It is with pleasure that I introduce a guest post by my husband, the resident pie-baker!

I grew up in Michigan, and in my family it was always cherry pie in the summertime, made with the best tart cherries from the northern lower peninsula.  It’s really the cherry capital of the US, second to none, especially for sweet cherries.  I never cared too much about apple pie, until I went off to Notre Dame and had an incredible piece of apple-walnut pie at The Carriage House in S. Bend, Indiana. The building is a white-plank siding, green trimmed rectangle in the northern Indiana farmland, at that time owned and operated by Evelyn George, a proprietaire of great style, class, taste, beauty and charm.   Unfortunately, Evelyn died in 2000, but her daughter carries on the culinary tradition.  Inside, a variety of simple pleasures, native and imported,  may be found, including the apple-walnut pie.  That pie stuck in my mind for fifteen years, until I tried to duplicate it.  Last weekend I made it again.  This time I was spurred to action by a big box of apples sitting next to the entry door of my building, underneath a hand-written sign stating “Northern Spy apples – best pie apple.”  Talk about throwing down the gauntlet!

Having before baked many berry pies, to approximate the Carriage House pie I went back, back, to the 1st edition of the Joy of Cooking,  and made a few modifications to tweak the outcome in Ms. George’s direction.   Once we got to know the Carriage House we enjoyed many, many fine meals therein, and it gives me  pleasure to remember it and make this pie in memory of the lovely Evelyn George.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

1 recipe for double crust pie dough (we used this one)

for the filling:
6 Northern Spy apples or other tart apples — peeled, cored, & sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 Tablespoon lemon juice — freshly squeezed
3/4 cup walnuts — coarsely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg — freshly grated
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons butter — melted

for the frosting
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Make a pie crust of your choice. No pre-baking necessary.

Make the filling:   I’ve used Jona  Gold and Granny Smith apples in the past, but the Northern Spy apples of Kansas were outstanding this time.  Tey were another gift from a colleague of ours, the great gardener behind that big box of raspberries in our recent past.

Squeeze the lemon over the apple slices. Brown the chopped walnuts in the olive oil over medium heat, and lightly salt the nuts. Reserve. Mix the sugars with the corn starch, cinnamon, and nutmeg, sprinkle over the apples and mix gently.  Add the golden raisins.

Roll out the pie crust and cover the bottom of a pie dish. Fill the pie crust shell with the apple mixture, arranging the slices into layers that completely fill the pie.  Dot the layers with thin slices of butter, up to 1 + 1/2 tablespoon.  Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on the top of the filling.  Melt the 2 tablespoons of  butter and drizzle it over the filling.

Make a lattice top of from the second disk of pie dough, and cover the pie with it. For Northern Spy apples, bake at 450 degrees F for 10 min, then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for 65-70 min more.  Cover the crust with aluminum foil if it seems to be browning too much at the end of the cooking time.  The Northern Spy apples are very juicy and resilient and will remain firm even after a long baking.   For Jona Gold apples,  bake about 10 min less.

While the pie is baking, make the frosting by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl.   This should be thin enough to pour but thick enough to stay together when you drizzle it on the pie; add more sugar or water as necessary to get a good consistency.  After the pie cools drizzle some the frosting over the pie, and into the holes of the lattice.  Not too much, just enough to pump it up “a tiny notch.”


to print the recipe, click here

Here’s one last small story about Evelyn George.  On one occasion we asked for her recommendation on wine (she was a true connaisseur of fine wine), and she suggested to us a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay, with the additional tip “..I like it served ice-cold.”  I was skeptical, but accepted her suggestion and drank the wine fully chilled on ice.  It was the most luscious, silky and perfectly fruity chardonnay that I ever tasted.  From that day forward, I prefer my chardonnay ice-cold!

Comments from Sally:  I don’t know that many guys who can face making an apple pie on a Sunday night, after a weekend that was pretty charged with stuff to do, both at home and in the lab.  My contribution was to make the pie dough early in the morning, and roll out the dough for the base.  The lattice work could only be made by someone with that certain type of patience found in golfers.   😉   We took the pie to the department after lunch on Monday, and by 2:30pm only crumbs were left on the plate.

As to The Carriage House, we only once had the opportunity of having dinner there together, and I was blown away by the place! That particular evening they had Beef Wellington on the menu, and of course it was our choice.  Spectacular dinner, in a very romantic setting.  If you live in the area, or you are passing through the Bend on I80,  it’s worth a visit for that special occasion.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chicken Marsala

TWO YEARS AGO: Home, Sweet Home (we still miss you, Pits!)

THREE YEARS AGO: Brazilian Black Beans


Last Monday of the month = Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club!  I could not be happier with my matching blog for this month:  Beautiful Disasters, hosted by Casey, the coolest girl in the whole blogosphere.  I first got to “meet” her when she made a flourless chocolate cake from my blog,  and that was the most popular recipe of our SRC that month!  How awesome is that?   Casey is a hard working high school student, athletic, witty, and keeps a blog that is always fun to visit.  I was thrilled to cook from her site.   Being a young runner with a high metabolism and all, she’s got a ton of sweets to share, but  I wanted to go for something savory. The weather is cooling down (Sally grabs the box of Kleenex), so I searched for a comforting soup.  My first click on the index was for corn chowder.  She starts her post with “Do you wish you had an accent?”   Casey, you got me right there!  I simply HAD to make your chowda.. 😉

(adapted from Beautiful Disasters)

2 cups corn kernels
2 Tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons thyme
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
a few fresh basil leaves
scant 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4   cups water
8 baby Yukon gold potatoes, cut in pieces
¾   cup half-and-half
1/2 Tablespoon white sugar

Heat the butter in a large pan.  Let it melt, then add the shallots, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shallot is soft and starting to get some golden color. Add the flour and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add the water, keep stirring. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the corn kernels and potatoes. Bring the chowder to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Transfer a little less than 2 cups of the chowder and the basil leaves to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir the puree back into the pan. Add the half-and-half then return the chowder to a simmer.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and mix in the sugar.


to print the recipe, click here

Delicious chowder, creamy, luscious, even if I took a few shortcuts with the recipe.  Full disclosure: Casey did not use frozen corn.  I am sure it would be even better with fresh corn and getting all that juicy corn milk, but I had to simplify the preparation to accommodate my schedule.

Now, back to the fascinating topic of accents.  As any immigrant, I am often reminded that I have an accent.   I don’t mind it that much, but I certainly wish I didn’t get in other types of trouble.

Allow me to share a quick story.  Day one of  lab move: I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off,  asking our secretary, one of the moving guys, and a  student “I need the doily.  Have you seen the doily around?”   All of a sudden, Phil gently grabs grabs my arm,  takes me to the side and whispers “Sally, darling, you are looking for the dolly, not the doily“.  That’s when  I understood their small delay in answering my question with a sheepish “I don’t know where it is”.   (sigh)

Casey, I hope you had a blast with your assignment too!
And for all my readers, don’t forget to click on the blue frog below to see the full list of posts by the members of Group D, the group that closes each month with a golden key!  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Oven-broiled Salmon over Saucy Spinach

TWO YEARS AGO: Butterscotch Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: First Soup of the Year


This  classic Chinese dish is often abused beyond belief.  It is easy to overcook the broccoli, turning the florets into a mushy version of their beautiful self, and at the same time producing beef that has the wrong texture.  The real thing is like velvet in your mouth, with a crisp, bright green broccoli giving the perfect counterpoint to the beef.  No excessive, cloyingly sweet sauce.  When properly prepared, this is a fantastic recipe that will please everyone – except the broccoli haters out there – but they might make an exception in this case. 😉

(adapted from Jaden Hair’s guest post at Simply Recipes)

1 pound flank steak or sirloin, sliced thinly across the grain
1 pound broccoli florets
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut in slices
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

For the beef marinade
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
freshly ground black pepper

for the sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth (or water)

Start by marinating the beef: mix all ingredients in a bowl, add the pieces of beef and stir to coat the slices. Let it stand for 10 minutes, while you prepare the sauce and blanch the broccoli.

Make the sauce by mixing the oyster sauce, rice wine (or sherry), soy sauce, and chicken stock (or water) in a small bowl. Reserve.  Place the broccoli in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain very well and reserve.

Now, the fun begins:  heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and instantly evaporates upon contact. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the yellow bell pepper and cook it for a couple of minutes until it begins to soften. Remove  and reserve.  Make sure the pan is again very hot, and add the slices of beef, spreading them out all over the surface of the wok or pan in a single layer (preferably not touching). Let the beef fry undisturbed for 1 minute. Flip the beef slices over, add the garlic and reserved bell pepper to the pan and fry for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until the beef is cooked through.

Pour in the sauce, add the blanched broccoli and bring to a boil. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, 30 seconds.


to print the recipe, click here

This dish highlights well how a couple of extra-steps that might seem like a waste of time and energy make a world of difference in the final product. If you skip the beef marinade and blanching the broccoli, it simply won’t be the same.  The original recipe does not call for yellow bell pepper, but I wanted to add a bit more color. You can certainly omit it. This is a great dish for weeknights, all you’ll need is some steamed white rice.  Meat, veggies, carbs, all there in perfect harmony: the omnivore’s dream!

