Sunday, November 6, 2011

Church Lady Peach Pie

My pie timeline is totally off. 

Since it’s November, I should be telling you about pies made with pecans or sweet potatoes or pumpkins, and hey, all those things have fantastic pie-making potential. But the snowier it gets outside, let me tell you, the more we all miss the fresh fruit pies of summer. 

Luckily, I have a secret.

This fantastic, gorgeous, glorious peach pie is not a fresh fruit pie. It’s a jarred fruit pie. 

Okay, look, I know. I know that our food culture has placed supreme importance on using fresh, seasonal and local produce, and that’s definitely a good philosophy to preach. But if it’s November, and you can’t get the thought of juicy ripe peaches out of your head? Please don’t go to the grocery store and buy those baseballs they’re trying to pass off as fruit. All you need is a jar of sliced peaches packed in light syrup and you are well on your way to fruit pie bliss. 

True to the title, I found this recipe buried in an old church charity collection of recipes that I picked up at a thrift store a while back, and maybe that’s why it’s so shameless in using jarred (or canned) peaches. But just ask a grandma – canning is a way to preserve fruit at the height of its ripeness, and that’s why a lot of our grandmas did it themselves.   

So I made up some sweet, golden peach pie filling (which, trust me, you will have to fight to not just eat warm over ice cream. . . or maybe just with a spoon) and then used it to fill some pate brisee (which is just a fancy French way of saying ‘pie crust made with butter’) and baked it until it was flaky and fantastic. 

It’s not quite the same as biting into a ripe peach and letting the juice run down your chin… But you know what? It may just be the next best thing. 

Go on, put your prejudice against canned fruit aside and check out the recipe after the jump for a taste of summer that’ll brighten any snowy day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shaved Zucchini Salad with pine nuts and parmesan

This is a summer recipe, I'll admit. And I don't know about for you guys, but man, here, I'm a little late to the party. All the other blogs are posting pictures of pumpkin-y things and cinnamon and chai, and here I am, hung up on zucchini... But I couldn't not share this recipe with you guys just because it's almost October. Seriously. It's good.

There's a certain point in the summer where the internet blows up with recipes using zucchini, because anyone who's ever tried to grow this hardy plant in their garden knows that zucchini is the sort of home-grown vegetable that just keeps giving...and giving...and giving. But even if you're not the home-growing type (like me - I've only ever managed herbs), I bet you there's still some nice zucchini squash at the grocery.

So do yourself a favor, the next nice day you have! Throw something on the grill and make this quick and easy salad, and appreciate the sunshine and the flavors of summer.

 This is one of those things that comes together in the blink of an eye, and the flavors are spectacular, the kind of combination that always tastes sunny. Refreshing green zucchini serves as a delivery device for a dressing made of bright citrus and sharp garlic. Top it off with the crunch of toasted pine nuts and a little bit of parmesan, and you've got yourself a winning side dish.

And the biggest sell of this recipe for me (at the time) was that it didn't involve turning my kitchen into an inferno. Okay, most salads don't involve turning your kitchen into an inferno, but don't you get tired of romaine tossed in vinaigrette? I do! This use of zucchini is a great alternative, and it pairs beautifully with lighter dishes such as chicken, fish, or (as I served it) honey-mustard-lime rubbed pork loin and some corn on the cob off the grill.

I could see the look in Sparky's eyes - he didn't think he'd like it. But one bite in, he was ready to wipe out the whole bowl.

Check after the jump for the recipe - and if it's a sunny day today, get out there and enjoy it while you still can!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Miniature Pear Upside-Down Cakes

Okay. Elephant in the room. I abandoned you for a whole month. There. I said it. It’s out. 

If I said I was sorry, would you believe me? That things just kept coming up, and it totally wasn’t you, it was all me, me and my desire to read cookbooks and to watch cooking shows but not to actually cook. Which is a problem, for a cooking blog. 

But look, I’m back now, and I’m ready to go. Okay? Forgive me? 

