Sour Cherry Pie

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If you have been following my blog you will remember that before our home was completed we had lived in a hotel for one month, then a lovely rental with a small kitchen (finally I could cook again), where we stayed for 6 weeks.

Due to a previous booking at that time, and our home still not ready, we found ourselves looking for yet another rental. 

Every cloud has a silver lining and ours came in the form of an amazing studio apartment above a garage that I found in the rental listings I had been scouring for availability.

I immediately emailed the owner who immediately called me back.  He responded to our plight of needing a place to live for an indeterminate amount of time by saying he would love to help us out, and we should come by and take a look at the apartment.

It was a really great space with a state of the art kitchen you would rarely find in a studio above a garage! 

The owner generously offered to allow us to stay there for as long as we needed to which freed us from the burden of possibly having to find a 3rd rental at some point. 

So he agreed to not accept any other renters until we let him know our actual moving date!  I know I mentioned it before, but the nicest people  really do live here in San Luis Obispo!

He and his two children came for dinner last night.

After showing them our home we sat down to a dinner of Caesar salad,  grilled pork loin with herbs and garlic, sauteed apples, roasted carrots with onions and twice baked potatoes.

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His son who will be going into sixth grade, and his daughter, who will be going into fifth, were a pleasure to have at our table. 

Their social skills, and sophisticated palates surprised both my husband and me.  They can dine with us any day.  I would be happy to cook for them!

Dessert was this Sour Cherry Pie. 

The cover of the June issue of Bon Appetit magazine featured a fresh sour cherry pie. 

I had hoped to try that recipe, but was unable to find fresh sour cherries.  I know there is a small window for finding them and I had apparently just missed it.

But the photo of the pastry crust was calling my name. I decided to make that crust and fill it with a delicious tart cherry filling I’ve made before that  uses canned sour cherries. 

These canned tart cherries sometimes known as “pie cherries” are  not to be mistaken for that awful bright red artificial goopy pie filling you see on the grocery shelves!

The consensus at dessert last night was they make a really delicious cherry pie with just the right amount of tartness!  And the buttery crust was the perfect vehicle for them. And a scoop of good vanilla ice cream will put it over the top.   Here’s how to make it…

Sour Cherry Pie

Crust (Sour Cherry Pie,Bon Appetit, June 2014)

1/3 cup almond flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 and1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 large egg yolks

Crust

Pulse almond flour, granulated sugar, salt and 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup ice water in a small bowl and drizzle over the flour mixture.  Pulse, drizzling in more ice water as needed, until dough just comes together(a few dry spots are okay).

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Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface until no dry spots remain, about 1 minute.

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Divide dough in half, and pat each piece into a disk; wrap in plastic.  Chill at least 2 hours.  (Dough can be made 3 days ahead.  Keep chilled).

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Filling and Assembly

Filling (adapted from a source unknown)

Note: the following is for 1 and 1/2 x the original recipe because I like lots of cherries

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

4 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

generous pinch of kosher salt

3 - 14.5 ounce cans pitted tart red cherries in water, and 1/4 juice reserved

1 and 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

In a large bowl combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt and stir til well blended.  Add the drained cherries, reserved juice and lemon juice and stir til thoroughly combined.  Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Let dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly, about 5 minutes.

Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch round.  Transfer to a parchment- lined baking sheet and chill.  Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

Carefully transfer 1 crust to a 9 inch pie dish.  Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish.  Trim edges to even out crust if needed.  Scrape in cherry filling.

Using a 3/4” diameter pastry tip or cookie cutter, punch out holes in remaining crust, covering an area just smaller than the diameter of the pie dish. 

Place over filling.  Fold edge of top crust underneath edge of bottom crust and press together to seal.  Crimp as desired.  (Alternatively, assemble pie, then cut X’s or slits into crust.)

Brush crust with egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Chill pie until crust is firm, 20-30 minutes.

Place pie on a parchment-or foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake, tenting with foil if crust is browning too quickly, until juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown, 50-60 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before slicing.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…

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Do Ahead:  Pie can be baked 1 day ahead.  Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Ruth Reichl’s Spaghetti Carbonara ( or in this case Linguini Carbonara

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This is a quick dinner for those nights when you don’t know what to make, you are hungry, and you don’t want to fuss.

 My husband had a meeting to attend a couple of evenings ago so I was dining solo.

