Thursday, January 15, 2015


I have to admit that trying to figure out Arizona's official state food was a challenge, mainly because it doesn't have one. Officially, that is. Arizonans are making a bid for the chimichanga. There is fierce rivalry in Arizona over who exactly dropped the first burrito into a vat of hot oil and thus invented the chimichanga, however, there is little doubt that they have become hugely popular in the state. 

Cacti are also an integral part of Arizona's cuisine. The prickly-pear cactus thrives in the state. Their large, colorful blossoms appear in yellow, pink, red or purple and grow from the tip of cactus nodules, which later ripen into delicious red fruit. 

When gathering the fruit, you have to use tongs or some type of leather or rubber gloves to avoid direct contact with cactus. Why is that you ask? The long spines on the pads of the cactus, or nopales, aren't half as worrisome as the fuzzy-appearing spots called glochids, which are bundles of hundreds of tiny fiberglass-like spines. Once they embed themselves into your skin, they are difficult to remove.

Once you have harvested the fruit, the glochids can be removed by several methods. You can incinerate the spines by passing the fruit through an open flame. If you don't have a blowtorch, hold the fruit over a burner of a gas stove. You can also use an abrasive, like sand, or rinse them throughly under water. The other option is to peel the skin of the prickly pear with a knife.

The best way to get the flesh out of the fruit is to slice them in half and use a spoon to scoop it out. Watch out for the antioxidant pigments (betacyanins), which will stain everything, including hands, to a bright magenta.

Prickly pears yield little flesh and become soft when cooked so you'll need to bulk up the pie volume by adding a firmer fruit like apples. Another good fruit to pair with prickly pears is unripened pears or pears that need to be cooked to soften them. Allow for the bright color; not to mention the extra juiciness of prickly pears by adding enough starch. I also suggest using a more thin and delicate crust to balance the delicacy of the prickly pear.

I coudn't get my hands on any prickly pears locally but I promise as soon as I track some down, I'll make the following pie. 

Prickly-Pear Cactus Pie
4 (or 2 more to replace an apple) cactus pears
1-2 apples
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. tapioca starch
1 tbsp. lemon juice
  1.  Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. Take the 4 plus cactus pears and rinse them throughly under water, or use an abrasive (such as sand) to remove the fine spines (glochidia). 
  3. Cut each pear in half, and scoop out the core of seeds, leaving what seems a thin layer of flesh attached to the peel. Scrap this flesh into a bowl, removing any major fibers.
  4. Bulk up the cactus with 2 apples: peeled, cored, and sliced.
  5. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Place the mixture into a bottom crust (in a 8-inch pan). Place a top crust, fold under the 1-inch overhang and crimp the edges. Cut venting slits and brush the pastry with milk or an egg/water mixture. Sprinkle caster sugar on top of the pie.
  6. Wrap the edges in foil or some other pie guard. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Let cool for an 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Friday, January 9, 2015


Have you ever seen a more decadent slice of pie? It looks like pumpkin but it's actually Kabocha Squash Crème Fraîche Pie. I came across the recipe in the November 2014 issue of Sunset magazine but it comes courtesy of Michelle Mckenzie, program director for San Francisco cooking school 18 Reasons. Per the article, 'feel free to swap out kobocha for any other squash: Sugar Pie comes out sweeter, and canned pumpkin is mellow-tasting, if less distinctive. Shaun Server, an 18 Reasons instructor, suggested the spicy gingersnap layer.' This recipe requires a 9-inch deep dish pie pan. 