If it helps, I brought cake.

Not just any cake, either. I brought a delicious, caramel-y, fruity layer of golden goodness over top some of the most silky, supple vanilla cake I have ever had. Pear Upside-Down Cake, with warm caramel still running down the sides. 

And I didn’t bring you one cake. I brought you four. Miniatures, yes.  But you get one all to yourself. 

And you know what else? I get one all to myself, too! And that’s exciting for all of us, because that means when I blow out my birthday candle, you don’t only have to worry about me spraying saliva all over your serving. That would be pretty rude of me. 

I turned older this past weekend, and while this wasn’t my proper birthday cake, it was the cake I baked on my birthday. It seemed like the right thing to do.  I couldn’t be happier than to be simmering thick slices of ripe pears in caramel and folding whipped egg whites into a delicate batter, so that’s what I did. I’m pretty sure it’d make you happy, too.

This past weekend, we also lay to rest the ashes of Sparky’s grandfather, who succumbed to his battle with cancer last November. In the weeks leading up to his passing, the family was fortunate enough to be able to come together one last time for a meal with him. This was the cake I made for dessert. 

I don’t mean to get all heavy on you. Maybe I’m just getting a little more circumspect in my old age, but it seemed fitting to bake this cake to again celebrate life. My life, this time – another year past, and a new one to come.  Here’s to the wild ride. 

And here’s to you. Go make this cake. Celebrate something, or someone, or someplace. Share it with friends. Make memories. 

Check after the jump for the recipe, and an adaptation to produce one 10 ½ inch cake, rather than four miniatures - and check out the new poll in the sidebar to give me your opinion on cake vs pie!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gone Fishin'!

You know what? I missed you.

About a week ago I embarked out on an annual pilgrimage to the coast of British Columbia with Sparky's family; our eventual destination was the island of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as Queen Charlotte Island). I meant to let you know I was leaving, but two days' drive, a six hour ferry ride and a few days of vacation later, I'm just now getting to it. Though we stay in the sleepy little fishing town of Masset, I confess, I've been busy. There's family to catch up with, poker to play, scenery and wildlife to enjoy, and then? Then there's the crabs to catch.

In addition to being purportedly some of the best salmon fishing in the world, and the best place on earth to dig for razor clams (more on both of those things later), the beaches of Haida Gwaii act as spawning grounds for these gorgeous crustaceans - dungeness crab, some of the most delectable things you can drag out of the sea, in this foodie's opinion.

So I've been up most mornings, wiggling into my waders and grabbing my net to go with Sparky's family to the beach at early low tide to scoop up crabs in hip-deep surf on a beach where, on a clear day, one can see the southern tip of Alaska. You know what that means? Ocean fresh crab cakes. And you know what else? That's great news for you.

(Forgive the photo quality, please, I was too busy putting this in my face to worry about color balance.)

I'm here on the island for about ten more days, and I should be properly back to blogging around August 14th; I'd hoped to do some more while I was here, but there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. But I hope I'll bring home enough presents that you'll forgive me - a bounty of razor clams, salmon and halibut to cook for you, and pictures to go with them.

If seafood ain't your thing, no big deal, I've got a lot of other things to show you when I get home, too - raspberry sorbet, homemade soda syrups, bison steaks and pork butt (which does not actually come from the pork's butt) and the best homemade wheat sandwich bread I've ever come across, etc. . . Just to give you a quick taste. Don't worry. I haven't forgotten you; I'm just getting started.

In the meantime, if you're hungry, check out the links in the sidebar at the right for direction to other food blogs that'll make your mouth water. . . and I'll meet you back here in a few days!

Monday, July 25, 2011

White Bean Salad

It’s been hot outside, y’all.

I know; nobody takes my complaints of a heat wave seriously since I’ve moved to the great white north, but in the summer, the prairie gets to scorching on the odd day here and there. And so my oven and I? We had a little bit of a. . .brief falling out after two days of heating it up to 500 F for pizza dough applications.

