Monday, October 29, 2007

How d'you like them apples?

We liked them just fine. Liked them for two days and a whole galette, no less.

When we got home from the farmer's market, I had a bag full of apples and a mind full of pie... and then realized that I didn't really want to spend the entire afternoon peeling and coring and slicing. So I went with the slacker's version of apple pie: an apple galette, which combines beautifully flaky pie crust with a generous layer of apples, cinnamon and sugar. And it requires only one and a half good-sized apples, which means you can spend more time enjoying that rare clear blue sky and less time with your paring knife.

It is also the perfect excuse to get out your brand new pastry blender - which you bought specifically for this project. (Some good must come of working in a kitchenwares store).

Apple Galette
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons ice water

For the fruit:
~1 1/2 large apples of your choice (I used pippin)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and then cooled to lukewarm
3 tablespoons sugar
~1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (I don't actually know how much I used - I have a heavy hand with cinnamon)

In a large mixing bowl, combine your flour, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender, chop the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs, with a few larger pea-sized pieces. Work quickly, so that the butter doesn't melt. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over the flour mixture. At this point, I start using my hands to bring the dough together. If it's too dry, add another tablespoon of water, but be careful not to let it get too wet. Form the dough into a ball, flatten it into a thick disc, then wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Use this time to prep the apples. Peel and core 2 apples, then slice them about 1/8 inch thick.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, and, on a sheet of parchment paper, roll it into about an 11-inch round. Brush a thin layer of melted butter over the dough.

Leaving a 1-inch rim of dough bare, layer the apples in slightly overlapping concentric circles on the pastry.

Fold the border of the dough over the edge of the apples. Galette are supposed to be rustic and charming, so don't worry if it looks a little messy. Drizzle all but about 2 teaspoons of the remaining butter over the apples. In a little bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons sugar and as much cinnamon as looks good (1/4 teaspoon is a good starting point), and sprinkle over the apples.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry starts to colour. Then lower the temperatures to 350 degrees and bake for approximately another 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and sounds hollow when you try to tap it and end up burning your fingers.

Pull the pan out of the oven, brush the apples with the last of the butter and let cool. Once it has cooled, transfer it to a plate (good luck with this - it's a bit tricky, since the pastry is so very crumbly). Your best bet is probably to transfer the galette with the parchment paper, and then slide the paper from underneath.

Serve with milk or tea - you'll need something, that's for sure.

And while it's best that first day, it will keep overnight if covered, and make a very tasty breakfast the next morning.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Itadakimasu: Saturday Morning Edition

Matt and I finally managed to get a day off together - and a proper day off, with no class and no work and no real necessary errands. Instead of sleeping in though, I dragged him out into the sunlight at the brutal hour of 12 o'clock to catch this:

Our local farmer's market, on the Portland State Campus.

It was pretty jam-packed by the time we got there, due to the pumpkin carving something-or-other going on in one of the central booths.

Our first order of business was breakfast - Matt was in search of the breakfast burrito booth, which does a decent imitation of a New Mexican breakfast burrito, but they were nowhere to be found. We went with tamales, instead.

A Yucatan chicken tamale smothered in somewhat spicy salsa - not a bad way to start the morning. The man selling them was handing out warnings alongside.

"I only have hot left - is that all right?"

Oh, more than. Matt had his with lashings of sour cream - prettier than mine, but not nearly as tasty, though he may beg to differ.

We sat on the steps of the library while we ate, much to the chagrin of the students attempting to go study. But once fortified, it was time to properly explore the weekend's crops.

My favourite apple booth was somehow out of Honeycrisp apples - my current addiction. I hope the season's not over. I picked up some Pippin and Jonagold instead - it's a rough life. At another booth, I also found some fresh-pressed, unfiltered cider. I came home with half a gallon, all sweet and cloudy. I may dig out some cinnamon sticks and cloves later on, and make a batch of mulled cider, if any of it lasts that long.

Also, despite being so theoretically isolated from all things spicy and New Mexican out here in the great Northwest... there is a chile-roasting booth at the market.

The roaster they use is just like the one that sits outside of the little fruit market down on 4th street in Albuquerque, where my parents bought (literally) garbage bags full of green chile. I remember chile-peeling parties in the front yard, with everyone gathered around a little round table, their hands gloved, peeling and de-stemming the green chiles, stuffing them into little ziploc bags to be frozen and used, all winter long.

We bought these - the hottest they have - right out of the roaster. We don't have any gloves in the house, so whenever I peel chile I always end up sitting with my hands in a little bowl of milk later that evening. Matt laughs at me, but it's the only thing I've found that stops the stinging.

More in a Northwestern vein, my usual mushroom booth did not disappoint. Fighting my way through the crowd that always gathers, I found a veritable mountain of chantrelles.

I took a hillock home with me.

Not all of those - just a few big handfuls. I haven't decided what to do with them yet: whether to incorporate them into something larger, or just saute them with a little butter and enjoy them on their own.

I also found myself taking absurd quantities of photos of various squash, something I neither eat nor cook, but am inexplicably drawn to.

Are these butternut? I feel compelled to call them butternut, because of the colour, but they could be spaghetti, for all I know. And these, what are these?

Besides amazing, I mean. I wish I liked squash - really, I do. I've tried. There's something about the texture, though, that I can't get past. It's mushy, no matter how it's cooked. And in soups, there's always a faintly powdery texture to it that I just can't get over. So I guess I'll just photograph them, for now.

There are a few other inedibles, besides squash. The Accordian Man, for example, while neither food nor farmer, is always there. He's a favourite with kids - there are usually half a dozen dancing somewhere nearby.

While I was taking a last minute tour of the booths to see if I had missed anything important, Matt took the camera and headed for the balcony of the student union building, to see if he could get some decent aerial shots, or spot anything new.

This picture gives you a decent idea of the scale of the market - it's decently-sized. Not overwhelming, and small enough to get quite crowded, but I had my choice of a fair multitude of different bakers, butchers, cheesemongers and orchards.

And florists - there can never be too many flowers at a farmer's market.

I tend not to bring them home, as I will put them in a vase, forget about them and find them brown and pathetic two months later. I do this with living plants as well, not just cut flowers. My parents' green thumbs passed me over, somehow. So for now, I just enjoy the pictures, and let someone who will remember to care for them take the flowers home.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A few fall colours

I'll be the first to admit that I have mixed feelings about living in Portland - and that I get miserably homesick for little ol' Albuquerque. Laugh if you like - I was so desperate to leave Albuquerque for so long, and now I can't wait to go home for a visit over Christmas....

Don't get me wrong - Portland has its moments.

Like that one. We've had a spell of dry days, recently - relatively clear skies, the weather cool but not freezing, the leaves beautiful and my first actual day off since classes began coming up on Saturday!

Also, I have a lovely new pair of pink plaid rainboots on their way to me right now - to help keep me dry when the rain returns. (According to the widget on Dashboard, it should be rearing its drippy head on Saturday - how ironic).

But when new rainboots and fall foliage aren't enough to keep me and Matt trudging through the grey... I make salsa.

And we eat it by the bowlful. On this particular night, what you see was what we got - chips and salsa for dinner. There were no complaints.

As usual, I don't really have a proper recipe for it. I've watched my folks make it for years, and I've made a few changes here and there to make it my own. On this particular occasion, I made a large batch and we used the rest in burritos the second night. This recipe will make enough to serve a group of people as an appetizer, or two as a major meal with leftovers.

Salsa for the Homesick

6-8 small tomatoes (I used romas, because that was what I found that day. Substitute any tastier, juicier variety you can get your hands on, though)
1/2 a large red onion
1 large anaheim pepper, seeds scraped out (it's mostly for flavour, rather than spice, but you needn't be too scrupulous about your scraping - a few seeds never hurt anyone)
2 serrano peppers, one with seeds in, one with seeds scraped out (change this up to adjust the spiciness to your liking)
large handful cilantro
2 limes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste (plenty!)

Chop the tomatoes and red onion into small, fairly regular pieces, and toss into a large mixing bowl. You don't want to mush them up, but neither do you want to end up with huge pieces of tomato and onion on your tortilla chip. Open the anaheim pepper and scrap the seeds out before chopping the chile into very small pieces. Add to the tomatoes and onions in the bowl. Open one of the serranos, scrape the seeds out and mince finely, and then mince the second one - with the seeds still in. Add to mixing bowl.

At this point, you may want to stir to combine and see how your ratio of tomato to onion to chile looks. Add a little more of any of them if you like. Chop the cilantro and add to the bowl.

This is the point when I diverge from my dad's recipe. He adds a little lemon juice to his salsa. I'm more of a lime kind of girl.

Slice two limes in half, and using a reamer or the citrus juicing item of your choice, juice into the mixing bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and plenty of salt.

Stir to combine, and taste. Adjust salt, lime, chile or olive oil to your liking. Taste again. The tasting process is crucial at this point in the salsa making.

And lastly, if you haven't already, break open the bag of tortilla chips and dig in. 

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Matt and I haven't really had time for one of our lazy Sunday mornings, recently. I work full time, so my "weekend" is comprised of the two days I go to class, and Matt goes to school full time, so his "weekend" is comprised of the two days he spends at work. But the last time we had a day off together, I made us a breakfast (probably sometime around two pm) of what I now call French Toast with Amaretto Apples.

The basic idea behind it is your preferred French Toast with a variation of carmalized apples with brandy - not having any brandy on hand, I used amaretto, and it worked to my advantage. I'm afraid I don't have a terribly specific recipe for this. As Matt can tell you, cooking with me can be an occasionally frustrating experience, as I don't usually measure things unless I'm either cooking from a new recipe for the first time, or baking. I cook the way my parents do. How much do I add? Enough - the right amount. Until it tastes/looks/smells/feels right. So, the following is an appoximation of how I make my French Toast.

Serves twoish - may vary according to appetite.

For the toast:
2 thick slices of whatever leftover bread you have around (I used sourdough boule from a couple days previous, a whole wheat pain would be lovely - walnut bread, if that's your thing)
2 eggs
2 large splashes milk
1 capful vanilla extract (about 1/2 a teaspoon, maybe?)
a few generous shakes of ground cinnamon (anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 tsp - I like cinnamon)
butter for the pan

In a large baking dish or shallow bowl (I use a 9x13x2 inch Pyrex), whisk the eggs with the milk, vanilla and cinnamon, and then add the bread and let sit, turning occasionally, until most of the egg mixture has been soaked up. In a cast iron pan over medium-high heat, melt enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan. When the butter is just sizzling, add the bread. You want it to start cooking on contact, so that it forms a nice crust. Let it fry without disturbing it until a nice goldeny brown crust forms, and then flip it and let the other side develop that same kind of crust and the bread cooks through.

When the bread is done, cover to keep warm.

For the apples:
1 large apple of your choice - something that cooks/bakes well. I used a Honeycrisp for this recipe - I love Honeycrisp. I would steer clear of Golden Delicious - they tend to go mushy. The amount of apple is negotiable - use more if you're an apple fan. I only had one apple left, otherwise I might have used two.
2 capfuls amaretto (3 tablespoonsish)
a sprinkling of sugar
a few more generous shakes of cinnamon
butter for the pan

Note: you should have the apples ready to go into the pan before you start the toast. If you have the kind of stove that can handle it (i.e. more than one large burner) you can start the apples after you flip the toast to its second side.

Core the apple, and then slice thinly. It should look like this when you're done:

Try not to eat too much of it before it goes into the pan.

Again, melt enough butter to generously coat the bottom of a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Saute the apples until they are warm and wilting, then sprinkle with sugar to taste (depending on how sweet you like your fruit - keep in mind that the amaretto will sweeten it further), cinnamon to taste, and then add a couple of capfuls of amaretto. (Like I said, for me a couple of capfuls is approximately 3 tablespoons. Again, this is very however-much-you-want-at-the-time).

Turn the heat down if the apples are getting too soft, and let the amaretto reduce slightly, until it gets a little syrupy.

Put a slice of French Toast on each plate, and top with apples.

Good luck with your version.

Oh, and gratuitous kitty photo, because they were being cute while I was cooking:

Friday, October 12, 2007

My victorious return

Sorry about the hiatus there - between school, work, and random viruses, I've been a little preoccupied. But I've returned, and I come bearing recipes.

Back in Albuquerque, Matt and I used to visit a little Thai cafe fairly regularly. It's called Tina's, and for all of you who are in/near Albuquerque, it's in the back of the Baptist student union building, on University and MLK, and it's fantastic. It's almost impossible to find if someone doesn't guide you there - the only indication of its existence is a paper sign stating hours on an otherwise ordinary brown metal door. But open that door, and for five dollars you get a huge, steaming plate of some of the best Thai food in Albuquerque. Incidentally, if you open the wrong door, you end up in the kitchen - not a bad place to be.

A couple of nights ago, my mom emailed me a recipe that my dad had created. It's the closest thing I've had to my favourite dish at Tina's since Matt and I moved to Portland. I can't for the life of me either remember or pronounce its actual name, usually just requesting the "number nine," but it goes something like this.

Dad's (a lot like Tina's) Green Beans with Ground Chicken

¾ pound green beans, cut to 3/8 inch length
½ pound chicken breast, ground in the food processor
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks Thai basil, chopped (about 24 leaves)
¼ cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Thai chili paste (negotiable - add more if you like it spicy, like we do here, or less if you're a little shy of hot things; I actually used a Laotian chili paste that I got from our local market back in Albuquerque - it's got a good bite to it)
2 eggs
Steamed Rice

To make the sauce, mix chicken broth, fish sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, vinegar and set aside.

Heat 2 T of canola oil in a wok, fry chicken until almost turns white, make a clearing in the base of the wok, add garlic and chili paste (if you mix the garlic with a little oil prior to frying it, it won’t stick). Mix into chicken, add green beans and mix. After 1-2 minutes, add sauce, and then Thai basil.

In separate pan, fry eggs in oil over high heat until edges are crispy, but the yolk is still runny.

To serve, put rice in a shallow bowl, cover generously with green beans and chicken, and top with fried egg.

If you're like me, and you don't like egg yolk unless you can't tell it's there, cut it out and give it to your significant other. Otherwise, using a fork and spoon to tear the egg into tiny pieces, mix everything together and eat!