Peach Custard Pie

August 12, 2011

We just came back from visiting Will’s family in South Carolina! It was so relaxing. I read 4 books (including The Hunger Games SO GOOD), stuffed myself with fried chicken, and, let’s be honest, watched a lot of reality television. And received this trivial pursuit question during a game with my sister-in-law, Brianna and her boyfriend. Q: What animal is produced when a bottle-nosed dolphin is crossed with a false killer whale. A: A wholphin. FOR REAL.

One spectacularly hot day, our friends Vickie and Mike invited us to their lakehouse.

We did this:

And this:

And a whole lot of this:

Will’s mom and sister, Lily, and I baked this pie, too. There are a good amount of steps, but the sweet peaches, creamy custard, and buttery crust are well worth the effort. You know what else is worth the effort? Driving down a country road for boiled peanuts and an ice cold Coke.

Happy August, everyone!

PEACH CUSTARD PIE (from Martha Stewart Living, June 2011)

Serves 8

Ingredients (Pate Brisee)

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces

1/3 to 2/3 cup ice water

Recipe (Pate Brisee)

Dump flour, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in  bowl, mix until combined. Cut butter into flour mixture using either a pastry cutter or 2 knives, until mixture looks like coarse meal. Slowly pour 1/3 cup ice water over flour/butter mixture, and stir in with a fork until dough holds together when pressed together with two fingers. Dough should be damp, but not wet or sticky. If dough is too dry, add more ice water by the tablespoon until dough is proper consistency.

Divide dough in half and pat into 2 disks. Wrap plastic wrap around in disk. Place in refrigerator until firm, (at least one hour and up to one day).

Ingredients (Pie)

4 medium ripe but firm peaches (about 1 1/3 pounds)

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

Recipe (Pie)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle flour over surface and roll out pate brisee. Place dough onto a 9-inch pie plate, and trim crust so it has about an inch of dough hanging over the edge. Fold the trim under the edges and press it down using your fingers or the tines of a fork. Use a fork to prick holes in the bottom of the pie. Freeze for 15 minutes.
  2. Place a piece of parchment over the crust. Fill crust with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake for 20 minutes, take out of oven, and remove parchment and pie weights/beans/rice. Remove from oven; remove beans and parchment. Return crust to the oven and bake until the crust turns a golden brown color (about 11 more minutes).
  3. Make your filling: Boil a pot of water. Make an ice water bath. Slice an X into the bottom of every peach. Boil peaches for 1 minute and then dunk them in the ice-water bath. When cool enough to touch, peel and pit your peaches. Cut peaches into wedges but, if you’d like, leave one half peach in tact for the center of the pie.
  4. Place eggs, sugar, butter, flour, and salt and whisk until combined. Pour this mixture into pie crust. Place peach half in the center of the pie, cut side down, and surround it with wedges.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes. (Tent crust with a foil ring after 15 minutes.) Transfer to a wire rack; let cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

While Will and I were in NJ during our wedding week, we popped up to NYC to visit Will’s brother, Joe, and Joe’s girlfriend, Caitlin. It was great. And I forgot to bring my camera with me. Both days. Roops. Here’s what we did.

1. Ate at Salt & Fat (highly recommended– particularly the pappardelle pasta with slow cooked egg, mushrooms, and peas and also the marshmallow ice cream. Genius)

2. Went to Coney Island (quite a place. Highlight– watching old Mexican men crab off the pier while listening to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” on max volume on a boombox).

3. Ate chili cheese fries from the original Nathan’s in Coney Island

4. Ate Pho in Chinatown

5. Drank beer and played cards outside at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden (We played spoons. I thought I made my way to an early victory in the first round and shouted, “Gimme mah spoon bitch,” and then discovered that “four of a kind” is not the same as “four of a suit.” I also started referring to our delicious pitchers of Spaten as “delicious pitchers of Spock” late in the evening).

6. Made the ultimate hangover breakfast. Elizabeth’s Huevos Rancheros.

Salty, crispy, and fried, with cured breakfast meat. It needs no further introduction. Happy hangover, friends.