Don’t worry, we’ve made up. . .and I’ve got the banana bread to prove it. Wink wink. 

Even so, for a couple days, I had nothing but cold dishes on the mind - and you know what? In the heat, I don’t really feel like consuming big hunks of meat, either, no matter how delicious. 

And so that’s how I came to make this cold vegetarian white bean salad. I love everything about it. 

I think this is really as summer as it gets. You don’t even have to glance at your oven for this recipe, it’s the simplest thing, a matter of chopping a little red onion, a few fresh herbs, and opening a couple cans. Yes, I said cans. Shh. Nobody has to know. 

And the dressing? Oh gosh, you guys, this dressing. I bet you can make it from things you already have in your pantry, and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t. It’s light and tangy and flavorful, and very given to a little tweaking this way or that depending on what you’re pairing the dish with. I’ve got a mason jar of it in my fridge, and I’ve been shaking it up each day right before drizzling a little of it on some of the salad greens Sparky’s grandmother gave us from her garden. 

Even better, unlike most salads, this bean salad only improves after a few hours (or even a couple days) in the fridge. And while I find it’s best served cold, it would definitely stand up to a pot luck buffet where it might get to room temperature instead.

As a side note, living with boys (i.e., Sparky and his brother) has made adept at feeding carnivores, and admittedly, I enjoy a good steak or a pork loin as much as the next southern barbeque baby, but when I’m cooking for myself, I find I eat vegetarian dishes as much as not. That said, there are many benefits (both for your health and for the environment) associated with cutting meat out of your diet one day a week. If you are so inclined, a protein-rich legume dish such as this makes an excellent stand-in for meat. 

And if you’re serving this next to a strip loin, or (like we did) vinegar glossed chicken? That’s okay too, this dish is delish, any way you serve it. 

Check after the jump for the recipe for the salad and the amazing vinaigrette that goes on it. . . Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How To: Pizza Dough + Calzones

Sparky has this story that he likes to tell people about me, about this one time when he had some of his friends over and they decided to order pizza, but unfortunately, all the pizza places were already closed. So, with a little flour and the toppings that I could rustle up from my fridge, I made them pizza at about three in the morning. 

Um, you guys? When I pulled that pizza from the oven, they looked at me like I was magic. I might as well have conjured the pizza from thin air for the way they were treating me. Seriously. And two years later, Sparky still talks about it. 

So hey. . . Can I teach you a magic trick? 

It’s really easy to capitalize on the idea that a lot of people seem to have nowadays that bread baking is black magic, that it takes a bunch of time and a bunch of fancy equipment and a bunch of skill, and that’s why it’s so impressive when you produce bread (or pizza) in your home. 

Luckily, making pizza dough from scratch is secretly really easy too. So easy, and so versatile, that I’m planning on doing a Things You Can Do With Pizza Dough series here at Miss Maillard. The recipe I’m going to give you produces enough dough to create two large pizzas, but if you don’t need two pizzas, you should still make the whole recipe. You can stick half the dough in the fridge and use it for another meal later in the week. 

(That little shaker on the board is filled with flour, and that is one of my black magic secrets about working with bread dough.)

Today we’re making calzones. . . which are not just little pizzas folded in half. Probably.

Calzones don’t traditionally have sauce inside them; instead, sauce is served on the side instead. But I’m a rebel. Garlicky, herby green basil pesto on the left. . . smoky fire-roasted red pepper and tomato sauce on the right. . . You can be a rebel , too, if you want. 

We did a little his-and-hers. I wanted to show you a vegetarian option, so I did one with garlic, spinach and red onion. The other one has Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon and red onion. Can you guess which one Sparky ate? 

Alright. . . I might’ve wilted the spinach in bacon fat. But don’t do that if you’re going actual vegetarian. 

