Bada Bing!

If you were to ask me what I did this week, I wouldn’t have too much to report, quite frankly. Work, go home, wash clothes, pit cherries, pick up CSA box, pit cherries, cook, pit cherries. The theme, you see, is that I pitted a hella lotta cherries. Hubs seems to think that’s really funny; talking about cherries seems to make boys laugh.

But when you find them being offered for $2.50 a pound, you really do feel inclined to load up and by load up, I mean fill up two big ol’ buckets worth of self-picked Michigan sweet cherries. Bada bing, bada boom! Fortunately, the weather was great and we had 4 pickers, because I’m quite certain that for every 5 cherries I picked, one ended up in my mouth rather than the bucket (if you look closely, you can see the red stains on my fingers – busted!)…

Notwithstanding, we still managed to head away from Lemon Creek with about 10 pounds of cherries, and if you can believe it, we didn’t even go for wine-tasting (not there, at least!). I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do with them all, although I knew many would be eaten in raw form, and some would turn into jam because I have a thing for preserving those Michigan fruits, and although I’m supposed to be eating “healthy” foods I couldn’t for the life of me stop thinking about making my first (fresh) cherry pie. And let’s face it – pie from fresh berries is a bazillion times better than the canned “mix” and the frozen varieties and really, do you think I have space in my freezer for the rest of these cherries? Negativo, especially when I just shoved 20 pounds of meat in there earlier this week from our CSA delivery.

Plus, this weekend we just happen to be heading up to Minnesota to visit Cheryl & Luke and since Cheryl is usually the pie master (she makes 3 of them every Thanksgiving for all of us to consume), I thought it’d be mighty swell of me to pay her back, a little bit, for all her years of rolling dough and toting pies across two states. That way, we’re not sitting around here with fresh cherry pie staring us in the face, calling to us from the kitchen, and truthfully, making it difficult to see straight, let alone get anything accomplished.

It’s really a win-win situation: I get pie, I get to see Cheryl & Luke, I get to, weather-permitting, play on their boat and doggy-paddle around the lake, and in sharing, I don’t have to stuff my face with all 8 slices of this beast. Wait a cotton-pickin’ second… maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all! Over the next few hours, I’m really gonna have to sit down and think through this whole sharing business – they’d never know, would they?

Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008, via Epicurious; serves 8

since this pie hasn’t been eaten yet, i can’t vouch for the taste of it, but reviews of the original recipe were stellar. this is a GREAT pie recipe, and because i think cherry and vanilla belong together, i did double up on the extract. also, i don’t believe in pie crust without shortening AND butter, so that change was made too. the crust itself was the best smelling crust i’ve ever smelled in the oven, with plenty of butter and shortening, which i think is key to a good crust. the lattice topping might look hard, but i’ll be honest and admit it really wasn’t (i probably should have continued to make you think it was hard, huh?!). i found an awesome tutorial from the Simply Recipes blog and would suggest you use that as well, unless you’re already “in the know”.

printable version

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 T sugar
3/4 t salt
1 stick (8 T or 1/2 c) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
8 T (1/2 c) chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
7+ T ice water

1 c granulated sugar
3 T arrowroot powder*
1/4 t salt
5 c whole, pitted, dark, sweet cherries (~2 lbs)
3 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract
1 T (about) milk
1 T turbinado, or “raw” sugar**

pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to blend. Add butter and shortening and pulse repeatedly until small pea-size clumps form. Add 7 T ice water and pulse until dough holds together when small pieces are pressed between fingertips, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. (alternatively, this can be done by hand or using a pastry blender, but it’s gonna take longer!) Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into ball, then flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until needed. (You can keep it in the fridge for 2 days, or even freeze it and let thaw overnight. But, let it sit out for a few minutes to soften before you are ready to roll it out.)

position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425 F. Whisk 1 cup sugar, arrowroot powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round (i like to roll mine out on the plastic wrap it was refrigerated in so i can more easily transfer it and not worry about the dough sticking to the counter). Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish, making sure to push dough to bottom edges of dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Using large knife or pastry wheel with fluted edge, cut as many strips from dough round as you want for your filling (I think i did 12). Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Arrange dough strips atop filling, forming lattice (see above); trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush lattice crust with milk. Sprinkle lattice with turbinado sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve.

*arrowroot powder is similar to cornstarch in that it’s a thickener, but it’s much better for pies because it’s more clear, thus your pies will be prettier if you use it. also, if you ever make pies to freeze, arrowroot holds up to freezing while cornstarch dosen’t. the down side? it costs a little more and is harder to find. i got mine at Penzey’s, but you can also find it at The Spice House (Chicago area for both) or online.

**turbinado sugar is great for pie toppings because the crystals are bigger than granulated. if you don’t have it, you can certainly use regular sugar.

Delicious Fried Zebras


I remember teasing you guys with some fried green tomatoes. I almost wrote this post before heading on vacation, but instead decided to post a much more relevant recipe about Jerk chicken. I thought about them again this past weekend since we had yet another trip out of town – this time back to good ol’ North Carolina. The sad part is, our trip was so quick that we had no time whatsoever to grab any tasty Southern food (except my Cookout milkshake, although I’m not sure if that counts). Must be why these little morsels came back into mind.

green zebras

I saw some of these pretty lil’ green zebra tomatoes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago and couldn’t resist. Something about fresh, heirloom tomatoes gets me every time. I’m sure there are tons of healthier uses for them, but for me, the first thing I thought about was frying them up and dipping them in some ranch dressing. Is that pathetic? I personally think it’s smart.

breading station

It’s simply coincidence that I’ve posted two fried recipes in a row. I really don’t fry all that much – promise. And it’s not that I’m apologizing for doing so – everybody needs to eat some good fried food every so often.

What are you waiting for?

fried green tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes
Serves 4 as an appetizer or side; Adapted from Simply Recipes

4 medium, firm green tomatoes (I used green zebras)
1/2 c AP flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 beaten eggs
2/3 c dry bread crumbs (or cornmeal)
1 t cayenne pepper
2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. sprinkle with salt and pepper and let sit on paper towels for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs (with cayenne) in separate shallow dishes.

heat 1 T olive oil in skillet on med heat. Dip slices in milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. put half of slices in skillet for 4-6 minutes on each side or until brown. Add the other T of olive oil for the next batch. season with salt and pepper.