Middle Eastern Chickpeas with Spinach

Let's have an ode to Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks, shall we?


Moosewood, O Moosewood
Your recipes sweet;
So healthful,
So wholesome,
Mostly vegetarian,

Okay, so I'm not good at poetry on the fly. But this recipe was worthy of a 5-second ode. So good for you! So many flavors! So easy! Can so easily be made vegan with a simple switch from regular yogurt to soy plain yogurt!

Bravo, Moosewood. You've outdone yourself. Again.

Middle Eastern Chickpeas with Spinach (from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook)
-2/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
-1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed
-1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint (1/2 teaspoon sdried)
-1/8 teaspoon salt

-1 medium onion, chopped
-2 teaspoons olilve oil
-1 red bell pepper, seeded and cubed
-2 teaspoons coriander
-1 teaspoon cumin
-pinch of saffron
-1 1/2 cups canned chickpeas, with liquid reserved (**NOTE: I used almost double this amount, because, well...I'm in love with chickpeas.**)
-10 ounces spinach, rinsed, stemmed, and coarsely chopped (**NOTE: I used a 10oz frozen package, thawed and squeezed of liquid**)
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-Salt and pepper to taste

-1/2 - 3/4 box uncooked orzo (but then you should, y'know, cook it)

1. Combine the yogurt, garlic, mint, and salt in a bowl, and set aside to blend the flavors.

2. In a skillet, saute the onions in the oil on medium heat until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the bell pepper, coriander, cumin, and saffron and continue to saute 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

3. Stir in the chickpeas and 1/4 cup of their liquid, simmer for 5 minutes. Cook until peppers are just tender, adding more of the reserved liquid if necessary.

4. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach is bright and wilted. Stir in the lemon juice and add salt and pepper.

5. Serve immediately on a bed of orzo, topped with yogurt sauce.

-Serves 4
-Calories: 342, Protein: 14.3g, Fat: 4.7g, Carbs: 62.2g

Peru: Pan de Quinoa y Miel (Honey Quinoa Bread)


I feel kind of bad about giving Peruvian cuisine the shaft by just making bread. Peru has so much to offer in the way of food: Ceviche, avocados stuffed with shrimp, potatoes positively smothered in various cheeses and creams, and so on. But I had to settle on something to make this week, Greg was going to make his Gazpacho, and we needed an accompaniment to it.

Finding this recipe was total happenstance. I didn't even know you could use quinoa to make bread, but I was delighted. Quinoa is an ancient, magical, super-powered grain that originates from the Andes. I've already sung its praises in a previous post, so won't go there again. But let's suffice to say that it is AWESOME and healthy, and now it has just one more use, which is totally thrilling.

This bread did two things that I'm unused to while making bread:
1) It remained almost completely unkneadably sticky. You'll see in the recipe that you put 3 cups of flour in the dough, stir until it's stiff, then start kneading and adding 1/2-1 cup additional flour until it's smooth and elastic. Yeaaaah, right. I added at least 1 1/2 cups extra flour, and it stuck to my hands. I think it was probably the 95% humidity and heat in my kitchen, but I just had to give up and let it rise at some point.

2) It rose like CRAZY. I mean, like...and insanely fast and huge amount of rising. On the second rising in the loaf pan, it actually spilled out and onto the counter within an hour. Woah. So, I trimmed off the excess with kitchen shears and made two rolls. (When life gives you a ridiculous amount of dough, make rolls!)

Despite all this, the bread was uber-moist and nummy--AND the crust is absolutely insanely crunchy and delicious. The whole shebang is improved 150% by the addition of butter spread on top. It was the perfect medium for soaking up a spicy gazpacho.

I actually *really* loved this as rolls, though it was also good as sliced bread. If you're going to make this into rolls, I would only cook them for the 30 minutes, instead of 45.

