Friday, August 1, 2008

Eating at the Round Oak Table


Previously unknown fact: I love to cook. Now, this site, homage to my mom, is supposed to loosely follow the same format as the original Round Oak Table column. Mom wrote about her life, her kids, what was going on it the world and more. I am generally following these same topical guidelines, but I have a problem. My life involves cooking, eating (a lot of cooking and eating!) and shopping for food, checking out new restaurants, and trying obscure recipes. Mom has never really enjoyed spending time in the kitchen and is not a big restaurant-goer. As such, her column was rarely if ever about food. Dad was the cook in our house – inventor of recipes, maker of daring meals, producer of Sunday dinner. So, in the original ROT, you’re not gonna see a lot of food info, but here… well from time to time you’re going to have to oooh and aaahhh over something I’ve created, because I really dig the compliments! I promise not to turn this into a food blog, and will try to give you a link or recipe if I can, but I just have to share some food news every once in a while!

My friend Cathy over at Not Eating Out In NY dot com posted this OUTSTANDING picture of a Savory Asparagus Pie that she created. Despite of my self-imposed moratorium on turning on the oven in months that end in –uly or –ugust, I just had to try this one… plus it was still early –uly when I made it.

Here is a pretty picture: (well hell, I can't get the picture where I want it. See above.)

Cathy’s recipe, because she’s all about environmental and economic stewardship, calls for making a pie crust from scratch. Because I am me, kind of a mix between a Cathy-wanna-be and that Semi-Homemade chick from the Food network, I bought the pie crust… but pressed it into my own Corelle pie plate! Anyway, it was a HUGE hit, even with my “I don’t eat cheese” friend.

Oh, and even though Cathy’s version looks really long, it was wicked easy, that is soooo all about me! I’m going to paraphrase her version here:

1 large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed; reserve 4 good-looking long stalks and chop the rest to 1/2″ bias-cut slices
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. crème fraîche
3.5 oz. chèvre goat cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter

1 pre-made pie crust, 2 crusts for 9” pie

Press one pie crust into greased 9” pie pan. Roll second pie crust in one direction so you end up with an oval shape. Slice it into 6-8 strips for the lattice crust (can be any width you desire!). Slice the reserved good-looking asparagus stalks carefully into halves, lengthwise. Set aside, we’ll be back to this shortly.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter on very low heat. Add the chopped onions, and let sweat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t brown. Once onions are translucent and just slightly caramelized, remove from heat and let cool. KK translation: stick them in the freezer cuz I’m too impatient to “let cool.”

In a large bowl, combine the creme fraiche and chevre. Mix with a spatula to combine. Add the egg, and whisk mixture until fully blended. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and chives. KK note: I was concerned that the mixture was too runny, so I added about a tablespoon of flour. Note sure it was necessary, but made me feel better about the batter! Add the chopped asparagus slices and the cooled onions and mix with spatula. Pour the asparagus filling into the pan with the bottom pie crust and smooth top with a spatula.

Keep reading and promise not to freak out: “Place one asparagus stalk lengthwise down the center. Lay a pastry strip down the center perpendicular to the asparagus. Lay another two asparagus stalks (alternating between the blunt end and the flower tip side by side) to the right and left of the pastry strip. Lay two pastry strips to the top and bottom of the asparagus stalks, gently tucking the middle part of the strip underneath the middle asparagus stalk to create a basketweave. Continue weaving in this manner until you reach the ends of the pie. Arrange any leftover pastry along the top of the pie’s edge and distribute pieces until the pastry edge is fairly even in bulk all around and well-integrated. Crimp or pinch edges in whichever manner you prefer.” KK note: This is exactly as Cathy has it on her website, and I just have to tell ya, it’s way more confusing to write (and read) how to do a lattice crust, than it is to actually just do it. Just look at my picture or hers and you’ll be fine.

Brush top of pie with milk or egg wash (optional – oh but it looks so pretty! Just do it!), and bake at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, or until top is just lightly browned. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

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In other food related matters, my attempt at gardening is a disappointment for the second year in a row. I think I put it in too late – June 22 to be exact. I thought it might be ok, but there must be some magic in that late May early June sunshine, cuz it just ain’t growin’. I’ve been watering, weeding, keeping the bunnies and deer away, and, just… nothing. Well I take that back, the basil looks pretty decent. The tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, rosemary and chives are just givin’ me the big cold shoulder. So even though the greenhouse still sells that stuff way into June, doesn’t mean a novice like me can have success with it. I’ll stick with it – and probably next year too. But for this year, grrrr.

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More on food, then I’ll leave you alone for a bit. I’m gearing up for the back-to-school edition of “Kiki’s Kitchen.” This is where I’ll have five friends come over for a four+ hour cooking session. We’ll chop and slice and dice and whisk and sauté and at the end of it all, prepare six or more home cooked meals, that each person will stick in their freezer for later. There seem to be little store fronts popping up all over the place offering this concept of “once a month cooking” or as I like to call it, OMAC (yes I know I transpose the “M” and the “A,” but it works for me!). There’s Dream Dinners, Super Suppers, and many, many others. Some are better than others, for sure, but having experienced one myself, I knew I could do better in my own kitchen. Yes, you lose the convenience of having them do the shopping and chopping for you, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I actually like to go food shopping. I like to pour over recipes, make grocery lists, read nutrition labels, and, a little old fashioned here, I like to call the meat market and place my order. It makes me feel like Alice from the Brady Bunch calling Sam the Butcher. Except of course I’m not sweet on the butcher.

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“The one who eats the fastest gets the most” – MMK

(Yes these words of wisdom are an actual quote from my childhood)

1 comment:

Ari (Baking and Books) said...

What an interesting pie recipe! Thank you for sharing it and for introducing me to Not Eating Out in NY. :)