Ulterior motives.

On the menu: Berry Thyme Crumble Pie

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Kevin took his written comprehensive exams early last week. I made him this pie the weekend prior to get him through the last few days of studying for the biggest test of his life.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Naturally, I had ulterior motives: I was really craving berries. Kevin’s mom makes this killer blackberry pie that I dream about. Being budget conscious, I used half raspberries and half blackberries. Frozen berries, since it’s not their season. And there were a few stray sprigs of thyme in the fridge awaiting their fate, so in they went.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Something about these flavors felt appropriate. The deep, sturdy bitterness of the blackberries was brightened with sweet, soft raspberries and grounded with earthy, lemony thyme. It seemed a metaphor for this long ass winter, hopes of summer, and (maybe even?!) signs of spring.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

To appease the brain-drained guy, I topped the pie with a crumble. Crumble pies are Kevin’s favorite. They save me from having to execute the lattice or demonstrating my impatience with pale top crusts. Crumbles allow all kinds of customization, too; they’re easy to tweak to whatever nuts/spices/dried fruit/herbs you may have on hand.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

The pie tasted like all the feelings of late. I want it to warm up so the bees come out. I want the berries to bloom. I want to see if the thyme plant we left in the ground all winter will come back to life. We’ve had a taste of the warmth this week, and I want to hope it’s here to stay.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie
cobbled together from the Joy of Cooking, Bon Appetit, and My Kitchen in the Rockies

yield: 1 9-inch pie
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 65 minutes

One single pie crust (I switched it up from my usual and used half of Hoosier Mama’s All Butter Pie Dough recipe)

For the crumble topping:
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup (5 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the pie:
2 cups frozen blackberries (one 10 oz package)
2 1/2 cups frozen raspberries (one 12 oz package)
1 1/4 cup sugar, separated
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced into 1/4 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare the thyme sugar: add thyme leaves to 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl and rub with your fingers to release the oils. Set aside.

Roll out pie dough and place in a 9 inch pie plate. Style edge of crust as you see fit and place in the freezer.

Prepare crumble topping: melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat and let cool slightly. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and add butter. Mix with your fingers to moisten. Set aside.

Prepare filling: Stir berries, sugar, thyme sugar, and tapioca together in a large bowl. Remove pie crust from freezer and add filling, dotting with the cubes of butter.

Top pie with crumble and bake for 30-40 minutes, watching for the crumble topping to get pretty brown. Reduce heat to 375°F and tent the top of the pie (not the edge of the crust, you still want that to color) and continue to bake for 20-25 until the juices are really bubbling and the crust is well browned.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Posted in Dessert, Fruity, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Really gotten into this.

On the menu: Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I feel that I may have misrepresented myself the last time I wrote. Yes, things are cray right now. But they’re also really good. I published my last post after writing a few iterations that I couldn’t stand. I was frustrated and out of words. I’d like to try again.

During the first three semesters of my PhD program, I was constantly looking for other professional opportunities. I never wanted my PhD. I knew early in my college career that I was going to need a Master’s, and I knew then that there would be no more school after that. I mean, seriously. I can’t throw down with the big guys. I’m just little old me, with a simple mind and simple wants. I want to work. I want to have a family. I want to watch shitty TV every night and not feel bad about not doing homework or reading the latest research papers.  I don’t want to push the limits of my brain to their maximum, and then keep pushing.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Last fall I applied for my dream job. I wanted so badly to quit school before it was too late and start doing something every day I was truly passionate about. The opportunity was perfect. It was near the town we moved to last May, so my weeks on someone else’s couch would come to an end. I had an in: I had worked for them before. They knew me. But my professional experience was too limited, and in the end I was passed over. It was a soul-crushing blow. I spent the rest of the semester wallowing in my failures and dreading the challenges ahead.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Well, those challenges are upon me. 2014 will be the year I present my dissertation proposal and take my qualifying comprehensive exams. And I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow I’ve really gotten into this being a doctoral student thing. My thoughts have drifted from “What am I going to cook for the blog this week?” to “How much programming can I finish before dinner?” It’s absurd. I think a lot about my professional identity; how to market myself as a future person with a PhD, what my career opportunities might be, and most importantly, what I should be doing now to get there.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I’ve been making serious effort to improve my biggest weaknesses: productivity, time management, and casual discussion of my work. The improvements I’ve made in just 8 weeks are nothing short of remarkable. It’s not all been great: I’m still recovering from making a complete dumbass of myself to some really important people a few weeks ago. But it’s a learning process, and holy shit, I’m learning. Some days I read so much I swear I can feel my brain expanding to fit all that new information in. Yes, there are still those frustrating moments where I can’t remember things, but all in all, I’m totally thrilled with what I’m doing. So I’m just going to keep on doing it.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, March-April 2014

For the curry paste:
6 dried New Mexican chiles
4 shallots, unpeeled
7 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
4 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

For the curry:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Jasmine rice, for serving

For the curry paste:

Heat oven to 350ºF. Place chiles on a baking sheet and roast until puffed and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to a plate and let cool.