Since he has been watching his carbs lately, and I have been hungry for pasta, but not wanting to sabotage his efforts, this was my moment.

So I decided Ruth Reichl’s recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara met all my requirements for my dinner.

It is super quick to make.  I had all the ingredients on hand except for the spaghetti, but linguini filled in nicely,  and cleanup time is minimal.   

And Ruth Reichl would never steer you wrong.  Here is her recipe in her own words…

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 3

Contrary to the recipe so often used in restaurants, real carbonara contains no cream. The real thing also uses guanciale, cured pork jowl, but to be honest, I like bacon better. I think of this as bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast. It’s the perfect last minute dinner, and I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t like it.

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon (I prefer Nueske’s)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook,and you can make the sauce in that time.

Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp they won’t meld with the pasta. Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.

Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much to you, discard some, but you’re going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.

A few notes:  I used thickly sliced applewood smoked bacon, and my favorite Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Memorial Day Weekend with Friends Grillin’ and Chillin’ (New York Strip Steaks and Salad)

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Friends of ours from LA spent Memorial Day Weekend with us.  I have known her since we were kids living in St. Louis.  She and I have mutual cousins in common…their dad was her mom’s brother while their mom was my dad’s sister…got that?????

No matter…the important thing is that through the years of my sister and I  visiting our cousins while she and her sister were visiting their cousins we became close friends.

She and I were the same age and our sisters were  the same age setting the stage for a friendly foursome.

When my family moved from St. Louis to Pennsylvania my sister and I continued to visit them each summer by train for several weeks throughout much of our teenage years.

Fast forward many years of not seeing each other, and miraculously we find ourselves now living in the central coast of California while she and her husband have been living for years in Los Angeles…we reconnected when my older son moved to LA to begin his career 17 years ago, getting together whenever we visited.

What we didn’t know then is that we would actually be living here one day with just a 3 hour drive between us! 

Well, maybe not 3 hours on a holiday weekend, but we won’t get into that! Hopefully, the grilled Tuscan  brick chicken and glazed fudge cake awaiting them made up for that!!!

We crammed a lot into 3 days, not the least of which evolved around what else, but eating!

We were so busy that I kept forgetting to snap photos so the best I could rustle up is the photo above of  these luscious New York Strip steaks my husband grilled one evening for dinner, and the salad that accompanied  them.

The 1 and 1/2 inch steaks were perfectly seared on the outside, yet rosy pink in the middle.

He tried  a new technique  which had to do with getting the gas grill super hot, and initially turning them very often, about 1 and 1/2 minutes per side with the grill closed until they formed that nice crust you can see in the photo above.

Then with the grill lid open he continued cooking and  and turning them until the internal temp reached about 120 degrees.  Covered lightly with foil and let to rest for about 15 minutes they reached an internal temp of about 135 to 140 degrees.  Perfection!

On Saturday  morning we stopped by the Central Coast Succulent and Cactus Society’s annual show which was being held in a large community center in downtown San Luis Obispo.

There we saw an amazing display of countless award winning plants…

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From there we headed north to the Paso Robles Artsfest. 

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Here’s some info on the event…

The Paso Robles Festival of the Arts has changed its name and is effectively “upping its game” for 2014 with a list of new features designed with art lovers and county visitors in mind. Now dubbed “Paso Artsfest,” the largest free art event in San Luis Obispo County has a week’s worth of activities planned for artists, visitors and county residents in addition to the much-beloved main event that takes place the Saturday of every Memorial Day weekend in the Paso Robles downtown City Park. “With all of the fantastic press Paso Robles has been getting lately, this is the perfect time for our art festival to reach out to potential visitors who appreciate wine, food, art and beautiful scenery,” states Barbara Partridge, Paso Artsfest chairwoman. “We know that people are coming here on vacation for Memorial Day weekend, we are offering them the opportunity to make the arts part of their experience in a much bigger way than ever before.

 The day features an Outdoor Fine Art Show & Sale, a Wet Painting Sale & Auction, hands-on interactive art experiences all over the park, exciting musical guests, dance performances and a full day’s worth of entertaining and artistic surprises. This event is free to the public.

When it was time for lunch we ate at a lovely Parisian bistro that had been recommended to me that was across the street called Bistro Laurent.

where we dined on “Croque Monsieur and Frites” on the charming patio.