ELIZABETH’S HUEVOS RANCHEROS (from various internet sources)

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 link precooked chorizo, chopped

Canola oil

4 corn tortillas

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

4 eggs

Refried beans

Salsa

Hot sauce

Cilantro, chopped

Recipe

Crack eggs into a bowl, or (even more helpfully) a cup with a pouring spout.

Get all your toppings (beans, salsa, hot sauce, cilantro) into bowls and ready. You’ll want to eat these huevos while they’re hot.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add chorizo. Let the chorizo get hot sweat out its oil. Remove the chorizo from pan, leave the oil behind. This is what you will fry your tortillas in.

Place tortillas in skillet. Cook them in the oil until they’re brown, then flip them over in the pan.

Once they’re flipped, sprinkle on some cheese and plop an egg on top.

Once the egg white start to turn from clear to, well, white, flip the whole huevo over in the pan and let it cook 1 minute more. The egg and cheese will make a big mess.

Take huevo out of the pan, place it egg/cheese side up on a plate, garnish with chorizo and any other toppings you’d like. Enjoy with a huge cup of iced coffee.

Chocolate Gelato

July 20, 2011

I didn’t buy Will a present this year, but I did make him one. No, it was not a coupon for free hugs. I told him I’d make create a chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. Everything would be a surprise. Thinking of a menu was a fun challenge! While I wanted to do something elaborate, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too overwhelming and that most of it was make ahead so a) I didn’t cry, causing Will to spend part of his birthday consoling me and b) I could actually enjoy the meal without worry about the next course. I had a great time pouring over cookbooks and websites, and eventually decided on a menu. To start, I made a salad of warm figs, goat cheese, arugula, and a balsamic reduction. The main was Cacio e Pepe (homemade spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and black pepper). For dessert, I knew Will would most prefer something very chocolate-y, but I also didn’t want it to be too heavy, and I wanted it to be seasonally appropriate. So I busted out my brand spanking new ice cream maker (thanks for the wedding present, Kyle!) and made the richest, chocolate-iest frozen dessert I have ever tasted. Thank you David Lebovitz!

We did something else that was very fun last week as well. Several months ago, I found a Groupon for 70% off a whitewater rafting trip (wetsuit and complimentary disc of photos included). We decided to cash it in and spend it last week.

The Groupon was from Buffalo Joe’s Rafting. Before I’d bought the Groupon, I looked up reviews of the company to make sure they weren’t advertising tickets due to a sketchy safety record or anything. All the reviews were great, and I’d like to add one more glowing comment to the bunch. We had an amazing time rafting with them and would definitely like to return for another trip (hopefully with another Groupon, but maybe without one too). We did the Browns Canyon Full Day package. The guides were very knowledgeable and fun and we felt like we were in really good hands. And they had a pretty killer lunch too. We pulled the raft over to a little beach where they grilled steaks and corn on the cob. It was an awesome day, and it brought us closer to the unfortunate realization that some of the most fun things are expensive. Sigh. Back to work, I suppose.

CHOCOLATE GELATO (from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

5 oz (140 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process

1 cup (250 ml) plus 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup (150 g) sugar

4 large egg yolks

Recipe

Place chocolate in a big bowl.

Whisk cocoa, 1 cup of the milk, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate and make sure to get any remaining liquid out with a spatula. Stir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth and all chocolate has melted. Place a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

Use the same saucepan to warm the other 1 cup of milk and the sugar, and stir until sugar dissolves.

In a different bowl, whisk egg yolk together. Then whisk constantly as you slowly add a bit of the warm milk/sugar mixture. Pour warm yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the milk.sugar mixture. Turn the heat to low, stir constantly, and occasionally scrape the contents off the bottom of the pan using heatproof spatula. Stir until the mixture thickens up enough that it coats the spatula. Then, pour the custard you’ve made through the strainer placed atop the chocolate mixture, then stir them until they are smooth.

Place bowl with chocolate custard into an even bigger bowl filled with ice. Stir, stir, stir the custard until its cool (this will take a while, like 10 minutes for me, so you may want to bring a magazine). Once cool, cover the mixture with Saran or foil and refrigerate until its very cold.

Freeze in your ice cream machine using the manager’s instructions.

Barca!

July 14, 2011

People have said they want to hear more about our honeymoon in Barcelona. Great!

