Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blueberry Pie

There are so many wonderful things about Texas summers.  The heat is not one of them.  Although I've lived here all my life, I can't get used to this heat.  But, if you want what summer reaps from the gardens and orchards, you have to endure it. 

As some of you may know, I quit my corporate job of 1,000 years to embark on my passion of cooking.  This is the first summer since my son was 5 (he's now 11) and daughter was 2 (she's now almost 9), that I've had the fulfillment of taking them back to the blueberry farm to pick blueberries and blackberries.  The first time I took my daughter, she ate her way through the orchards only leaving with what appeared as gun shot wounds on her white shirt.  This time, she and my son were real troopers, picking alongside me to fill our buckets with fresh, juicy blueberries coming into season.  The kids lasted 30 minutes, after an hour plus in driving, filling only a 1/4th of their bucket.  It was HOT.  I pursued in the plucking as they bathed themselves with cold water and shade as I, undoubtedly, sweat through every orifice of my body.  I never knew one could sweat that much and I'm a sweater. 

Once finished, I think I lost around 50 pounds and my kids shrunk at least an inch or two.  We left with blueberries/blackberries galore to make our pies, all the while thinking about just how lucky I am to have a summer to sweat with two great kids.  And, no gunshot wounds to prove it.  Just salty skin and another notch in the memory, or blueberry, basket.

Blueberry Pie

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Preheat to 425.  Combine the following and let sit for 15 minutes:

premade pie dough (comes 2 to a pkg, one to be used for top and bottom) from Central Market or Whole Foods (or, you can make your own)
5 cups blueberries, picked over
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
3 1/2 to 4 tbs of quick cooking tapioca
1 tbs strained, fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest(optional)
1/8 tsp salt

Pour the mixture into the bottom crust and dot with :

1 to 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with cold water.  Cover with the top crust, then seal the edge, trim, and crimp or flute.  If using a closed top crust, cut steam vents.  Bake the pie for 30 minutes.  Slip a baking sheet beneath it, reduce the oven temperature to 350, and bake until thick juices bubble through the vents, about 25-35 minutes more.  Let cool completely on a rack.  The pie is best the day it is baked, but it can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Crispy Flounder (or any fish) with Parsley and Lemon

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that I took this picture.  I did not.  My husband went bay fishing while I was perusing through Italy and brought back a wonderfully sized flounder.  We enjoyed the company of a friend and while sipping white wine, threw the fish on the grill along with fresh produce from the Dallas Farmers Market.  Zucchini sliced lengthwise along with Jerusalem artichokes, boiled first then sliced lengthwise then tossed in some olive oil I had purchased in Italy with some course sea salt.  All on the grill.

The meal turned out wonderfully however the fish did not come out "picture perfect".  My husband did a fabulous job grilling and the fish was wonderfully seasoned along with the olive oil, lemons and parsley. However, he undressed my fish from it's skin so much it became somewhat of a mess.  As the saying goes, according to my husband,  "it's not how you grill, but how good you look doing it." He does look good, which was his saving grace and the fish tasted amazing.

That being said, this recipe can be done under the broiler or on the grill, with any fish (skin on) you prefer.  A great way to enjoy the summer, either way.

2, 10 ½oz whole trout, scaled, cleaned and gutted

Olive oil for drizzling

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

2 lemons, 1 zested and sliced, 1 halved

Few pinches of unsalted butter

Preheat your broiler to the maximum. Slash each fish with a knife, about ten times on each side. Each slash should be about ¼ inch deep. Rub the trout with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavities with plenty of chopped parsley and the lemon slices. Place the fish side by side on a baking rack over a roasting pan.

Put the lemon zest on top of the fish and place the lemon halves on the tray too. Dot the trout with the butter and place it 6 inches from the heat. Cook for around 6 minutes on each side until crispy and golden.

Squeeze the roasted lemon over the top of the fish, drizzle the olive oil over and serve.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pizza with Tuna and Red Onions - serves 4 or more

One my favorite foods in Italy is their pizza (notice how I said "one" as I could list many "ones").  The first time I went there, I consumed so much pizza,  I resembled the Pilsbury Dough Boy.  Now that I'm 40, I've learned to pace myself, somewhat, and enjoy the food (and wine) s-l-o-w-l-y.  Half the recipes I blog about is by taste alone, and this pizza blew my tastebuds of the charts.  What I learned is Italians don't use a lot, if any, tomato sauce on their pizzas.  I made this and my son asked where it was and of course I told him,  "still in the can".  There's something about Italian bread that you just can't get here.  They don't use much salt, again, if any, because back in the "day", salt was horrifically expensive and hard to come by.  You had to be wealthy to have it.  A lot of Italians still follow the custom of not using any at all.  However, with no salt, they season their doughs with wonderful olive oils and if any salt is used, they use sea salts, both fine and course.  Whatever the case, this particular pizza had me asking questions and anxiously wanting to try this at home.  This pizza surprised both my kids and husband who had me make another because they too, could not get enough.

2 pre-made pizza doughs, NOT the crappy kind!! (Whole Foods, Central Market or Jimmy's Food Store in Dallas)
Olive oil for drizzling
Fine Sea Salt or Kosher salt
Handful of flour or cornmeal
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 pound fontina cheese, shredded
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1 can of Italian tuna in olive oil

Preheat oven to 400.  Meanwhile, spread flour/cornmeal over flat working surface.  Roll out pizza dough to fit an 8 inch  pizza pan.  Using your fingers, press into the dough all over, creating divets.  Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place in oven and cook for about 10 minutes. (If dough bubbles, poke knife thru and continue cooking.)

Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheeses, top with onions and tuna. (It's ok to add the olive oil from the tuna as you spoon onto pizza.)  Return to oven and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven, slice and serve.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spinach Raviolis with Asparagus and Roasted Zucchini - serves 4

My travels through the regions of Tuscany and Umbria made me realize how much Italians love the earth and what she provides. They take great care in reaping what they sow. I've never seen such vegetation and the attention to detail when it comes to farming and landscape design. We definitely don't have the quality nor the color, size or taste that comes close to what Italy is so wonderful and known for. Yes, we do have farmers markets, vineyards and nurseries, but what Americans tend to do is overindulge. We sell vegetables that aren't in season, we pollute our gardens/vineyards with chemicals, we over landscape our homes and we always need more of everything instead of enjoying what we already have. One of the things I learned in Italy is to keep it simple and to use as little as possible. Otherwise, overdone. I think this can and should apply to just about everything.  This recipe is just that.

1 pound of spinach ravioli (for you Dallasites, go to Lucido Pasta, 2680 Nova Drive)
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and drizzled with olive oil and course sea salt (or Kosher salt)
1 pound of asparagus, bottoms trimmed
1 1/2 tbs of chopped thyme (or lemon thyme if available)
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream

Fill a large sauce pan with water and 1/4 cup fine sea salt and bring to a boil.  Add asparagus and blanch for three minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove asparagus to colander and run cold water over.  Set aside to drain.  Keep water boiling.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler.  Place prepared zucchini in foil lined baking dish.  Broil for about 7-8 minutes, or until tops are charred.  Remove and set aside.

Once asparagus is removed, add raviolis to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes or according to package instructions.  As pasta is cooking add cream to small sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Add parmesan and stir until melted through.

Drain pasta and pour into large bowl.  Slice asparagus, zucchini and thyme and add to raviolis.  Pour in sauce and mix well, spreading to coat.  Top with additional thyme and serve.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Italian Spelt Salad with Salmon - serves 4 with leftover salad

I have just returned from Italy which exceeded my expectations beyond belief. Although I have been there before, this time I had an amazing culinary experience that had me leaving in a gluttonous (if that's a word) fog. I devoured everything that was placed in front of me from meals lasting over 3 hours and consumed wonderful wines, grappa and lemoncello to make sure each bite was complimented and ended on a fabulous note. I could go on and on, and will, in future blogs but for now, here's a recipe that had me begging for more, a common Italian accompaniment to any meal.

4 6oz salmon fillets (skin on or off, depending on your preference)
2 cups of whole grain spelt (can find at Central Market or Whole Foods)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 sliced red onion
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Course Sea salt to taste or Kosher salt
White wine vinegar

To prepare the spelt, rinse thoroughly to start. Place in large sauce pan with 4 cups water and bring to a boil, boiling for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain. Add to same pot with another 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, covered.

Preheat broiler. Prepare baking sheet with foil, sprayed with Pam. Arrange salmon and broil for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour spelt in large bowl and add:
halved tomatoes, onions, olives, olive oil, salt mixing well. Spoon on plates and top with salmon. (In Italy, they often top their fish with white vinegar made from grapes, that actually has no vinegar in it! You can substitute a dash of white wine vinegar to top off the fish should you wish.)

Spelt can go in fridge for leftovers, served cold or at room temperature (best).