Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blackberry Green Grape Pie

Dishboy Scott and I got to work in my kitchen after picking a large bucket of wild blackberries. There we carefully weighed and split our precious fruit and set to work making pies for our families. Scott decided on a more traditional blackberry peach, while I thought something new might be fun.

I picked through the Oregon Fruit cans my friend Terri sent me, and thought grapes might be fun. As I placed them in the bowl with the blackberries, Scott turned around and I swear he rolled his eyes as he gave me his, “That’s going to be really weird and gross.” look and “Laura’s wasting our hard earned blackberries.”

Being used to such looks, I proceeded anyway. I let the pie cool and took it up to my parents’ place where everyone bravely took a very small piece. They thought the idea was bizarre as well. However, a small piece turned into multiple pieces and even my dessert avoiding dad went back for seconds and thirds.

In short, this pie was AMAZING! The grapes stayed plump and the pie was so perfect and juicy. They also gently added sweetness to the blackberry flavor without taking anything away from the stars of the pie.

And poor Dishboy, he never did get a piece, but I’ll be making this pie again soon. I might offer him a sliver if he’s lucky.

Blackberry Green Grape Pie
Printer Version
It sounds a little strange to purchase a can of green grapes, but it’s the syrup you’re after. It makes the pie juicy and flavorful.

1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 ounces) Oregon Fruit Seedless Thompson Grapes in Light Syrup
3 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 double pie crust
2 tablespoons butter

1. Move the oven rack to the lower quarter of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the egg white and water, set aside.

2. Mix together the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Do not skip this step or you’ll have starch lumps.

3. Place the grapes with the syrup in a large bowl. Add the blackberries, white vinegar, almond extract, vanilla extract and sugar mixture. Toss together and set aside.

4. Place a dough in a 9” pie dish. Brush with egg wash. Pour in the fruit and dot with butter. Top with the other dough and crimp and seal pie. Brush the top with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and cut vents in the top.

5. Bake pie for 30 minute. Reduce heat to 375 degrees, cover with a pie shield and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until pie is bubbly and bottom crust is golden. Cool for several hours before serving.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Savory Summer Vegetable Cobbler

This cobbler, casserole, whatever you want to call it is the new reason I could become a full time vegetarian again. All my leftover CSA vegetables went into this amazing summer meal creating something I wish I could enjoy all year long.

Speaking of vegetarians, I’m taking my poor unsuspecting ex-cattle rancher husband to a “How to be a Vegetarian or Vegan” class tonight. Think he’ll suspect I’m being sneaky? If I had someone else on my team, I think I could do this.

There’s also a very good chance he’ll run out screaming for his sanity. I’ll let you know what happens.

Savory Summer Vegetable Cobbler
Printer Version
A side salad and maybe a piece of garlic bread is all this cobbler needs.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup grated Tillamook Vintage White Cheddar, or other good quality cheddar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled well and diced
3 tablespoons ice water

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and cheese. Process until the cheese is mixed in. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. With machine running, pour ice water through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without becoming wet or sticky. Move dough to a bowl and press it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the freezer while making the filling.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 extra large summer squash or zucchini or two medium sized ones
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons half and half

1. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set aside a 9x13 inch dish. Slice off the ends of the squash or zucchini and slice the long way to make two long pieces. Then slice each half into 1/3 inch thick half moons. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet over medium high heat melt the butter and warm the olive oil. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the squash and cook until the vegetables begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Place the mixture in the 9x13 inch dish.

4. Chop tomatoes into large bite size chunks and place in the dish. Add the chopped basil and sprinkle with lots of pepper, the sugar, flour and 2 teaspoons salt. Toss together. Add the half and half and toss again to combine. Spread the vegetables out evenly.

5. Remove the dough from the freezer. Pinch off cherry sized pieces and sprinkle over the vegetables. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is browned and the sides are bubbly. Wait 15 minutes until set and serve.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blueberry Plum Pie and a Pilgrimage to Oregon Fruit

I glanced back at the low gray building with sadness and a bit of envy. For once, I found something worth trading my freedom for. A lifetime of hard work, friendship, fruit and being part of the lives of a group of intelligent women who share their days together.

I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself here. There is a story here, on their side and on mine.

Since 1935 a small company called Oregon Fruit has canned our best and most beautiful northwestern fruits. The labels were almost apologetic at first, as they believed processed fruit could never live up to the standards of fresh. They were wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Most of us Oregon Fruit fans know this as soon as we open a can. We look at 75 years of perfection.