A lot of people asked how we chose Barcelona as our honeymoon destination. Originally, we thought about going on a beach vacation, but realized we might get bored. Then, we thought about going to Rome and Florence, but realized that with SO MUCH to see in both those places, we’d feel a lot of pressure to sightsee. Barcelona was the perfect happy medium. We wanted to go somewhere that had lots of interesting cultural things to do, but, since it was our honeymoon, we also wanted someplace where we could relax on the beach and stroll around without feeling like we were “wasting time.” It was a great choice for us! I figure I’ll walk you through our trip chronologically.

We got our bearings by taking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour on the first day. This allowed us to get a general sense of the layout of the city. It also helped us scope out the big landmarks quickly, to see if we’d like to take the time to revisit them later. And given our intense jetlag, it provided a much needed break from walking around the city.


We took a walk to the Born neighborhood and to the docks to watch the boats come in most days of our trip. The Born neighborhood is funky, less touristy, and full of interesting shops and restaurants. And the harbor? Well, we just like boats.


One afternoon, we strolled over the the breathtaking Sagrada Familia– a spectacular cathedral designed by Gaudi. He designed such an elaborate building plan that it’s current completion estimate is 2026. I’ve heard its worth the Euros and the wait in line to see the inside, but Will and I were pretty pleased and awestruck enough with the outside.

We spent a lot of time sitting in and strolling through Barcelona’s many beautiful city parks. Like this one, across the street from Sagrada Familia.

We took a very quick jaunt through Las Ramblas (the most touristy part of Barcelona) just to a) see it and b) to visit La Boqueria (the farmer’s market). They have EVERYTHING at La Boqueria. Including, as pictured above, skinned squirrels, with eyeballs still attached (sorry for the bad pic, but I didn’t want to draw further attention to the fact I found these freakish). We also bought some fruit here for our room, since we found it very difficult to eat enough produce during our trip. I think a trip to La Boqueria is essential, but I don’t know that we missed much by going through Las Ramblas so quickly.

Park Guell (which is what the first photo in the post is from). Unquestionably a must-see. An enormous park designed by Gaudi. Beautiful flowers next to Dr Seussian-like buildings and sculptures. The park is huge (and free!) and is a wonderful place to spend hours on a sunny afternoon. And I do mean hours. We were there for about 5 hours and still saw only 75% of the park. Great for exploring.

And for climbing to the top of for a panoramic view of the city!

We took a day trip to the beautiful beach town of Sitges. While we definitely loved the beach area of Barcelona (Barceloneta), Sitges was quieter, less crowded, and had even warmer, clearer water. It is a relaxed beach town, with many shops and restaurants to explore. It is also one of Europe’s top gay destinations. If you’re feeling tired of sightseeing in the city, Sitges is a welcome diversion. We traveled to Sitges by train from the Estacio Sants train station in Barcelona, and tickets were less than 10 euros for the two of us. By the way, if you’re like us, everyone will tell you the everyone in Barcelona speaks English. That is not true, particularly at the train station. Know the words for “2 tickets” and “round trip” and “what track?”

We budgeted for one guided tour, and chose Spanish Trails’ Monserrat and Wine Country Tour. We knew that if we selected a good tour company, we’d get insider information on the places we wanted to go, avoid crowds, and see some sites off the track of the Metro or train without having to rent a car and (worst of all) drive in Spain, where the traffic all too often resembles the motorcycle chase scene in The Bourne Ultimatum. We were thrilled with Spanish Trails (which we found because it’s the 2nd highest ranked Spanish tour company on trip advisor) where our friendly and personable tour guide whisked us around Monserrat so we could see all the neat stuff and avoid the massive crowds.

We saw the awe-inspiring monastery, and took a beautiful cliff side walk there, where various scenes of The Passion (some designed by Gaudi) are displayed on the side of the mountain. This walk is (surprisingly) not advertised. We might not have ever found it if we didn’t go with the tour.


We then ate lunch and strolled through a little town I mentioned in my Pa Amb Tomaque post. And then proceeded to taste (too much) wine and cava at a quaint little countryside winery. While this tour is pricier than others it is all inclusive, which many are not. It included everything, from lunch to funicular tickets. And it was fun and stress-free.

