recipe for zucchini and bacon pie in savory no-roll pie crust | writes4food.com

Summery zucchini, bacon and ricotta pie.

I’m hooked on turning summer’s fresh vegetables into savory pies (I suppose there are worse vices). Think quiche—only packed with tons more vegetables and lighter on the eggy richness (and calories).

I recently shared my recipe for Improved Summer Corn & Tomato Pie with a friend on Facebook, as a way to convince him that it’s totally worth the very minimal effort to make your own crust for a savory vegetable pie. The trick is stirring together the dry and wet ingredients right in the pie plate and pressing the crumbly mixture into place. My super-easy and delicious savory no-roll pie crust recipe includes cornmeal for crunch and olive oil for flavor. My Facebook friend whipped up his own pie crust and loved how easy and tasty it was.

That no-roll pie crust is the base for this new recipe, which I adapted from a Saveur recipe that I spotted recently. I tinkered with the binding ingredients, and added bacon—well, because bacon makes any vegetable that much tastier.

Next week, I’ll be onto the corn and tomato pie—this week, I’m in love with this zucchini pie recipe!

summery zucchini, bacon and ricotta pie in no-roll crust recipe

serves 6

for the no-roll pie crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cold milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola or grapeseed oil)
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9-inch pie plate, whisk together the flour, cornmeal and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil and olive oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir with a fork. When the mixture becomes crumbly and hard to stir, use your hands to completely combine the mixture so no loose flour remains. Press the crumbs into place, starting with the bottom and working up the sides. Bake the pie shell for 12 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool.

for the vegetable filling:
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
½ cup grated asiago or Parmesan cheese
½ cup ricotta
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until it's crispy; transfer to a plate lined with paper towel, and drain off any rendered fat from the pan. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; reduce heat to medium and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 7 minutes. Transfer the onion to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet; add the garlic and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the zucchini begins to soften, about 7 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and let cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the asiago, ricotta, eggs and parsley. Stir into the vegetable mixture; season well with salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to the pre-baked pie shell. Bake the zucchini pie for 40–45 minutes, until the filling is set and lightly browned on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

fruit and herb infused spa water | writes4food.com

Fruit and herb infused water.

I’m not one for gadgety kitchen things … but this summer, I’m loving an infusion water pitcher that I picked up recently. We all know (don’t we?) the importance of drinking 8 full (that’s 8-ounce) glasses of water every day to keep our bodies hydrated. Drinking infused water makes that goal so much more achievable. It’s deliciously refreshing, and it’s a great way to add potassium and vitamins to your diet without drinking those icky bottled “smart” waters. The added potassium gives fruit-infused water a double bonus: Potassium helps balance fluid and electrolyte intake in your body’s cells. Potassium helps the water you’re drinking go to better use.

The infusion pitcher is super handy: Just cut up some citrus wedges and grab a few herb sprigs from the garden and fill the infuser, then fill the pitcher with cold water. The longer the water sits in the fridge, the deeper the taste. Recently, I visited the delightful local food writer and educator Rita Heikenfeld, and she shared a pitcher of infused water with fruit, edible flowers and a bit of sweet stevia from her garden. It was beautiful.

I’ve been going through a pitcher of infused water every day. I change the fruit and herbs every 3 or 4 days. My favorite flavor combinations for infused spa water:

  • lemon and basil
  • lime and mint
  • strawberry and mint
  • strawberry and raspberry

Are you getting enough water on these hot summer days?

how to make homemade butter with heavy whipping cream | writes4food.com

How to make homemade butter.

With the proliferation of excellent artisan bread in Cincinnati, thanks to Blue Oven Bakery, Anderson Brick Oven, Shadeau Bread and Breadsmith, these wonderful loaves deserve extra-special treatment. To me, there’s nothing better than homemade butter on really good bread.

For several years, I’ve been making homemade butter from Snowville Creamery’s heavy whipping cream. I love working with Snowville cream; in the spring, when the cows are eating dandelions in the field, the butter is almost neon; in the winter, it’s a more mellow yellow.

Making butter couldn’t be easier (it’s fun, too!), and it’s suddenly become trendy (a recent issue of Bon Appetit included a how-to on making butter). Give this homemade butter recipe a whirl!

recipe for making homemade butter

makes about 1 cup of butter

2 cups heavy cream (be sure it doesn't contain thickeners like carageenan; you just want cream)
Sea salt to taste (optional; see notes below)

Take the cream out of the fridge about 30 minutes in advance; you want it at a cool room temperature. Pour the cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a deep bowl and a hand mixer) and begin whipping on high speed. Once you reach whipped cream consistency, keep going ...

