Monday, July 27, 2009

Pie Perfect

Pie crusts do not come naturally to me. Long before I can remember, my mother reached the conclusion that her pie crusts turned out badly, and from then on she was resolute in avoiding them. Our Thanksgiving pumpkin pies always had store bought crusts (or even better, we asked that our holiday guests come with dessert in tow). When I was a teenager, a family friend famous for her pastry tried to teach me her method, which I believe involved warm water, but I wasn’t interested enough to attempt it later on my own.

Once I started really cooking in my mid-20s, I made a few pie crusts. Some turned out well; many others stuck to my counter when I rolled them out. Of course I made numerous pies and tarts in culinary school, and once I bought a food processor and KitchenAid mixer for my home kitchen my pastry comfort level moved up a few notches.

This weekend, inspired by an online video at, I went back to basics and made a crust using only my hands. It was the best I ever made – rich and flaky, yet strong and easy to handle.

I really credit the video. It featured Julie Richardson, co-author of Rustic Fruit Desserts. In six minutes she walks viewers through the pie crust process, from mixing the dry ingredients to working in the butter to laying the pastry in the dish. Best of all, the accompanying recipe yields four crusts! This weekend I made a double-crusted ginger-peach pie (my mouth is watering as I type those words). The filling was sweet and succulent, and the pastry tender and toothsome. On the second night we ate the pie Rosa was so excited she literally got up and did a dance. And I have two crusts waiting in my freezer for an upcoming pie or pies.

Click here to watch the video. I think you have to sign in to the site, but it’s a small inconvenience next to the pie crust wisdom you will receive.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dinner Together & Recipe Contest Winner!

As a cook who always wants to feed people and a mom who wants to encourage healthy eating habits I am a big proponent of eating dinner together. So imagine how happy I was when I saw that there is a company called just that: Dinner Together.

Started by Dr. Kathleen Cuneo, Dinner Together helps solve children’s behavioral problems related to eating and offers busy families strategies to help make dinner together a regular part of their lifestyles. As Cuneo notes on her website, “Research has shown that children who eat meals with their families frequently have better eating habits, better academic success, better mental health, and lower risk for both obesity and substance abuse.”

You can’t beat that.

I’ve been receiving Cuneo’s newsletter for a couple of months now and always come away with a great tip or appealing recipe. Recently she announced a No-cook Recipe Contest in honor of the steamy days of summer. I submitted Tuscan Tuna and White Bean Salad, one of my all-time favorite recipes, summer or not. It’s exceedingly simple (put a bunch of stuff in a bowl and stir), very flexible (don’t have one herb? Use another), and extremely versatile (try as a salad on greens, as a sandwich on toasted bread, or even tossed with hot pasta). It’s a winner, if I do say so myself, and happily Cuneo agreed! The recipe will be published in Dinner Together’s next newsletter, so go here and sign up for it. She also mentions the contest and the recipe on her blog. (For those of you who don’t want to get more messages in your in-box I will post the recipe here after it’s published in the Dinner Together newsletter.)

If anyone else has a great no-cook summer recipe I’d love to hear about it!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Greenmarket Love, Part II

When I shop for my family at the Greenmarket, I stick mostly with fruits and vegetables, ordering our proteins and dairy from Fresh Direct. But, when I was planning my Tribeca Greenmarket demo a couple of weeks ago I decided to make use of the wonderful, fresh seafood on offer there. Behold Sauteed Scallops with Salsa Verde -- a light, simple, and delicious dish. My favorite part of this recipe is how nicely the punchy lemon flavor of the salsa verde complements the richness of the scallops. And after tasting the impeccable freshness of the Greenmarket seafood I am vowing to expand my Greenmarket horizons.

This salsa verde is also one of my favorite ways to get vegetables into my toddler. A variation on pesto, it also works mixed into orzo or rice or served over roasted chicken.


Ingredients: 1/2 cup, plus 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 cups greens and/or herbs, e.g., spinach, arugula, basil, parsley
1 TB lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more for sprinkling
16 large scallops

1. In a blender or food processor, blend together _ cup olive oil, the greens, lemon juice, salt, and a few grinds pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if necessary. This sauce should be loose enough for drizzling.
2. In a large saucepan, heat 2 TB olive oil (or canola oil). Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. When oil is hot add the scallops and cook.
3. When the underside of the scallops are well-browned, about two-three minutes, flip the scallops and cook four more minutes, or until just cooked through.
4. Serve scallops drizzled with salsa verde.

Yield: 4 servings

I have another Tribeca Greenmarket demo coming up on Wednesday, July 15. I’m testing recipes this weekend… I think something with peaches is on the horizon.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Greenmarket Love

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to demo recipes at the Tribeca Greenmarket. It was a beautiful day. My friend Cara came and took a few photos (see above), and I got to meet farmers, shoppers, and several moms and their kids who stopped by to watch the demo.

I have been absolutely in love with the Greenmarkets (NYC’s system of farmer’s markets) the last few weeks. Every Saturday morning Rosa and I head up to Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn as early as we wake up, usually by 7:30 AM. The weather then is perfect -- warm, but not hot -- and I'm always surprised and impressed by how many other people are awake and starting their day at that hour. We buy enough fruits and veggies for the week, sampling as many of the berries as possible, and head home for coffee (for me) or milk (for Rosa), the paper, and then breakfast with some of the foods we've purchased. It's a lovely start to the weekend.

This year, more than ever, I have been very attuned to the week-by-week changes in the market’s offerings. One week the strawberries are sweet, perfect jewels. The next week they’re a little mushier, and I know that I won’t be eating many fresh strawberries for another 10-11 months. That’s a long time! And it makes each bite of strawberry, when they are in season, even sweeter. As I'm getting older I'm trying to hold on to time, and it's really not possible. The fleeting seasons of my favorite foods only reinforce that. We must appreciate them while they're around and then let go.

At the Tribeca demo I prepared two dishes: Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Arugula and Pan-seared Scallops with Salsa Verde, two simple, delicious dishes that really capture the flavors of early summer. Here is the Sugar Snap Pea salad recipe; the scallops will come in an upcoming post.


Sugar snap peas usually rank high on kids’ vegetable list – not nearly as egregious as other veggies. For even more takers, try calling arugula by one of its other names: “rocket”.

Ingredients: 3 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB minced shallot
1 tsp. salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 cup baby arugula
1 cup other baby lettuces, like a mesclun mix
1/2 cup crumbled soft cheese, like chevre or ricotta salata

1. Heat 1 TB olive oil in a medium sauté pan. When hot, add the sugar snap peas and sprinkle with salt. Cook until sugar snap peas are bright green, one to two minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.
2. In large bowl, whisk together 2 TB olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
3. Add the sugar snap peas to the dressing and mix.
4. Add the lettuces to the sugar snap peas and toss gently.
5. Add the cheese and toss gently.
6. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil, lemon juice, salt, or pepper as necessary.

Yield: 3-4 servings


• Replace the arugula with more baby greens, or vice versa (my favorite).

• Omit the green entirely and serve only the sugar snap peas.

• Omit the shallot or cheese if they’re unavailable or unpopular in your household.

I’m still thinking about what recipes I’ll prep at my next Greenmarket demo on Wednesday, July 15. I think peaches may be mandatory – I made a tasty peach relish to serve over T-bone steaks on the 4th of July. Perhaps that will go on the menu -- we still have a few more weeks to eat all the peaches we can get our hands on before they disappear for another year.