This isn’t the only pizza dough recipe I use – sometimes I go whole-wheat, sometimes I want the really fancy one that you have to start 18 hours in advance, and sometimes I need pizza start-to-finish in thirty minutes – but this is a really good, basic dough that takes only a little planning ahead. The crust bakes up crispy where it’s thin and tender at the edges where it’s thicker, neutral enough to let the toppings shine but with a really great bread flavor on its own. 

Mmm. Maybe this is black magic. Delicious, delicious witchcraft. More likely, though, it’s a judicious application of food science to create something in your own home that easily outpaces anything you’d find in the frozen food aisle. 

Check after the jump for the recipe and a short photo tutorial about gluten formation (aka the secret to an excellent crust). 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread + Cinnaswirl French Toast

Hey. Guess what? It’s the weekend! 

That’s really good news for you, because that means you’re going to have plenty of time to make cinnamon swirl bread without it interfering with your busy weekday schedule. 

I mean, yeah, I guess you could choose not to make this bread. . . but let’s be serious. Why would you do that? If you’re a novice bread baker and you’re afraid, don’t be. 

 As far as breads go, this one is pretty forgiving, and we’ve all got to start somewhere, okay? Plus, the result is very impressive. 

“But Miss Maillard!” you say, “What am I going to do with a whole loaf of cinnamon swirl bread?”

Well, you’re going to eat it. Plain, or toasted, or spread with butter. . . Or any combination of the above, okay? You’ve got options. Then you’re going to feed it to people who you love, and be prepared for them to sing your praises. Probably with their mouths full. 

Because this bread is homemade without any of the preservatives of store-bought bread, it’ll start to lose its freshness pretty quick – like, after only two or three days, tops. Now, it’s pretty unlikely that there will be any of this bread left after a couple days, but if there is, not to worry. 

Slightly-stale slices of cinnamon swirl bread are perfect for cinnamon swirl French toast. . . so I won’t even blame you if you hide a couple slices of bread from your family so you, too, can experience this start to your morning.

Breakfast on the weekend is an opportunity to break away from the weekday staples of oatmeal and cereal. Let’s get fancy. 

Slivered almonds? Maple syrup? A little powdered sugar? How can you not have a good day after a breakfast like this? Are you convinced yet? 

Well. . . how about now?

This tastes like heaven. The bread is toasty-crisp on the outside and warm and silky on the inside, and the merger of cinnamon and maple syrup is wholesome and comforting. You don’t need the fancy almonds or anything to make this delicious, but if you do happen to have some almonds, walnuts or pecans on hand. . . go ahead and give them a rough chop and sprinkle them over top, for a little extra crunch. 

As a sidenote, if you’re cooking breakfast for a man, don’t try to keep him from this plate of food while you’re setting it up next to the window to photograph it. I mean, unless you don’t mind drool stains all over your shoulder. 

Go ahead and make this for breakfast this weekend. Sit down and have a cup of coffee, read the paper (or your favorite blogs), enjoy a moment of peace. And if you’re kind enough to share with your significant other, parent, child or mailman? Prepare for an ego boost. . .if they can stop eating long enough to say anything. 

Check after the jump for the recipes both for the bread and for the French toast!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How To: Roasted Red Peppers + Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Can we roast some red peppers today?

Okay. . . Maybe not today, it's kind of hot outside today, but definitely keep this one in your back pocket the next time you need a new flavor to pump up dinner. The flavor of roasted red peppers is intense and peppery and fruity without the heat of smaller varieties of peppers. Also, because the flesh of the peppers softens when roasted, roasted red peppers have a million uses, like in pasta sauce or soup or chopped up in chili or stew for added depth. They're also great in salads, salad dressings and sandwiches.

Or maybe in red pepper hummus? Yeah. Stay tuned.

Last week I sent Sparky to the grocery store to pick up a few things, including one red bell pepper. Well, homeboy came back with five of the most giant red bell peppers I’ve ever seen. Uh, yeah, honey, that’ll be enough peppers. Thank you! 
So the week wore on and by last Thursday , four of the five peppers were still sitting in my fridge. Since we were planning on taking off for the long weekend, there was only one solution if I didn’t want them to spoil while I was gone.

