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a rectangle approximately 8 x 10 inches in size. (It doesn't have to be a perfect rectangle so don't stress over that.)


Place a small spoonful of spicy mustard in the center of the rectangle and spread around the center.


Top with pickle slices, 2 -3 slices of provolone cheese and 3 -4 slices salami.


Fold the short ends toward the center, leaving about 1/3 of the filling uncovered. Fold one of the long ends toward the center. Take care not to tear the dough.


Put a little water on your fingertips and wet the edge of the last side a little. Fold it over and press against the opposite edge to seal. You should have a neat little packet of dough.


Make four packets and place them seam-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise a second time for approximately one hour.


I think they look pretty great at this stage!  Also, this is the point at which you can refrigerate them.  Keep reading for more info on that.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat an egg with 1 Tbsp water and lightly brush over each packet. Cut three slits in each bundle and sprinkle with kosher salt.


Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until bread is baked through and tops are golden.


Take a deep breath while the pastoli bakes because your house is going to smell amazing!  Cut each pastoli in half and serve while still warm.


I love how unfussy, yet somewhat impressive, these are.  Also, they can be assembled up to one day ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake.  Just let them come back to room temperature and rise for about thirty minutes.
 I think they would be perfect for taking on picnics because they're so self-contained.  I happen to know they're great around the pool, and everyone I've made them for (only four people so far, but they'll make an appearance at a larger gathering I'm sure) really likes them.  
I think rye bread is perfect for these, but I made another batch a few days ago using different dough and they were good too.  Still, as far as I'm concerned rye is the way to go.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Shout Out from Casual Kitchen

Here's a special thank you to Daniel at Casual Kitchen for his inclusion of Banging on Pots and Pans on today's CK Food Links. Click here to see what he has to say!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rye Bread: Part One (Loaf and Rolls)

A couple weekends ago I assisted a wonderful class on baking bread at The Cook's Warehouse. Chef Doris Koplin, an amazing baker and a delightful person, instructed the class and over the course five hours produced an abundance of flavorful yeast breads. Everything she baked was melt-in-your-mouth good, but I was particularly taken with her rye. It had all the complexity that rye demands while still being light on the tongue.
Flash forward a week -- I decided to bake some rye at home so I could try out a few new techniques and the wonderful new recipe I have. I love this dough. It's so easy to work with, it smells great, and it makes really terrific bread. Also, it's quite versatile (as you will see). Here's the basic recipe.

Rye Bread
adapted from a recipe by Doris Koplin

6 cups bread flour
2 cups rye flour
3 Tablespoons caraway seed
1/4 cup sugar
2 packages (approximately 5 Tbsp) yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups milk, heated to room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil

Measure dry ingredients (flours, caraway seeds, and sugar) into a bowl. Place the yeast in the warm water and allow to sit for approximately five minutes or until mixture becomes foamy. This is called proofing the yeast. Combine the oil and milk and add to the dry ingredients. Add the proofed yeast (including the water) and mix well with a large wooden spoon. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. This should take approximately five minutes.


Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.


Punch dough down and shape as desired (more to come on that). Place breads on baking pan which has been covered with parchment paper and cover again with the damp towel. Allow to rise again until doubled in bulk, about one hour. Brush breads with a beaten egg to glaze, sprinkle with caraway seeds and a little coarse salt. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, 25 to 30 minutes for loaves, 15 to 20 minutes for rolls.

You might have noticed that this is going to produce a tremendous amount of dough. Eight cups of flour! What could you possibly do with that much rye bread? Plenty. Here are some suggestions.

The most obvious thing to do is bake rye loaves. This is certainly a worthwhile thing to do with the dough, and you'll have plenty to freeze for later. The recipe above will yield three loaves of rye. To make a loaf, divide the dough into thirds (after the first rise). Using one piece of the newly-divided dough roll out an 11 by 9 inch rectangle. Fold the 9-inch ends toward the center, about one third of the way. Now move to one of the 11-inch sides and carefully roll it toward the center until you have a nice tight loaf. Gently place the dough into a greased bread pan, seam-side down. You may need to gently press the ends of the dough toward the center in order to ensure a comfortable fit. It should look like this:


I have no idea why I didn't photograph the other steps, as it would really help to have a few visual aids here. The next time I bake bread (probably this weekend) I'll try to remember to take photos and update this post.

Cover the loaf with a dish towel and allow to rise approximately one hour or until doubled in size. Brush with an egg wash (one beaten egg with a splash of water) and sprinkle with your choice of caraway seeds or coarse salt (or both!). Bake the loaf in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. That's it! Now you have a yummy loaf of rye bread.

If you're feeling a little more adventurous you can make rolls. I think rolls are so much fun to make. There are a zillion ways to shape rolls, my favorite being fancy tucked knots. The entire dough recipe given above will make approximately 3 dozen rolls small rolls or 18 large rolls.

To make one fancy tucked knot roll, pull off a handfull of dough. Using your palms, roll it into a long, thin rope. (This is kind of like making snakes with playdough when you're little.) Don't worry if it isn't perfect.