“These are the best cherries in the world”, my mom would exclaim every year when she made her special cherry pies. My small mother seemed so tall then as I stretched high on my toes to peer over the counter to watch the magical pie making process. The highlight of our holidays, we waited for those pies for agonizing hours. The thickened cherry syrup was always the best part and I’d impolitely lick it off my plate every time. Now I know it’s the syrup in the cans my mother was after. Syrup that makes pies so perfect. I still can’t make a cherry pie like hers, but I’m getting closer.

My husband, daughter and I arrived in our RV, Otto the Travel Box, bright and early that late June morning. We’d slept at a rest stop just so we could get to the factory in time to meet my wonderful friend Terri and tour this sacred place. For me a passage, for Terri and friends, another day at work. Although this time, I got to finally meet my new forever friend.

Terri wrote to me many months ago when I posted a plum pie. I read her message stunned. How could someone from my favorite company find me? Even better how could they find me, make friends with me, invite me to Oregon and offer me my favorite fruit? All I can figure is I must have done something right in the world.

When I entered the building, Terri ran out and hugged me. I adored her at once of course, and she showed me to the welcome sign they made just for me. Terri then led me around and introduced me to everyone, including JoEllen, who took Jesse and I on our tour. Clara not being twelve yet, got to stay behind and play with Terri. I don’t think she minded too much, although she can’t wait to see the place when she’s older.

JoEllen was amazing, fun and with this spirit of knowledge we got to ask her everything from history details, to the old wood floors, to the canning and recycling process and then she proudly took us to see the giant osprey nest just outside the far building. She told us about the baby birds’ first flight fiasco and safe return. Ospreys being a favorite of mine, I took this as an omen.

There is so much more too. I met Ardis relabeling cans to go to food banks and discount stores. She’s a hoot! What I didn’t realize is if the cans don’t weigh quite enough they get relabeled and sent to people who can use them under a different name. Nothing is ever wasted.

Dressing up in sanitary gear, we finally entered the processing building. Workers lined the place making sure everything was perfect and clean before processed into their new product called Berry Up, created by JoEllen herself. Fruit syrup with fruit bits to be used in drinks. It smelled so good in there. Clean and fragrant with strawberries. I just wish we could buy the stuff; right now it’s only being used in restaurants because of the high price to put it on grocery shelves. Oregon Fruit being a small factory cannot afford to sell it to us as of yet. I hope someday they will. I have one little bottle left I’m hoarding in my freezer.

Speaking of hoarding, I stock Oregon Fruit Plums like I’m in a WWII rationing situation. They’re my favorite in the world, as the cherries are my mothers. It’s gotten so bad, I only give pies with Oregon Fruit Plums to the people who will share a piece with me!

I suppose my life is here in Idaho, but there are days I wish things were different. Days I wish I could have chosen to live and work in Salem, Oregon in a little privately owned fruit factory where turnover is nearly nonexistent and people take care of each other. The place where processed fruit is worthy of the best pies.

Blueberry Plum Pie Printer Version

Oregon Fruit’s canned plums perfume this blueberry pie with rich fragrant syrup and beautiful soft ripe plums. If you think canned fruit is substandard, you’ve never tried Oregon Fruit. As a small company, they only process absolutely perfect fruit, or they won’t can it at all.

1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 ounces) Oregon Fruit Whole Purple Plums in Heavy Syrup
3 cups (1 pound) blueberries
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 double pie crust
2 tablespoons butter

1. Move the oven rack to the lower quarter of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the egg white and water, set aside.

2. Mix together the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Do not skip this step or you’ll have starch lumps.

3. Drain the plum syrup into a large bowl. Remove the plums from the can and take out the pits. Chop the plums and add to the bowl. Add the blueberries, white vinegar, almond extract, vanilla extract and sugar mixture. Toss together and set aside.

4. Place a dough in a 9” Pyrex pie dish. Brush with egg wash. Pour in the fruit and dot with butter. Top with the other dough and crimp and seal pie. Brush the top with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and cut vents in the top.

5. Bake pie for 30 minute. Reduce heat to 375 degrees, cover with a pie shield and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until pie is bubbly and bottom crust is golden. Cool for several hours before serving.

Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sugar Cookies with Luscious Red Apple Frosting

It was nearly 100 degrees Monday afternoon when I tried to escape the sun in little Troy, Idaho's empty downtown on my way to pick blackberries in Kendrick. Without a pressing schedule, I wandered about exploring a bit looking for shelter inside a shop. Any shop would have been fine, but few places still exist among the empty storefronts and the sandwich place was closed for remodeling. My options came down to a couple bars and a state liquor store.