Pan de Quinoa y Miel (from About.com)
-1 cup raw quinoa
-2 cups water
-1/4 cup oatmeal
-1/4 cup water
-1/4 cup milk
-2 teaspoons yeast
-3/4 cup warm water
-1/3 cup honey
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-3 tablespoons powdered milk
-2 tablespoons sourdough starter (optional)
-2 1/2 -3 cups bread flour
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-2 tablespoons raw quinoa for sprinkling on top of loaf
-Salt (**NOTE: You'll see that the recipe mentions mixing salt in, but there was none listed in the original ingredient list. I was conservative and only put in 1/4 teaspoon. I would recommend maybe doubling that.**)

1. Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water for 10 to 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Cool to room temperature.

2. Cook the oatmeal in the water and milk until liquid is absorbed. Let cool.

3. Place 3/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer) and sprinkle yeast over the water. Let rest 5 minutes.

4. Stir honey, oil, powdered milk, and sourdough starter (if using) into the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon (or with dough hook on low speed).

5. Add 1 cup of the bread flour and the salt and stir well.

6. Add the cooked quinoa and oatmeal and stir.

7. Add the whole wheat flour and 1 cup more of the bread flour and stir. When the dough starts to get stiff, turn out onto floured surface and begin to knead. (If using a standing mixer, continue to knead with dough hook). Keep adding flour and kneading until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes with a mixer, or 10 to 15 minutes by hand. Dough should feel slightly sticky but should not be wet and slack. You should be able to form it into a ball and it should hold its shape.

8. Lightly oil a large bowl with vegetable oil and place bread in the bowl, turning to coat lightly with the oil. Cover loosely with saran wrap.

9. Let bread dough rise in a warm spot until double in size, about 2 hours.

10. Oil a large loaf pan (11 inches by 6 inches). Punch down dough and shape into a ball. Pat/flatten into an oval shape about the length of the bread pan. Fold long sides in and tuck them underneath as you place the bread into the pan, so that the top surface of the bread is smooth and without seams.

11. Brush top of load very lightly with water and sprinkle with quinoa seeds.

12. Let rise in warm place until bread has almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

13. When oven is hot, place bread in center of oven. Throw a handful of ice cubes into bottom of oven to create steam. Bake for 30 minutes. Cover bread loosely with foil if the top is getting too brown and bake 15 minutes more. Bread should sound hollow when tapped. (**NOTE: Obviously, you probably shouldn't throw ice cubes directly into your oven. I put mine in a pan.**)

14. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

Quinoa Bread: Good for soaking up spicy gazpacho-y goodness!

Flufftastic Waffles


Well, hello you sexy little Belgian Waffle Maker.

We received you as a wedding shower gift just last weekend. I bet you're thrilled that you've already been put to good use.

Don't worry, BWM. We won't be one of those couples who SAYS that you're going to revolutionize our breakfasts, but then we use you once and forget about you collecting dust in a corner. We love waffles. And we love you.

Heather & Greg

Best Waffles Ever
(from Mr. Breakfast)
-1 and 3/4 cups flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 Tablespoon sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-3 beaten egg yolks
-1 and 3/4 cups milk
-1/2 cup vegtable oil
-3 egg whites - beaten stiffly

1. Mix all dry ingredients.

2. Combine yolks and milk. Stir into dry ingredients.

3. Stir in oil and mix.

4. GENTLY fold in beaten egg whites, do not over mix.

5. Pour about 1/2 cup at a time into waffle iron and cook through. (**NOTE: This says 1/2 cup, my waffle iron needed at least 3/4 cup. So, use your judgment here).

-Makes about 6 big waffles

Verdict: BEST waffles ever, maybe. Iiii think I'll have to try out a couple or twenty more recipes just to make sure. But they were for certain extremely light, fluffy, and crisp all at once. So tasty! I would recommend making this recipe...y''know, if you have a waffle maker. Sadly, you just can't substitute anything for a waffle maker.

Turkey: Imam Bayildi

"Imam Bayildi" means "The Imam Fainted." The legend has it that when the Imam tasted this dish, it was so good that he fainted. I love that bit of lore, even if it isn't true. But I hope it is.