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That evening we dined again at what is quickly becoming one of our favorite Italian restarurants in downtown SLO,  Buona Tavola, specializing in Northern Italian cuisine.

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Each meal begins with their complementary olive tapenade and delicious homemade bread!  You can even buy it there or at the local farmer’s markets.

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or their house-made salami and sausages are also available…

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On Sunday my girlfriend and I walked off some of that wonderful bread and gelato from the night before and went walking on some of the spectacular trails that surround San Luis Obispo, while my husband took her husband in search of a running trail,  and later a couple of slices of pizza, and a ballgame on tv.

Here are some great photos and info I found online for the trails we walked..Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

The city of Cambria is located on Highway One at the north end of San Luis Obispo County, and has earned the nickname “Gateway to the Big Sur Coast.” Like that stunning area to the north, Cambria has its own beautiful waterfront. Explore sandy beaches and rocky tide pools on a 2.85-mile round trip hike down Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, crossing a pristine beach that is preserved by Hearst San Simeon State Park. There is only 40 feet of elevation change over the level and easy trail, so you are free to set out in flip-flops or tennis shoes. Explore tide pools or walk across the sand on Moonstone Beach to add variety to this beautiful oceanfront stroll.

You can start the boardwalk from free parking areas at either end (or in the middle). To discover the ocean views, start from the south end of the trail, just off Highway One near the beginning of Moonstone Beach Drive. Hike northwest beneath pines along Santa Rosa Creek. After 0.2 miles, you will spot a pool of water at the mouth of the creek, separated from the ocean by a line of sand. The wooden boardwalk progresses alongside the estuary where you can spot ducks and snowy egrets.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
Seals at the tide pools

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

While hiking Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, you will pass several side access trail, but the main route is obvious. There are benches along the way where you can linger to admire the scenery. The boardwalk runs parallel to Moonstone Beach Drive, which is lined on the inland side by restaurants and hotels.

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Harmony Headlands State Park is located 2.6 miles south of Harmony, along the west side of Highway One in the beautiful coastal area of Central California.  This area has a Mediterranean climate consisting of warm dry summers and cool wet winters.  Its proximity to the ocean also results in thick coastal fogs which help to moderate the temperatures.  The constant winds and salt spray result in vegetation tolerant of these conditions. The flat coastal terraces, valleys and steep coastal bluffs are predominately home to grasslands and coastal scrub containing plants such as a San Luis Obispo morning glory, California buttercup, yarrow and lupine.  In the spring, flowering grasses can be seen in profusion.
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This area contains diverse and unique habitats supporting rare, endangered and sensitive plant and animal species.  Along the rocky outcrops, lichen, ferns and Indian paintbrush are scattered throughout the grasslands.  In the fresh water habitats of wetlands, riparian corridors and ponds, willows, rushes and cattails can be seen.  Along the intertidal areas, sea mammals can be seen and heard.  Overhead seabirds and shorebirds soar.  Making their way through their grassland homes, California ground squirrels, brush rabbits, skunks, coyote, mule deer and raccoons are among the residents.


This area also provides a home for the endangered California red-legged frog and the southwestern pond turtle.  Many sensitive species also reside here including brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants and white-tailed kites.

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Harmony Headlands State Park features a two-mile long Headlands Trail that departs from the parking lot and provides breathtaking ocean views west to the marine terrace grasslands.  Nature lovers, hikers, photographers, artists and bird watchers will all find this walk a rewarding and memorable experience.

Note:  We actually didn’t make it to the ocean this time. We were close when we met up with a couple of hikers who were on their way back, and told us to be careful of the snake that had crossed their path.  With that news, we looked at each other, and  both agreed it was getting late and we will finish the trail next time!  Yikes!!!

After breakfast the next morning at Louisa’s, a great diner type place walking distance from our home, our friends packed up and headed back to LA, but not before picking up a tri-tip sandwch to go for the trip back!

After all, one can’t visit San Luis Obispo, and not have tri-tip!   

Angel Food Cake (Gluten-Free)

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We are starting to feel “at home” in our new home. 

One of the things we love doing is entertaining friends at home,  and for me that means food is going to be involved via brunch, lunch or dinner.

This afternoon we had friends for lunch. 