I road the Vespa that day, so the bars were out unless I wanted to look like an idiot drinking a coke. Which I do from time to time. So, I escaped inside the liquor store to browse the “extracts”. Extracts meaning anything I think I can get away baking with.

There were lots of fun options, but with a small trunk I choose just one. Something new to me, DeKuyper Luscious Red Apple Schnapps. When I got home, I threw around a few baking ideas, but in the end used the liquor to flavor this whipped frosting. It’s so good; I caught myself eating the darn stuff out of the bowl. Yikes!

My only problem now is this giant bottle of brilliant red schnapps sitting in my ever growing liquor collection.

Sugar Cookies Printer Version
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and salt. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix in baking soda and baking powder. Add flour and beat until just combined.

With a mini cookie scoop (size 60), scoop out dough and place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes or until no longer wet looking. Rest on cookie sheets for 4 minutes, then move to cooling racks.

Once cool, thinly spread cookies with frosting.

Whipped Luscious Red Apple Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened slightly
1 pound powdered sugar
¼ cup DeKuyper Luscious Red Apple Schnapps
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

With a mixer, slowly beat together all the ingredients. Once combined, turn the mixer to high and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy. Spread frosting in a thin layer over cookies.

Yield 2 1/2 cups. Prep time 7 minutes.

Makes 64 cookies

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Polenta with Sockarooni White Bean Sauce

I’m spending my Saturday evening making pie as a thank-you to the wonderful family who loaned me their home for a magazine shoot. They did so much for me; I just hope blueberry plum pie and a French pie dish will be enough to show my gratitude.

I have some downtime while the pies are in the oven and wanted to share another recipe from Foodbuzz’s Family Bites. It’s another easy one with Sockarooni sauce. This time vegetarian.

Polenta with Sockarooni White Bean Sauce Printer Version
2/3 jar Newman’s Own® Sockarooni Pasta Sauce
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tube basil-garlic or plain polenta
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Dried parsley, optional

Place the beans, pasta sauce, and a dash of red pepper flakes in a saucepan and warm through over medium heat.

Meanwhile, slice the polenta into ½ -inch slices. Place 1 Tbsp butter into a nonstick skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the polenta and cook on both sides until warmed through. Repeat with the remaining polenta slices and butter.

Place the polenta slices on a serving platter or on plates and top with the sauce mixture. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Sockarooni Meatball Subs with Horseradish Cheddar

It seems like forever ago I submitted a request to participate in Foodbuzz’s Family Bites, but this week is my turn for sharing what I made with the sauces Newman’s Own sent to me. Now that the recipes are up, I can share some of them with you.

I try not to take on too many offers for these kinds of things, but Paul Newman gave so much of himself to others, I thought it would be nice to give a little something in return.

I had a great time playing with products I’d never purchased before. Especially the zesty Sockarooni sauce, which I’ve been buying on a regular basis since.

Slow Cooker Sockarooni Meatball Subs with Horseradish Cheddar Printer Version
A short and simple recipe, these subs make a great lunch.

1 jar Newman’s Own® Sockarooni Pasta Sauce
1 bag frozen Italian meatballs
1 bag hot dog buns
8 slices horseradish cheddar (found in the deli at Safeway)
1 cup onion, diced

Place the meatballs and sauce in a slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker to high and cook for 4 hours or until heated through.

Place the cheese and meatballs on warmed hotdog buns and top with diced onions or other condiments as desired.

Serves 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Olive Cheese Bread and a Dilapidated Rural West Community Center

The ghost of a great community hall stands watch over the nearly deserted town of Leland, Idaho. I felt it towering over me as I explored what’s left of little Leland and found myself driving up the steep path for a peek before I could stop myself.

The building must have been the life of the town once and still makes beautiful pictures. A theater room sits open to the elements at the south end with faded fabric seats. At the front door perched over a sharp cliff there's a strange kiosk filled with old plastic cups with cheap Japanese sliverware and an empty birds nest. Owls frequent the place now, explaining the now empty nest and scattering of large owl pellets. The one in the photograph has feet sticking out.