If you've been following this blog, you'll know that I don't like eggplant. I made an Eggplant Parmesan that was tolerable, mainly because it was smothered in cheese and tomato sauce--and really, what isn't good when it's covered with cheese? But then there's this dish, which is covered in neither sauce nor cheese. It's eggplant, vegetables, a few spices, and more eggplant. Scary. But, Greg loves eggplant, and this dish is synonymous with Turkish cuisine. So, Imam Bayildi it was.

When I was making this dish, I thought of my friend Emily. She's a vegetarian and loves when I post new veggie recipes. I think this is one that she will love if she hasn't made it before already. SO! Emily, this one's for you.

Imam Bayildi (from Recipezaar.com)
-4 medium aubergines (eggplants)
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1 onions, finely chopped
-2 garlic, cloves crushed
-1 green peppers (capsicum)
-1 red peppers (capsicum)
- Parsley, good handful chopped
-3 large tomatoes, blanched, skinned and coarsely chopped (**NOTE: I would drop these in the boiling water for just a minute before you do the eggplants.**)
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-Black pepper, to taste
-Salt, to taste
-1/2-1 teaspoons sugar
-Juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon

1. Heat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5.

2. Slice each aubergine in half lengthwise.

3. Scoop out the flesh from the aubergines and chop.

4. Blanch the aubergine shells in boiling water for 2 minutes then drain upside down.

5. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a pan and saute the onion until soft and golden.

6. Add crushed garlic and fry for 2 minutes.

7. Add parsley, chopped aubergine, tomatoes, green and red pepper, cinnamon, salt and black pepper and cook for about 5 minutes.

8. Add lemon juice and sugar to taste.

9. Arrange the aubergine boats in a baking dish and fill each one with the filling.

10. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

11. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.

-Makes 4-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are and/or how large the eggplants are.
-Calories: 299.4

Verdict: I really enjoyed the filling. I consider that progress, given that the filling is at least 60% eggplant flesh. Hooray! The filling was refreshing and slightly spicy (for some reason that's not readily apparent). I think that it would be great on toasted french bread (like bruschetta), pita chips, or perhaps over rice or on a potato (with feta...mmm). But the eggplant shells were just horrid. I actually boiled the shells for 1 minute longer than I was supposed to, but the skin was SO tough and rubbery. I have no idea what that's all about. Greg managed to eat it, but again, he actually likes eggplant. Anyway, just a warning! I may have done it wrong, but it might just be the recipe.

Electrolux #splits: Monkey Lover's Split

Q: What do banana splits and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund have in common?

A: Kelly Ripa.

In conjunction with Kelly Ripa, Foodbuzz is offering a $50 donation to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for each Featured Publisher who creates their version of the "Ultimate Banana Split." There was no thinking involved with my acceptance of this offer--ice cream AND helping fund research for ovarian cancer? Done.

I learned something disturbing upon visiting the OCRF website this morning. 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and 15,520 will die. That is 71%. 71%! Ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. It is a disease that currently has unrefined methods of early detection, which is what makes it so dangerous. With early detection and treatment, the survival rate jumps to more than 92%. This is why ovarian cancer research is so important. Think of how many lives could be saved if an accurate early detection tool was created.

Fortunately, you too can help. Please visit Kelly Confidential website and build YOUR ultimate banana split--virtually! Each day that you build a virtual split, Electrolux will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. How's that for easy charity?

My Ultimate Banana Split had to include peanuts and hot fudge. One of the things that can always turn a bad day around for me is a DQ hot fudge sundae with peanuts (I think it's loaded with serotonin). I wanted to create that feeling with this split, but better. As you'll see, I definitely don't have banana split dish, and it was about, oh, 95 degrees in the apartment...hence all the melting. But, the peanutty, fudgey split soup was amazing. It tasted like helping others. :)

Monkey Lover's Split
-1 large banana split lengthwise, then again crosswise if necessary
-2 1/2 big scoops Edy's Slow-Churned Light Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
-Hot fudge for drizzling
-Reese's Peanut Butter Chips for sprinkling
-Light whipped topping
-Crushed peanuts or nuts for sprinkling over topping

Assemble in that order in an ice cream dish. Eat quickly before it all melts!

Black Bean and Tortilla Bake

I'm at a loss for anything particularly clever to say about this meal. Simply put, it is fabulous. It's flexible where ingredients are concerned, so you can modify it to your particular tastes. It's extremely healthy, so you can enjoy the gooey cheesiness without hating yourself later. As an added bonus, it's vegetarian. Well, that's a bonus to me, anyway.

I think I'm going to call this recipe "Old Faithful." It's a well-timed geyser of deliciousness.

Black Bean and Tortilla Bake (I cannot remember where I got this recipe from so many years ago. I thought it was the American Heart Association, but apparently not. However, I did find the recipe here.)

-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 cup chopped onion
-1 cup chopped tomatoes
-1/2 cup chopped green onions
-2 teaspoons cumin
-1/2 teaspoon chili powder (**I like a whole teaspoon**)
-1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
-1 (16 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (**or more, according to your preference)
-Salt (**I use 1/4 teaspoon**)
-Pepper (**I use 1/4 teaspoon**)
-12 soft corn tortillas
-8 oz. lowfat cheddar cheese, shredded; reserve 2 tbsp. (**Try out a variety of cheeses. Yesterday I used a "Cheddar-Pepper Jack"-shredded mix. It was awesome.**)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray large skillet with cooking spray. Add garlic, onions, tomato, green onions, cumin and chili powder. Cook on medium heat until onion is tender. Add tomato sauce and cook 5 more minutes. Stir in black beans, cilantro, salt and pepper.

2. Spray a 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 4 tortillas, 1/3 cheese, 1/3 bean mixture; repeat two more times. Top with reserved 2 tbsp. cheese.

3. Bake 20 minutes covered, then 10 minutes uncovered or until bubbly.

-6 servings if it's being served with a nice big side salad, or you're not very hungry. If you're serving it on its own, it's 4 servings.
-Calories: 272 for 6 servings, 408 for 4 servings.

Daring Cooks' Challenge: Vegan Pesto-Pistachio Portobellos

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I first made a Cooking Light nut butter recipe back when I was still living at home. It was their delectable Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms. I've made that recipe several times because it's so delicious. I've also done a few experiments with Fettuccine and Cashew Cream. Soooo delicious. Since I'd already done Cooking Light-based nut butters, I decided to actually branch out and...*gasp*...INVENT SOMETHING.

Nut butters are fantastic for vegans. They're rich and full of the fat and protein that vegans need to sustain themselves. I wondered what I could make vegan that vegans don't usually get to eat. Then it hit me: Stuffed mushrooms! Stuffed mushrooms with pistachio nut butter! ....and pesto! And let's face it, pesto-pistachio is just fun to say.

Caveat emptor: I made this recipe up. That is to say, I don't have a hard and fast recipe, and I didn't really measure anything (just to make things extra difficult for anyone who wants to try this out). Bear with me.

Pesto-Pistachio Portobellos

-5 portobello mushroom caps
-At least 1 cup (if not more) of shelled pistachios
-3.5 ounce package fresh basil leaves (that's probably 1 - 1 1/2 cups packed)
-2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
-1/8 cup or so of pine nuts
-1 teaspoon dried parsley (if you have fresh, USE IT. I forgot to buy any. Dumb.)
-1/2 fresh tomato, chopped roughly
-1 carrot, cut into rounds
-Olive oil

1. Very gently remove mushroom stems from portobellos and create a hole for the filling. If you've ever made stuffed mushrooms before with button mushrooms, you know that usually it's easy to just twist the stem out of the cap. That's NOT the case with portobellos. The portobello cap will just break if you try that. So don't. Instead, use a paring knife to slice it off at the bottom, and then continue on very gently until you have a hole that's deep enough but doesn't break through the bottom.

2. Pour your pistachios into a food processor. Process for about 4 minutes, or until pistachios get beyond crumbly and clump together. Yay, pistachio butter! Remove from processor and set aside in a bowl.