We had met this great couple when we were still living in the hotel.  When we moved here last July we had thought we would be in the hotel for a month or 2 at the most.  When we realized it was going to be much longer I began looking for a rental with extended availability, (not to mention I REALLY needed a kitchen…I can only tolerate so many breakfast buffets…need I say more?)

We were fortunate to find a lovely one bedroom rental walking distance to downtown, with a cute little kitchen that had all the basics one might need. And there was a six week availability! 

The owners were our guests for lunch this afternoon, and we were thrilled to be able to show them the house, but more importantly, share lunch and conversation with them at the table.

They had been so welcoming and accommodating during our time there that it made the stress of moving and construction delays somewhat tolerable.  They filled us in on where to go and what to do in our new “hometown”, and for the first time we began to feel what it would be like to live downtown.

Because one of them has recently gone on a gluten and dairy free diet I prepared a gluten and dairy free lunch.  With a little forethought and planning it really isn’t hard to do.

We started out with tortilla chips and salsa and home made guacamole.

For lunch we had grilled chicken teriyaki, my favorite potato salad, and a beautiful green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

But when it came to dessert I had to give it a bit more thought, and this is what I came up with. 

Angel Food Cake (Gluten-Free) with assorted berries and raspberry sorbet

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(For a gluten-free and dairy-free dessert substitute sorbet for the whipped cream!)

Here is the recipe for the cake from the King Arthur’s Flour website.

Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake

  • 3/4 cup King Arthur’s all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup Baker’s Special Sugar** or superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites (10 to 11 large eggs, separated, yolks discarded or reserved for another use)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract or Fiori di Sicilia, optional
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Baker’s Special Sugar** or superfine sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in its lowest position.

2) Whisk together and then sift the flour, cornstarch, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside.

3) In a large, clean (grease-free) mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until foamy.

4) Add the flavorings. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and continue beating until the egg whites have increased in volume, and thickened.

5) Gradually beat in the 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, a bit at a time, until the meringue holds soft peaks.

6) Gently fold in the sifted flour/sugar blend ¼ cup at a time, just until incorporated.

7) Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10” round angel food pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter and remove any large air bubbles.

8) Bake the cake until it’s a deep golden brown, and the top springs back when pressed lightly, about 45 minutes.

9) Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto the neck of a heatproof bottle or funnel, to suspend the cake upside down as it sets and cools, about 2 hours.

10) Remove the cake from the pan by running a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan, and turning the cake out onto a plate.

11) Cut the cake with a serrated knife or angel food cake comb. If it’s difficult to cut, wet the knife and wipe it clean between slices.

12) Serve with whipped cream and fruit. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.

Yield: one 10” cake, about 12 to 16 servings.

Cold Brewed Coffee

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Iced coffee has always been my go to beverage when summer hits.  Living in San Luis Obispo where the climate is so warm and wonderful year round (with very few exceptions)  I now don’t even have to wait for summer to enjoy it.

At a recent visit to a nearby Farmer’s market I stopped to sample some coffee from a local roaster who has a stand there.  She  told me in detail how to make the most delicious rich  “iced coffee” by using the cold brew method.  

Cold brewing coffee is something I have heard in passing, but never really knew exactly what it was. 

Previously my method of making iced coffee was to pour what remained in the carafe from my strong morning brew over some ice and add some milk/cream and sugar.

While the cold brew method may take a bit of forethought and planning, it is definitely worth the effort.  This method of brewing results in a rich strong concentrated brew which makes the most delicious iced coffee!

Although I prefer my hot coffee strong and black, I like my iced coffee with milk or cream and a little sugar .  If I really want to be decadent sometimes I even top it off with a scoop of coffee ice cream!  And by cold brewing the rich flavor of the coffee is not lost.

Scanning the internet for this method I realized I have come pretty late to the party because cold brewing has been going on for years, but I think it has become especially popular recently with the coffee craze that just keeps growing.

Fellow blogger, Vijay Nathan (Noshon.it) sums it up best in this excerpt from a post of his a year ago…

Why Cold Brew?

