Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ham and Spinach Picnic Pie

This is a super recipe to use leftover ham. Once again, I have no idea where this came from but I have made it for ove 25 years. It is a hit for picnics and camping because the pie is in fact best served at room temperature. Pretty to look at with its flakey golden crust and delicious to eat.


  • 2 packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped ham
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (Calrose not long grain)
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • Butter Pastry (see below)
  • 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water

Roll out and line 9 or 10 inch spring form pan with over 1/2 of the butter pastry. Save the scraps as you trim. Chill the remaining pastry, and the pastry lined pan while finishing the pie filling.

Squeeze the liquid from the thawed spinach. Saute briefly in a dry pan to remove most of liquid. Set aside. Saute the ham for a few minutes to render any fat. Set aside with the spinach. Melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the onion until tender. Add the spinach, ham, rice, cheese and spices. Stir and heat through if your rice is leftover cold rice, otherwise just toss together. Remove from heat and stir in the eggs.. Chill the pie mixture. You don't want to add a hot mixture to the cold pie crust as it will melt it and reduce the flaky texture.

Turn the pie filling into the prepared pan. Roll the remaining dough to make a top crust. Flute the edges and re-roll the scraps. Cut into decorative leaf shapes or flower shapes. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and water mixture to make a nice glaze. Attach the decorations and brush again. Cut a few steam vents.

Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbs shortening (yes you need to use shortening or lard)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 Tbs cold water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening and butter. Make a well in the center. Beat together the egg and water. Add to the well and toss with a fork. Work with fingers until dough forms a ball. Knead on a floured surface 3 to 4 times. Refrigerate in plastic wrap until used.

Great pastry for tarts or savory pies.

Serve with a fresh fruit salad and green salad. Slightly sweet white wine.

Blood Puddings Irish Style

This recipe requested by a fellow poster on Ann Althouse:

Blood Puddings Irish Style

4 pints blood (don't ask)
8 oz oatmeal
8 oz breadcrumbs
2 tbs finely chopped onions
4 oz minced fresh pork
Pinch of herbs (savory is what I used about 1/4 tsp dried.)
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt (maybe not so much depending on who....um...I mean where you got the blood)

Wash the intestines thoroughly, leaving each piece about 15 inches long. Steep in salted water over night (Or just buy some already prepared from your butcher. Try to use some that are rather larger than you would use for italian sausages. About 3 inches in diameter). Stir the blood until cold to prevent lumps. Next day mix the ingredients together with blood until it is stiff. Wash intestines again and tie one end. Put the mixture into the intestine and then tie the other end. Put into a pot and cook slowly for 2 ½ hours in the water. Cut each pudding into about 8 pieces, flour the cut ends, and fry in butter.

Recipe word for word from250 Irish Recipies (Mount Salus Press, Dublin) A cookbook I bought when I was visiting in Ireland in1969- 1970. I know…I’m a food geek. Cookbook souvenirs.

I used instant oatmeal for a finer texture and made my own bread crumbs from regular firm stale white bread, not the canned Contidina crap.. Also added a bit more pork fat because I like that texture. The mixture is kind of like a very soft cookie dough. They said next day after stirring the blood, but I just let it sit in an cooled ice chest. .. no ice.(not the fridge....too cold) until it was completely at room temperature. Be sure to not boil the puddings and be sure that they are cooked all the way through. They should be just barely at a simmer. You don’t want them to break and ooze into the water… believe me.

I haven't made this in years and years because my husband won't have it anywhere near the house. This and chicken livers.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Fish With Browned Butter Caper Sauce- No More Tarter Sauce

As a person who loves to cook, I try to bring creative blends of spices and tastes into every recipe. Presentation is also important to me. The food needs to be beautiful to look at as well as bring subtle flavorings to the palate that makes the dish memorable and enjoyable. One of my peeves is to see all that effort smothered under big blobs of tarter sauce, catsup or mindless additions of salt and pepper. People learned to eat with these condiments as a standard addition to food. Meatloaf? Smother it in catsup. Fish? Smother it in tarter sauce. Turkey? Stlather some canned cranberry jelly on it. Lamb? Mint sauce.

