If I were to use a sports analogy to describe my cooking practice it would be more of a “Hail Mary” pass style of cooking rather than “Playbook Perfection” style. Cooking for me has always been a “throw it to the wall and see what sticks” kind of adventure. Dinner party for 10? No problem, perfect time to try out some new recipes. Sometimes this laissez faire technique lands the meal smack into the winner’s circle and sometimes the meal gets sent back to the minors. I know that practice will always increase success but generally my attention wanders and the fresh recipe or trend calls to me leaving the previous endeavor benched.
This same lack of practice holds true with pie making. I have great respect for pie bakers and some of my dearest friends are pie all-stars, it has always left me a little intimidated. One of my favorite community events is the annual Pie Party. This event now in it’s 9th year has grown into a beautiful celebration of pie, community and FUNdraising. I have flirted with this party for years. Several years ago we even prepared all the pies for the event (almost 200) in my very own kitchen. I learned that my oven can hold 9 pies at a time! As you might imagine the Pie Party continues to grow in popularity. To meet pie demand the organizers, Ian and Turtle decided to open the pie baking up to their friends and neighbors. The Pie Party had become a Pie Contest. I wanted to enter real contenders but true to style, I wouldn’t decide until game day what type of pie to enter. It was always a pie I had never made before. This year my coach and chief pie taster gently suggested a new strategy. Since the early days of our union I have baked a savory artichoke pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Each year I tweak the recipe and gently improve it. Fortuitously the pie party fell right in the middle of artichoke season. I had a surplus of artichokes from our CSA from which I made my own marinated artichoke hearts. I was ready for the Big Leagues. I was hoping that this unusual pie might land me in the playoffs, I was thrilled beyond measure to learn that the Artichoke Pie had won “Best in Show”!
What does this mean for my cooking game? I think I will probably still throw a few “Hail Mary’s”- after all, along with the award winning pie, I also submitted a brand new loquat pie. I decided on this after harvesting a bag from around the neighborhood without knowing much about the fruit or how it would bake in a crust. However, now that I’ve got a ribbon on the scoreboard I might have to work on the ol’ playbook a little more. Luckily with the …and be merry! Supper Clubs I get the opportunity to experiment and perfect multiple recipes before sharing them with guests. Maybe the Artichoke Pie will appear at one of the dinners, until then here is the recipe to try it yourself.
Artichoke Pie Recipe (adapted from “365 Ways to Cook Vegetarian”)
1 Double crust pie dough
1 (6-ounce) jar marinate artichoke hears, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound of mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely diced sun-dried tomatoes (or chipotles)
2 cups shredded sharp provolone cheese)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out half of the pie dough to fit your pie plate.
- In a large frying pan, cook marinated artichoke hearts, mushrooms and garlic over medium heat until mushrooms are barely tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes.
- In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly. Mix in provolone cheese and cayenne. Stir in artichoke mixture. Pour filling into reserved pie shell. Cover with rolled out second shell. Crimp edges of pie to seal. With a sharp knife, make 4 slits in center of top shell.
- Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until crust is golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.
(Post Written by Sara) A few weeks ago I went to meet Amy and André at Codorniz de Tucson, to see the quail that would provide eggs for our Lunar New Year dinner. I had originally intended to write a blog post about the quail. I wanted to include a romantic story about how the first quail were bred by a Japanese emperor for their song. I had a list of ‘cute’ words that I wanted to work into the post. But as I sat down to write about my visit I changed my mind. Sure, the quail were every bit as cute as can be expected, but when I went to meet André and Amy I became more interested in their story. They do a great job working with the quail, which are housed in a large, professional and clean enclosure. They are also both students at the University of Arizona. In addition to their studies at the university, they work in the school garden at Davis Bilingual Elementary through a program run by the University of Arizona Geography Department and the Tucson Community Food Bank. They are also interns with the Youth Farm Project, working at the Community Food Bank’s new community urban farm, las Milpitas de Cottonwood. Urban farming is not just something that is happening on rooftops in New York and schoolyards in California, it is happening in Tucson too. There are so many people in Tucson who are feeding, teaching and connecting people through urban farming. And there are many more people pushing the papers to help make it happen. Beyond that there are the artists; photographers, dancers, musicians and chefs who are doing creative collaborations with the organizations and individuals involved in urban farming and local food. I have been aware of this growing community in Tucson for a while now, but had somehow come to take it for granted. Meeting Amy and André reminded me of just how valuable everyone’s efforts are and I am really grateful to them for that. Shortly after meeting with these two another reminder of the great things going on in our town was wheat pasted on the walls of Tucson’s downtown library. The huge images of Youth Farm Project participants are a perfect example of the artistic collaboration going on in Tucson food community. If you live in Tucson you have go down and check it out, if not a link to some photos on a Tucson Mural blog is here. As for the quail, they are, well, adorable. The Coturnix quail are rounder than the local quail and they lack the distinct head feather, but they have remarkably beautiful feathers. Their vocalizations, while not exactly emperor’s songs, are more soothing than a rooster cock-a-doodling or a hens incessant clucking. And I did learn about those eggs. They are amazingly nutritionally dense. The Coturnix quail are prolific layers, converting the food they consume into eggs more efficiently than a chicken, each quail laying about 300 eggs per year. And because of their tiny size they are perfect backyard layers. Those thinking about raising chickens may want to reconsider and learn more about quail. And if you don’t want to raise your own you can get your eggs from Codorniz de Tucson at any of the Community Food Bank’s Farmers Markets. While you’re at the market take some time to be grateful for all the people who are doing amazing things in the Tucson food community.
Thanks to Christian for filming some of the preparation for our Supper Club!
As a faithful fan of Martha Stewart I’m always excited each month to get my magazine. January’s issue just arrived in my box and I think I realized why not everyone loves Martha as much as I do. This issue is dedicated to “Kitchens we love; Secrets to style, color, and organization”. ”Organization” is the main sticking point. The kitchens on display are immaculate with every bowl, pan and rolling pin looking artfully placed and never used. It reminds me a bit of the airbrushed models in fashion magazines, desirable even in their unbelievability. While I realize the futility in coveting these model cooking centers and I am inspired to get my own workspace a little more in order.
Recently we returned from a three week trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (The food operation alone warrants it’s own blog post). I brought home great memories and a significant amount of unused food. Trying to find a home for the surplus inspired a pantry perusal that got me pondering exactly what I stock on the shelves. I found an eclectic and bizarre collection of goodies. The “Pantry Project” was born. Into a large box went a collection of items that have languished on the shelves for an embarrassing amount of time. What would Martha say?
These items seem to fall into 3 distinct categories:
1) Items that were purchased for a specific recipe that was never created or didn’t require using the full amount of the item. An example of which are the packets of “Instant Black Sesame Powder Mix” purchased to make Sesame ice cream for a Chinese New Year party. I ultimately used a sweetened sesame paste for the Asian inspired sundae bar leaving the powder in the pantry.
2) Items that seemed like a good or fun idea the the time of purchase but with no actual plan for their usage. Here the example is clearly represented by the bottle of “Carob Cocktail Syrup”. Perhaps more puzzling is the overwhelming collection of cacao powder and nibs.
3) Items that were handcrafted and gifted. I am lucky to have a collection of talented food friends who like to share. My only defense on these items remaining in the pantry is that I’ve deemed them to precious to eat and so I have hung on to them waiting for a special occasion.
The goal of the “Pantry Project” is to “use ‘em or lose ‘em”. If by the end of the year the items haven’t been used or designated a legitimate use in a future project (sworn, documented and witnessed) then I have to clear them out! It’s been exciting to stretch my creativity and resourcefulness. Everyday is like an episode of the cooking show “Chopped” replete with my own basket of mystery ingredients. All guests to my home should be forewarned that they are treading into culinary experimentation territory where cacao lurks in the wings waiting to make an appearance in your next meal. After all I’m only 3 pounds of nibs away from a Martha Stewart level of organization.
Thank you to everyone who attended the “Parisian Picnic”. It’s a leap of faith to agree to a picnic in August in Tucson Arizona. We had to get creative to foster a picnic feel without getting too far from a climate controlled environment. Luckily we had a lovely location. It was a sold-out event and our picnickers were a great group that created a fun environment and ultimately were the most important ingredient of the entire meal. With the lovely French tunes of Tucson’s own Parisian Musician, Naim Amor it was easy to imagine lunching on the Seine. Our wheels are already spinning with plans for the next event. Keep checking in to see what we are cooking up next.
Our picnic is an hommage aux oeufs! We have been testing crepes, pate a choux, aioli and meringues all featuring the wonderful egg. We emulsified them, whipped them into a batter and cooked them into the classic French pastry. We spent more hours than usual digging through cookbooks to find picnic worthy recipes that work with our available produce and weather. After subjecting willing lunch participants to rigorous tasting and critique sessions we are excited by our menu and know you will be too. We are also excited to have Tucson’s own Parisian Musician, Naim Amor playing authentic French music for us. If this has you digging out your beret and signing choruses of “Frere Jacques” reserve your spot now by clicking on the “Contact” button to Répondez S’il Vous Plaît!
Savory Stuffed Crepes (chicken or vegetarian)
Composed Salad of seasonal vegetables with Herbed Aioli
Barrio Bread Baguette with assortment of spreads
Assortment of French Desserts and Fresh Fruit
Lavender Ice Tea and/or BYOB