Friday, July 16, 2010

Produce Overwhelming

Anybody who knows me, knows I tend to be a planner.  In the kitchen, this is abundantly clear by my monthly menu plans and the long lists I make to get everything done before every dinner party.  So my world was rocked earlier this week.  I had been planning this for a while, but I don't think I really could have been prepared for what hit us...a produce storm of unknown proportions.

We bought a share at a local farm.  Well, actually, we bought a trial share of a local farm and we are splitting it with Mom and Dad.  The farm is certified organic and the produce is amazing!  It is beautiful!  I love the concept of getting fresh produce on a weekly basis and it only costs $16/week!  But here are some of the thoughts when we got the first box:

Peaches!  Look at the peaches!  What is this?  Is this lettuce?  It doesn't look like lettuce.  Wow, look at these cute little carrots!  Do you like beets?  Do you like grapefruit?  I think those are greens - I am not sure what kind.  What is that triangular leaf thing?  It has no smell.  What am I going to cook with all this produce? Oh, its spinach!  This is so exciting!  What am I going to cook with all this?!!
After getting the baskets and getting all of it put away, I started really wondering what I had gotten myself into.  I had a breakdown the first night - I don't think we ate any of the produce.  Then, as I lay in bed, all these ideas came to me: 
Drew likes grapefruit and I can cut it up for him and make homemade fruit cups.  Zucchini Carrot Muffins.  Arugula Pesto.  Collard  and Beet Greens and Pork Chops.  Stir-Fry.  Roasted Beets.  Spinach Salad with Cucumber. 

And I thought, this may be fun

So the answer to the question, "What's on the menu?" may be up in the air for a little while, but I think it is worth it considering the harvest of ideas and the harvest of produce!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Baking School: Week 3

I had a friend in high school that used to quote an (unknown to me) eighties movie all the time.  We would be mid-conversation and she would spout off, "Shut your pie hole!"  I often took offense to it, but it was definitely memorable! 
So this week, the theme is, "Open your pie hole!"  Our class covered the very intimidating (to me) topic of pastry, more specifically: pie.  And I have a confession regarding pie-making:

I have never made a pie crust from scratch before.

I know, I know, this adventuresome kitchen rat, has never made a pie crust.  I have always been intimidated by the procedure.  It seems everyone has a recipe for the perfect pie crust.  They also have different techniques for creating the perfect crust.  Pile on this the fact that the crust has to be rolled out into a perfect circle and placed in a pie tin, and I am flustered and scared.

Well, not anymore.  Well, sort of!  Let me explain:

This week I learned a great recipe (butter is always better!) and a great method (hello, food processor!) to take all the intimidation away.  The procedure takes very little time and surprisingly few ingredients and is relatively simple to get together.  Our teacher was definitely a help in de-mystifying the pie crust for me.  She guided us through the right and wrong ways to make a pie crust and pointed out what we were looking for along the way.  I now know how to make a flaky pie crust and a mealy pie crust and when each is appropriate.  I know how to avoid "soggy-bottom" and make a pie so tasty, there is nothing left on the plate but crumbs.

So that's what I learned and I was so excited to get going and start practicing!  Then, I tried it...and my first pie crust fell!  AGHHHH!

But, I am not daunted...I think I have "figured it out" and I will be working on it again today.  I think the problem was docking.  I docked the sides of the pie crust as well as the bottom.  This time I am only going to dock the bottom of the crust.  Fingers crossed!   

If I get it right, I have a very strange idea up my sleeve.  Our textbook mentioned that back in the day, home cooks would make 21 pies a week because they had a pie at every meal.  This is because most pies back then were meat pies.  Although 21 pies would be a bit much (and unnecessary considering modern refrigeration), I am kind of getting the idea of having a pie week.  Drew would be scared, if I had shared this little idea with him.  He'll never know what hit him!

Off to the kitchen...

"Men may come and men may go...but Pie goes on for ever."  George Augustus Sala