I’ll let you enjoy these images of a forgotten time in the rural west. Perhaps Leland died the way the rest of our struggling towns did. The real kiss of death was when the railroad missed your town. Survival was bleak, but at least Leland has a small piece left. Inside the hall sits an upright piano and a few dusty old trophies. I wasn’t comfortable breaking into the building but took a couple shots through the old glass door. A ghost-like effect mirrored the feeling of the place.

The only life left; the owls, the bees and me with my favorite little point and shoot camera out exploring in the sun.

Olive Cheese Bread Printer Version
This recipe doesn’t belong to me, but to the great Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. I found it in her book, but she also has it on her blog. The only thing I’d do differently is cut the topping in half, but I’ll leave that up to you.

1 loaf French bread
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
½ cup mayonnaise, not low fat
¾ pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 (6 ounce) can black olives, chopped
1 (6 ounce) jar pimiento stuffed green olives, chopped (I used chopped mixed olives I had on hand.)
2 to 3 green onions, chopped
A dash of salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter and mayonnaise. Stir in the Monterey Jack, olives, green onions and salt and pepper.

3. Slice the bread into two long pieces. Top with cheese mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted.

Recipe by Ree Drummond. Visit her blog The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Pictures by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tender Pork Ribs with Tangy Rib Sauce

What I really wanted yesterday was a swim to cool off from driving, but instead I swear I was going to be sucked under alive by quicksand. Alone yesterday at (Scary) Merry Bay near the town of Orofino, Idaho I found myself knee deep stuck in muck and wet sand. My first reaction was panic, if this stuff takes me under no one will ever find me!

Ok, so a little dramatic but really I’m never going back there. What kind of joke is it to name something so sinister, “Merry Bay”, anyway? I was lucky to get away with my shoes!

I’d probably do something like that, but I’d at least put out a warning about man-eating sand. There’s a warning for cougars and black bears, but nothing for evil sinking mud. The sign informed me about great fishing, hiking (with scary wild animals), picnicking, and other recreational activities. I did notice beforehand swimming wasn’t on the list. Maybe there’s the tip-off.

I think I’ve developed a phobia of quick sand.

I know many of you believe I’ve vanished. Though not the fault of the sand, I blame it on our Idaho summer. I’ve been outside playing or traveling and nowhere near a computer. This is necessary in order to store enough vitamin D in my system that I don’t lash out and kill my husband in the middle of winter when dark arrives everyday at 4p.m., providing an environment only hospitable for polar bears and snowboarders.

So, if you sent emails or left messages please don’t take me for dead. I’ll write back as soon as I’m forced inside by the biting miserable cold. Or hopefully well before then.

There wasn't a place to wash off and my feet are still died slightly yellow from the strange mud, but they're oh so soft now! I know, I'll set up a Merry Bay Spa Party and we can all get stuck in the name of beauty. Or not.

As you probably guessed by now, I haven't been cooking much lately. For today I've pulled another recipe from the "Summer Grilling Guide". It's a rendition of my brother Steve's tasty rib recipe.

Tender Pork Ribs with Tangy Rib Sauce Printer Version
When it comes to ribs low and slow with a blast of heat at the end gives tender fall off the bone meat with flavorful caramelized outsides. This can be done two ways, by slowly baking ribs in the oven and finishing on the grill, or grilling the entire time. The choice is yours.

2 racks Pork Loin Back Ribs
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Seasoning Salt
Freshly Cracked Pepper

If still attached, remove the slivery membrane on the back of the ribs. Slide a paring knife under the skin and grab the membrane with a paper towel to remove it.

Place the ribs on large sheets of foil and rub each rack with 2 tablespoons vinegar. Generously sprinkle and rub with seasoning salt, paprika, and freshly cracked pepper. Cover completely with foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Oven method: Preheat to 300 degrees. Bake for 2 ½ hours. Remove from oven, unwrap and slice into servings for easier handling. Place on a hot grill and brush with rib sauce turning once. Baste with sauce and remove from heat when ribs are done.

Grill method: Preheat grill to 300 degrees. Place the baking sheet with the ribs on the grill. Monitor the temperature.

After 2 ½ hours remove pan from the grill, unwrap and slice into servings for easier handling. Turn the heat to high and place ribs directly on the grill. Brush with rib sauce. Turn once and baste the other side with sauce. Remove from heat when ribs looks done to taste.

Rib Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced very fine
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Franks Original RedHot sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
Freshly cracked pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer on medium-low stirring frequently until thickened.

Recipe & photographs by Laura Flowers. Recipe for Beckett Entertainment Plus Summer Grilling Guide, 2010.

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