Easy As Pie

We live in walking distance of the Florence Pie Bar, which is so quaint and hip and perfect that NPR featured it in their story last month about how hip and full of Hygge pie has become. As adorable as the shop is, with its orange door and seating area the size of a postage stamp, the $5-a-slice price tag keeps our visits infrequent. Lots of people do go; some people hang out there. Just not us.

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Still, I follow them on Instagram and last February, when they posted a peanut butter pie topped with a crown of fudgy chocolate, I picked up Lilli (who is perfectly capable of walking) snapped her into her car seat, and zoomed over. You know how I am about the holy marriage of chocolate and peanut butter. The slice was amazing, but that’s the one and only time I’ve been.

But with their slices in my feed, I get a challesh, a hankering, for pie pretty regularly. So when I was flipping through What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up, by Today Show regular Elizabeth Heiskell, I was stopped in my tracks by the Peanut Butter-and-Banana Pudding recipe. Inspiration struck: What if I took just the peanut butter mousse part of the recipe, made myself a pie crust with all the leftover Graham crackers I had in the house from Sukkot art projects, and topped it with ganache? I mean, that’s what cooking and baking is all about, right? Inventing, and reinventing and borrowing, and building off a great idea.

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So that’s exactly what I did. After consulting with Sylvie and my mother who both agreed there needed to be a layer of ganache in between the crust and mousse, to prevent the pie from getting soggy. And it was glorious! Just glorious! Sylvie has been given explicit instructions to serve this at my shiva if I go first (hopefully a very long time from now.) It’s a very rich pie, so a thin slice is all I need to get my fix.

This is a dead simple recipe which takes minutes to put together. You honestly don’t need fancy chocolate for the ganache; I just used the chocolate chips I keep in my freezer. The ratio of heavy cream to chips was 1:1 so it made for a very thick layer – key for me because I do love that combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I have no allegiance to peanut butter brands, but for this recipe don’t use the natural stuff.

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We still have tons of Graham crackers leftover, and I’m still creating new pies. I made this lemon pie that I’ll share with you soon. That was even easier to make, if you don’t think you’ll get sick of eating pie. I don’t think I will!

Buckeye Pie

First, make your Graham cracker crust:

Ingredients

1 sleeve Graham crackers, broken

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup light brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a food processor, pulse the graham cracker into crumbs. Add the melted butter and light brown sugar until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Let cool.

Make the Peanut Butter Mousse

Ingredients

3 cups creamy peanut butter

8 ounces (1 cup) butter, softened

1 cup (about 4 ounces) powdered sugar

Directions

Beat the peanut butter and butter with an electric mixer on medium high heat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, and slowly add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Make the Ganache

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chopped chocolate (chocolate chips are fine by me)

Directions

Bring heavy cream to simmer on stove top, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat

Add chocolate chips to the cream. Let them sit, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.

Stir. It will turn velvety. Let cool slightly.

Assemble the Pie

Once your pie crust has cooled down, pour on a thin layer of ganache. Let cool. You should still have ¾ of the ganache left.

Once the ganache has cooled, spread all the peanut butter mousse on top of the chocolate layer, and spread evenly with a spatula.

Pour the remaining ganache on top of the peanut butter mousse.

Place in fridge to firm, about 2 hours.

 

 

 

 

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City of Angels

 

IMG956076.jpgWhen the girls are older, and we’re done paying for school and daycare, we will travel the world and have culinary adventures. It’s going to be a few years before anything like this happens, but I’ve been working on my list since long before they were born.

It might surprise you to learn that it’s not Europe at the top, but North America. And the top line belongs to Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s in the southwest of the country, and because of its mountains and differing climates, the food there is varied and amazing. Chocolate is grown there, and its best known for its seven moles. I would probably skip the edible insects, though.

I know, there isn’t a ton of Mexican food on my blog, but my dream is to make Chiles en Nogada, minus the pork, in a Mexican village. This summer, I started making my own chilaquiles with the tomatillos Lilli and I would pick at the farm. They were perfect and surprisingly simple to make and I’m sorry I didn’t find the time to blog about them. Next summer, I promise.

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The second destination on my list is Los Angeles. Silver Lake, yes, but also the places that Jonathan Gold writes near-poetry about. I’ve always been about places tucked away. I had a gastronomy professor who used to say to look to a city’s suburbs, where rent is more affordable, especially for newer immigrants trying to run a restaurant.

So when I was contacted and offered the book L. A. Mexicano: Recipes, People & Places by James Beard winner Bill Esparza, I jumped at the opportunity. A book, about Mexican food culture in Los Angeles? Yes, please!

And it’s a wonderful book! Yes, there are recipes, 65 of them. But the book also profiles L.A. Mexicano community activists and politicians. It’s also a guide to L.A.’s best markets, vendors, taquerias, bakeries, and more. It’s essential reading for someone planning a trip to Los Angeles to eat. It’s also a primer on Mexico’s culinary regions, and there’s also a dictionary of Mexican culinary terms. The writing is wonderful and the photos are crisp and vibrant.

Sure, there’s a ton of stuff, like wild boar chilaquiles, that I’m skipping, but I settled on a papaya cream soup to test first. It’s actually not a Oaxacan specialty, but is based on the food served by Mexico City’s grand masters of Mexican haute cuisine, made by modernist chefs using Mexican techniques and ingredients.

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To be honest, I’m not the biggest papaya fan, so I made it with the idea of giving it to my mom, who loves it. It was a lovely soup, light and sweet. And I’d never made a sofrito (onion, celery and green pepper) before. With its additional herbs and spice, it’s a little different than the Holy Trinity of Southern cooking I had to make for the summer vegan jambalaya.

I am not a drinker, so I can’t give you definitive directions on what white wine to use for the sofrito. I think the one I bought was from Portugal and cost $8. I bought my papaya from Trader Joe’s for $3.50. There’s a Mexican store in Hadley I’ve been dying to check out but haven’t had a chance to. Someday soon, I hope.

I’d meant to have this post up before Day of the Dead, so you could have a nice Mexican recipe to celebrate, but a migraine has been hounding me all week. Next year, hopefully.

Papaya Cream Soup from L.A. Mexicano by Bill Esparza

Ingredients

1 papaya, about 3 to 4 pounds, peeled and cut into chunks

½ carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

½ cup Sofrito (recipe follows)

½ cup sugar

5 cups stock (I used Better than Bouillon)

1 cup half and half

Sea salt and white pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450F. Wrap papaya and carrot in aluminum foil with a tight seal and roast in the oven until both ingredients are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine papaya, carrot, Sofrito, sugar and stock. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour soup into a blender, blend for a minute, and then pour through a strainer back into the saucepan. Whisk in half and half and return the soup to a gentle boil for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sofrito This flavor base is useful for many soups, stews and sauces. Consider doubling the recipe to keep more on hand.

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

½ onion, diced

½ stick celery, diced

½ green pepper, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

Pinch of thyme

Pinch of oregano

1 bay leaf

½ cup white wine

Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add oil, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano and bay leaf. Cook, stirring until onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine, increase the heat to simmer briskly, and cook until the sauce reduces, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf. This will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for a week or more.