Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

I know that Pillsbury makes a perfectly edible refrigerated pie crust, as do many other companies. But if you performed a side-by-side taste test between homemade pie dough and store-bought, the one made from scratch wins hands down!

Over the years I have made an occasional attempt to mix up my own pie crust, but it was never the right consistency. Strange, because my scones are always the perfect texture and the strategy is not that different.

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to learn to make edible pie crust. I am proud to say, I’m getting there! I practiced with a couple of quiches which were more than just edible. They were actually pretty damned tasty!

The beauty of quiche is that you can put whatever you want in one. The base for each was 6 eggs, a cup of milk, 2/3 cup light cream, salt, and pepper.

In version one I added sauteed broccoli, rendered diced speck (kind of like Italian bacon), and cheddar cheese.

For version two I sauteed yellow summer squash and added turkey sausage crumbles. (I took a shortcut and bought Jimmy Dean turkey sausage pre-cooked crumbles. They were easy and worked just fine.) I incorporated a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Start with the pie crust since it needs time to rest. These ingredient measurements are more of a guideline since the amount of water will depend on how it feels. Some folks swear by the food processor, but since my Gramma never used one, I decided to learn by hand.

Ingredients for Two Crusts

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt or so
2 sticks butter cut into pieces
ice water – start with about 5-6 Tbs and add slowly as needed.

Directions

Mix flour and salt. Add butter. Use pastry cutter and incorporate butter until you get a sandy texture. Add water slowly and mix until it comes together. Do not over handle. Do not add too much water or it will get soupy.

Take one half and place on floured surface. Roll out until it is big enough for your pie plate. Trim edges. Flute. Use a fork to poke holes all over. Repeat with second pie crust.

If you are making a two crust pie, then here is where instructions diverge. I pre-baked my crusts, but you would fill your crust, lay the top over the filling, and trim/crimp, egg wash, then bake.

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Place pie plates in the freezer while you prepare your fillings. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Before you bake, cover each pie dough with tin foil and add pie weights. As you can see, I used dried garbanzo beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil, then bake 10-15 minutes longer. My edges ended up a bit dark, so next time I would leave tin foil around them for this last 10-15, or cover them when baking the filling.

Add your fillings and bake until the centers are set. This took about 35-40 minutes in my oven. Yours may differ.

Overall, my pie crusts were quite good. The best part came with the pie dough scraps which I rolled out, spread with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I then rolled it up and baked until golden. My Gram always does this with pie scraps and it is delicious. She calls it Schnikerhausen. I call it yum!

What are your favorite quiche add-ins? Leave comments below so we can try different combinations!

Vacation Vittles – Pizza, Seafood, Sausage

Vacation Vittles – Pizza, Seafood, Sausage

I spent last week on Hilton Head Island. I love that place. So many great spots to eat! In a slight departure from my usual topic of home cooked goodness, I thought I would share some of the yummy dinners I dined on.

If you frequent Hilton Head, some of these places might be familiar. Feel free to let me know what your favorite HH restaurants are so I can try them on a future vacation.

Il Carpaccio

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If like me, you fell in love with pizza in Naples, Italy, then you will understand that even though fresh seafood is the specialty on Hilton Head, I cannot leave the island without at least one pizza from Il Carpaccio. The thin, charred crust and delicate fresh tomato sauce is the closest I’ve found in the U.S. to the real thing. I chose the vegetarian this visit. Artichoke hearts, bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini tasted fresh and delicious.

I sometimes go off menu and ask for prosciutto, Gorgonzola, pine nuts, and pear or some other combination I tried in Italy. They are very accommodating!

The Carolina Crab Company

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You absolutely, positively cannot leave Hilton Head without trying a Low Country Boil. If you’ve eaten a LCB in some other state, you will be in for a delightful surprise when you try one from the region where it originated. What you cannot see in this image of yumminess is the loaf of hot bread I used for dunking in the flavorful broth. I’ve never tried to make my own boil, I know the timing is essential for each added element. I have a feeling it takes practice to get it right!

The Skull Creek Boathouse

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Skull Creek Boathouse is a favorite with locals and tourists. It has a huge outdoor dining area that looks over the tidewaters. The view is wonderful. The food is even better. I tried coco scallops with a pineapple salsa. The creamy coconut sauce was delicious when pared with the heat of the jalapeno and sweetness of pineapple atop the perfectly seared scallops. I plan to start experimenting with my own versions of this delectable entree. It was one of those meals that had I been in the privacy of my own home, I would have licked the plate clean!

Street Meet

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I usually get a Hoffman snapper at Street Meet, but I could not resist this Cleveland specialty sandwich. Who could pass up grilled kielbasa on a hoagie bun, then piled high with fries, creamy coleslaw, and barbecue sauce? Certainly not I! Accompanied by their own fresh cut potato chips, this was an explosion of flavor in my mouth! The combination of sweet slaw with salty fries and meat was pure heaven. This great little bar/restaurant doubled in size a few months ago so there is now ample indoor seating.

What food vacations have you enjoyed lately? Fee free to post a few pictures with descriptions and links to the restaurant!

My Risotto Rocks!

My Risotto Rocks!

I know that when you read the word “risotto,” your brain says, “I love it, but who has time for that?” Trust me, I know! All that stirring eats up a chunk of time and patience. But oh, it is so worth the trouble!

If you were hoping for a recipe with carefully measured ingredients, I am sorry to disappoint. I’ve never really used a recipe for risotto. Instead, I just make it by sight, texture, and taste. You can look up a basic recipe someplace else. But I bet if you let go of your measuring cups, it will be a lot more fun!

Ingredients:

Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine or champagne
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Whatever you want to mix in. I used mild Italian turkey sausage and diced red bell pepper. You could try anything. I also like sauteed mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, sausage and pear with Gorgonzola, leeks and peas, shrimp, asparagus…the possibilities are endless!

Preparation:

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Start by warming your chicken stock. If you don’t have any on hand, now would be a good time to start a batch. I made this stock as I was prepping the risotto then just strained it as I used it.

Remove the casings from your sausage and saute, breaking up as you go, in a separate pan. Chop the bell pepper and add that to the sausage after it is browned. Cook long enough to take the crunch out of the pepper. (Tip: If you are using a different add-in, prepare it in a separate pan as well.)

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In the meantime, dice some onion and saute it in a pan of equal parts melted butter and olive oil. I used roughly 2 Tbsp of each.

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Add your rice and toast for a few minutes more. (Tip: I added 2 cups of rice.) Turn up your heat to medium high.

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Add a splash of wine or champagne to the rice and onions, about 1/2 cup or so. Once that boils out a bit, start adding your warmed stock one ladle at a time. Cook each ladle-full down before adding the next.

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I have no idea how much liquid you will add. It depends upon how done you like your rice. You will notice it start to get creamy and puff up. Taste it after about 15-20 minutes, then continue to taste often for doneness as you get near the end. I also added one Knorr chicken bouillon cube since the chicken stock is salt free.

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Just before it is finished, add your mix-ins and fold them in. At this point I add about a quarter to half cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a splash of heavy cream. Some folks add a bit of butter too. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Plate it up, add more cheese, and serve immediately!

What do you like in your risotto? Please leave a comment below and share your favorite concoction!

“Fall”ing in Love Again with Kale

sausage-kale-fettucineIt’s Fall again, and that means no one will question why you want to incorporate kale or pumpkin into every plate. Sometimes both! I’d personally start with kale, because there will be plenty of time in November for pumpkin pies, lattes, quesadillas (no, really!), cake, and anything else you can sneak pumpkin into. But kale is one of best ways I know of to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall. It is the perfect accompaniment to pastas, soups, and stews.

In this seriously simple recipe http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/fettuccine-with-sausage-kale/, Rachel Ray serves up Fettuccine with Sausage and Kale for four people.

All you’ll need are: ­

1 lb fettuccine
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, removed from the casings
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 large bunch kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan

When making this, I added an extra half ­pound of sausage (sweet Italian), but that’s a personal preference. Also, try boiling the fettuccine in vegetable or chicken stock, rather than water, for additional flavor.

TIP: I always buy DeCecco pasta. It is not much more expensive than other brands, but IMO it is a much better product. I am friends with a few Italians and this is the brand they use. Who am I to argue with a native?!?!

As you can imagine, the directions for this are simple. I modified them a bit to reflect my own preferences.

1. Bring stock (or salted water) to rolling boil. (Always salt your water after it starts to boil. That way it comes to a boil faster.)

2. Cook pasta until the noodles are slightly under-cooked. Seriously, there is nothing more disgusting than over-cooked pasta. Save a couple ladles of the pasta water before you drain your noodles.

3. Drain.

4. While preparing pasta, saute sausage on medium­ low until browned. Break it up as you go. Make sure you pan is large enough since you will soon be dumping your cooked pasta in there too.

5.  Add 1/2 cup of pasta water and the heavy cream.

6. Simmer until reduced to a consistency you like.

7. Add kale; stir until wilted. This won’t be very long.

8. Add your pasta and simmer for a few moments longer. This way your pasta (the real star of any pasta dish) soaks up all that good flavor. Never. And I mean NEVER dump plain pasta onto a dish and ladle your sauce or topping over it.

9. Add a handful of Parmesan and gently incorporate. Give it a taste. Add salt and pepper if needed.

10. Serve and enjoy promptly!

P.S. I was not paid by DeCecco to mention their brand. The simple truth is, that’s what I use!