Slab Pie for Every Season

Although it may not technically be summer anymore, we’re using up all the leftover summer fruits and veggies that need their last hurrah!

August meant a sweaty AC at full blast and an excuse to eat endless amounts of ice cream. Oh, but my sweet tooth didn’t stop there. I had my eye on all the peaches, nectarines, plums and berries  strewn about the market. Where did my mind automatically go? Pie!

I thought it was about time WWE did some baking. Plus, what better way to turn our attention away from the beating hot sun and toward one of the season’s best assets, fruit! An excuse to spend the morning at a farmer’s market with Rian wasn’t bad either.

We indulged in the juiciest peaches and two full pints of plump blueberries to fill up our first pie. And there was no way we were going to stop there. The table of 10 different kinds of tomatoes beckoned us and we couldn’t resist. Mesmerized by the abundance of veggies, we couldn’t bare pass them up! Suddenly, we knew what we had to do; we had to make a second pie! The wheels in Rian and my head started turning and we jutted around from farmstand to farmstand raiding tasting tables with toothpicks and sniffing bundles of herbs. Savory was, undoubtedly, our forte and the possibilities were endless! We landed on a tomato pie with fresh ricotta we would mix with a narrowed down collection of herbs (thyme and basil) and garlic.

The average piecrust is made up of butter, flour, salt, sugar and water. There are always those folks who think lard is the rule of thumb, but at the end of the day, it’s whatever you’re used to. There are others that get nervous around pie dough. Is the butter too soft, is the water cold enough, did I work it too much? Trust me when I say, there’s a reason people say, ‘easy as pie’. Indeed the crust part of the whole thing was pretty simple; only problem was that I didn’t have a food processor. In all my years, I’d never actually used one to make piecrust. I’d only ever seen my mom do it by hand and I actually enjoy it that way. So, when I set out to make slab pies, I wasn’t sure I would find this method as charming. My boyfriend spent the evening watching me make three (just incase) piecrusts from scratch with my hands. He thought I was crazy, pounding cubes of frozen butter with a whisk looking thing (pastry cutter). Then I showed him a YouTube of the “knife-method”. Now that’s crazy!

For these slab pies, I used Martha Stewart’s pie dough recipe x2 (cause that’s what Laura uses). It’s all butter, a little gooey and flakey in all the right places. The key is adding just enough water. Once the butter and flour mixture mimics a damp sandy texture, add in just enough water so that when you pinch the dough it sticks together just enough. You know you’ve added too much water when the dough starts to feel or look like cookie dough. In a food processor this happens really fast so stick to quick pulses.

For the fillings we went with a universal sugar mixture that can be mixed in with just about any fruit your heart desires. The same one we use at Copper Beech (one of our best sellers). As for our savory experiment we picked an assortment of heirloom tomatoes, scallions the size of Rian’s head and sweet ricotta with herbs and garlic of course.

The slab-pie, the American cousin to the Galette and forefather to the pop-tart is made with two regular 9×12 sheet trays, a rolling pin, a sheet of parchment and a fork. Roll the dough out until it’s a little larger than the sheet tray. We like to fill two sheet trays, top and bottom to make it easier to assemble later. If there are some missing spots or tears, don’t worry; you can patch them up with the excess overhang. Once they’re rolled out add your filling and flip the top crust over top. Crimp the edges and use a fork to imprint along the edges. It’s important to remember to poke holes in the top layer for ventilation. We also like to sprinkle it with cream to ensure a beautiful golden crust but you can finish with any sort of glaze you like. For a sweet pie we recommend a sprinkle of turbinado (sugar in the raw) and flakey maldon salt and pepper for a savory.

Bake until the crust is golden. There might be some over-flow. This is totally normal and adds a little homemade personality. We recommend keeping a clean sheet tray on a lower rack to catch spills. For a sweet pie, allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving (with a heaping scoop of ice cream, of course). For savory, it’s safe to serve straight away! Yummmm! Pie for dinner and dessert perhaps? Too much? Nah! I’ll be concocting winter squash pies in no time!

Dough (Martha Stewart’s recipe)
5 cups AP flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, cut into cubes
1 cup ice water

Sweet Filling
6-7 cups fruit of choice sliced into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
a dash of cinnamon (optional)

Savory Filling
6-7 cups sliced heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tbs. fresh thyme, minced
zest of 1 lemon
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Olive oil

To Finish
2 tbsp heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw or (for savory) Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper

Method

To make dough: In Cuisinart, process dough’s dry ingredients. Once incorporated, add in butter cubes and pulse until broken up and flour looks sandy. Now, with the motor on, slowly drizzle in ice water. Stop the second the dough begins to come together. Dump onto clean work surface and knead 3 times until flour is just incorporated. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, gently smoosh into the rough shape of a rectangle (this will make your life easier later on) and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 3 days.