After about 6 to 8 minutes (more or less; the process takes less time if the cream is warmer), the butter will begin to separate. You'll see a thin, watery liquid start to accumulate in the bowl, and you'll have small pea-sized clumps of bright yellow solids. At this point, turn the mixer to low and let the solids come together.

ButterCurds ButterRinse

Into a strainer set over a bowl, dump the contents of the mixer; strain off the buttermilk. (Save, refrigerated, for another use. Like biscuits.) Retain the butter in the strainer. Place the strainer under cold running water and rinse until the water runs through the strainer clear. Shake the strainer to drain off as much water as possible, then gather the butter into your hands and knead like dough to remove more of the water. To make salted butter, sprinkle salt over the butter and knead it in with your hands.

Salting the butter: For 2 cups of cream, add 1/2 tsp. of sea salt for a fairly salty butter, or 1/4 tsp. for lightly salted; alternately, leave unsalted. To store: Keeps 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge (if it lasts that long!) or for 6 months in the freezer. Note: I wouldn't advise baking with this butter; its water content is higher than stick butter.

Must-make appetizers, sides and desserts for your Fourth of July menu.

How is it possible that the Fourth of July holiday weekend is upon us? Falling on a Friday this year, July 4 gives us all a three-day weekend and more than enough excuse to fire up the grill, invite some friends over and cook up a feast of seasonal foods.

In case you’re browsing for some menu ideas for your pre-fireworks bashes, here’s a roundup of great recipes for summery appetizers, sides and desserts perfect for July 4th celebrations. Light up those sparklers, friends!

recipe for honey roasted seasonal fruit compote | writes4food.com

Honeyed summer fruit compote.

We’re at the intersection of spring and summer. Just last week, I reacted with dismay when Kim at Lobenstein Farm at Findlay Market told me the strawberries I purchased were the last of the season. But then—hooray!—the Bee Haven had the first summer blueberries for sale.

There’s so much local fruit coming on now that I’m tempted to eat as much of it, in as many preparations, as I can. This recipe for oven-roasted fruit compote is the perfect way to take advantage of the bounty. It’s super easy: just toss the fruit with local honey and a vanilla bean and pop it in the oven. You can use any combination of fruit you’d like, from berries to peeled and chopped stone fruit. For the version pictured above, I used fresh local strawberries and blueberries, plus golden raspberries that I put in the freezer last summer. (I’m clearing those out to make ample room to put up this year’s crop.)

This roasted fruit compote is fantastic in a lot of different applications—I spooned some over vanilla ice cream last night, then enjoyed more on a bowl of cold oatmeal cereal for breakfast this morning. It would be fantastic over slices of citrus olive oil cake, shortcakes or pancakes, or layered with homemade granola and yogurt in a parfait, or as a topping for the old-fashioned Spanish Cream recipe that I shared recently.

This recipe is part of the collection I’m gathering for “The Findlay Market Cookbook,” to be published this fall by Farm Fresh Books. It’s inspired by my conversation with beekeeper Mark Bering, who sells honey and bee pollen at Findlay Market.

Through the summer, I’ll be sharing a few select recipes to preview the book—so stay tuned!

honeyed summer fruit compote recipe

serves 4

4 cups mixed fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, peaches, nectarines)
2–4 Tbsp. local honey
1/2 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small baking dish, toss together the fruit and honey. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds over the mixture, and tuck the bean itself into the fruit. Place the baking dish on a larger rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake, uncovered, for 20–25 minutes, until the fruit softens and becomes juicy.

recipe for old-fashioned Spanish Cream dessert with fresh berries | writes4food.com

The Clara Project: Spanish cream with fresh berries.

This recipe didn’t come out quite as I’d expected. You see, I thought this was my first opportunity with The Clara Project to experiment with a gelatin mold; I even purchased a vintage copper mold just for such an occasion.

But when I unmolded this creamy vanilla dessert, enticingly called Spanish Cream, it was a disaster; the contents sort of disintegrated onto the plate. No matter: Lesson learned, I still consider this dessert recipe a success.

As it happens, Spanish Cream is sort of like an unbaked vanilla soufflé: wonderfully light and fluffy, lightly sweet, perfect for summer’s freshest berries. It’s really too soft to mold like a Jell-o dessert. Instead, it’s best to transfer the vanilla custard mixture to a pretty serving bowl and, once it’s set, to scoop out big spoonfuls into individual dessert dishes.

Spanish Cream is a definitively old-fashioned dessert, elegant but not at all fussy. It’s made in two steps, with a cooked vanilla custard that’s thickened with gelatin, then whisked into whipped egg whites. Give it a whirl, and let me know what you think!

spanish cream recipe

spanish cream dessert recipe

(serves 6–8)

1 Tbsp. powdered gelatin
3 cups whole milk
3 eggs, separated
Scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
Fresh berries tossed with sugar, for serving

Have ready a large bowl filled with ice cubes and water. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl. Place the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl; give them a stir with a whisk. Add water to the bottom of the double boiler or to a saucepan large enough that your heat-proof bowl will rest in it (not touching the bottom).

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the gelatin and milk. Place the pan over medium heat and warm the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved and the milk bubbles (but does not boil), about 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar VERY slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg yolks. Place the bowl or pan with the egg yolk mixture over the pan of simmering water and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture turns a pale golden color and thickens to the consistency of heavy cream, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and salt. Place the bowl (or double boiler pan) in the ice bath to quickly cool the mixture, whisking occasionally as it sets. Cool for about 1 hour (refrigeration will speed the process), until the mixture resembles a soft pudding.

Use the stand mixer or a hand-held mixer to whip the egg whites to firm peaks. Gently fold about 1/3 of the cooled custard mixture into the egg whites, then fold in the remaining egg whites, stirring gently to fully combine the ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight, until the Spanish Cream is softly set. Portion into individual serving bowls and top with sugared fresh berries.

The Findlay Market Cookbook: an update.

On July 1, I’m due to hand over a massive manuscript for “The Findlay Market Cookbook” to Michael Turback, my editor at Farm Fresh Books. It’s the culmination of 7 months of work, 70 interviews with Market vendors, producers and farmers, and about 130 recipes.

It’s been a labor of love—with heavy emphasis on both the labor and the love. Several times, I’ve hit a point where I thought this project would never be done. The past week, as I’ve been scrambling to collect recipes from Cincinnati chefs who’ve promised them (you know who you are) and to finish the very last interview, I’ve sort of hit the wall. While I’ve never run a marathon, this has definitely been a Marathon Project, and I’m in mile 25.

For most of the project, I’ve been working in isolation. (Karen Kahle, who’s writing a few of the profiles, has been off on her own, too.) Just recently, photographer Julie Kramer (who’s also my publisher for Edible Ohio Valley magazine) shared some of the terrific shots she’s getting of the Findlay vendor community. These wonderful photos have renewed my enthusiasm for the project, just when I needed that spark.

Here’s a sneak preview of some of the photos. Stay tuned this summer, when I’ll be selectively sharing some of the fantastic recipes I’ve collected for the book. And when “The Findlay Market Cookbook” is published in October, I’ll let you know when and where the launch party will happen!

chocolate pecan cookie granola recipe | writes4food.com

Chocolate cherry pecan cookie granola.

It’s such a small world, isn’t it? In my many years as editor and brand leader for HOW, I collaborated with many insanely creative and smart people, including Alison Strickland. Alison’s the senior PR manager for The Creative Group, a longtime content partner for HOW (whose blog for creative freelancers I contribute to pretty regularly). Alison and I worked on projects for the magazine, the website and events, but I don’t think we’ve ever met in person. (Or maybe we did, once, fleetingly, at the HOW Design Conference.) Anyway.

Until a mutual friend mentioned it recently, I had no idea Alison was a fellow food blogger. No. Idea. What a miss: Her Two of a Kind Cooks (co-’written’ with her sweet dog, Rookie), is a treasure. I love Alison’s recipes and her enthusiasm. Her food photography makes me green with envy.

As a granola enthusiast (witness: almond granola, Granddad’s granola, granola bars) I was particularly smitten with Alison’s “cranola” idea: cookie + granola. Whaaaat?

Recently, we decided to play in the kitchen together and create a mashup of her cranola concept and my favorite pecan-cranberry-chocolate granola recipe. See Alison’s version, Almond Berry Chocolate Cookie Granola, on Two of a Kind Cooks. I decided to stick with pecans instead of Alison’s almonds (though almonds are never a bad choice); my version, below, is Pecan Cranberry Chocolate Cookie Granola.

This cookie + granola thing has totally rocked my world. It’s great as a nibbly snack, or crumbled on yogurt or ice cream. Thanks, Alison!

pecan cranberry chocolate cookie granola

makes about 4 cups

½ cup chopped pecans, divided
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, room temperature
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (or white whole-wheat) flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2½ cups old-fashioned oats
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a food processor, pulse ¼ cup pecans and the sugar until coarsely ground. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the coconut oil and pecan/sugar mixture on high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined. Add the oats and remaining pecans and stir; when the mixture gets stiff, use your hands to continue mixing until the oats and pecans are evenly incorporated into the dough. Use your hands to squish irregular chunks of dough onto the baking sheet; if you have any mixture that doesn't want to clump together, just add that to the baking sheet (it'll be delicious on yogurt). Bake the cranola for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir gently. Bake for another 10 minutes, remove from the oven and stir gently. Bake for an additional 5–10 minutes until the clumps are dry. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and scatter the cranberries over the hot cranola. Let cool for 15 minutes and then scatter the chocolate chips over the cranola. Let cool completely before stirring (or the chocolate chips will melt).
Store the cranola in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, if it lasts that long.

 

how to cook with garlic scapes

Spring’s secret ingredient: cooking with garlic scapes.

They’re here—in my own garden and at farmers’ markets—just in the last week: Garlic scapes!

What is a garlic scape, you ask? The scape is the little curlicue sprout that shoots from the top of a hardneck garlic plant. Many home gardeners and professional growers cut off the garlic scape to direct the plant’s energy toward growing a fat bulb (the underground part) with large, flavorful cloves. In our hardiness zone 6a, scapes typically arrive in early June, and garlic is harvested in late June to early July. (See here for a how-to on growing garlic. You should absolutely try it.)

Garlic scapes have a milder, “greener” flavor than garlic cloves, and you can chop the green parts and use them in place of (or in addition to) the cloves. Garlic scapes make a healthful way to add taste and interest to your springtime cooking.

I snipped a few garlic scapes from my garden last weekend, chopped them and tossed them with a pint of cherry tomatoes, some fresh thyme, and a glug of olive oil, then grill-roasted them in a foil packet for 20 minutes. Divine!!

Like everything wonderful, garlic scapes are a fleeting, seasonal pleasure. If you can find a bagful at your farmers’ market, by all means bring some home.

About the illustration: The generous and talented Linda Cassady provided the lovely image of garlic scapes. Linda is a Chicago-based illustrator and designer with a soft spot for ordinary beauty and a strong sense of visual optimism. She and I met at a HOW Design Conference eons ago and have stayed in touch. See more of Linda’s work in her illustration portfolio.

What to do with garlic scapes?

free form strawberry tart recipe | writes4food.com

Easy strawberry galette.

Ahhhhh, Spring. You’re here, and you’ve stayed. And look what you’ve brought us: snappy stalks of asparagus, sweet peas, crisp radishes, cool lettuces, tender greens. And strawberries. You’ve brought strawberries.

I don’t know about you, but I’m in full-on, eatasmuchasIpossiblycan strawberry mode. I sliced strawberries over my cold oatmeal muesli for breakfast this morning. I stirred strawberries with some homemade strawberry jam into yogurt for lunch. Later this week, I’ll experiment with a recipe for The Clara Project that includes strawberries.

And then there’s this easy strawberry tart recipe, which I shared here quite awhile ago (and which you may have missed). The richly buttery crust is courtesy of my brother, whose fruit galettes grace the cases at his Baker & Nosh in Chicago. This tart is baked on parchment, so you don’t have to fuss with crimping the dough or filling a tart shell. (Be sure, though, to bake it on a rimmed baking sheet; it’s juicy!) You could use any kind of fruit in this free-form tart, but to me, there’s nothing better than fresh spring strawberries. Give this a go while these ruby beauties are in season.

free-form strawberry tart recipe

For the fruit filling:
1 quart fresh strawberries, cleaned and trimmed, halved if they're huge
1 Tbsp. brown, granulated or raw sugar, or to taste
2 to 3 Tbsp. liqueur, such as Amaretto, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or brandy or port (optional)

Before making the tart dough (about 1 hour before baking), combine fruit, sugar and liqueur in a large bowl; toss to combine and let sit to infuse.

For the crust:
1 3/4 sticks (14 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk (reserve white)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
zest from 1 lemon or orange
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

In a stand mixer or using a bowl and hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar; add egg and egg yolk and stir to combine, then stir in vanilla extract and citrus zest. Add flour and salt, stir to combine. Transfer dough to a floured pastry cloth or clean kitchen towel, shape it into a ball and divide it in half. (Wrap one half in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for a couple of months.) Press the other half into a disc and wrap it in plastic or waxed paper; chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment. On the floured cloth, roll the dough out to about 15 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the dough circle to the baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to mound the fruit in the center of the dough circle, leaving an inch or two around the perimeter; drizzle fruit with a spoonful or two of the accumulated juices and liqueur. Gently fold the outer rim of dough over the fruit. Brush the dough with the reserved egg white. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until crust is deeply golden.