Kabocha Squash Crème Fraîche Pie
1/2 recipe Flaky All-Butter Pastry (see below)
1 medium kobacha squash (2 1/4 - 3 lbs.)
-or- 3 1/2 lbs. Sugar Pie pumpkins, or 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
12 hard, 2-inch gingersnaps, such s Nabisco
2 tbsp. melted unsalted butter
about 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/3 cups organic whole cane sugar*
- or- 2/3 cup each granulated sugar and packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs, at room temperature
sweetened whipped cream
  1. Make pastry as directed in a 9-inch deep dish pie pan, rolling dough to 13-inches and baking it blind; let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 375º F (skip this step if using canned pumpkin). Cut squash in half lengthwise, using a large, heavy knife. Scrape out seeds with a large spoon. Set squash cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until very soft when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool. 
  3. Meanwhile, finely grind gingersnaps in a food processor. Add butter and a pinch of salt and pulse until evenly moistened. Scrape into a bowl and set aside. Wipe crumbs from processor bowl and blade. 
  4. Trim browned edges from squash. Scoop flesh into food processor and puree until very smooth. If using any fresh pumpkin (besides kobacha) or canned pumpkin, simmer in a saucepan, stirring often, until very thick, 10 to 15 minutes. Measure 1 1/2 cups squash or pumpkin; save the rest for soup or another use.
  5. Firmly and evenly press gingersnap mixture over bottom of pastry. Chill.
  6. Preheat oven to 375º F. In a small bowl, rub sugar and cornstarch with your fingers until no lumps remain. Add to food processor with the 1 1/2 cups squash, the crème fraîche, vanilla, 1/2 tsp. salt, the nutmeg, and eggs. Whirl until well combined, scraping inside of bowl. Pour mixture evenly into prepared crust. Wrap pie rim with 4 strips of foil. (Bake any leftover filling in a ramekin).
  7. Bake pie 15 minutes (35 minutes for a ceramic pie dish); remove foil. Continue baking until center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, 30 to 35 minutes more (15 minutes for ceramic dish). Let cool on a rack until room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Serve with whipped cream. 
*Whole cane sugar, such as Rapunzel brand, has a complex, caramelized flavor; find it at natural-foods markets or online. If you use regular sugar, the pie will be a bit sweeter. 

Flaky All-Butter Pastry (via Sunset Kitchen)
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tbsp. ice water
  1. Combine. In a food processor, whirl flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and pulse until pieces are almond- and pea-size. Sprinkle ice water over mixture and pulse 3 or 4 times just to distribute. 
  2. Smear! Dump mixture into a mound on a work surface. Working quickly so butter stays cold, firmly press dough with heel of hand, pushing dough outward from center. Scrape dough from work surface using a bench scraper, and toss to redistribute wet and dry patches. Repeat, pressing on dry patches and tossing to create a soft dough with no dry spots. Don't overwork; you should see pieces and streaks of butter. 
  3. Chill. Divide into 2 portions and gently press each into a 3/4-inch thick disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. 
  4. Roll. Lightly flour 1 disk, work surface, and rolling pin. If dough is too firm, let stand about 5 minutes. Roll dough into a 12- to 13-inch round that's an even 1/8-inch thick. As you work, lift round, using a bench and pin as needed to keep it from sticking. 
  5. Trim. Fold round in half and open up into a 9-inch pie pan, easing it into place with out stretching. Trim overhang to 1-inch. 
  6. Flute. Roll overhang under itself so it's flush with and sitting on top of rim. Pinch dough along lip to form an even ridge. Press ridge between the V of your thumb an first finger on one hand (from outside of pan) and the fist finger on your other hand (from inside of pan).
  7. Bake Blind. This optional step - see your pie recipe - sets the crust's shape and prevents a soggy bottom. Wrap dough with plastic and freeze until firm, 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400º F with rack in lower third. Line dough with foil, letting ends come straight up but not over rim. Fill with pie weights and bake until crust is gold at edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove foil and weights. If needed, bake until center is dry, 5 more minutes. Let cool. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015


In the 1700s, Russian fur hunters and settlers introduced new foods to the Alaskan natives, including flour. The Aleuts quickly mastered piecrust and began making pirog, a "fist pie" of salmon, hard-boiled eggs, rice, and onion, enclosed in pastry. This frontier fish-camp dish remains a staple on the Alaskan table. The following recipe for Russian Salmon Pie comes via NYT Cooking from Kirsten Dixon, the chef and a owner of both Winterlake Lodge and Tutka Bay Lodge in Alaska.

ph: karsten moran of the NY Times
Russian Salmon Pie
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 red onion, diced
1/2 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1-pund skinless salmon fillet (preferably Alaskan)
2 sheets homemade or store-bought puff pastry
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
2 eggs, one hard-boiled, the other beaten
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, cabbage and vinegar; increase heat to medium. Cover pan and cook 4 minutes; uncover, toss and cook 2 more minutes. Remove vegetables from pan, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
  2. Wipe out skillet, add olive oil and set over medium-high heat. Add salmon and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook salmon 5 minutes per side; remove to a plate and let cool. Flake salmon into large chunks and set aside. 
  3. Set a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll out until it is large enough to fit a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate, allowing extra dough to drape over edge. 
  4. Spread brown rice over bottom of pastry. Peel and chop the hard-boiled egg, then add to pie, followed by flaked salmon. Sprinkle with cheese, then bread crumbs. Mound vegetable mixture on top. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle cream over top. 
  5. Roll out remaining sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to cover pie. Brush rim of bottom pastry with water and place second sheet of pastry directly on top. Using kitchen scissors or a paring knife, trim off excess dough. Use a fork to crimp the edges of the pie together and help the sheets of pastry adhere. 
  6. Cut a few small slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape. Brush top of pie with beaten egg. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

I couldn't leave out Baked Alaska, which dates back to the 1860s and legendary New York City restaurant Delmonico's. The dessert is traditionally composed of sponge cake and ice cream filling with a baked meringue shell. The following pie recipe is a spin on this classic dessert. It's excerpted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. (Artisan Books). This particular pie is versatile in that the flavor changes with the ice cream. Use any flavor combination that appeals to you - chocolate, coconut, banana, and lemon ice cream, or strawberry and buttermilk ice cream. You can even add a thin layer of sauce between the ice cream and merengue -- chocolate, butterscotch, raspberry -- you name it you can add it -- for a new twist. It's yours to create. Make it a party-worthy performance by putting on the finishing touches with a blow torch in front of friends. 

ph: stacy newgent
Jeni Britton Bauer's Baked Alaska Pie
for Pie Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch and chilled
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons half and half
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 batch ice cream or sorbet of your choice, slightly softened if necessary

for Italian Meringue:
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of cream of tartar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out and reserved (optional)
  1. For the Pie Crust: Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and oats in a food processor and process until the oats are in bits. Add the sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse just until the dough begins to come together and looks crumbly.
  2. Whisk the egg yolk and half-and-half together in a small bowl. Add the vanilla and whisk to combine. Add to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture forms a dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gather it into a ball, and press into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let warm for a few minutes to relax the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle just under 14 inch thick. Gently fold the circle over the rolling pin and lift into a 9-inch pie pan. Press the dough into the pan and trim the edges to a 12-inch overhang. Roll the edge of the dough under itself and tuck and pinch to create a fluted edge; you can also use a fork to create a decorative finish. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the ove to 350º F. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Line with a square of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 12 minutes.
  5. Lift out the liner and weights and bake for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until the shell is lightly browned and cooked through on the bottom. Let cool, then wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze. Fill the shell with the ice cream, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze or at least 4 hours.
  6. For the Meringue: Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a  whisk attachment. Combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice to dissolve the sugar; once the sugar is dissolved, do not stir the syrup again. Insert a candy thermometer in the pan. When the syrup reaches 215º F, turn the mixer on to medium speed and start whipping the egg whites. (You want to time the whipping of the egg whites so that they reach soft peaks by the time the syrup is ready.) When the egg whites begin to foam, add the cream of tartar. 
  7. When the syrup reaches 238º F, remove it from the heat. With the mixer on medium speed, carefully pour the syrup out in a slow, steady stream down the side of the mixer bowl - be careful not to let the stream of syrup come into contact with the whisk. Once all the syrup has been added, add the vanilla seeds, if using, turn the speed up to high, and whip until the meringue forms billowy peaks and is cool. 
  8. Remove the ice cream pie from the freezer and mound dollops of the meringue on top. Place in the freezer, uncovered, until ready to serve. (The assembled pie can be store in your freezer for up to a month. Once the meringue has frozen, wrap the entire pie in plastic wrap.)
  9. Preheat the oven to 475º F. Remove the pie from the freezer and bake for about 5 minutes, just enough to brown the meringue on top and slightly melt the edges of the ice cream. Slice and serve. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


