Tag Archives: food processor

Perfect Pie Crust for Thanksgiving!

This Year's Pies!Thanksgiving is one of those tough holidays as far as the menu. Sure, everyone wants to try new recipes and experiment, but there is so much tradition wrapped into the holiday, it’s often hard to do. Thanksgiving is all about nostalgia and family, and nothing else can bring back memories like food. One of those traditions in many houses, and certainly ours, is ending the meal with pies…delicious pies. The fillings may vary, but you always need a buttery, flaky pie crust, and that’s another place tradition comes into play for me.

ingredientsSeveral months ago, I shared a recipe for crab quiche, and mentioned I used my Aunt Angie’s recipe for pie crust. I know several were not thrilled about my withholding, but it just felt right to talk about pie crusts before Thanksgiving. Aunt Angie was my grandmother’s sister, and she was the pie maker. No matter what occasion or holiday, she brought the pies. From lemon meringue to coconut cream, from apple to cherry, and everything in between, they were amazing. Sadly, I don’t have many of the recipes for the fillings…well… that’s not completely true, I have the recipes, but it’s really a list of ingredients, making it a little hard to follow. J But, thankfully, I do have her pie crust recipe.

flourThere’s always lots of talk about pie crusts and how difficult they can be. I have to tell you, I think it’s pretty easy, if you follow a few rules. Keep the butter and water cold, work quickly, and chill often. Several years ago I started making pies using a food processor, and I have to admit, it makes the process even easier. But, don’t worry, you can still follow the recipe without a food processor.

Start by adding 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon baking powder to the bowl of a food processor, or any bowl if butteryou don’t have one. Stir to combine. Next, cut 2/3 cup butter into small pieces, and add to the flour mixture. Pulse a few times to combine and integrate the butter thoroughly, or use a fork to mash the butter into the flour. You want to end up with tiny pieces of butter all throughout the flour. This is how you get a flaky crust. And you want the butter cold. I find if you’re combining by hand, cut the butter into very small pieces before adding to the flour, almost slivers, so it’s easier to combine.butter addedbutter combinedNext, you want to add about 9 tablespoons ice water. Don’t add all 9 to start. I usually start with 6, give it a whirl then add more if needed. Depending on the humidity and moisture in the doughflour, you may need more or less. For the food processor, just run until the mixture forms a ball. It should happen in a few seconds. If it doesn’t come together just add more water. If by hand, just stir with the fork until it sticks together but isn’t too wet.

Divide the dough in two, wrap in plastic, and store in the refrigerator. I usually make the dough the night before I’m going to use it, but you can refrigerate for an hour or two to cool it down. In a pinch, I have been known to stick it in the freezer for a little while to speed things up, but don’t forget about it!

dough readyRoll out the dough about an inch or two bigger than your pie plate. Also, spray your pie plate liberally. You don’t want the crust to stick. Then just fold it to transfer to the plate, and you’re set. I like to refrigerate the dough again once in the plate to firm it up before baking, especially if it is a 1 crust pie. Just stick it back in for a little while as you prepare the filling.

dough rolledplatein plateready for crimpingNo matter what the filling, this one is a keeper, and I think Aunt Angie would be proud her crust lives on. This year, her crusts will be filled with caramel apple, pecan, and, of course, pumpkin. Happy Thanksgiving!

Harvesting Basil for Pesto!

Last week I talked about harvesting in the garden, but so many times, I’ve forgotten about really harvesting in my herb garden. Sure, I’ll run out and grab some rosemary for roast chicken, or basil for a sauce, but to really get the most out of your herbs, you want to harvest them at their peak to enjoy them, but also promote new growth and a higher yield.

Herb GardenThis year, I decided to grow my herb garden in pots on the porch. I’ve planted herbs for years in a small section of the garden, but I find, often times, they get taken over by the bigger vegetables. Also, if you have hardy herbs, growing them in pots makes it easy to bring them in during the winter, enjoy them all through the off-season, and then taking them outside in the spring and already having a start on the garden. That’s what I did with my rosemary. It was great to have fresh rosemary all year, and when the weather warmed up, I took it back outside, and it’s been thriving since.

Basil PlantFor my herb garden this year, I have the above mentioned rosemary in addition to sage, tarragon, and Italian leaf parsley, which I started from seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The seeds were great and the plants have done incredibly well. I’m really happy with them. I also have chives and dill that I took the short cut and purchased at my local garden center. They are also doing well, but for my favorite, I was lucky enough to have someone bring me back seeds from Italy last year. I’ve never had basil do so well, and I can’t quite figure out if it’s the fancy seeds or just luck this year.  Either way, the basil has been doing great, and it’s time to harvest some and, of course, make pesto!

Basil FlowerI’ve found that herbs start out strong, and look amazing, but they usually get to a point, about this time of the summer, where they start to get leggy and just don’t do so well if left alone. However, if you cut them back, and bonus, you get to use what you’ve cut, they come back for a second life. The other thing to look for is if the plants start to go to seed. If you start to see flowers on the plants, that means they’re putting all of their energy into reproducing. While this may be great if you’re looking to get seeds for next year, if you’re still looking to use the herbs and want a longer season, you want to snip these flowers off. I simply pinch off the blooms, and then make sure that I use that branch next when I need some of the herb.

Leaves ReadyAs you can see, I’ve cut a good bit off of my basil plant. I’m hoping to make 3 batches of my pesto recipe. Each recipe makes about a cup of pesto. One note, I prefer to use a food processor for this recipe. You can use a blender, however, I’ve found that you need to add all of the ingredients first, and it does need some stirring and help to get completely processed. If you’re using a food processor, follow the process I’m outlining below. To start, take 3 cloves garlic, peeled, and chop them up in the food processor. Next, add 2 cups basil leaves. You just want the leaves for this, and you want pretty packed cups. Whirl that around until the basil is nicely chopped, then add 1/4 cup pine nuts and Ingredients1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated. Give that another quick whirl. If you let it go too long, it will come together, almost like a dough. If that happens, don’t worry, you’re still good. With the food processor running, slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil, and process that until it’s nice and smooth.

After I was finished with this batch, I made 2 more. If you’re making several batches, just start over. You really don’t want to double or triple the recipe, as it doesn’t turn out as good. But, the good news is, I don’t even wash the food processor in between. 🙂

If you’re growing herbs, I hope they’re as productive as mine have been this year! And if you’re not, stop by the grocery store and pick up some basil. Pesto is a great sauce to have on hand, especially in the summer for a quick pasta dish. Enjoy!

Pesto