We spent our last two days strolling around the city in the morning, visiting the beach at Barceloneta in the afternoon, and eating out at great places at night. It was a perfect 8 day honeymoon.

If you’re planning on visiting Barcelona, I’d be happy to talk to you or email you about it! I am definitely no Fodors, but we did have a great time and, I think, made some really great decisions on how to spend our time and money.

Will and I didn’t ask for a whole lot of stuff for our wedding, but we did request a small amount of kitchen supplies I have fantasized about for the last year. One of my favorite presents is a pizza stone that our good friend Kyle’s mom generously bought for us. I’ve been using the heck out of it this summer and can’t believe a) how airy and crispy it makes my pizza crust and b) how hot my oven gets from it! When we don’t know what to make for dinner, we just throw whatever vegetables, cheese, and/or meat looks good onto a pizza!

This week, asparagus looked very good. We added some prosciutto, some parmesan shavings, a drizzle of olive oil, and cracked black pepper.

I recognize that there is nothing revolutionary about what I made here, but  in the summer, I crave food that requires little effort and tastes really fresh. Winter is for elaborate baking projects. Summer is for pizza!

More on pizza here

An NY Times articles on Spanish Roses, which blew my mind in Barca

PROSCUITTO AND ASPARAGUS FLATBREAD

Serves 2

I kept the asparagus intact for reasons mainly of function. The first time I made this pizza, I chopped the asparagus into pieces, and it was difficult to grab a hold of. The asparagus would fall out from under the prosciutto (DANGER DANGER). By keeping the asparagus whole, you can get a good grip on them while biting down.

When you slice the pizza, make long, rectangular cuts in between pieces of asparagus. This also will help keep your pizza intact.

Ingredients

8-10 oz pizza dough (about half a blob from the store)

Cornmeal

1 bunch thick asparagus

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & freshly cracked black pepper

4-6 very thin slices of prosciutto (enough to cover your pizza)

Shaved parmesan cheese (again, enough to spread across your pizza… I used about 1 oz)

Recipe

2 hours before baking, take your pizza dough out of the fridge (if that’s where it is) and allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven as to 500, putting a pizza stone inside if you have one.

Sprinkle parchment paper with cornmeal, to prevent pizza from sticking.

Roll or stretch out your pizza dough into a big rectangle. Place onto the parchment paper.

Rinse, dry, and chop fibrous ends off asparagus. Rub them with some olive oil.

Line the asparagus up across the pizza dough. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Place the asparagus-lined dough into the oven. Toss in some ice cubes every few minutes to keep the air moist. This will help yield a crispy crust. When the flatbread is browned it is done.

Remove the browned flatbread from the oven. Delicately drape your slices of prosciutto perpendicularly over the asparagus. Spread as much or as little shaved parmesan as you’d like across the flatbread. Finish with a little more black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

I gained 3 lbs in Barcelona (WORTH IT). Here’s how:

Plate of Calamaritti (ittuh bittuh squids) and bottle of Cava at La Mar Salada.

Paella at La Mar Salada (which we went to because of this NY Times article). Awkward photo courtesy of said bottle of Cava.

Jamon y queso bocadillo (Spanish ham and cheese sandwich). This was from a little shop in the Born neighborhood in Spain. Also, I want to give a shout-out to Pans&Company. It’s the Spanish version of Subway, but even their version of Jambon Y Queso brought me to my knees. WHY IS SPAIN SO MUCH BETTER THAN US AT HAM?

A pitcher of Sangria and tapas at Bilbao Berria. Each tapas is 1.65 Euros. You go up to the counter, help yourself to whatever looks good, pop the skewers that stick out of each tapas into the metal cup in the middle of your table. At the end of the night, the waiter counts your skewers and charges your accordingly.


My favorite tapas at Bilbao Berria. Iberian ham, roasted chile pepper, and a quail egg on toast. YOU MUST GO HERE.

Pig jowl. So sweet, so tender, so rich. From some tiny restaurant in rural Spain where no one spoke any English. I wish I remembered the name. Not that I could ever remember how to get there again or anything…

Wine and Cava tasting at this beautiful vineyard. Wine and cava tasting where there is no spit bucket… that was also an interesting afternoon. Why does Spain drink SO MUCH?