If you are fond of Asian recipes, make sure to stop by Jaden’s blog, The Steamy Kitchen, and consider getting her cookbook, I have it and love it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Wheat Germ and Sage Sourdough Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Popeye-Pleasing Salad

THREE YEARS AGO: Summer’s Finale (Watermelon Granita)


A few weeks ago I got smitten once more by a post on Farine’s blog  showcasing a bread made exclusively with whole wheat flour.  She used a mixture of spelt and kamut to bake a pavé style of bread that seemed perfect for a hearty sandwich.   I was quite curious about kamut flour, and thrilled to buy the last bag available in the only grocery store in town that carried it.  My adventure to procure kamut flour involved a phone call to the manager who personally held that bag for me until I could drive to the store later in the day.  That should clarify the title of this post. 😉

(from Farine’s blog, adapted from Thierry Delabre)
247 g whole kamut flour
247 g whole spelt flour
375 g water
148 g levain at 100% hydration
9 g salt
Mix both flours with all the water until no dry flour remains and let rest, covered, 20 to 40 minutes Add the sourdough starter and mix until incorporated Add the salt Cover the dough and let it rest, doing as many folds as necessary to obtain medium soft consistency.  I did five sets of folds, the first three 30 minutes apart, the last two 45 minutes apart.  At that point the dough was rising for 3 hours.  I let it rise undisturbed for 2 and a half hours more, by that time the dough was threatening to reach the top of the bowl.
Remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and fold it once over itself lengthwise, forming a long, non-overlapping rectangle.  Cut the dough into two pieces, and let them proof over heavily floured parchment paper for about 45 minutes, loosely covered.   Heat your oven to 450F and bake the loaves (with initial steam) for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown.    Cool on a rack.
to print the recipe, click here
This is the kind of bread that makes you feel healthier with each bite.  It has that wholesome quality of a typical rustic loaf, but a texture with more moisture than you would expect from a bread made exclusively with whole wheat.  I  urge you to read Farine’s original post, as she describes her adaptations from the original recipe in great detail.  I always learn a lot reading her blog, she is an amazing bread baker!
The sourdough taste in this bread was stronger than usual, but the interesting thing is that next day the bread had mellowed down considerably.  Not sure why, but the world of bread leavened with wild yeast is mysterious. And fascinating!
Usually Phil is the master sandwich maker, but this time I hit a jackpot with my concoction:  chipotle-smoked turkey breast, provolone cheese, and a spread of tomatillo-avocado salsa.  A show-stopper!
Farine, thanks for the constant inspiration!  My list of breads to make from your blog only keeps growing and growing… 😉
I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event.


The FoodTV Network: Like a broken record, I might normally go on and on complaining about how great it was but no longer is…  I must say, though, that the more I watch “Mexican Made Easy”, the more I enjoy the show. Marcela Valladolid is knowledgeable, cooks great food, and is fun to watch.  Plus, she’s fit, which is not an easy task when you’re cooking and working with food 24 hours/day. Or close to that.  😉  Apparently she owes her great shape to yoga. On one segment about healthy Mexican recipes, they showed her serene composure during a tough variation of Warrior III, and in an advanced Twisted Pigeon pose.   Impressive, to say the least. ANYWAY,  back to cooking.  In another recent episode she shared a tempting recipe for Chicken Tostadas.  I didn’t make it yet, but I prepared one of its components, the tomatillo-avocado salsa.  It couldn’t be easier, and it couldn’t be tastier.   You absolutely HAVE to make and serve this alongside anything!  Ok, maybe not with that slice of chocolate cake… 😉

(adapted from Marcela Villadolin)

6 ounces tomatillos, husked, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 large yellow tomatoes, cored and seeded, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 Serrano chile, seeded, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and  black pepper

Combine the tomatillos, yellow tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, chile, and lemon juice in a blender and puree until smooth. Season the salsa with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours or until ready to use.


to print the recipe, click here

I intend to make her chicken tostadas soon, my problem is the tostada part, as we still don’t have a gas cooktop. But I might improvise and come up with an alternative.  Tomatillos are usually cooked before incorporation into salsas and sauces, but in this fresh preparation  the  trick is to mellow their sharpness down by adding the avocado and using lemon juice instead of lime juice, as most salsas would call for.  Simple. Brilliant.

My adaptation was adding some yellow tomatoes because they were looking at me and begging to be consumed. So I did.  Next time I might either process a little less, or save a few pieces of diced yellow tomatoes to add at the end and make it a bit more chunky.  We served it with grilled steel head trout and steamed rice.  Phil thought that a great idea for an appetizer would be a small piece of grilled salmon or trout over a blue tortilla chip, and a dab of tomatillo salsa on top.  No doubt in my mind I married a guy with great taste.  😉

On a slight tangent: as I was preparing this post, I got the feed notification of a new article by Kelly, over at Inspired Edibles.  She wrote a nice tribute to her yoga instructor, and I invite you to jump over there and read it, very inspring! As a bonus, you’ll also get a recipe for homemade energy bars…
I am all for energy bars these days! 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Intensity

TWO YEARS AGO: Shrimp in Moroccan-Style Tomato Sauce 

THREE YEARS AGO: Golden Zucchini: A Taste of Yellow