When my husband and I began dating I would have him over for gourmet dinners. You know......the way to a man's heart and all. I think it worked since we have been married for 15 years now. I was horrified and offended to see him grab the salt or ask for catsup on the dish without even tasting it first. "Ahem.....I spent some time on this....at least you could taste it the way the cook (I) intended it before you start adding salt or catsup! " Tarter sauce on fish was a bone of contention. He insisted that he must have it on all fish. Now there is nothing wrong with a good homemade tarter sauce as a condiment on some fish dishes but to my mind especially eating a delicately flavored fish like sole or tilapa or even red snapper, the fish is overwhelmed by what is basically flavored mayonnaise.

Here is a technique for fish and it is now my husband's favorite way to eat fish and without tarter sauce. There are no exact measurements. A free form recipe that I make on the fly depending on how much fish I have on hand.

Butter Sauce Ingredients:
4 to 8 tbsp room temperature butter
2 to 3 tbsp capers drained and smooshed (technical term)
1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice

Cooking the fish:

Rinse off the fillets and damp dry. Flour and set aside to let the flour cling. Re-flour again just before cooking.

Put a thin layer of peanut oil in a skillet and get it VERY hot before adding the fish. Place the fillets in the pan and cook briefly until crusty and golden brown on one side. Carefully flip over (using two spatulas when cooking sole so it doesn't break apart) and cook until brown on the other side. Thin fillets like sole will only take a few minutes to cook. Thicker fish like snapper as much as 5 to 6 minutes. DO NOT OVER COOK THE FISH. Nothing worse than dried out over cooked fish......this is probably why the tarter sauce conundrum came about. Your fish should be flaky but still moist inside. Barely translucent. Place the fillets on a warm platter.

Make the sauce:
There should be barely any peanut oil in the pan. If there is then drain it but leave the browned bits of flour. Remember you are not deep frying the fish and the hot hot hot oil should be just enough to keep it from sticking to the pan.
In the hot skillet over a fairly high heat add the butter and swirl it around until it begins to sizzle. Add the capers and smoosh them a bit in the butter to release more of their flavors. Cook until the butter starts to turn a golden brown (not black). Be careful it won't take more than 10 seconds to go from brown to black. Remove from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. It will sizzle and pop. Immediately pour the sauce over the fillets.

Enjoy with a fresh Ceasar salad, steamed asparagus, couscous or other pasta and of course a crisp white wine.

For you sportsmen who catch Blue Gill or Croppie or Bass, this also an excellent way to cook those fishes.

Homemade Newtons (Fig or Apricot)

Fresh soft and wholesome cookies for adults and children. These take just a bit more time than a standard drop cookie but so worth it. You can use figs as the recipe indicates, but I prefer an apricot or even strawberry rhubarb filling.

Home Made Newtons

1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange or lemon zest
1/8 tsp or less salt

Optional: finely chopped walnuts about 1/2 cup

Fig Filling

2 cups dried figs, finely chopped (or dried apricots)
1 1/3 cup water (or substitute some more lemon juice if you like a tarter filling)
3 Tbs lemon juice or orange juice
1/3 cup sugar

Cream the butter and brown sugar very well. Add the eggs and beat until light. Add the vanilla. Mix together the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture one third at a time and beat well. Briefly knead the dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a couple of hours,.

Meanwhile: make the filling. Combine the chopped dried fruit and rest of filling ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until thickened. Cool.

Roll out the dough into about a 14 inch square. Cut into three strips. Mound 1/3 of the filling down the center of each strip. Using an offset spatula flip the long sides over to slightly overlap. Press gently to seal and carefully transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Leave 3 inches space between the strips. Cut crossways into seven or so equal 1 inch pieces but do not separate.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are puffy and firm to the touch. Everyone's oven cooks at a slightly different pace. You want the cookies done but not hard. Cool for about 15 minutes and then separate the pieces and place on a wire rack to completely cool.

I prefer the tarter "California Style" dried apricots that have been treated with sulphur to retain their bright orange colour, over the more readily available "Turkish Style". If you use the Turkish apricots you might want to reduce the sugar just a bit. A nice touch is to add a bit of Grand Marinier in the filling with either the figs or apricots.