Now, take the rope and tie it into a knot. Don't make this too complicated! It's just a knot. :) Also, try not to break the dough or stretch it too much in the process. Just go with the flow.


Now take the ends of the rope (sticking out on either side) and tuck them. Go in the direction they're already tending toward. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect when you finish. They'll rise a little more and that will cover a number of flaws. You can see that mine isn't perfect in the photo below.


Now you have a roll. Place the formed rolls on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, then cover them with a damp dish towel. Allow to rise for approximately one hour or until doubled in size. Glaze with an egg wash and sprinkle with caraway seeds and/or coarse salt. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. You can use a toothpick to test doneness just as you might do with a cake. If the toothpick comes out clean they're done. If has dough stuck to the sides they should bake a little longer. Pictures of the rolls before the go into the oven:



And after baking:



Yum, yum, yum!

There's one other thing I did with my rye dough, but it will have to wait until later. It's quite wonderful. And we call it...a pastoli! Stay tuned!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Green Meanies


 Today I was in serious need of green vegetables.  I had a few vodka tonics last night and there was a horrible smell in the common area of our apartment building this morning.  (It's been building since Saturday.  I think something must have died in a utility closet.  Yuck.)  Those two things in combination with a long commute and not enough sleep last night left me craving something fresh and bright -- something very green.  
The dish I concocted is very simple, but it packs a powerful punch.  I chose brussel sprouts, broccoli, and summer squash as the main components of my lunch.  As the vegetables cooked and the colors brightened in the pan I felt my mood becoming lighter.  A few dashes of cumin brought the earthiness I was looking for, and crunchy pecans gave me a pleasing contrast in texture.  I felt the need for nutmeg so I sprinkled a little on top and sat down to a plate full of happy-looking vegetables.  Three bites into it and any queasiness left over from the morning had vanished.  


Green Meanies (to fight the queasies)

1 small head broccoli
6 brussel sprouts
1 medium yellow squash
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
a sprinkling of cayenne pepper
3 Tablespoons chopped pecans
a sprinkling of ground nutmeg

Cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets, quarter the brussel sprouts, and slice the squash into long thin strips.  Heat the oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot add the broccoli, brussel sprouts, and yellow squash.  Saute approximately two minutes.  

Add the ground cumin and cayenne pepper then saute an additional two minutes.  Remove from heat and top with chopped pecans.  Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve immediately.  


Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Few Changes and Updates

Right now I'm tinkering with my blog a little.  I've changed the name from Yes, But Can She Cook to Banging on Pots and Pans.  There was some confusion over the difference between the title and the URL so I decided to just make things simple and switch over.  So, Banging On Pots and Pans it is!  
Also, you might notice that I've added a drop-down list of recipes.  I'm really in love with this feature, and I'm excited to watch it grow as I blog more and more!   If anyone has any suggestions as to how I can improve the drop-down list (such as other categories I should add) please send me an email or leave a comment.  I'm completely open to and would, in fact, love to hear suggestions from you!
Finally, I'm working on adding a new feature that I think I'll call Currently Cooking With that features three or four cookbooks and/or cooking gadgets that I really like.  My cookbook club's Cookbook Of the Month will always be featured so you can join virtually if you like.  These picks will be linked to in case you would like to purchase them yourself.  :)  
Again, any feedback would be great!   Hopefully these small changes will make my site a little easier to navigate and a little more fun to explore.  

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The makings of brunch


Brunch on the weekends is such a lazy, decadent treat.  Every now and then I rise early on a Saturday or Sunday morning and rush to prepare a complicated or time consuming dish, but usually it's a time for simple and easy-to-prepare food.  
Eggs and pancakes -- that's the way to go.  Something savory and something sweet.  I try to stick to that rule when making brunch, and it serves me well.  Sometimes I go with straight-up scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes, and sometimes I play around with it a little.  Today the pancakes took a turn and became Creme Brulee French Toast with Strawberries.  I wanted something I could prepare fairly quickly then toss in the oven while I made a fruit salad and cooked eggs and bacon.  I tinkered around in the kitchen for awhile before coming up with a recipe, and boy am I pleased with the result.  It's light, fluffy, sticky, and gooey all at once.  It's sweet but not overwhelming, and the flavors all blended perfectly.  Also, my quick and easy plan worked.  This is a no-fuss fancy dish. :)

Creme Brulee French Toast with Strawberries

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
4 slices challah bread (sliced 1 1/2 inches thick)
3 eggs, plus 1 eggwhite
1 cup half-and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange liquer
pinch of salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup sliced strawberries
confectioners sugar (for dusting)
fresh mint sprigs (optional)

Melt the butter in a small pan on medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and 1 Tablespoon vanilla sugar (recipe to follow).  If you do not have vanilla sugar add 1 Tablespoon of sugar and 1/8 tsp vanilla extract.  Stir constantly until sugar has melted and mixture is smooth.  Pour into the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish.


Place challah slices in one layer on top of sugar mixture, gently squeezing to fit.  


In a medium bowl whisk together the 3 eggs, half and half, vanilla extract, orange liquer, and salt.  Pour over the challah.  Allow to sit at room temperature for one hour.  It may sit for up to 1 day but should be refrigerated and allowed to return to room temperature before continuing. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg white, heavy cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or regular sugar) until it just begins to thicken (before stiff peaks are formed).  Pour over the challah.


Bake for 35 minutes or until french toast is puffy and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for five minutes.  Top with sliced strawberries and confectioners sugar.  Serve and garnish with  mint.



This type of food makes me feel like I'm cooking in the country.  It's so warm and homey with the sticky bottom and the light top.  Bacon compliments this dish.  The sweet and salty play off one another quite nicely.

One last little thing before I finish the mimosas still on the table.  Vanilla sugar is a real treat to have around and is very simple to make.  After scraping the seeds out of a vanilla bean (and using them for something else) place the pod in a jar and fill with granulated sugar.  Put the top on and shake it up a little.  In a couple of days the vanilla will have infused the sugar, and you'll have vanilla sugar!  It's a wonderful thing to have around and can be used in a variety of ways.  Add it to coffee and use it in place of regular sugar when baking.  It adds that little something extra to the recipe above.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baja Fish Tacos


My friend Stacey made the most delicious fish tacos last night so I decided to try them at home. Charlie jumped on board the Baja Project, and soon we had tilapia frying, mayonnaise coming together, and tortillas browning on the stove.  Fun!
If you wish to make these yourself you'll need a handful of recipes which, when put together, add up to a very tasty taco with a little kick.

First up is something that's delicious with a gazillion other things as well.  It's delicious on sandwiches, as a dipping sauce for fries, and used in chicken salad.  If you've never made mayonnaise you are in for a real treat.  Actually, you're in for a real treat either way.  :)  

Wasabi Aioli with Lime

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon wasabi powder (to taste)

Whisk together the salt, water, lime juice, and egg yolk. Starting with one drop and whisking vigorously, slowly add the vegetable oil. Continue whisking as you very slowly add more oil. It is important to add the oil slowly. If it is added too quickly the mayonnaise will break. Once you have added about half the oil and the aioli has begun to thicken, add the wasabi powder. Continue adding oil until it has all been incorporated and is thick and creamy. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


If you prefer, you can use store-bought mayonnaise. Simply mix the desired amount of wasabi powder and a few squirts of lime juice and mix. Also, Trader Joe's sells a wonderful pre-made wasabi mayonnaise. Homemade is fresher, tastes better, and contains no preservatives, but store-bought will do the trick.  But seriously, don't be afraid of this recipe!  Just be vigilant when whisking.

Now that you've got that down you're ready for beer-battered tilapia!  This too is delicious on it's own and very simple to make.  The beer batter can also be used to make onion rings.  Change the seasonings for a little variety.

Beer-Battered Tilapia (with Baja flair)

1/2 - 1 qt peanut oil (depending on size of stock pot or frier)
1 lb fresh tilapia
1 cup bread flour (all-purpose can be used also)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (plus extra for seasoning cooked fish)
1 cup beer 

Heat oil in a large stock pot (or deep frier if you have one) on medium-high heat until the surface begins to move rapidly or it reaches 325 degrees F.  You only need approximately 2 inches of oil to fry the fish in so adjust the amount depending on the size of your pot.  

Cut the tilapia into 2-inch strips taking care to cut against the grain.  (Cutting against the grain allows the fish to break apart easily when you're eating it thus guarding against a stringy bite.)


In a medium bowl mix together the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt.  Add the beer.  (You can use any beer you like.  I chose Dos Equis Amber because I like the flavor, and I knew I would drink the remaining bottles of beer.)  The beer will fizz when first added.  Stir until smooth and thoroughly combined.



The beer batter can rest for up to an hour before use.  Put several pieces of fish in the batter and turn to coat completely.  Once oil reaches the desired temperature drop in one piece of batter-covered fish to test.  If should immediately sizzle, float to the top, and turn golden brown within 1 minute.  Once you have determined that the oil is the correct temperature place 6 - 7 pieces of fish in the oil.  Do not crowd the pot.  Allow the fish to cook for approximately 2 minutes.  Remove from hot oil with tongs and allow to drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt.
Allow the oil to return to desired temperature and repeat the process with remaining pieces of fish.


Doesn't that look tasty?  Believe me.  It was. 

To make the tacos we had you'll also need homemade tortillas (which I have, conveniently, already blogged about).  Again, you can use store-bought tortillas, but where's the fun in that?
So, put it all together and here's what you get!

Baja Fish Tacos

1 batch beer-battered tilapia (with Baja flair)
wasabi aioli with lime
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 serrano chilis, chopped
lime wedges

Place a tortilla on a flat surface and fill with fish, tomatoes, cilantro, and chilis in desired amounts.  Drizzle with wasabi aioli and a squeeze of fresh lime.  Roll up and enjoy!

Charlie, rightly, suggested that these would also be tasty with a little chopped cabbage.  Maybe turned into a coleslaw with the wasabi aioli?  I may have to try this.



The photos aren't great but, seriously, this is yummy summertime food.  The tacos are especially good served with grilled corn on the cob, guacamole, and margaritas!