A Pie for Pi Day

Vegetable TartToday is Pi Day! Celebrate the beauty of the mathematical constant for the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter! Yeah, beautiful. Geometry class was a circle, too…a circle of Hell. Just thinking about pi conjures up a curious mixture of anxiety and ennui. Perhaps I’ll join the Tau Movement.

Celebrating 3/14 by baking a pie is much more fun than thinking about circles and ratios and angles. Although most pies are round. And those wedges…they’re triangular! Oh, for the love of a2+b2+c2! There’s no escaping pi! This is why I’m a math athiest.

I chose a savory tart for this year’s pie – mostly because we have a lot of grilled veggies hanging around (this tart is perfect for leftover veggies) and because I like to use my tart pan with the removable bottom, for a classy look.

The press-in pastry is a favorite, especially for people who don’t have a lot of experience with rolling pie crusts. A little rye flour – just a couple of tablespoons – makes the crust seem more rustic. Or something. Now, I know that some of you will drag out one of those refrigerated, pre-rolled things. As a pie snob, I would never use one; as a pragmatist, I understand that we’re all busy, etc. What worries me is, how does Pillsbury achieve that smooth, Play-Dohesque consistency?

It’s a mystery, like math itself.

Grilled Veggie ‘n Feta Tart
(9” or 10” tart)

1 recipe Press-in Tart Pastry (see recipes)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
1-1/2 Cups grilled veggies (peppers, zukes, etc.)
2 large eggs
¾ Cup heavy cream
Small handful fresh herbs, minced
Fine dry breadcrumbs
4 ounces feta, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400OF.  Prepare the pastry and press into the tart pan. Partially blind-bake the pastry for 10 minutes; remove weights and bake 5 minutes longer. Cool.

Saute onions in oil 5 minutes. Add the veggies and stir for about 1 minute – just to warm them through. Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and cool.

In a bowl combine eggs with cream, herbs and salt and pepper.

Place the tart shell on a baking sheet. Sprinkle bottom of pastry with breadcrumbs. Spread veggies in the shells; crumble cheese on top. Pour egg-cream mixture over the top.

Lower oven temperature to 350OF. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set. Cool 5 minutes before cutting.

Press-in Pastry
(9” or 10” tart shell)

1 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 Cup cold butter or solid Crisco, or a mix of the two
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg

Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until fine crumbs form.  Add egg; mix with fork until dough begins to hold together.  Add 1-2 t. very cold water if mixture seems too dry.  (You can do this all in the food processor, too.)

Spray a 9″ or 10″ tart pan with removable bottom with Pam.  Press dough into bottom and up sides of pan.

TO PARTIALLY BLIND BAKE:  Dock pastry well with a fork.  Line tart shell with foil, shiny side down.  Weight shell with 1 Cup dry rice or beans.  Bake @ 425 degrees F for 10 minutes; remove foil and weights; bake 5-10 minutes longer.

Fire Safety Month Mac ‘n Cheese Experience

Move over, Kraft.

Today I participated in fire safety event hosted by a local bank. October is fire safety month, and, since the topic was all about begin fire-safe in the kitchen, I was ask to come buy.

This issue is almost as important as knife safety – there’s nothing worse than a student with no eyebrows (usually the result of too-enthusiastic flambéing). And with so many kids coming through our kitchen, we can’t be having their hair going up in flames and such. This is one of the reasons I installed induction cooktops in the CU kitchen – so much safer. But less fun and dramatic which is why we also have a gas cooktop; see “flambéing”, above). Read more

Cleaning Out the Fridge: Fromage Fort

Call me a cheapskate, skinflint, tightwad, whatever: when it comes to throwing away food – guilty as charged. Nothing grinds my gears more than cleaning the fridge and tossing eatables. To keep the ol’ blood pressure down, I look at fridge purging not as a negative, but as an opportunity to be creative. I cop to rewarming chili (again!), scattering it with fresh cilantro, and rebranding it as Santa Fe Rechauffe, but my true goal is to find new and interesting ways to repurpose leftovers.

Read more

Ask the Magic Cheese Ball

Are the holidays fast approaching? Without a doubt. Will you need a delicious party appetizer recipe? Most likely. Must this recipe be fast and easy? Yes – definitely. Do you have a delicious, fast, and easy recipe on hand? Sources say “no”.

Ah, the cheese ball! I had almost forgotten about it until last week at the CU Orphan’s Thanksgiving gathering. It was a potluck affair and Chef Heather contributed several different cheese balls as appetizers. She went with the classic single fastpitch softball size. Contemporary recipes favor two-bite single balls, overdusted with spices or herbs, and usually served in  those twee amuse-bouche spoons. We’ll stick with the retro cheese ball size ‘n shape. It has a special appeal;will not be ignored. Resting in its collar of Wheat Thins, enrobed in nuts, the giant cheese orb is mysterious, knowing…magical.

The Magic Cheese Ball. Will your guests love it? Signs point to yes.

Mean Green Cheese Ball
(8-10 appetizer servings)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbed
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove mashed with ½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried mint
¾ Cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients (except the pistachios). Taste and adjust seasonings. Form into a ball and chill 15 minutes. Roll in pistachios to cover; press gently to make the nuts adhere. Cover and chill until firm, about 2 hours.