So! Let’s roast some red peppers. First things first, cut your peppers in half, and pull out the membranes and seeds. Then, on a foil-lined baking sheet (I used leftover parchment paper, don’t be like me), flip them skin-side up and use the palm of your hand to give them a press so they lie flatter. More flatly. You get the picture.

Stick ‘em under the broiler in your oven on high. Don’t wander off, okay? That broiler’s hot, and you need to keep an eye on things. 

I should mention that yes, if you do this in your kitchen and your exhaust isn’t awesome (like mine’s not) you’re going to create some smoke. If you don’t want to create smoke (or heat up your kitchen by broiling) you could also use your grill. 

In either case, the point is to roast the peppers until the skins blacken.  

Hello, flavor. 

Depending on your oven (or heat of your grill), this’ll can take anywhere from 4-7 minutes. Just keep a close eye on them, and don’t get nervous and pull the peppers out early. You want those skins pretty charred.


Now, while they’re still piping hot, use a pair of tongs to remove the peppers to a bowl and tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. You could also use a ziploc bag, if you’re inclined. The point here is that the steam from the peppers will help the blackened skins to loosen from the flesh of the peppers. Leave the bowl to sit for a few minutes, and then, it’ll be really, really easy to . . .

. . . just peel the blackened skin from the pepper. They won’t all come off in one neat sheet like that, you might have to fuss over some more than others, but for the most part, the pepper skins should peel right off. And when you’re done with that, you’ll be left with something magical. 

Hello, flavor. Gosh, you’re pretty. You can hang out at my house anytime you want.
Congratulations! You’ve just roasted some red peppers! Sure, you could’ve bought them at the store, but a competent cook like you can save a few pennies by doing this sort of thing at home.

So what do you do now? Well. . .

Remember those crackers I made last week? This is what I served them with – a roasted red pepper hummus that I whipped up in my food processor in about two minutes flat. Dip made with chickpeas, sesame and roasted red peppers is about as diet-friendly as dips come, but with a creamy, blended texture and the burst of savory-sweet pepper flavor in each bite, it doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing. 

Check after the jump for the hummus recipe, storage options for your roasted peppers and some links to other roasted pepper recipes around the web!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Patriotic Striped Jello Shots

Happy holiday weekend! 

As an American living in Canada, I got lucky as far as holidays go. All the major ones are the same (except Thanksgiving. . . But I suppose a harvest holiday has gotta be during the harvest) and all the  minor ones seem to line up too, one way or another. 

To fill in my American compatriots, July 1st in Canada is (aptly named) Canada Day, which celebrates the confederation of Canada into an official country in 1867. Meanwhile, stateside, July 4th is. . . Well, it’s the Fourth of July. Okay, it’s Independence Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. 

So Americans? Happy Fourth of July! Canadians? Happy (belated) Canada Day! Now that the history lesson’s over, let’s do some shots. 

Jello shots, I mean. You could do some regular shots, if you wanted to. Or not. But either way, you should totally find an excuse to make these little bites of strawberry flavoured jello and watermelon vodka with a hit of lime. It’s like summertime in your mouth. 

I picked up the inspiration for this on one of my favourite blogs, Bakers Royale, where Naomi made gorgeous, perfect, multi-striped red, white and blue shots for the Fourth.  I simplified a little when I made these striped red and white shots for Canada Day. . . and I might have popped ‘em on a blue plate to show a little love for my country of birth.  

These festive fingerfoods are great for a party, and while these ones were mildly alcoholic, you could easily make a non-alcoholic version if you don’t drink or you’ll be serving to kids. 

Because I replicated the recipe posted at Bakers Royale almost exactly, rather than republish the recipe and instructions here I’m going to send you over to Naomi’s blog and let you look at how she did it. I’m doing you a favor here, her stuff is going to make you want to lick your screen. Really. Trust me. You’re welcome.  Here’s the link to her jello shot post, once again.

However, because I did run into a few problems and pitfalls in my attempts to recreate her results, I'll give you a few hints so your jello shots can come out perfectly on the first try. . . unlike mine. 

Check after the jump for some tips on making these and some photos of what your jello shots should, um, definitely not look like. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Crispy Sesame Crackers

Are you a savory person, or are you a sweet person?

Hey, I don’t mean your disposition, because surely you're as sweet as pie. . . And, no I don’t mean how you’d taste in the event of a zombie apocalypse, there’s zombie food blogs for that sort of thing. (Good blog idea, or best blog idea?) 

I mean, what’s the flavor you’d take in any form? Are you all about the gooey caramel? Yeasty sweet breads? Ripe, juicy fruit? Chocolate-covered anything?

Or do you crave roasted potatoes sprinkled with rosemary? Warm, buttery popcorn? Briny, tender olives? Are you salivating yet? Just me? Yeah, I’m definitely not a sweet person.

Yesterday, my mouth said, “Crunchy, please.”  I was all about the bite of fresh garlic, the warmth of nutty toasted sesame seeds and the crunch of big grains of sea salt. Yum to the max.

Oh. . . Did all that make you hungry? I’m sorry, but look, it’s all good. You can whip up these crisp, seedy crackers right out of your own kitchen with some pantry staples in no time at all. 

The best thing about a basic cracker recipe like this is that it’s totally customizable depending on your flavor needs for the moment. On their own, these crackers are crisp and sturdy, and pretty flavor-neutral. By that, I don’t mean that they lack flavor, I just mean that the flavors will get along with a ton of other flavors. They’ll make friends, hold hands, go off skipping into the sunset. It’s beautiful, trust me.

But say you need something a little more independent, a cracker that’ll stand up on its own for munching purposes. Done and done, pick your favorite spice combinations and add liberally. If you want, you could maybe add a little grated hard cheese, like parmesan or aged cheddar. . . Go ahead, I won’t tell anyone.

As they are, these crackers are nutritionally friendly, packed with heart-healthy sesame and whole wheat flour. With only of 3 tablespoons of oil to the whole batch, these crackers are perhaps a more health-conscientious choice than some of the similar products you can pick up at the store.

Oh. . . and like I was saying, they’re excellent dip-delivery devices.


But that’s a recipe for another day. 

Check after the jump for the recipe and a picture of my vintage pasta roller! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Banana walnut pancakes for breakfast

So. . . let’s say that you and your boyfriend had a fight last night.

Wait, no, that’s not fair to you. You’re a lover, not a fighter, right? Right. So. . . let’s say that somebody had a fight with her boyfriend the other night. Hypothetically. Nobody you know, don’t worry.

All I’m saying is, if hypothetically somebody did have a fight with her boyfriend, then making these pancakes the next morning would be an excellent way to apologize. Stirring pancake batter is way easier than saying ‘I’m sorry,’ isn’t it?

Even if you didn’t have a fight, even if you don’t have a boyfriend, you should still make these pancakes. As far as breakfast goes, this one is full of crunchy, toasted bits of walnuts surrounded by fluffy pancake. And that pancake? Super tender from the addition of ripe mashed banana. It’s like a banana muffin melted into a pan and got all golden brown, and that’s good for you, because this is the only way you can pour pure maple syrup all over a banana muffin without getting some weird looks. . . even in Canada.

Oh. . . and did I mention they’re made with whole wheat flour?  Of course. So you can dig into this nutty, protein-packed goodness with the sense that you’re getting a nutritious start to your day. It totally cancels out the butter you’re going to put on these puppies. . . probably.


I love the Maillard reaction, don’t you?

And that fight someone might have had hypothetically with her theoretical boyfriend? Well, I haven’t met a man yet who can be mad at you while you’re handing him piping hot coffee and a plate of homemade breakfast.  Make these next weekend, you’ll see what I mean.

Check after the jump for the recipe and tips on making fluffy pancakes every time.