What’s so great about cold brew anyways? Why would someone wait overnight for a cup of coffee? Well, let’s see if these facts convince you:

  • Compared to brewing with hot water, cold brewed coffee is much less acidic, making it smoother to drink over ice. Also, the long soaking time brings out some of the rounder, fruity notes of the coffee which you may not always taste in hot coffee.
  • It doesn’t require any fancy equipment! Seriously, all you need is a jar, spoon, coffee filter, and strainer. Don’t be fooled by all of the new cold brew contraptions out there. You don’t need them.
  • You can make as large of a batch as you want at one time. Are you a one-cup-a-day’er? Use a large jar. Pretty much need an IV of coffee hooked up all day? Use a bucket. (Kind of joking, but not really, it works great with any amount!)
  • You can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks without losing freshness. That’s right, make it once, use it all week. Hot coffee goes stale quickly after it cools down so if you’ve been putting your leftover pot in the fridge, you’re doing it all wrong!
  • It’s better and cheaper than most iced coffee you’ll buy at a coffee shop.

I also liked his recipe which seemed closest to how I made mine, using the French Press …here it is…

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make cold brew iced coffee.

Yield: 1 cup of concentrate (enough for 1-2 drinks). Just multiply the ratio for as much as you want.

  • 1/3 cup coffee, coarsely ground
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Large jar, pitcher, or French Press
  • Coffee filter
  • Colander or Mesh Strainer

Step 1: Grind and Measure Coffee

For cold brewing, you want a coarse grind on your coffee so it looks like a fine gravel. This is the same type of grind that you’d use for a French Press. If you can, I always recommend grinding fresh but you can also buy beans at your local coffee shop and have them grind it on the French Press setting. Since the volume of beans and grinds can be different, grind the beans first then measure if possible. But in all honesty, this is a pretty unfussy method so do whatever is easiest for you.

Step 2: Pour the Water

Add the coffee grounds to a large jar and add cold water, making sure to soak all of the grounds. For every 1/3 cup of grounds, add 1 1/2 cups of water. This was a 1 quart jar so I doubled that ratio and used 2/3 cup of grounds and 3 cups of water, which came right to the top. This will make about 2 cups of final coffee. You can also use a French Press canister for this step but a jar works just as well.

Step 3: Stir the Coffee

To make sure that all of the grounds are wet, use a long spoon (or in our case, a chopstick) to stir everything up, making sure to get into every nook and cranny of the jar so nothing sticks. (An important note: when stirring, you want to try to use something that is non-metal like a plastic or wooden spoon or a chopstick. Turn a wooden spoon upside down and use the handle to stir since it’ll fit better into the jar. I’ve read from some true experts that when the metal hits the coffee, it can give it a slightly off taste so I prefer to be safe than sorry!)

Step 4: Cover and Let Brew

Cover the jar and let it sit at room temperature on the counter for at least 12 and up to 18 hours. I’ll either start it before dinner so it’s ready the next morning or start it in the morning and strain it that night for use the next day. There’s no need to stir it, just let it be. If you’re using a French Press, cover it tightly with plastic wrap.

Step 5: Strain It

This is probably the most challenging step of the entire process…and it’s really quite easy. To strain the cold brew, line a mesh strainer (or any strainer really) with a coffee filter (it doesn’t matter what kind, just make sure you can pour the coffee into it – the strainer is just to hold the coffee filter). Set the straining apparatus over a bowl and pour in the coffee. Even if you’re using a French Press, you’ll still need to pour it through a coffee filter after plunging to get all of the tiny grounds out.  Depending on how fine your coffee filter is (mine was very fine), it might take a while to drip through but just have a bit of patience and it’ll all drip out.

Transfer the strained coffee to another jar (or just wash out the same jar while it’s straining) and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (I prefer to use it within 1 week but 2 will be fine).

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

This method actually makes what many consider to be a “concentrate.” Most guides out there will tell you to mix the concentrate 50/50 with water but I find that to be too watery for my taste. I like it straight up over ice (the ice helps dilute it slightly) or by adding 50% of the volume of the coffee in water, such as 1/2 cup of concentrate and 1/4 cup of water, for something a little lighter. Depending on what type of coffee you’re using, a half spoon of sugar can help bring out the natural sweetness of the coffee.

If you like to add milk, there’s no need to dilute it with water! Just pour the concentrate over ice and add as much milk as you like. It’ll make a rich, creamy, and delicious cup of iced coffee that’s definitely not watery. Before you do, though, give this a shot without milk – I think you’ll be surprised with how smooth it is! Also, you might notice that this coffee is a lot lighter in color than what you’re used to. That certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t strong! Remember, it’s been brewing for a long time but the color is more a factor of the roast of the coffee (and for mine, this was a slightly lighter roast).

