Monday, April 23, 2012

How to procrastinate productively

When I have a real job, when I'm done with graduate school, will I still be able to procrastinate this well? Will I still bake up a storm, procrastinating from doing whatever it is I should really be doing? Gosh, I hope so.
Why is it that my creative juices get flowing, along with an immense determination to see (and taste) actual finished results of my culinary thoughts and efforts, when I should really be doing schoolwork? It's like the pressure of having work to do serves as a catalyst for my culinary creativity! I know that sounds really cheesy but it's completely honest.

Today I had car troubles which prevented me from being where I really had to be. So I told myself I would have to do this 5-page outline for my competency exam instead, seeing as it would be my last full day to work on it before it is due. As I churned through the freaking outline, all I could think of (and almost taste) was assembling in my mind the menu of what I would make for dinner. All day, I just thought about how delicious this spinach-lima bean soup would be, sprinkled with feta and sopped up with homemade sourdough whole wheat bread, fresh from the oven. I thought about variations of the soup (should I add some sweet potatoes? that would change things... would it be better with Cotija cheese?). Literally all day I paced between my chair where the computer and my work was situated and the kitchen, baking bread, making soup. Every 15 min or so, up from my desk and into the kitchen, then back to the desk and type-typing.

Well, after 6 hours of this, really, I have 4 1/4 pages of a to-be 5 page outline, and spinach-lima bean soup with fresh bread. Not bad! Also, let me know if you want the bread recipe - I'm only reluctant to post it because I use sourdough which a lot of people don't have, and not only that, but I typically don't measure, so it wouldn't be exact. But I can try for you if you want! So let me know!

Here's the soup:
1 1/2 c lima beans
2 c stock or water
4 c water
1 red onion, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch (or 2-3 c packed) fresh spinach, washed and chopped (you can also use any good, dark, leafy green)
feta cheese

Soak the lima beans for 2 hrs. Drain them. Put beans, liquids, onions, bay leaf in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then lower temp and cover, allowing to simmer, about 1 hr or until beans are creamy. When beans are done, remove bay leaf and turn off heat. You may puree all or part with an immersion blender, or you can leave it more brothy, with the beans whole. I like to puree some, leave some beans whole. Season with salt and pepper, and bring up to a boil again. Add the spinach, and cover pot, simmering about 5-10 min, until spinach wilts. Garnish with feta.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring Pie!

I had been longing to make this savory pie since I saw the recipe here, but just didn't have the right occasion. And then spring came this year (judging by flowering trees, not the weather, because the weather here in NY has been less than seasonal!), and I had some friends over for a welcoming of true spring dinner, and I thought this pie would be just the thing to serve as a main course.

Traditionally, this is known as an Easter pie, or a Torta Pasqualina. Now, you know I'm not a native Easter celebrator (I'm Jewish), but I am a celebrator of seasons and of the overlap of Judeo-Christian holidays. I love that both Passover and Easter traditions celebrate the spring time. Both use eggs and greens ceremoniously, and I can't get enough of that - I love it for the symbolism, and for the culinary implications! This pie is so special, though, because you crack whole eggs into it before baking, and then when you slice and serve it, wedges will have cross sections of whole baked eggs in their pie! What a pleasant surprise!

This recipe uses an olive oil crust that you will find to be a pleasure to work with, especially for those of you who have become flustered with handling delicate butter pastry dough. I will definitely make this again - it was a huge success and I think all of my guests were excited to enjoy it with the meal.

Here's what you will need:
1 red onion, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch spinach, washed well and chopped
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped, stems discarded
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c cottage cheese
3 T fresh marjoram
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs + 1 for egg wash

  • 4 c flour
  • 1 c olive oil
  • 1 T salt
  • 3/4 c ice water (or more if needed)

Preheat oven to 375. In a large pan, saute olive oil and onion. Add greens, salt, pepper and cook until greens are wilted, about 10 min. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, pick up bunches of greens mixture and wring out excess liquid. Set aside.
In large bowl, combine cheeses, herbs, 1 whole egg, and then add greens.

To make dough, put all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until soft crumbly dough forms. Dump crumbly dough onto plastic wrap, form into a ball or a disk, and then refrigerate for 15-20 min. The fridge is not absolutely necessary, but I think it makes it easier to work with the dough if it is a little cooler than room temperature, because the olive oil makes it really soft to begin with.

To assemble the spring pie, divide the crust in half. Roll out one disk to about 1/4" thick, and place it in pie dish so that the edges fall over the edges of the dish. Now pour the spinach-cheese mixture into the crust. Smooth the top of the cheesy filling, and then make 4 golf ball - sized indentations in the filling. Crack 1 whole egg into each indentation. Roll out rest of dough for top crust, place on top, and seal edges with bottom crust. (If you are fancy, you can make this part look nicer than I did.) With remaining egg, beat and then brush (or use your fingers) to spread egg wash on top of crust. This will help it brown beautifully. Bake for 1 hour, or until wonderfully golden brown.