ph: Line Klein

I flew back from Los Angeles this morning and was completely unprepared for the 20 degree weather. I found myself craving something warm, hearty, and filling. What's the best remedy for a cold and blustery day? Savory pies. The following is a recipe for Beef Hand Pies made from leftover Korean Beef Stew via Food & Wine.

Beef Hand Pies
two 14-ounce packages all-butter puff pastry, thawed
1 1/2 cups chopped leftover Korean Beef Stew (see below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a lightly floured work surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out each sheet of puff pastry to a 13-by-9-inch rectangle. Stamp out six 4-inch rounds from each sheet. Transfer 6 rounds to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Roll out the remaining 6 rounds so they are slightly larger, about 4 1/2 inches in diameter.
  2. Mound 1/4 cup of the filling in the center of each smaller pastry round. Brush the edges with some of the beaten egg and top with the larger pastry rounds; press to seal. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork (recut with a ring cutter if a clean edge is desired). Brush with the remaining beaten egg and cut a small steam vent in the top of each pie. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pies are golden and puffed. Serve warm.
This hearty and flavorful beef stew is inspired by a Korean short rib dish called Galbi. Adding caramelized kimchi as a condiment not only makes everything more delicious but also gives the stew just the kick to warm up your insides.

Short Rib Stew with Caramelized Kimchi
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 small Asian pear, grated (1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
6 pounds English-cut beef short ribs (twelve 4-by-2-by-2-inch pieces)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 large daikon, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 baking potatoes (1 1/2 punds), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups (12 ounces) chopped napa cabbage kimchi
4 radishes, thinly sliced
steamed white or brown short-grain rice, for serving
  1. In a bowl, whisk the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, pear, pepper, 2 sliced scallions and 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil. Add the ribs, turn to coat and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large Dutch oven or enameled cast-iron casserole. Lift half of the short ribs from the marinade, brushing off the solids, and sear over moderately high heat until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ribs; reserve the marinade separately.
  3. Add the onion and 2 tablespoons of water to the pot and cook, stirring to release the browned bits on the bottom, 2 minutes. Return the ribs and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add the reserved marinade, broth and 6 cups of water; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat for 1 hour, skimming occasionally. Uncover and simmer for 1 hour longer, stirring and skimming occasionally. 
  4. Add the daikon, carrots and potatoes to the stew and sim­mer briskly until the meat is very tender, the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thickened, 30 minutes longer.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil over moderately high heat. Add half of the kimchi and cook, turning occasionally, until golden and lightly caramelized. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining sesame oil and kimchi.
  6. Serve the stew topped with the kimchi and radishes and garnished with sliced scallions. Serve with steamed rice.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


I've decided to kick off 2015 with a new pie project -- a pie a week for fifty-two weeks to represent each of the fifty states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. I'll go in alphabetical order starting with the state of Alabama, otherwise known as the "Heart of Dixie." Here are some other interesting facts about Alabama -- the pecan is the state's official nut, peach and blueberries are the state's fruits, residents are called Alabamians, it introduced Mardi Gras to the western world, and it is against the state law to wrestle bears, flick your boogers into the Alabama wind, or drive blindfolded. Alabama is also the birthplace of baseball great Hank Aaron, boxer Joe Louis, crooner Nat King Cole, and actress and libertine Tallulah Bankhead.

ph via eatin on the cheap

Fried hand pies are believed to have originated in Alabama. To make a fried pie, a small amount of filling is spooned onto a round piece of rolled-out pie dough. Then the pastry is closed in the shape of a half moon, sealed at the edges, and fried in deep fat. The pies are dusted with powdered sugar and eaten hot. Fillings for these delicate half-moon pastries are usually fruit...peaches or peach butter.