Pretty green pistachio butter. Om nom.

3. In the food processor, add basil, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, tomato, carrot, and olive oil (I did two quick circles around the food processor with oil). Puree until it's nice and combined.

4. Using a fork to combine, add enough pesto to the pistachio butter until it's spreadable and is tasty to your liking. I kept adding a tablespoonful at a time and tasting until it was where I wanted it (which was "not too overwhelmingly pistachio-y." VERY scientific, I know.)

5. Preheat the broiler.

6. Spoon that pesto-pistachio into the caps and level it with a spoon.

These are WAY lovelier before cooking.

7. Broil for only 4-5 minutes. They will turn ugly and black on top (probably all the fat), but I promise they're not actually burned. Serve hot.

Inside the Very Ugly Mushroom lays gooey goodness.

Verdict: Greg loved these, and I liked them but think they could use some tweaking. They were VERY rich. I added the tomato and carrot to the pesto in hopes of cutting the richness, but it only worked somewhat. I think these would be much better if they were made into appetizers with button mushrooms, rather than used as a main course. Or, if they were used as a main course, the recipe should be modified a bit. Ah well, it was still tasty. :)

USA, Part II: Pueblo Indian Pork Roast

Back in January, I had this grand idea to do a 4th of July "Coast to Coast" themed meal for the 50 Countries Challenge-USA Edition. I planned to do San Francisco sourdough and New England Clam Chowder. It sounded so brilliant and delicious. And then I remembered that the 4th of July takes place in July. Which is hot. And really, who makes clam chowder in the middle of the summer? So, it was back to the drawing board.

Inspiration struck last week. Why not celebrate some of the cuisine of the indigenous peoples of America? I knew there would be truckloads (literally) of corn at the farmer's market, just waiting to be eaten. But what to go with good 'ol maize?

And then I found a recipe for Pueblo Indian Pork Roast. I got super excited because not only did it include lots of normally yummy spices, but it also included hot chiles and CHOCOLATE. Oh my god. CHILES AND CHOCOLATE ON A PORK ROAST! That's what it sounded like in my head. I have never been so glad that I ditched the idea of making clam chowder and went digging for other things.

Pueblo Indian Pork Roast (from The Gutsy Gourmet)
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 1/2 cups chopped onion
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-4 dried juniper berries, crushed (**NOTE: I used 2 teaspoons of gin. Same diff.**)
-1/2 teaspoons coriander
-1 bay leaf
-4 large ripe tomatoes, quartered, seeded
-1 1/4 cups water
-2/3 cups cider vinegar
-1/2cup honey
-1 tablespoon Ground New Mexican red chile
-1 dried medium-hot New Mexican red chile, crushed (**NOTE: I used dried, finely chopped Japones chiles, plus a couple dashes of cayenne. It was perfect heat.**)
-2 teaspoons salt
-1 oz square unsweetened chocolate, grated
-4 lb To 5 lb pork rib roast (**NOTE: Naturally, Meijer didn't have what I wanted, like always. Instead, I got a hefty boneless center cut (?) loin. This meant that I had only about a 2 hour cooking time to get the internal temp around 170. Bam!**)

1. Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan and saute onions in it over medium heat until soft. Add garlic, juniper berries, coriander seed and bay leaf and saute for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Add tomatoes, water,vinegar, honey, ground and crushed chile and salt. Simmer, covered,30 minutes. Add chocolate and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until fairly thick.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Place roast fat side up in a roasting pan and baste generously with the sauce. Roast for about 3 hours (or until internal temp is around 170-175), basting occasionally with sauce and pan drippings. Let roast sit for 10 minutes in a warm place before carving. Slice and spoon additional sauce over each portion.

-Serves 6 very generously

Verdict: OH MY GOD. SO AMAZING. The pork loin was so soft and velvety, and the sauce was just incredible and complex. It went really well with fresh, sweet corn on the cob. And, if you're in Wisconsin and about to make this, you should definitely grab a New Glarus Unplugged "Enigma." It is a sour cherry-bourbon flavored beer that perfectly complemented this meal.

