Saturday, September 26, 2009

When Fall gives you Apples...

Make Apple Pie!

What better way to end an insanely busy week than with a slice of homemade apple pie. As Fall creeps into the background I can't help but feel a sense of coziness, warmth and quietness. The Summer partying is officially over. Now, it's all about family, week night television and enjoying a slower pace of life. That is, once you leave work for the day.

It feels so strange to be back in my hometown as the sense of familiarity of the seasons is laden with childhood memories, sights, smells, and sounds. A little weird yet so comforting. So why apple pie? A classic for really any season, but Fall is when the Engel apple tree has branches covered in fruit. It's pretty amazing to see, as this Gordon variety Apple tree is seasonally consistent with its fruit production. It keeps not just my Dad happy with Apple Crisps, pies, and cobblers but also the birds that frequent it for the overripe apples that have fallen to the ground.

This pie is a combination of several recipes. Never am I one to follow a recipe, so why not multitask and incorporate three? The crust is from Julia Child; we use Crisco & butter.

Classic Apple Pie with Streusel Crumble Topping

for the crust... Baking with Julia
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter cut in cubes
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water

To make the dough, start with very cold ingredients. Place the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse to mix. Add the cubed butter and shortening and pulse again until dough looks like cornmeal. Add a little cold water and pulse, continue to do so until the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Chill the dough!!! wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours... I'd recommend a full day.

for the Oat-Wheat Germ Streusel Topping... The Perfect Pie
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter diced, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large bowl combine everything with your hands. This is the fun part!

apple filling... The New Basics Cookbook
6-8 apples
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
(or maybe a tad more, this is my fav addition)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg Wash for Dough
Beat together:
1 egg
tablespoon of water

Preheat oven to 350F

Peel and slice the apples and combine everything in the apple filling list together in a big bowl. The cornstarch will thicken the apple filling while the zest will bring out some juices in the apples.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Place into a pie dish. I believe this dough will make two pies, so you can always freeze one of the round discs. Brush the egg wash on to the pie dough and pre-cook the dough for about 8 minutes, or until dough is set.

Let cool. Next add the apple filling. Cover the apples with the Streusel Crumble.

Bake for about 1 1/4 hours, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust edges are golden brown.

phew... that was a lot of direction! Last but not least, Dig In!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ayurvedic Cooking for the Fiery Working Girl

A couple weeks ago I attended an Ayurvedic cooking class at the Lavender Inn of Ojai. It was fascinating to learn that I am composed of not one, but two Doshas that could be affecting the way I live my life (take the test for yourself here Dosha Quiz)... The three Doshas are Vatha, Pitta and Kapha. Your strongest humor is determined by your body physique and personality. The Doshas are comprised of the five universal elements: space, air, earth, fire, water.

Because I am composed of a strong Pitta (mostly fire with some water) I have a quick temper and a fiery disposition. Watch out! According to Ayurvedics, my state of mind and body are thrown off balance by spicy food, caffeine, heavy foods, stress... you get the picture. In order to stay balanced, and this has actually proved to be true, I must consume cooling, calming foods. All in all, it's quite fascinating and may ring true for some people, and to others, well, it may sound ridiculous.

Whether you are a fellow Pitta or not, this mango lassi is a great way to cool off on a hot September weekend. Made with vanilla yogurt, frozen mango, mint and a touch of Indian spices, I find this drink to be a healthy treat at any time of the day.

An easy find is the Trader Joe's organic vanilla yogurt. Mango adds a sass to the drink while the cardamom and mint give the lassi depth and intrigue. If you choose to use plain yogurt, I'd recommend sweetening it with some Agave Nectar or honey. Make this mango lassi for an amazingly healthy indulgence. It is my temporary relief from a stressful day at work or a desire for something sweet.

Sweet Mango Lassi
1 1/4 cup organic vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup mango (frozen mango works great)
pinch of mint
dash of ground cardamon
1 tablespoon agave nectar
tool: blender

Blend all of these ingredients together on high until mango is pulsified. There should be no lumps of mango in the lassi. Next, taste test for perfection! If you like your drinks sweet, add some agave nectar for a more subtle sweet. I'm not a fan of white sugar. If you want a little kick, add some more cardamom.

Pour into individual glasses and top off with a dash of more cardamom, mint or agave nectar.

Psst... there are also salty lassis that are more traditional to Indian culture. Both sweet and salty lassis are used as digestives before meals.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

10 Things Cooking Taught Me About Life

I came across a great article on CNN from Real Simple's Kim O'Donnel. Coming from a small kitchen in San Francisco, a lot of her points really hit home. Love for cooking arises from all different elements. It's about sharing and making the most with what you have.

"10 things cooking taught me about life"

1. Small gestures can make a big difference

2. Cheap thrills are closer than you think
3. Control is overrated

4. Sing if you must, but quit thinking so much

5. There are always second chances

6. Substance beats style every time

7. We all have what it takes to create something

8. Communicate anyway you can

9. Your instinct may not be the best, but it's yours

10. Less really is more

Here's a shot of my family's all time fave, Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake ...