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I have a skinny husband. As a cook I feel ashamed of this. I do feed him, I really do, but he stays skinny. And recently he has lost some weight. It probably has something to do with how very hard he is working to get our new house finished, but in any case he can’t afford to lose weight. When he told me that he has had to punch a third new hole in his belt, just so his pants will stay up, I decided it was time to do something. So now I am on a mission to put some meat on his bony body and it’s pretty fun. I love thinking up ways to get more calories into something instead of less. The problem of course is that I do not need fattening up. I have been making Robert a special extra creamy Ovaltine drink every evening and even though I am not drinking it I can feel my body reacting like I am. It seems that the act of cooking up something decadent is the same as eating it. Not fair. (By the way, have you had Ovaltine lately? It’s pretty darn good. Especially if you make it with hazelnut milk instead of regular milk and you add a couple tablespoons of cream to your cup. But I’m not drinking it, I just had a sip, I swear.)

I made a great quiche the other night in my effort to plump Robert up. Quiche by nature is pretty rich so I don’t make it that often, but it sounded like a good thing for him to take in his lunch. And it sounded pretty good for dinner too. I have a recipe that came from a teacher I had in cooking school that calls for six eggs and a pint, yes a pint, of cream per nine inch quiche. It’s very good that way, oh yes, and great for a treat, but I usually use half milk and half cream and it’s perfectly acceptable. I put in some delicious leeks that I got from my friend Lauren who works at Wobbly Cart Farm, a few stray leaves of chard, and some good gruyere cheese. Here is the un-recipe.

Leek and Gruyere Quiche

1 recipe of pie dough (I like to use half whole wheat flour when making quiche, but it’s up to you.)

6 eggs

2 cups cream or a combination of cream and milk

a little freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper (white pepper is especially good here)

olive oil

2-3 leeks, depending on the size

a little fresh or dried thyme

1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese

Roll out your pie crust, put it in your dish and crimp the edge. I like to blind bake (pre-cook) my crust so that it is nice and crisp. Line the inside of the crust with parchment paper and put in a cup or so of dried beans and then bake it in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Carefully lift out the parchment and beans and continue to bake it for another 10 minutes or until it starts to get brown. Make sure you keep an eye on the crust during the last part of the cooking to make sure it isn’t puffing up. If it does, just pat it down gently or poke a little hole in it with a fork.

While the crust is baking, clean and chop your leeks, the white and tender green parts. Saute them in a little oil and until they are tender and just starting to brown. If you have any chard around, you can slice up a few leaves and throw that into the leeks while they are cooking. Season to taste with salt and thyme.

Cooked leeks

Cooked leeks

Beat the eggs and cream together and season with salt, pepper and the grated nutmeg.

Egg mixture

Egg mixture

When your crust comes out of the oven, turn the heat up to 400 degrees. Layer the leeks and the grated cheese in the crust and pour the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle on any extra cheese.

Quiche, ready to bake.

Quiche, ready to bake.

Bake on the bottom rack of your oven for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325 and continue to bake until the center of the quiche is set, about 20 minutes more. You can poke into the center with the tip of a knife to check on it.

Finished quiche

Oops! I forgot to take a picture before cutting into it!

Quiche is great any time of day but I especially like it for lunch with a simple salad dressed with lemon and olive oil. Though this is pretty rich, it is not unhealthful and winter is coming so a little fattening up is not a bad thing!

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One of the great crimes against humanity, along with slavery, genocide and religious persecution is the proliferation of bad pie crust. A warning to sensitive readers: what I am about to say may be upsetting to some. There are people in this world who have never had a good pie crust. There are people who think that one of the main ingredients in pie crust is Crisco! Worse yet, there are some who buy pie crust in the refrigerated section of the grocery store! Think of what this does to their friends and family. Think of the children! It makes me want to cry.

I haven’t been doing very much inspiring cooking in the last week. We have been super busy, and the weather has been hot, hot, hot so I haven’t felt like hanging out in the kitchen. But in the last few days I have found time to make two blueberry pies. In an attempt to end the suffering caused by Pillsbury pie crust I am going to post my recipe here. I will also post the recipe I used for the blueberry filling – it turned out quite tasty.

I use almost the same recipe for pie crust that I got from my mom when I was a little girl. It is the very first recipe I ever wrote down. Judging from my handwriting I must have been about nine or ten.

My first recipe

My first recipe

Pie Crust

this “recipe” makes 1 top or bottom crust and it is easily doubled

1 1/3 c. all purpose flour

1 stick of butter (I use salted butter for my crust)

pinch of salt

1/3 c. of cold water (or more. or less.)

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut your butter into little tiny cubes, about the size of peas and toss them gently with the flour. Your butter needs to be firm at this point. If for some reason it is not, refrigerate the whole bowl until it is. Start mushing the butter between your fingers to break it up. The whole idea is to incorporate the butter into the flour while still leaving little tiny hard pieces of butter. I tend to break the butter up a bit, then go through and smash the remaining lumps between my fingers to make what I think of as “butter flakes”. When you are satisfied that your butter is mixed in, but not too well, you can add the water. Now, this is the part where people can really screw up. You don’t want to mix the dough any more than necessary after you add the water. If your dough is too dry you will have to mix it more to get it to stick together, so you want to add enough. I sometimes add too much water though, and you don’t want to do that either because you end up with a sticky mess. You have to watch what you are doing. I cannot stress this enough. If you just follow the recipe without paying attention to your dough it will not behave the way you want it to. Some flour is dryer than others, sometimes your butter is more mixed in than other times, sometimes you didn’t measure that accurately. Whatever. All those things can be overcome if you pay attention while adding the water. Make sure the water is cold, I never use ice water, but if you want to it won’t hurt anything. Pour in about half the water you think you will need, then fluff everything up very gently with a fork. Pour more water onto spots that look dry and fluff again. When things look uniformly dampened, gently press the dough together into a ball. I like to flatten mine out into a disc, wrap it up and refrigerate it for an hour or so, but I don’t when I am in a hurry and you don’t need to either. When you roll it out, especially if it was in the fridge, give it a few firm squeezes to soften it up and show it who is boss. It is important that your dough always knows that you are the boss of it, and not the other way around. Move your dough with purpose and don’t be timid! Don’t be shy with the flour either when you are rolling, you can always brush some off at the end if you need to.

Those are all my pie crust secrets. Use butter, pay attention to your dough, tell it who is boss. Now go make pie! Make pie for the whole world!

Pie crust

Pie crust

P.S. Don’t ever bake pie in an aluminum pan if you can help it. Aluminum doesn’t conduct heat well and the bottom crust never gets brown. I like glass pie pans. I also have a copper one that works well.

The blueberry pie filling that I made was adapted from a recipe in the July/August 2008 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It uses a combination of tapioca and apple pectin to thicken it and I really like the final texture. I played around with the recipe a little bit, I just can’t help myself, but the basic technique came from the magazine.

Blueberry Pie

2 pie crusts, one for the top and one for the bottom

6 c. blueberries

1 large apple, peeled and grated

juice and zest from 1 lemon

3/4 c. sugar

2 T. tapioca, ground in a food processor or mortar and pestle (you don’t need to grind it, but it helps avoid lumps in your filling)

pinch of salt

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups of berries in a saucepan and smash them with a potato masher. Cook them over medium heat until they are broken down and reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the grated apple in a kitchen towel and wring it dry (wring it into a glass and drink it while you cook!) Put the apple into a bowl with the remaining filling ingredients. Add the cooked berries when they are done and stir to combine.

Pie filling

Pie filling

Roll out one of your pie crusts and place it in a 9 inch pie pan. Roll out your top crust before filling so that things don’t get soggy. You can cut little wholes in your top crust like this:

Pie crust with holes

Pie crust with holes

Or do any kind of top you feel like. Lattice is nice on a pie like this too.

Pie with lattice crust

Pie with lattice crust

Fill your bottom crust, moisten the edge with water, and carefully put your top crust over the whole thing. Trim off the edges of the dough leaving about an inch. Roll up the edges and crimp them. I like to sprinkle the top of the pie with cinnamon sugar before it goes in the oven but that is optional.

Polka dot pie

Polka dot pie

Bake the pie on the bottom rack of your oven. This is very important, the bottom rack. I baked mine for about 45 minutes in the 400 degree oven, but if you find that your pie is browning too much you can turn the heat down to 350. It may take a little longer. the pie is done when it bubbles in the center. Cool on a rack for at least four hours if you want it to slice neatly. Otherwise, just dive right in.

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie


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