Thank you, Pueblo Indians.

Delicious, yes. Ugly, yes.

USA, Part I: Apple Pie for Obama

People magazine had an article detailing White House chef Bill Yosse's recipe for apple pie. Apparently it is so delicious that few people turn it down at White House functions, and Obama calls this man "The Crust Master." I do not at all doubt that Obama does this while giving Bill Yosse the Vulcan Salute. I love him.

Since I wanted to make apple pie anyway as part of my USA-50 Countries Challenge, I figured this recipe was as good as any. Better than any, actually. If it's fit for the White House, it's fit for guests at my friend's BBQ.

Once again, my attempts at making a crust successfully partially failed. Not in the finished product where it was flaky and buttery and delicious. But rather in the rolling and picking up of the crust. The Smitten Kitchen details how she likes to gently fold her rolled dough into quarters, lift into the pan and gently unfold. I tried that with the bottom crust and failed utterly. I ended up smooshing the dough together to resemble a pie crust. When I rolled out the top dough, it was working out great--few holes/rips, I'd been able to pick it up to turn it over or give quarter turns without it getting hurt, etc. Woohoo! UNTIL I picked it up to put it on top of the pie filling. That's when it decided to get a gaping hole. Sigh. Oh well. I hid it the best I could, partially by using dough scraps to write "4th" on the top. See? I'm a geek too, Obama.

Bill Yosse's Apple Pie
(from People magazine)
For pie crust:
-3 cups all purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 1/2 sticks cool room temperature unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
-6-7 tablespoons ice water
-1 egg + 1 teaspoon salt for egg wash

For filling:
-3 lbs. apple, such as Granny Smith, Gala, or McIntolsh, peeled, cored, and cut into half-inch wedges (**NOTE: Somewhere in the article, Bill Yosse recommends using at least 2 different kinds of apples in the pie. I did. Bill Yosse is 100% correct.**)
-1 cup sugar
-1/2 cup honey
-1/2 cup cornstarch
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-Zest and juice of one lemon

1. Place flour and salt in a food processor and pulse five times. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms chickpea-sized pieces, about 20 seconds. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse until mixture just holds together. Divide dough and form into two equal sized ball, then press each ball down to form a 5-inch disc. Wrap each disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to two days. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disc into a 14" circle. Place one circle between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate. (**NOTE: I did everything manually because I don't trust a food processor with dough. To do that, use a pastry blender or two knives to cut butter into flour until a coarse meal forms. Then put 1 tablespoon ice water at a time into the flour-butter and mix with a form until a ball forms.**)

2. Grease a 10" deep-dish pie pan and gently place the other circle in the pan, leaving a 1" overhang. Chill the dough in the pie pan for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 375. Remove the pie pan with the bottom crust from the refrigerator and let soften for 5-10 minutes. Fold the edge of the overhang under itself and pinch the dough to form a fluted edge. Line the foil and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and lift out foil with pie weights; allow pie shell to cool 10 minutes.

4. In a large saucepan, together the sugar and cornstach, then toss with apples, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon juice and zest. Let stand for 20 minutes.

5. Bring fruit mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened slightly, making sure fruit does not stick to the bottom of saucepan. Remove from heat and cool.

6. Whisk the egg and salt in a bowl. Brush the egg wash over the rim of the pre-baked pie shell. Fill with the fruit filling and then lay the second dough circle over the filling, pressing very gently on the edges to make sure the egg wash seals the top pie dough to the bottom pre-baked crust. With a paring knife, puncture the top pie dough in a wide circle about 10 times with the tip of a knife to form steam vents. Brush top with remaining egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

7. Bake another 30-40 minutes or until the pie filling is starting to bubble out the vents and the top pie crust is golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool 1-2 hours before serving.

Verdict: This is an awesome apple pie. The filling is definitely the most flavorful I've ever tried. It's like apple pie filling on citrusy steroids. Pair that with the flaky, buttery crust and you've got one killer pie. I tip my hat to you, Bill Yosse. You've made me jealous of Obama.