Cannelloni stuffed with roast beef, covered in cheese, spritzed with truffle oil from Restaurant L’Etapes. This is a traditional Catalan Christmas dish, as well as the signature dish of this restaurant. Will and I decided that this was our very favorite restaurant of our entire trip. It was small and quaint, with a waitstaff who truly cared that you enjoyed each and every dish they brought out. Every one of the tapas was superbly executed, using very fresh ingredients.

Mussels with tomatoes, garlic scapes, and crispy onions at Ohla Gastronomic Bar. Basically every traditional restaurant in Barcelona is closed on Sunday nights, except for ones that are located in hotels. We came across this one by sheer dumb luck our first night, and decided to eat there the last night as well as it was a) wonderful and b) everything else was closed. Other highlights of this meal included gazpacho with sardines and spelt bread crumbs, dried tuna with shaved macadamia nuts. Again, highly recommended, particularly on Sunday night.

So as you can see, we ate our weight in cured meat and cheese. We were desperately craving something like this as soon as we got home:

Lots and lots of arugula, tossed with chickpeas, pasta, and goat cheese. Full of vitamins and fiber (things we seemed to have missed ordering off tapas menus in Spain). I added a hard boiled egg to the leftovers the next day, for a little extra protein. It was lovely. It’s all about balance, I suppose.

Salut!

ARUGULA, CHICKPEA, AND GOAT CHEESE PASTA SALAD (by me)

Serves 8 as a main course

It took us a few days to eat this. I normally wait until the last minute to dress my salads, but the dressing was light enough that the greens never got soggy. You can dress it ahead of time and help yourself as you please, if you like.

Ingredients

8 cups arugula

1 can chickpeas

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup good olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb cooked, cooled pasta

Salt & Pepper to taste

Recipe

Put arugula, chickpeas, and goat cheese into an enormous bowl. Whisk together garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, then pour the dressing over the beans and greens. Mix together with your hands or salad tongs. Add pasta and mix again until well combined. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Pa Amb Tomaquet

June 27, 2011

I have SO MUCH to tell you! First, this:

That’s us! Will and Elizabeth. All our a cappella group rehearsals (how we met) and all those late nights spent watching the Muppet Show (not a joke, or a euphemism) led us here.

And we got to share it with so many of our very favorite people. Our ceremony was the most epic dance party we’ve ever been to. And a lot of our friends have told us it was the best party they’ve ever been to! I could go on and on about it, but I think I’ll just show you some pictures instead.

Julia!

“I woke up the morning after your wedding and waited for the pain. But the pain was in my spine. From rocking out. So hard.”- Sarah, showing off her assets next to Andrew

David! Who had a dougie-off with Will.


Us!

During “Shout”

“I may not be the best dancer, but I am the MOST dancer” – Craig

By the end of the night, my hair fell out of place. Possibly from jumping during “Shout!” Or maybe from playing air guitar during the Journey Sing-A-Long. Possibly from fist pumping…during almost every song. I don’t how it happened but I know it was worth it.

I have left you recipe-less during almost the entire month of June, so here is a recipe for Pa Amb Tomaquet (Tomato Bread), an import from our honeymoon in Barcelona (more details on our honeymoon in upcoming posts). People in the Catalan region of Spain eat this bread with their meals the way people in the States get a bread basket with dinner. It is perfect in its simplicity. A piece of good bread is toasted, rubbed with garlic, rubbed with a tomato, and finished with olive oil. Deeelicious!

PA AMB TOMAQUET (as taught to us in a tiny restaurant in Monserrat)

No quantities of ingredients are included, because how much or how little you use is really up to you.

Ingredients

Good bread, toasted or grilled

Garlic cloves, peeled

Tomatoes, sliced in half

Salt

Good olive oil

Recipe

Rub your slice of toast with garlic. Squeeze your tomato half over your toast, then rub the tomato on the toast, so the juice and pulp soaks in to the bread. Sprinkle your bread with salt. Drizzle with olive oil to finish. Enjoy.


The new additions to my family (minus Will’s mom, who can be seen waltzing with him one picture up). Aren’t they a good looking bunch?