Homemade Blueberry Pie

“I listen to NPR every day and I can’t sleep at night because of the world I live in. But blueberry pie, that’s nothin’ but joy!”

A chef at the Culinary Institute of America, on a National Public Radio story discussing the fear of making a homemade blueberry pie.

Ever since I heard that story on the radio and I listened to local cookbook author Gesine Bullock-Prado discuss her latest book, Pie It Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes, and Other Pastries Reinvented, I’ve had a hankering to make a pie. Hands down, my favorite dessert is homemade pie. Forget cake, ice cream, even chocolate, if I can have a piece of homemade pie, I am in heaven. I have favorites throughout the year that correspond with the seasons, fall and winter is pecan and apple, and this time of year I love my grandmother’s peach pie (recipe can be found here). But this summer, with the appearance of the first crop of local blueberries, I had blueberry pie on my mind.

Berries don’t last very long in my house at all, so I had to be quick about grabbing the pints I bought at the farmer’s market. And leave it to me to choose the hottest day of the year to decide to turn on the oven! With sweat on my brow, the butter for the crust melting on the counter (sticking it in the freezer for five to ten minutes is just enough time to harden it up again!), and the prospect of yet another late dinner, I still entered the kitchen to start baking.

Pie making really is quite easy, the berries go into a big bowl and are  gently stirred with the sugar and cornstarch. I always get a little nervous when making pie crust, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a pro. And remembering Gesine talk about making pastry (she makes it sound so simple!) relaxed me a bit.

This recipe is a combination of two different recipes; the crust is from The Joy of Cooking, the filling is from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Since my berries were extra sweet, I cut the original ¾ cup of sugar to ½. But in hindsight, I might rethink that next time. Perhaps it was the lemon juice, but I found the pie to be a bit more tart than I normally like. So you can gauge how much sugar to use, perhaps something in between.

By the time we ate dinner it was 9:30(!), a hot dessert was the last thing we wanted, so it was pie for breakfast the next morning. And in the vein of “pieing it forward,” I carefully sliced it and shared pieces with friends. Because, really, who can resist homemade pie?

Next week, I’m thinking it might be cherry. Or peach. Or maybe red raspberry. . . .

Homemade Blueberry Pie

Filling

  • 5+ cups fresh blueberries
  • ½-¾ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • About 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • A dash of salt

Crust

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon or so of salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Ice water

For the crust: In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add the butter, cut into chunks, and with a pastry blender or two forks, work the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. One tablespoon at a time, add the ice water and mix until the crust melds together, and divide in half. On a floured surface, take your rolling pin, add a little bit of flour to the pin and the crust, and work it in a circle until it is about 9 inches for your pie pan. Carefully set it into a greased glass pie plate. Add the filling and repeat rolling out the crust for the top. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, and reduce the heat to 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until the crust is brown.

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Farro Salad with Chicken and Summertime Herbs

No, this isn’t a spinach leaf, it’s a basil leaf! I couldn’t resist sharing. It made for a tasty batch of pesto that evening!

If you are a longtime reader, I’m sure you’ve noticed a couple of things; I love to make soup in the winter and salad suppers in the summer! So please bear with me, for yet another salad that can be made ahead of time in these lazy, hot days of summer!

Farro seems to be the golden child of grains these days; both Cooking Light and Eating Well recently had a few recipes on different farro salads. Gone are the days when I received a quizzical look when I asked if it was available at the coop. This grain is high in protein and delicious; I’ve used it a couple of times before, here and here, but in case you’ve missed it, it’s like a large grain of barley, but without the barley flavor. It’s an easy grain to cook with and I find it incredibly versatile; you could add it to salads, soups, you could even add some fruit and eat it for breakfast! But, while being the golden child, it is not a gluten-free grain, so if that is the route you would like to take, quinoa can certainly be substituted for this dish.

So on that note, I decided to create my own salad with a little bit of chicken, a few vegetables, and some fresh herbs I bought at the farmer’s market. (I even snuck in some dill; we’ll see what the dill hater of the family thinks!) This time of year, you can add whatever protein and vegetable you like. Some beans or cheese for  vegetarian version, and I thought about fresh zucchini or summer squash would be tasty, too; it will be delicious any way you make it yourself! I did find the olive oil and vinegar were absorbed after sitting for a few days; an easy problem that can be solved with a dash of the two before serving.

Farro Salad with Chicken and Summertime Herbs
1 ½-2 cups farro, cooked (substitute quinoa if you’re making this gluten-free)
1 cooked chicken breast, chopped
1 small shallot, minced (red onion or scallions could be substituted)
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup or so, fresh green beans, snapped in half
3 large basil leafs, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1-2 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 capfuls champagne vinegar (or another light vinegar–white wine or rice)
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large mixing bowl, add the ingredients and mix together, adjusting to taste!

* * * * *
Marion Cunningham: A Tribute
I was very sad to hear about the death of cook and award-winning food writer, Marion Cunningham, last week. I am always inspired by people who take on the second phase of their life with gusto; a stay-at-home mother, Cunningham overcame agoraphobia and alcoholism at age 50 and began her cooking career with the famed James Beard. New York Times writer, Kim Severson, wrote a lovely piece in memory of her friend and this true champion to the home cook. You can find the story here.

Oven Fried Chicken and Melted Green Beans

I find that summertime, for those of us who like to cook, is spent grabbing those few cool moments to cook items ahead of time in preparation for meals. These past few days have been quite hot for Vermont, so I grab time in the morning before 7 a.m. or after the sun goes down to do my cooking. One evening after 8 finding myself home alone, with a little leftover Chardonnay and Pandora blaring my favorite ’70s and ’80s music, I was in the kitchen, cooking again. Happy as a pig in . . . well, you know what.