England: English Muffins


After taking a week-long cooking sabbatical, I'm back! Yes, I've been luxuriating in Greg's willingness to cook for me. So sue me. The French meal pretty much wiped out any desire to cook. But I'm here and back on track with an inadvertent entry for the 50 Countries challenge.

Do you know the muffin man,
the muffin man,
the muffin man?
Do you know the muffin man,
who lives on Drury Lane?

Everyone knows that tune. If you're like me, you probably assumed the Muffin Man was a man who looked like a delicious blueberry muffin. Or, if you were a smarter child than me, you may have thought it was a man selling delicious blueberry muffins. Apparently it dates from Jane Austen's time, when there were door-to-door sales of English Muffins (of course, they're just called "Muffins" in England). Those were the times.

English muffins are, happily, of English origin. They may even date all the way back to the 10th century! I would believe that these puppies have that great of staying power. They're incredibly easy to make and are the perfect medium for butter and jam, peanut butter and bananas, or meat and eggs. England, we thank you for a wonderful breakfast food.

English Muffins
(from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice")

-2¼ cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
-½ tablespoon (.25 ounce) granulated sugar
-¾ teaspoon (.19 ounce) salt
-1¼ teaspoons (.14 ounce) instant yeast
-1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
-¾ to 1 cup (6 to 8 ounces) milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
-Cornmeal for dusting

1. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Stir in (or mix in on low speed with the paddle attachment) the shortening and ¾ cup milk until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still loose flour in the bowl, dribble in some of the remaining ¼ cup milk. The dough should be soft and pliable, not stiff.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed with the dough hook). Knead the dough for about 10 minutes (or mix for about 8 minutes), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a tacky, but not sticky, dough. It should pass the windowpane test and register 77° to 81° degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

4. Wipe the counter with a damp cloth and transfer the dough to the counter. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces of 3 ounces each. Shape the pieces into boules (or round rolls). Line a sheet pan with baking parchment, mist the parchment lightly with spray oil, and dust with cornmeal. Transfer the balls of dough to the sheet pan, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Mist them lightly with spray oil, sprinkle them loosely with cornmeal, and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a towel.

5. Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces nearly double in size and swell both up and out.

6. Heat a skillet or flat griddle to medium (350°F if you have a thermometer setting). Also, preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

7. Brush the pan or griddle with vegetable oil or mist with spray oil. Uncover the muffin rounds and gently transfer them to the pan, sliding a metal spatula under them and lifting them to the pan. Fill the pan so that the pieces are at least 1 inch apart, not touching. Cover the pieces still on the sheet pan with the plastic wrap or a towel to prevent them from developing a skin. The dough that is being cooked will flatten in the pan and spread slightly, then the pieces will puff somewhat. Cook them for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the bottom of the dough cannot cook any longer without burning. The bottoms should be a rich golden brown; they will brown quickly but will not burn for awhile, so resist the temptation to turn them prematurely or they will fall when you flip them over. Carefully flip the pieces over with the metal spatula and cook on the other side for 5 to 8 minutes in the same manner. Both sides will now be flat. When the dough seems as if it cannot endure any further cooking without burning, transfer the pieces to a sheet pan and place the pan in the oven (don’t wait for the still uncooked pieces, or the ones just out of the pan will cool down and will not respond to the oven stage). Bake for 5 to 8 minutes on the middle shelf in the oven to ensure that the center is baked. Meanwhile, return to the uncooked pieces and cook them, then bake them, as you did the first round.

8. Transfer the baked muffins to a cooling rack and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.

-Makes 6 large English Muffins

Greg and I thought it would be really hilarious to celebrate our independence from England (you know, for the 4th of July) by making very American breakfast sandwiches with these this morning. We used local organic eggs and bacon, and delicious Wisconsin mozzarella. This was a fantastic use of relatively fresh (made yesterday) English Muffins. The yeasty flavor really shined through.