Fried Peach Hand Pies

6-7 ounces dried fruit, peaches *
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk (more or less)

  1. Place six ounces dried fruit in a pot and cover with two cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until they are tender and soft, approximately twenty minutes. To test, press down on one with a fork to see if it mashes up a bit liked a boiled potato, if so, it is ready. 
  2. Turn off the heat and add butter, sugar, cinnamon, and a splash of lemon juice. 
  3. Use a potato masher or fork to mash ingredients together. 
  4. Now make the pastry. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl; stir together. Add shortening to the flour and cut it in until it resembles coarse meal. Add a little milk, one teaspoon at a time, until dough pinches and holds together. You don't want a wet dough. 
  5. Dump onto floured surface and press dough together into a ball. Divide into 10 balls of dough.
  6. Place ball on a floured surface. You can roll out the dough on a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap for easier cleanup. Roll out each ball into 5 or 6-inch circle.
  7. Place about two tablespoons of filling in the center of each circle. Dip the tips of your fingers in water and run them around the outer edge of the dough, fold over in half into half-moon shape, and then crimp edges together with fork prongs.
  8. Heat one inch of oil in a medium to large sized skillet, to 350 degrees. Place pies in hot oil and cook until brown on both sides, turning once or twice to cook them evenly.
  9. Place on paper towel lined plates to soak up excess oil.
  10. Serve as is, or sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

* recipe using fresh peaches
8 peaches
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
  1. Peel and dice peaches. In a medium saucepan, bring peaches and sugar to a rolling boil. 
  2. Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 c water. Add to boiling peaches. Return to low boil. Boil until filling is thick. 
  3. Allow filling to cool completely before making pies (overnight in the fridge works best). 
* recipe using canned peach pie filling
1 (21 ounce) can peach pie filling

Friday, January 2, 2015

BYE BYE 2014

The past year has been one heck of a roller coaster ride and I have to admit I'm kind of glad to see the back of 2014. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of highs to off-set the lows but the unexpected dips and sharp curves along the way left me feeling somewhat winded and blindsided. Most of it was a bit of a blur but there were definite highlights...

Nathalie's Studio 54 Birthday Bash

studio 54
rule: invite guests more interesting than you
four tons of glitter
"standing on stardust"
disco and halston
bianca jagger rides a white horse
$7 million
"only the mafia made more money"

I flew to Detroit for a shoot-- great clients, great crew, great pies. Dangerously Delicious Pies. Made in Detroit. 

Desert vacation. Grub at Pappy and Harriet's in Pioneer Town. Roamed and relaxed at the 29 Palms Inn. Wandered Joshua Tree National Park. Happy trails.

Coachella 2014. 

ice ice baby. summer tart classes with Chiyoko.
pate sucre
blueberry basil
gold leaf flakes

Lyon, France. Second city; between two rivers. Emmanuel and Nathalie's wedding. 

second city
between two rivers: rhone / saone
whispering vineyards
music // roman amphitheater // nuits de fourviere
lumiere brothers
paul bocuse 
bouchon // quenelle

Barcelona, Spain. 

Pie Social:  a pie baking hootenanny!

Hope's desert birthday. Pioneer Town / Yucca Valley / 29 Palms / Joshua Tree. Tile House. Hot round sun and brisk weather. Pappy and Harriet's spicy bloody marys and pulled pork sandwiches. La Casita Mexican plates. Margaritas and cold beer.

And of course lots of pies...