Plans had been made to have a cold picnic dinner the following evening, so I decided to cook everything the night before so it would be easy to pack. This oven fried chicken recipe, from Eating Well magazine, circa 2003, I’ve been making every summer since it was originally published. (I recently received the August magazine, which is their tenth anniversary issue, and this was one of their top chicken recipes!) My father’s fried chicken was my birthday meal of choice growing up, and today I still feel a pang when I eat something other, yet still delicious, for my birthday dinner. But of course, as we learn more about healthy cooking, this is a perfect recipe to satisfy that craving.

The melting beans are somewhat my recipe and somewhat not. One morning, driving to work early, I was listening to a podcast of “The Splendid Table,” and Lynn Rosetto Kasper was interviewing Crescent Dragonwagon, who has a new book out on beans. She talked about cooking green beans at a very low heat and how a man proposed marriage he loved them so much! That was enough endorsement for me to try them. Granted, I was sleepy and wasn’t paying that much attention, but what I remembered, I made a few days later, and yes, they are incredible! I’ve made them since then on an almost weekly basis, and I wondered how they would be cold. Still delicious, and yes, wonderful enough to propose marriage! With virtually no work aside from trimming the beans, slicing some garlic, and a few tosses here and there, they are a great accompaniment if you are making a big dinner. No worries about over cooking; in fact, the longer you cook, the better they are! Please note, I’ve only cooked this in my cast iron skillet; I’m not sure how this would translate to a non-stick skillet or other type pan. If you try, please let me know how they turn out! And be prepared, they sometimes don’t make it to the table; they’re delicious right out of the pan!

Oven Fried Chicken
Originally from Eating Well magazine, 2003.

Ready for the oven!

½ cup nonfat buttermilk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Cooks’s note: I use sriracha sauce–zowie!)
2 1/2-3 pounds whole chicken legs, skin removed, trimmed and cut into thighs and drumsticks (Cook’s note: I used about 2 pounds of just chicken legs and did not remove the skin.)
½ cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Olive oil cooking spray

Whisk buttermilk, mustard, garlic and hot sauce in a shallow glass dish until well blended. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or for up to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Set a wire rack on the baking sheet and coat it with cooking spray.

Whisk flour, sesame seeds, paprika, thyme, baking powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place the flour mixture in a paper bag or large sealable plastic bag. (Cook’s note: I use a pie plate for this part, although a bag would probably be easier.)  Shaking off excess marinade, place one or two pieces of chicken at a time in the bag and shake to coat. Shake off excess flour and place the chicken on the prepared rack. (Discard any leftover flour mixture and marinade.) Spray the chicken pieces with cooking spray.

Bake the chicken until golden brown and no longer pink in the center, 40 to 50 minutes.

Melting Green Beans

In a cast iron skillet, add about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 2-3 very thinly sliced cloves of garlic. Add about two cups of trimmed green beans. Turn the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and leave it. Don’t toss for at least 30 minutes, if not longer. Once you stir, you’ll notice the beans starting to “melt,” and the garlic getting brown. Just leave, stir occasionally, until you’re ready to serve. Nothing can go wrong with this dish by cooking it too long!

Happy 4th of July!

For my U.S. readers, Happy 4th of July! I hope you are enjoying this odd mid-week holiday off from work if you have it. For my readers overseas, today is the day each year the U.S. celebrates its independence from Great Britain. Yes, for 200-plus years, we’ve had a party to celebrate our independence with picnics, parades, and fireworks. Now that I write it down it seems a little silly, but it’s nice way to have a day off from work in the middle of the summer!

So I’ve been thinking for a week what I could create with that would be a red, white, and blue dish. I decided to let my own creative juices flow, no cookbook or Internet searches for this one, I wanted to do it on my own. And it was a difficult assignment! Of course, you can’t go wrong with fresh strawberries and blueberries with homemade whipped cream. But I wanted something with a little bit more depth and something that wasn’t a dessert. So I created my own Red, White, and Blue Salad to celebrate the Fourth!

A few nights ago, when it was a bit cooler, I noticed some sad-looking red peppers in the vegetable bin. Never one to waste an expensive vegetable, I sliced them up, placed them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, and roasted them until they were soft and brown. Step one, check. The red was done! Of course, you don’t have to roast your own peppers, you can substitute tomatoes or store-bought roasted red peppers.

The white was easy, you can either use white button mushrooms or in my case, white Hakurei turnips.

Hakurei turnips.

In early summer, I find these small white sweet turnips at the farmer’s market and coop that you can use in salads and stirfries. They are beautiful, perfectly shaped little white globes. And these are an all in one vegetable, as you can also cook the greens. They’re a great addition to kale or chard sautéed with garlic and olive oil. With some crumbled blue cheese in the fridge, I was able to easily assemble these salads in just a few minutes.

For a salad dressing, I made my usual vinaigrette but with a few twists; instead of garlic I used a little bit of chopped shallot, and added a few chopped capers. I thought the flavor of both would really make everything zing and I was right!

If you want to make this a salad supper night, adding a little bit of chicken, tuna, or beans would be a welcome addition. Just be sure to save room for the berries and whipped cream for dessert!

Red, White, and Blue Salad
Lettuce mix
Roasted red peppers (or tomatoes)
Hakurei turnips (or white button mushrooms)
Crumbled blue cheese
Vinaigrette (recipe below)

With a salad plate, place a handful or two of lettuce mix. Arrange the roasted red peppers and turnips on the plate. Add a teaspoon or two of the vinaigrette and add a little bit of the blue cheese.

Vinaigrette
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons vinegar (I used rice vinegar this evening)
A couple of Tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons chopped capers

Add ingredients to a small mixing bowl, whisk, and serve atop the salad.