For the sweet filling: Mix all ingredients together. Voila. Do this right before you’re going to bake your pie so it doesn’t get too runny.

For the savory filling: Lay heirloom tomatoes evenly in one layer on the surface of the dough. Then mix the following ingredients until well combined and sprinkle on top of the tomatoes. Finish with a glug of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

To form and bake slab pie: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from fridge about 30 minutes before you’re ready to work with it. Slice dough into two pieces, one about two-thirds of the dough, the other about one-third of the dough. The fact that you wrapped this in the shape of a rectangle should help make this and rolling it out as a rectangle a little easier.
On a floured work surface and with a rolling pin, roll the bigger slab of dough out into a rectangle a little bigger than a 15×10″ sheet pan. You want to be able to fold excess dough over to create the outside crust. Don’t be scared, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Move the dough and add more flour to your work surface as necessary to prevent sticking. Once you’re there (or as close to it as you’re going to get), transfer the dough to the sheet pan. Roll out the second slab of dough to approximately fit the top of the pie in a similar fashion.
Add filling to the slab pie, then lay the second sheet of dough over the top. Fold the bottom layer’s excess dough over the top and either pinch or crimp the two dough slabs together. Next, brush the top lightly with heavy cream, poke it all over with a fork and generously shower over the raw sugar and malden salt.
Into the oven is goes for about an hour. Check it after about 50 minutes. If the top is nicely golden, you’re good. I like to err on the side of well-browned versus just-bronzed, but that’s up to you.

Enjoy with vanilla cream!

Sweet pie dreams!

Charlotte

 

 

Panzanella: The Ultimate Gateway Salad

There are certain “gateway salads” we’ll prepare when feeding self-proclaimed veggie-haters. I stubbornly refuse to believe that anyone could honestly dislike vegetables. The real issue simply has to be that they haven’t had one of our vegetable dishes yet. Given enough time, we can flip just about anyone.

Roasted carrot and avocado salad

Our bag of tricks is large and includes:

  • Using greens sparingly, instead making the “filler” vegetables the stars a la a chopped salad (cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.);
  • Incorporating cooked vegetables like sweet potato croutons or roasted mushrooms,
  • Being generous with our fatty friends, toasted nuts/seeds, cheese and avocado;
  • And adding in unexpected salad components like proteins (eggs, roasted chicken, legumes, etc.), cooked grains or bread.

There is perhaps no better gateway salad that employs these tricks than panzanella. Traditionally, panzanella is made with day-old bread tossed with and rehydrated by perfectly ripe summer tomatoes, vinegar and plenty of olive oil. We love this version but it’s only the tip of the bread salad iceberg.

While the bread-tomato mix is perfection, almost all other seasonal vegetables cozy up well to torn bread. In the spring, one of our favorite versions includes blanched market peas, haricots verts and sugar snaps. In the fall and winter, you can’t beat a bread salad that’s equal parts roasted mushrooms or delicata squash. And this time of year, roasted or grilled bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and/or onions are all good alternatives.

And yes, stale bread sops of vinaigrettes and vegetable juices like a sponge, but do you know what else it sops up? The drippings leftover from perfectly roasted chicken!

Our best-selling salad at Copper Beech is our roasted chicken panzanella. While resting our just-roasted chicken on a cutting board, we toss torn day-old bread with the juices left at the bottom of the sheet-pan plus a little olive oil if necessary, salt and freshly cracked pepper. That gets popped back into the oven until the bread is crisp and brown on the outside but still a little chewy and wet in the center. The warm croutons are then tossed with pulled chicken, plenty of herbs like fresh basil, parsley or mint, and then whatever combination of market vegetables we have on hand. No matter how much we make, it sells out.

Consider making this salad for the next veggie-averse person in your life. Is it still considered a salad if its half chicken-dripping-logged bread and roasted chicken? Our answer is a confident and stubborn, “Yes!” It’s a gateway to the wonderful world of veggies after all.

With love always, Laura

Roasted Chicken Panzanella

Ingredients

1 4-5 lb organic chicken

olive oil

kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

4-6 cups pieces torn bite-size bread (French bread, ciabatta or peasant bread all work well)

2 garlic cloves

6 cups vegetables of choice (halved cherry tomatoes and/or chopped cucumber and/or cooked vegetables like roasted mushrooms or grilled zucchini, etc. — the skies the limit!)

1 cup torn fresh herbs (basil, mint, and/or parsley are all delicious)

Zest of 1 lemon

A few handfuls greens (optional)

A generous shower of cheese like torn fresh mozzarella, crumbled goat cheese or shaved parm (optional)

Vinaigrette (whisk together the juice of 1 lemon, a spoonful of dijon mustard, 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil depending on your taste, salt and pepper to taste)

Method

Roast the chicken: Preheat oven to 425 degrees and remove chicken from fridge to come to room temp for 45 minutes. Place chicken on a sheet tray, breast-side up, dry thoroughly and season generously all over with a five-finger pinch of kosher salt (about 1 tbsp) and a few grinds of freshly cracked pepper. Drizzle generously with olive oil and roast for about 50 minutes until chicken is golden and a thermometer pricked into the breast reads 160 degrees. Remove from oven and transfer chicken to a cutting board being sure to drain any juices in the cavity back onto the sheet pan. (Feel free to gussy up the raw bird more if you’d like with compound butter, fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme, etc. but this will yield a simple but delicious roasted chicken.)

Prepare the croutons: After moving the chicken to a cutting board, toss the torn bread and garlic in with the chicken drippings.   Make sure every bit of bread has been swiped through the liquid gold. Add a glug of olive oil if it seems at all dry. Season lightly with a pinch or two of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper and return the sheet pan to the oven. Toast for about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through, until bread is golden brown, crisp in some places and still a little soft and wet in others. Remove from oven to cool.

Finish the salad: First, pull chicken in large pieces off the cooled bird. Save any juices that have accumulated under the cooled chicken. Next, toss the pulled chicken, just-warm croutons and remaining ingredients in a large shallow bowl. Add in the reserved chicken juices if there are any. Next, add in vinaigrette to taste. Toss well so all ingredients are coated. Taste and adjust again with salt and pepper if necessary.

ENJOY!

Finding Inspiration for the Kitchen

A meal from LA’s Gjusta

Every week we come up with unique menus for our entire client roster. With two art studios and over ten families, each of which enjoy anywhere from two to five meals prepared by us weekly, that’s a lot of unique dishes to dream up.

So, we’re constantly on the lookout for inspiration. I thought I’d share a few favorite places to find it:

  • Travel
    • Like the rest of the What We Eat gals, I plan entire vacations around food. I’ve traveled to Copenhagen for Noma, Napa for French Laundry and (multiple times) to LA for Gjusta and Gjelina. I’m just as excited by less formal places where I get to see how locals more routinely dine. Finally, I drag my husband to every farmer’s market I can find to taste and learn about new ingredients. I take copious notes on my iphone “Notes” app about all of it.
A farmers market in Turin, Italy
Outside Copenhagen’s Noma
  • Eating out
    • Every opportunity to dine out is an opportunity for inspiration. I order as much as I and my dining partners can stomach, take notes on flavor combinations that excite me and take pictures for plating ideas. While I probably go a little overboard in this department, I suggest ordering something a little outside of your comfort zone. Try to discern the ingredients used and how they might have gone about making it. Obviously this is hard for something like pâté, but I’ve recreated many a restaurant salad, etc. with great success. And because you can tweak things to your preferences at home, you might just like your version even more. I’m also a big collector of restaurant menus. Even though they usually just have a few ingredients listed, if I take notes on them they’re like shorthand recipes.
Documenting a creative dish at Noma

Next time you feel like you’re in a rut, eat out, peruse the internet, or hey, take a vacation! Keep a little notebook handy to jot down dishes, ingredients and recipes that excite you so you have a standing list to refer back to later on.

Happy cooking!

With love, Laura

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Silver Linings and Mindful Eating

A few weeks back I missed a flight home after a weekend well spent at my alma mater in Boulder, Colorado. I made the conscious decision to revive my long lost laid-back identity and set my New York City chaotic mind aside. I got so wrapped up in my go-with-the flow itinerary that I thought my flight was some arbitrary time like 6pm when it was actually at 12:25pm and I didn’t even stop to double check. So, when I finally figured it out in an awkward, tearful phone call with a JetBlue customer service representative I got that feeling like my throat was going to close up and my emotions were a rapid tornado of frustration, shame and dread. Those long Colorado days spent worshiping the sun and dipping my toes in creeks sent down the drain. Not to mention the major emotional melt-down that occurred in my boyfriend, Peter’s, rental car, his best friend in the back seat and my lack of composure totally hijacking what should have been an enthusiastic sendoff to their pending backpacking trip, Peter’s, parting words “this is why you should always check in to your flight 24 hours before” taunting my self-esteem. I was stranded in Colorado with the thought of cooking straight after a three-hour red-eye weighing heavily. In situations such as this I usually find myself eating a gas station snickers bar or binge watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians on my phone, but I couldn’t let this annoying miscalculation send me into an even deeper spiral of shame. Instead, I would hold onto my final hours in Colorado and meditate like any ex-boulderite would do.

Yes, I’m going to talk about meditation. Flashback to freshman year of college at the University of Colorado when I got college credit for two meditation classes held in my dorm. I know what you’re thinking, only in Boulder. At first, I must admit, I was most excited about getting credit for a class centered around something not far from napping (sleep is my favorite part of my day apart from food). But after a few classes I was amazed by how fascinated and inspired the course made me. One of the fundamental practices in meditation is mindfulness. This is ultimately what my Colorado retreat was lacking, but how fitting was it to be in Colorado and have this realization, some might even call it destiny…

I wiped my tears, took lots of loud breaths and found an impromptu free yoga class around the corner. And then as if Gandhi himself was reincarnated into my yoga instructor, she starts on a monologue about losing her wedding ring. We all know this feeling and at this moment in my life so many things feel uncertain and overwhelming that it’s easy to lose sight of the day to day. It’s especially true living in a gigantic city with so many jobs to do, errands to run, groceries to carry, people to see, places to eat that just stopping for a second to reflect feels like an inconvenience. So, if there was any way to reflect (meditate) but not waste any valuable time, mindfulness is the answer! And if you were wondering how this all tied into food, here it is: mindful eating is the best way to do this.

I couldn’t believe I ever let this practice go. So, after my yoga class I wandered to a bar down the street called Linger, an aptly named bar for my current situation, to consciously eat alone.

For people that love to eat, mindful eating is simple but you have to put your phone away, shut your computer, turn off your T.V. and sit down. It’s about looking at your food, tasting each ingredient and thinking about how you’re feeding your body in that moment. It sounds gushy, but it’s truly the easiest way to decompress and as my mediation teacher would say, south your soul. AND studies have actually proven that people who exercise mindful eating actually tend to eat less. There I was eating Pad Thai, completely at ease, thinking about nothing more than the breeze trickling into an open bar, the taste of my ice-cold draft beer and the tangy combination of lime and cilantro marinating on my tongue.

Signed your hippie-dippy foodie, Charlotte <3

Get to Know It: Smoked Paprika

Corn on the cob with paprika

I can’t think of a single smoky-flavored food I don’t love. Smoked salmon and trout, all manner of BBQ, bacon…but living in Brooklyn with outdoor cooking prohibited and a sensitive fire alarm makes achieving that flavor with fire nearly impossible. Enter: smoked paprika.

I first added this spice into my culinary repertoire about five years ago when making David Tanis’ Pimenton Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes. To be honest, before this recipe I shied away from most dishes with paprika. I’m not sure why exactly. Probably because the only paprika I tasted growing up was a generic supermarket brand that had been sitting in the back of my parents’ spice drawer for years. I thought paprika was a spice that added a red hue but not much else to a dish. Boy, was I wrong.

Tanis’ crisp-skinned roast chicken had a depth of flavor I didn’t know was possible without open-fire cooking. It was garlicky, a little bit spicy and with a deep smoky aroma. With the success of this recipe, smoked paprika quickly inherited valuable real estate in my spice rack.

fish tacos with toppings
This spice is made most often in Spain where ripe red chile peppers are dried slowly over smoldering oak for up to two weeks before being ground into the powder we find on market shelves. Other aliases include pimenton, smoked pimenton, and Spanish paprika. The second you take a whiff, you’ll know you have the right spice. You can also find it at varying levels of heat, from sweet (dulce) to spicy (picante). I like all of them so that’s just a matter of personal preference.

cauliflower with paprika

Below are several favorite ways to use smoked paprika in cooking. This is a spice you can be quite heavy handed with, so don’t be shy. Give one or two of them a try and I promise you’ll be hooked.

On vegetables – sprinkle over roasted or grilled corn, cauliflower, sweet potatoes,

In vinaigrettes – add a pinch or two to a mix 50/50 mix of lime/olive oil (add a touch of honey or agave too, and of course salt and pepper to taste)

On proteins – sprinkle over fried eggs, season a mild white fish like halibut with it for fish tacos (use cumin too), use it on any poultry, or even use it as your secret ingredient in burgers

On pepitas – when toasted pumpkin seeds on the stovetop, add a little olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika for the last few minutes of toasting

On legumes – fry chickpeas in olive oil on the stovetop for about 10-15 minutes until crispy, adding a generous pinch of smoked paprika for the last few minutes and then finishing the whole thing with a squeeze of lime juice

With love always, Laura