World Peace: It’s What’s For Dinner

Sometimes I add World Peace to my grocery list. I’ve never yet found it at my local stores, but they have a notoriously poor selection.

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Key Lime Pie. It’s all in the Limes, Not the Keys.

I like key lime soda, so I must like key lime pie. This linear thought process – plus the commendation of a taste-chemist – convinced me that the next Pie Week creation should be Key Lime Pie. Then I discovered that Key Lime Pie is made with cream. Cream, like butter, makes me gag. Thankfully, in this eco-friendly-hippy-dipppy-vegan era, there are non-cream Key Lime Pie recipes for my sort of people. I used one – or the basis of one – to make a darn good cream-free pie.

Key Lime Pie

8 oz or 1 package non-dairy cream cheese Trader Joe’s is clearly marked “This Is Not a Tub of Cream Cheese OU”

12 oz or one package silk tofu

1/3 cup key lime juice As the author later says, “Key limes are different than regular limes, they are more acidic and bitter.  Regular limes can be substituted without losing much integrity.” I couldn’t find the 2o key limes she says is needed for a full 1/3 cup in any New York City grocery store. I went with the regular limes and a little extra vanilla – as suggested by my friend the flavor-chemist.

1 cup powdered sugar

more than 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp lime zest I own a zester, which for obvious reasons is rarely used. You can bet I used more than a tbsp of zest. If you have a zester, I recommend you do the same. If you don’t have a zester, skip this step.

Combine non-dairy cream cheese and powdered sugar; add lime juice, vanilla, lime zest, and tofu.  Mix until smooth.

Pour into crust, and chill until firm, approximately 2 hours.

For an extra touch, top with lime zest and whipped cream.

 Graham Cracker Crust

1 packet graham crackers

olive oil, as needed

In a food processor, crush graham crackers. Drizzle olive oil on mixture until it can clump. Press into pie tin.

Makes a generous 9″ pie. Or a very generous 8″ pie plus a micro-mini pie.

Wedding Report: It’s in the Bag

My work purse can hold, roughly, two cantaloupes. Actually, it has held two cantaloupes. Of course, most of the time it doesn’t contain any cantaloupes, but rather a variety of essential odds and ends – lunch and snacks, reading material, wallet, phone, and emergency supplies.

In contrast, my wedding purse can fit, maximum, a small Italian plum. I rarely have the occasion to bring fresh fruit to a wedding, cantaloupes or plums, so it is not the most useful unit of measurement. In point of fact, there’s room for a bit of air in my wedding purse, but none none for my wallet, food, or books.

My work purse is sedate, with simple lines and multiple pockets. It’s a great size, but hefty. I could probably hide a small baby in there and not notice the difference – it weighs five pounds when empty. All of this makes it cumbersome and inappropriate for a wedding.

Practically, I can’t use my work purse for a wedding. Logically, it follows that I use the aptly titled wedding purse. Its silver-spangled shape fits neatly in the palm of my hand, slips under my arm, or dangles from my wrist. More importantly, it adds glamour to any outfit and matches my shoes.

Since I cannot fit everything I want in my wedding purse, I, like generations of women, have separated my wants from my needs. I might not survive three days in the frozen tundra with my supplies, but I”ll last six hours at a wedding. And so will you. Here it is, the top ten items you need at a wedding:

1-3. Band-aid case [includes antiseptic cream, bandaids, and acetametaphin]

4. Mincha/maariv/birchas hamazon booklet

5-6. Health insurance and dental insurance card

7. $40 in cash

8. cell phone

9-10. pen & paper [no reason to bring one without the other.]

Plus, I grab a granola bar on my way out of the house. I eat it before the wedding, so there’s no need to try to cram it into the purse.

While it’s important to know what to bring, sometimes it’s more important to know what to leave at home. Do not put a photo ID or credit card in your wedding purse. You’re going to leave that purse on the table for dancing, or just to say hi to a friend. While you’re away there are a few hundred people who could sweep by, scoop those up, and walk away without a soul noticing. I don’t have the time to replace those, and neither do you.

Bread Like We Had In Belarus

My coworker is of hearty peasant stock. She loves a good borst with a hefty slice of bread. “There is nothing,” she declares in her Russian-accented English, “better than fresh bread. Nothing!” One day I brought her a loaf of bread. Her eyes lit up, as she held it to the light. For a moment, she just took it in. Then,she gave me the ultimate praise; “It is just like the bread we had in Belarus!”

I gave her, and now you, the recipe. The next time you feel a little homesick for the old country, pull out four ingredients and you too can be transported to the homeland. While you’re at it, try not to think too hard about why you fled the old sod. Just enjoy the bread.

Jim Lahey wrote the recipe, Mark Bittman turned it into a craze, and my dad perfected it for home-use. Together, they bring you: Bread.

3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water

Mix dry ingredient, stir in water until blended and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, let sit for 12 – 18 hours [more or less] in a warm place.

Divide dough into two balls, flour and let sit in separate blobs. Place pot – visionsware, pyrex, enamel, castiron or enamel – in oven; heat oven to 450. When oven is fully heated, remove remove pot safely, plop floured dough into pot, and let cook 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove lid and cook for an addition 15 minutes. When cooked, safely turned loaf onto heat-resistant surface. Repeat cooking and cooking process for second loaf.

Pie to the People

Discussions among my coworkers range from the cut-throat pricing of air-conditioning installation to now-defunct candy brands. Some issues, such as menopause, as discussed frequently. Others, among them bridal shower gifts, are rarely touched upon. The one common thread of all our conversations is food.

Usually my coworkers merely describe what they’ve been eating. Sometimes they go so far as to say where they ate it. Then, yesterday, my coworker handed me a recipe. It was for Pie. Yes, universe, I hear you loud a clear.

My only option was to make it. Of course I used Aunt Sheryl’s Pie Crust, instead of the sub-par crust the print-out suggested. Other than that, I followed my coworker’s lead.

Crumble Berry Pie

1 9″ pie crust

Berry Filling

4 c berries [fresh or thawed from freezer case]

1/2 c sugar

1/4 c water

2 tbsp corn starch*

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

dash of salt

*I asked my coworker, a venerable Midwestern balabusta, if I really had to use corn starch. She gave me a definitive “Yes” which brooked no argument. So I asked Ellen, who said I could use flour. Not yet ready to cross my coworker – even without her knowledge – I asked my dad if I could replace the corn starch with flour. He told me a baking trick, as yet untried, of mixing margarine into flour as a thickening agent. Such an agent would be an effective replacement for corn starch, though it could induce cardiac arrest. I opted to follow my coworker’s directive and used corn starch.

Except for berries, mix together filling ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk mixture as it heats over a medium flame, until it thickens [about 5 minuets]. Stir in berries.

Crumble Topping

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c flour

1/2 c oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon, or more as desired

1/4 c [I used oil. The recipe called for melted butter [which I automatically read as margarine.] What is melted butter but oil?] Fattening substance of your choice

Sift together dry ingredients, mix in oil/margarine; sprinkle thickly over pie.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

 

Pie Week has claimed me, and my coworkers, as its own. It’s also claimed a Los Angeles Radio station, where they make a pie each day of the summer. If you wait around here long enough, Pie is going to claim you too.

Pie Crust for Pie Week

It’s Pie Week on NPR. Finally, the world and I are in sync. Now, with the help of my simple pie crust recipe you can join the world, and me, in having your pie and eating it too.

Googlereader fans will recall this recipe, and the story of

The Holy Grail of Pie Crust

My Bubby makes a delicious apple pie, which she always denigrates as she serves it. According to Bubby, Aunt Sheryl, the master baker in the family, has perfected the art of pie. Bubby knows that her pie tastes good, but once she tasted Aunt Sheryl’s pie, she knew she’d found pie-perfection. Years ago, Aunt Sheryl gave Bubby her recipe. Ever since, Bubby has followed that exact recipe though never, she believes, with the same success. Now, she passes on to the next generation what she believes to be the holy grail of pie crust.

“The key,” says Bubby, as she leans forward to impart the secret of pie, “is the oil.” You need to have lots of oil to have a really flaky crust.”

“The crust is flaky,” I always insist as I sample another pie which, I am informed, is not as good as Aunt Sheryl’s. Bubby just shakes her head in disgust, and laments once more that she cannot make a truly great pie. Then she shares Aunt Sheryl’s recipe:

Pie Crust [makes two 9″ pie crusts]
2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 c salad oil
3 tbsp orange juice

Mix all ingredients. Roll out between two pieces of wax paper. Bake at 350 for 45 min.

For Bubby, all pie crust recipes come with a companion Apple Pie Filling recipe. This is the she uses:
Apple Pie Filling
6 c apples [Granny Smiths are good baking apples], sliced thin
1/2 – 3/4 c sugar [brown or white]
cinnamon, generous dash
nutmeg, miserly dash
1 tbsp flour
Sprinkling of corn flakes, crushed
1/3 stick of margarine, cut into pieces
egg white and water or milk [optional]

Mix all ingredients. Sprinkle corn flakes in the bottom of the pie to absorb any sogginess. Place apple mixture in pie crust. Place margarine pieces on top of apples for a nice flavour. Brush apple mixture with egg white mixed with water, or milk.

Bake in pie crust at 400 or 450 for 15-30 min, then 350 for 45 min.

“You’ll be a much better cook than I am,” says Bubby, at the end of another such conversation. With that commendation, I leave you to certain success.

For those who would like to achieve success with a pie other than apple, NPR is here for you. NPR is also opening up the floor to savory pies, which taste just as good with this pie crust as their sweeter counterparts. For me though, pie will remain a dessert, coming into its own with the fall crop of apples. Inspired by the culinary training of NPR’s Allison Aubrey, I’m thinking of starting early this year and whipping up a batch of Blueberry Pie.  The universe seems to be telling me that it’s a good idea.