That’s it! Remember, all coffees are not created equal so don’t use the cheapest coffee on the shelf for this method. You’ll be surprised how different (and sometimes better) the coffee tastes when cold brewing it versus the traditional hot brew. Filled up in a glass with plenty of ice, this is the perfect refreshing drink to start your morning or boost up your afternoon. And the best part is that you can double, triple, or quadruple the ratio depending on how much you want to have around. Since it lasts so long in the fridge, don’t hesitate to make more!

Just a note:  The coffee roaster I spoke with gave me another tip which I tried.  Add a whole vanilla bean, pod and all,  to the brew when you add the coffee grinds and allow that to steep along with the coffee.  Remove the  pod when you are ready to strain, or simply plunge it down with the coffee grounds if you are using the French Press.  It adds the perfect hint of vanilla to your coffee.  You can also experiment with cinnamon, or other spices you may like.  Enjoy!

Roasted Carrots with Fennel and Onions

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Is it a side dish to go with the brisket or is it a work of art?

The answer is it could be both.  These roasted carrots began as beautiful bunches of orange, purple, and pale yellow organic carrots with their stems intact that I bought at the local farmer’s market.

Along with a couple of fennel bulbs and a white and purple onion they became the lovely side dish served alongside my brisket at our recent Seder.

After peeling them, and leaving the stems on as many as possible, I tossed them with some extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. 

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The sliced fennel and onion wedges were also tossed with some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before I spread them all out on a couple rimmed baking sheets and placed them in a 425 degree oven.

After about 15 to 20 minutes toss them around a bit on the sheets to prevent sticking, switch trays from top to bottom and bottom to top, and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes until they begin to caramelize.

Serve on a platter hot, warm or even room temperature.  Delicious!

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Pavlova for Passover

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This year for Passover I decided to make Pavlova for dessert in addition to the traditional Passover Lemon Sponge Cake…

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The Pavlova, which will easily serve eight, is composed of a crunchy meringue base with a soft center of whipped cream and fresh fruit.  The meringue base can be made up to 2 days ahead if stored in an airtight container.  Assemble it within a few hours of serving it so the meringue retains its light crunch.

To assure success,  try to choose a day that’s not humid for meringue making.  Not a problem for me now that we are living in California!

Note: If you observe the rules of kashruth (keeping kosher)  you will have to reserve this delicious dessert for after a dairy meal since it contains whipped cream.

Here we go…

Pavlova (Food and Wine, Diana Sturgis)

6 extra large egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 and 1/3 cups superfine sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 cups heavy cream, chilled

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 and 1/2 cups raspberries (or strawberries)

4 ripe kiwis, peeled and sliced

Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish

1.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Draw a 9-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper and place on a large cookie sheet.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on low speed until foamy.  Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form.

3.  Gradually beat in the superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating for about 10 seconds after each addition to be sure the sugar dissolves.  Beat in the lemon juice.  The whites will be stiff, dense and glossy at this point.

4.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar over the beaten egg whites.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the sugar into the whites until thoroughly blended.

5.  Scoop the meringue onto the parchment paper and spread to form a 9-inch round.  Hollow the center slightly to make a nest, leaving the meringue at least 1 inch thick at the base, and 1 and 1/2 inches high around the sides.

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6.  Bake the meringue in the middle of the oven for 1 hour.  Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 1 hour longer.  Turn off the heat and leave the meringue in the warm oven with the door closed for 1 and 1/2 hours or overnight, until crisp and dry throughout.

(Purists prefer an absolutely white meringue, but I like the flavor and color of a pale beige one, so don’t worry if the heat colors the meringue slightly.)

When the meringue is completely cool, peel off the paper.  Place the meringue on a flat serving platter

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7.  In a large bowl, beat the cream with the remaining 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until stiff peaks form.  Spread half the cream in the meringue shell and sprinkle with half of the pineapple and raspberries.

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Mound the rest of the cream on top and cover with the remaining pineapple and raspberries.  Overlap the kiwi slices around the inner rim of the Pavlova and garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

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Happy Passover

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This Passover was a very special one for us.  We celebrated the Seder ( the ceremonial dinner marking  the beginning of the week of Passover at which we retell the story of the Exodus) in our new home with our sons and their girlfriends at our table.