Preheat the broiler. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange unpeeled shallots and garlic on it. Broil on the middle oven rack for 8 minutes until charred and softened.

When cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds from the chiles and tear into medium sized pieces. Grind in a blender or food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute. Peel shallots and garlic and add to the food processor along with all remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes.

For the curry:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the curry paste (freeze leftovers for later use) and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, coconut milk, potatoes, onion, and salt, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just tender, 15 minutes.

Stir in chicken and continue to simmer until chicken is cooked through, 12 more minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in lime zest. Serve with cilantro and jasmine rice.

 

Posted in Chicken, Dinner, Meat, Potatoes | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Let me show you.

On the menu: Salty Dog and Candied Grapefruit Peels

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner.

You don’t want me to say much right now.

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner. Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I’m brooding. I’m in this phase of serious self-discovery, pushing my limits, setting goals, and trying to figure out what it’s all going to come to. I’m asking all these ridiculous existential questions. You know, what’s the point? Why does any of this matter? Who am I? I feel like a child.

Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Didn’t this happen half my life ago? Adolescence was a bitch. And yet, here I am, going through it all over again. I’ve been rebelling against my advisors ideas of what I’m going to do with my dissertation, trying to figure out what I’m going to do more independently. I want to be more sure of myself as a scientist. I’m basically a freaking teenager these days. So I think it’s best for all of us if I keep my mouth shut.

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

But I’m eating (And drinking. I can do that this time around.) a lot of grapefruit. Let me show you.

Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner. Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Salty Dog
adapted from The Best Remedy

1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
2 ounces gin

Place the salt on a small plate. Run the rim of a coupe glass along the cut flesh of a grapefruit, then dip it in salt to coat and set aside.

Mix grapefruit juice and gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds until very cold. Strain into coupe glass and serve.

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Candied Grapefruit Peels
adapted from Jacques Torres via Food Network

I only dipped a third of the peels I made in chocolate, so scale up the amount of chocolate if you want all the peels dipped. I would highly recommend that you do that.

2 grapefruits
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided into 1 1/4 and 1/2 cup portions
4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Carefully cut the peel in roughly 2 inch sections from the grapefruit and avoid cutting a lot of white pith along with the peel. Cut sections of peel into 1/2 inch wide strips.

Place sliced peels in a small nonreactive saucepan and add cold water to cover the peels by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then drain the peels. Cover with fresh cold water and repeat this process three more times. This removes a lot of bitterness from the peels.

After the fourth boil, return the peels to the sauce pan and again add cold water to cover the peels by 1 inch. Add the 1 1/4 cups of sugar and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer for 2 hours. The peels will become soft and translucent.

Drain the peels and lay on a wire rack to remove excess syrup. Make sure to put something under the rack to catch the syrup! After three hours, the peels will be firm and tacky. Carefully toss the peels with the 1/2 cup sugar.

To coat with chocolate, melt the chocolate over a double boiler, then dip 1/2-3/4 of a peel into the melted chocolate. Let set on a wire rack. Finished peels will keep at room temperature for three days.

That’s not all. I’ve put grapefruit in salads, made curd with it, turned some of that curd into ice cream, and just plain old cut into the stuff straight up. I’m obsessed.

Posted in Dessert, Drinks, Fruity, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Everyone deserves lunch. #feedsouthafrica

On the menu: Arugula Salad with Cumin-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes. Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Today, I want to talk about lunch.

Lunchbox Fund Logo.jpg

I’ve been packing my lunches since the 4th grade. My bagged lunches were pretty simple: a peanut butter sandwich, a bag of chips, a piece of fruit, and a treat. There was that time in 8th-9th grades when I ate yogurt for lunch most days. There were the months and months of “bread sandwiches” in high school, when I decided I was too good for filling and ate two pieces of white bread with whatever else I had packed that day. There were countless Cosmic Brownies.

Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes. Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Now in…21st grade (yikes!), I typically follow the formula of my childhood. I need something crunchy and salty, something bright and fresh, and something sugary and overprocessed to round out my midday meal. These have been the sides to my sandwich for forever. But last month I took a new route and started making salads. These salads, like my lunch, follow a formula: a base of greens, a roasted something, some nuts, a little extra something, and some cheese. Dressed, always, with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Here’s this week’s salad: arugula, cumin-roasted sweet potato, pecans, dried cranberries, and feta. I eat my salad after my handful of potato chips (dill pickle this week, thank you very much) and before my fruit (you know it’s a blood orange) and my cookies (which are Oreos this time around).

Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes. Arugula Salad with Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Lunch is the meal I rely on the most to get me through the day. I work up to it after breakfast, then it fuels me through the rest of my afternoon. Lunchtime has been such an integral part of my educational experience. But there are many children in school in South Africa who don’t get lunch, and that breaks my heart. 65% of all South African children live in poverty. Lunch may be their only meal of the day, and many children must attend school to get their lunch. Receiving food encourages children to stay in school and obtain their education. I don’t know what my school days would be like without my lunch. I can’t imagine what it’s like for these kids. Lack of food can diminish concentration, erode willpower, and strip away a child’s potential.  Without food, a child’s attendance and performance at school is severely jeopardized.

Lunchbox Fund Photo 3

Today, there’s a bunch of food bloggers who are donating their posts to The Lunchbox Fund. I chose to participate because of how important my lunch is to me at school and how strongly I value my education. Everyone deserves lunch. The Lunchbox Fund identifies schools or forms partnerships with locally based NGOs or community organizations in order to evaluate and identify schools. It funds distributers to buy and deliver food, monitor the feeding scheme, implement a Project Manager, and deliver reports back to them for evaluation.

Lunchbox Fund

Just $10 today will help The Giving Table, a philanthropic organization centered around food bloggers, donate a daily meal for 100 South African children through The Lunchbox Fund. Donate what you can, and if you can’t, help spread the word today about the cause. I donated $10. Maybe that means I won’t get that shiny new magazine when I check out at the grocery store and my weekly bag of gummy bears, but a meal a day for a child is so, so, SO! much more important than that.

Feed a Child Nourish a Mind

Cumin-roasted Sweet Potatoes
original “recipe,” makes enough for 3 salads

One large sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Wash sweet potato, then dice it into 3/4 inch cubes. Toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper. Roast 25-30 minutes until browned and tender, tossing with a spatula every 10 minutes or so. Store in the refrigerator to toss on salads.

Posted in Lunch, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

These are them.

On the menu: Lentil Coriander Stew

How do I describe PhD brain?

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Seriously. The last year and a half has been both the greatest and the worst for my cognitive ability. I have learned a shit-ton about bees: how they move, where they live, what they look like, their life cycle…lots of things. Bees are infinitely interesting. I’ve gained this knowledge, though, at the expense of short term memory loss, mixing up words when I speak, and nearly constant fatigue. So please don’t ask me to tell you anything I’ve learned lately, because a) I won’t remember and b) I won’t be able to explain it clearly.

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

But this doesn’t just apply to my work. It’s real bad at home. Here’s one example: I bought a new set of sheets on a whim the other day. When I told Kevin about it, he said: “Great! Now we have a replacement set for the ones that ripped last month.” I had absolutely no recollection of these ripped sheets. I figured I was away at work when it happened, but he tells me I was there. I saw it happen. Why didn’t I remember that? Worse, why couldn’t I even recall the incident when he described it in detail? I’d tell you another example because this happens a lot, but ironically, I can’t recall the details of other such incidents. I’ve always had a really good memory, but all this bee business has really put a damper on it. Perhaps I bought the sheets out of some subconscious cue or something.  That doesn’t make these mind-blanking incidents any easier to deal with, though.

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I haven’t forgotten this stew I made a couple of weeks ago.  I just haven’t been able to find the right words to say along with it. Maybe these are them, maybe not. But I really just have to tell you to try this recipe. It’s one I tested for Food52 recently—their one-pot meal contest has my name written all the heck over it!—and it’s a good one. We’ve been eating a lot of lentils this month. There is a shelf in one of our cupboards dedicated to dried beans and grains, and I’m trying to whittle it down a bit.

Lentil Coriander Stew ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Have you ever sliced an onion pole to pole? It’s weird. I felt like I was breaking all the laws of cooking when I did it, but it produced these gorgeous strings of onion that melted away into the stew and added great flavor. I learned that Italian-style turkey sausage is a thing, and it’s not bad, though cutting it into coins as the recipe suggests was impossible due to how soft it was. Notice the teeny meatballs in the photos. But, oh, friends, the coriander just killed it. I use a bit of coriander here and a bit there, but I’ve never seasoned a dish with a copious amount of coriander. The dominance of that oft-elusive spice was the primary reason I made this stew. It made our kitchen smell all tingly. It was bright and warm. Finished with a hit of lemon and a bit of Greek yogurt, this stew is one to remember.

Lentil Coriander Stew
from deanna1001 at Food52

1 pound Italian style turkey sausage, sweet or spicy, in link form
2 large onions, sliced thin pole to pole
2 1/4 teaspoons toasted and ground coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups dry green lentils
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Greek yogurt and thinly sliced lemon for garnish

Slice sausages into 1/2 inch coins, or slice links and form tiny meatballs. Brown in a dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned. Add onions and stir. Cover pot and cook until onions are tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Drain off excess fat. Stir in coriander, salt and ginger. Add lentils and 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer 50 minutes. Stir in zest and juice of lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with a dollop of yogurt and a thin slice of lemon.

Posted in Beans, Dinner, Lunch, Soups/Stews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments