Monday, May 28, 2012

Slice of the Week - Memorial Day Edition

Summer in New York means a couple of things: hoards of slow-moving tourists, long lines and high prices at the beer gardens, and street fairs. $5 pashminas! Cheap sunglasses! Zeppoles! Luckily, I was met with only the latter of the three this Memorial Day just around the corner from my apartment.

This being an Astorain street fair, the food choices slanted toward the more Mediterranean of cuisine, and I was delighted to see that Omonia Cafe had set up a booth serving up Greek pastries.

Otherwise known as spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie is made with spinach, onions, and feta cheese amongst layers of phyllo dough, and is an utterly delicious treat that I had never heard of, let alone craved until I moved to Astoria.

I won't go too critical on this slice of the week - it's street fair food, and it's Memorial Day after all. I hope everyone is having a day full of sun, fun, good food, and even better friends.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Waffles

This morning I woke up, started the coffee pot, and realized I was out of both milk AND cereal. I stared longingly at the empty space in the cupboard and started to reach for the bag of pretzels (insert any disparaging comments about my morning eating habits here) when I remembered the box of Eggo Waffles in the freezer.

And then I remembered that I had saved the leftover strawberry rhubarb mix I made for my pie the other day.

And then I got really excited for breakfast.

blueberry Eggo waffles with strawberry rhubarb topping

a hot breakfast for a rainy day

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rustic Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

After unsuccessfully searching for fresh rhubarb at both Trader Joe's and the Union Square green market last week, I thought I had missed my window of opportunity. Luckily, the subletter-du-mois told me she had spotted some at the Key Foods. A quick trip after work and I had the makings of this season's most sought-after dessert.

8 oz. rhubarb, diced
1 lb. fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Pie crust recipe, doubled. Do not halve into top and bottom crusts.

How to
Wash and cut the rhubarb into 1/2" cubes. Make sure to remove any green leaves; use only the reddish stalk of the rhubarb.

Rhubarb stalks

Sliced rhubarb

1/2" rhubarb cubes

Wash and thinly slice the strawberries.

Fresh strawberries

Single strawberry. It was really photogenic.

Sliced strawberries

In a large bowl, mix together the rhubarb, strawberries, corn starch, sugar and vanilla. Stir gently until everything is evenly coated.

Strawberry-rhubarb mixture

Roll out the dough into as close of a circle as you can (I'm still working on my rolling techniques). Transfer the dough to a large cookie sheet, then add the fruit mixture in the center of the dough. Make sure to place the dough on the cookie sheet BEFORE you add the fruit!

Cookie sheet with dough and mixture

Fold the dough over and onto the center of the fruit, making sure to leave a hole right in the center. Work clockwise and wet the edges of each fold to help the dough stick together. Sprinkle with a healthy amount of sugar and refrigerate or freeze for about 30 minutes.

Folded edges over mixture

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

Rustic strawberry rhubarb pie

Rustic strawberry rhubarb pie

Single slice

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart's Mini Rhubarb and Raspberry Galletes recipe, found in this book.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rhubarb fail

I woke up early today with a plan to pick up some fresh strawberries and rhubarb at the Union Square Green Market; these ingredients would then go into a pie so succulent and wonderful that patisseriers all over the world would come to Astoria for a taste.

Unfortunately, there was no rhubarb to be found.

I did see plenty of herbs...

and flowers...

and funny ferns called fiddleheads...

But no rhubarb. Anywhere.

I also checked at the Trader Joe's across the street, to no success.

Did I miss rhubarb season?!?!

I certainly hope not.

In the meantime, I will console myself with the apple I bought. It cost me $1 (for just ONE apple!), but it's a honeycrisp, and it is delicious.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pies Etc. and Pinterest

Pies Etc. is now on Pinterest! After months of saying, "so what's this pin thing everyone keeps talking about?" (I'm a true bastion of up-to-the-minute trends and forward-thinking technology, I swear) I bit the bullet and joined the popular site when I discovered that a picture from my DIY - Extracts! post got "pinned."

So find me here and let's pin some pies!

Friday, May 11, 2012

around here

May has been an utterly crazy month - four states, a wedding, baseball game, opera, and one panicked run around Newark Airport when the plane ended up there and not LaGuardia. While I'm finally back in New York and settling into somewhat of a regular schedule (and rest assured, I have some pretty stellar plans for pie), I decided to post some pics from the past week. Enjoy!

Wrigley Field
Cubs game with the 'rentals

Almost ready

Wedding shoes!

Sillyness in the limo

One last bow fix
Who can say no to this face?!

Friday, May 4, 2012

New Haven Pizza Wars - some final thoughts

Seven weeks ago, I came to New Haven, CT for a short-term job. I quickly assimilated into my new collegiate culture (hooded sweatshirts! bad poetry! cheap beer!) but when I was unable to find any notable sweet pies to blog about, I turned to a different kind of pie - the pizza pie.

Pepe's apizza

Known for a very specific kind of Neapolitan pizza called the apizza, New Haven is home to a thinly crusted, cheese-less, fresh tomatoed, oven-baked delicacy. Chicago-style deep dish this is not. At it's thickest, an apizza measures less than an inch. Burned splotches on the crust are common. Cheese is considered a topping.

Sally's apizza

Before arriving in New Haven, I had never had an apizza. After doing some research for this project and reading the many testimonials of happy and satiated patrons on both Yelp and the restaurants' personal websites, I got really excited. Here I was, a frequent consumer of pizza for almost 30 years about to try a NEW type of pizza! The last time I was this animated over pizza was when they put the cheese in the crust sometime in the early 90's.

But here's the thing: after spending seven weeks eating apizzas, I realized that I'm just not a fan. Maybe it's my upbringing. Maybe I'm too much of a Midwestern at heart. Maybe I'm just too used to the greasy, cheesy mess the rest of the country calls a pizza. But while some of the apizzas I ordered were certainly tasty (and absolutely none were so bad there were rendered inedible), I was ultimately underwhelmed by the cuisine.

Modern apizza

In fact, the grocery-store-brand frozen pizza I'm munching on right now is tastier, was cheaper to buy, easier to obtain, and has more fresh toppings than any pizza I'd order in a restaurant because I added my own spinach, mushrooms and tomatos before I put it in the oven.

Nevertheless, I did spend a good part of the month of April eating, critiquing, and ranking four different apizzas - Abate'sPepe's, Sally's, and Modern - all located in New Haven, and all basically claiming to have the city's best pie.

Here's what I learned:

*Cheapest - Sally's about $1. After the total cost of a small, cheese and mushroom pizza with tax and tip, I spent between $12 and $12.50 at each of the restaurants.

*Longest wait - Sally's
     Granted, this is a little skewed. I patronized the other three restaurants early on weekdays in order to reduce wait-time, but Sally's is only open in the evenings. But even after arriving 45 minutes before the doors opened, I still had to wait a while for a table, and even then it took almost 40 minutes for my food to arrive once I finally ordered.

Waiting for a table at Sally's

*Best service - Modern
     The waitstaff was positively chipper during the entire duration of my meal, water arrived at the table within seconds of my request, my server checked on me once the pizza was delivered, and I never once got an annoyed look for being a solo diner.

*Worst service - Pepe's
     The waiter did pleasantly inquire about the book I was reading during my lunch (Erik Larson's In The Garden of Beasts, if you're curious), but the pizza was served most unceremoniously, my water was never refilled, no one asked if everything was ok, and it took forever to get the check and the bill.

*Best ambiance - Sally's
     The old pleather booths, wood-panelled walls, neon signs - walking into Sally's was like stepping onto the set of Empire Falls. Add to that the fact that Sally herself was there, greeting old friends and working the register, and you've got yourself a pretty great pizzeria.

*Best cheese - Modern
     I could actually taste the cheese on this apizza. As in, there was a thick enough layer of cheese for my taste buds to recognize that it was actually cheese

*Best sauce - Abate's
     Tangy. Sweet. Just how I like it.

*Best crust - Sally's
     A bit burnt, but overall thin and crispy and nice.

*Worst mushrooms - Modern
    They were canned. Really?

*Worst apizza - Pepe's
     I hate to crown a "worst-of" but I really did not like Pepe's pizza. The cheese was bland, the crust was burnt, and I don't even want to talk about the sauce. It was the only time during this project when I left a restaurant still hungry.

*Best apizza - Abate's
     The crust was not charred, the mushrooms were fresh, and the sauce was great.

Abate's apizza

Ultimately, I realize that the apizza is to New Haven what the cheesesteak is to Philly, chili is to Cincinnati, and the Long Island Iced Tea is to, well, Long Island - a loved treat that gives the city a little fame, a little lore, and a lot to live for.

And that's exactly the point of a famous dish. It's not that it's so culinarily perfect that it can't be replicated elsewhere or by others, but it utilizes local ingredients and traditions that showcase the best of a city and allows its citizens to have a little hometown pride for one of their own.

However - I'm headed home to Chicago this weekend to stand up in a friend's wedding, and after the BBQ being served at the reception (you heard me) and the hot dog I'm going to sober up with neatly consume while at the Cubs game (there's always next year...), the food I am most looking forward to eating is the pizza my family orders from Riggio's, right around the corner from our house.