With 3000 miles separating us we have been unable to share  this holiday with them for many years.  And now a 3 to 4 hour drive for each has allowed us to all be together.  So you see it was a very Happy Passover for us all.

Here are a few photos to share with you…

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My First Dinner Party In Our New Home

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Moving to a new home especially when it is far from your old home brings with it many firsts.  And we recently had some new friends over for our first dinner party here. 

For me, setting the table for a special dinner is fun.  I love to mix and match and see how I can reinvent items by using them in a different way, sometimes with something new added to the mix.

My Provencal tablecloth designed with olive branches which I have had for years was perfect for my Greek themed dinner.

I had picked up the napkins on sale at Anthropology  recently, knowing one day they would come in handy.  I can’t resist a really good buy!

The salad plates were part of a very old set of dishes which belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and I love the contrast between those and my contemporary white everyday dishes.

I kept it simple with three small glass bud vases each filled with a couple of olive branches plucked from my newly planted olive shrub on the deck. 

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I lined them down the center of the table, and five clear glass votives holding white candles illuminated the table.

There is nothing that makes a table look prettier than candlelight, and I regret not taking a photo once they were lit.

The menu included some of my favorite Greek dishes.

We enjoyed appetizers on the deck.

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Homemade tabbouleh , a red pepper, eggplant and garlic spread from Trader Joe’s, assorted olives, and Marcona almonds kept us happy til dinner was ready.  Tabbouleh recipe to follow on an upcoming blog.

A delicious Greek salad was brought by one of our guests. 

After which we dined on my Greek Chicken and Potatoes, grilled lamb chops, Greek Style Green Beans with Tomatoes.  Homemade Tzatziki with grilled pita rounded out our meal. 

You can find most of these recipes on my Greek Dinner post, with the exception of the Tzatziki recipe so here it is…

Tzatziki- Cucumber Yogurt Dip (adapted from Lynn Livanos Athan, About.com Guide)

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Cool and creamy, this tangy cucumber dip flavored with garlic is the perfect complement to grilled meats and vegetables.  It can be served on the side with warm pita bread triangles for dipping, and is also used as a condiment for souvlaki.

Ingredients:

3 -4 garlic cloves, minced finely

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Greek yogurt, strained

1 cup sour cream

2-3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced (I prefer Persian cucumbers)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Preparation:

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Mix well until combined.  Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream.  Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well.  Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. 

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Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill just before serving.

Recipe can be doubled or tripled if you wish.

For dessert, knowing that carrot cake was a favorite of some of our guests, I parted from the Greek theme, and baked a good old-fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting which was a real hit!

You can find the recipe here.

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When the evening was over everyone went home with a full belly,  a goody bag of Tzatziki , and an extra slice of cake.

I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Tabbouleh

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Tabbouleh is a popular middle eastern salad.  It is traditionally made of bulgur wheat  ( a whole grain low in fat with a mild nutty flavor), tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and garlic and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

Like hummus, baba ghanouj, pita and other elements of Arab cuisine, Tabbouleh has become a “popular American ethnic food”.

There are many variations, running the gamut from the traditional Lebanese version which is mostly herbs and tomatoes with a sprinkling of the bulgur throughout to the  many recipes where the grain is the predominant ingredient, or any combination of herbs and bulgur.

So it is definitely something you could play around with and decide what suits your taste.

I included a bowl of tabbouleh with pita as part of my appetizers at a recent dinner.  Here is the recipe…

Tabbouleh ( adapted from recipe from Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur)

2 cups bulgur (presoaked for 1 hour)

3 cups fresh parsley, finely minced

1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

3-4  green onions, finely sliced

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/4 teaspoon cumin seed, ground

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

a drizzle of extra virgin lemon olive oil (optional)

To presoak Bulgur, place 2 cups bulgur in a bowl.  Pour 2 cups boiling water over bulgur and let stand 1 hour. 

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, gently mix together all ingredients, except the lemon juice and olive oil. 

Add the lemon juice, toss and chill for 1 hour to blend the flavors or longer to blend the flavors. 

Before serving toss again with the olive oil, and check for seasoning

Place in a serving bowl and drizzle the lemon olive oil on top

Serve with pita, crackers or Romaine lettuce leaves