Cheddar crust pear pie with red wine and rosemary

We have a few pear trees along our dog walk routines, and I have picked some pears for baking. You could use probably any firm pears for the filling of this pie. One word of caution…it takes longer than the average pie, but it is certainly worth your time and effort. The red wine reduction syrup is fabulous with the pears, and the cheddar pie crust is the perfect complement.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan buttery stick, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons chilled pure vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup (firmly packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
5-7 tablespoons ice water

¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1¾ cups dry red wine, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 pounds firm but ripe pears (such as Comice, Anjou, or Bartlett), peeled, cored, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons raw sugar

Place flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and shortening. Using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles fine meal. Add cheese; mix in using 4 on/off turns. Transfer dry ingredients to large bowl. Sprinkle 5 tablespoons water over. Using fork, toss until moist clumps form, adding more water by tablespoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Shape each half into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Bring granulated sugar, rosemary, and 1½ cups wine to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about ⅔ cup, about 20-25 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add butter and whisk until syrup is smooth.
Whisk cornstarch, cinnamon, 5 tsp. flour, and remaining ¼ cup wine in a small saucepan set over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Slowly add syrup, whisking until smooth, then stir in vanilla and salt. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.
Place a rack in lower third of oven. Toss pears and red wine syrup in a large bowl. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 14” round. Transfer to a 9” pie dish. Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish. Trim, leaving about 1” overhang. Pour filling into crust and chill.
Meanwhile, roll out remaining disk of dough into a 10” round. Place on top of pie, fold edges under and crimp. Cut out four oval shapes for vent, place cut outs on top of pie. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons raw sugar and chill in freezer 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F, rotate pie, and continue baking, tenting with foil if crust is browning too quickly, until juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown, 30–35 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before slicing.

Adapted from Bon Appetit – here and here

Oatmeal and flax cranberry cookies

_MG_31681 cup (2 sticks) soft butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1/2 cup flax meal (ground flax seed)
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries or raisins

Line two baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, and egg until fluffy. Mix in the flour, oats, flax meal and seeds and dried fruit. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes or so at room temperature, for the oats to soften. Towards the end of the rest period, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Scoop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each ball of dough slightly. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool them on the baking sheets for 15 minutes or so, to allow them to set. Move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from

Roasted parsnip, carrot and kale salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing

_MG_31542 pounds carrots, cleaned and chopped into 1 inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced on a bias into 1-inch-long pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
2 small garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 bunch kale–tough stems and ribs removed and the leaves stacked, rolled and sliced crosswise into thin ribbons

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, add the carrots, parsnips, 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper and toss to combine. Turn the vegetables out onto a rimmed baking sheet. Tuck the rosemary sprigs among the vegetables, sprinkle with the red pepper flakes and roast until the vegetables begin to brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325° and continue to roast the vegetables until they are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and discard the rosemary sprigs.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the ½ teaspoon of pepper. Add half of this vinaigrette to a large bowl along with the kale ribbons. Use your hands to massage the kale until it becomes slightly brighter in color, 2 to 3 minutes.
To the kale ribbons, add the roasted carrots and parsnips and the remaining vinaigrette. Toss to combine and serve.

Recipe adapted from

Arugula walnut pesto pasta

After so many years of cooking and baking, I finally purchased a food processor. I have successfully avoided this purchase up to now since I have a blender, an immersion blender, and mini food processor, and somehow I managed to make do with those whenever I needed to do chopping. But I see all sorts of uses for my new kitchen gadget – salsa, cole slaw, carrot salad, and even pie dough – in the near future!
The first thing I used the processor for was this pesto, and I was very happy with it. It took less than a minute for this pesto to come together, and it was so much better than the pesto you can buy in a jar in the grocery store!

_MG_47872 cups (about 3 oz) arugula
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, quartered
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to salt pasta water
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
Freshly ground black pepper, to season
1 pound spagetti

In the bowl of a food processor, blend arugula, basil, toasted walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt and a few grinds of pepper until well combined and smooth. Feel free to add extra olive oil if the pesto feels too thick or chunky.

Place a large pot of salted water over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add pasta and to cook to al dente. Drain and place back in pot. Fold in pesto. Serve hot in your favorite bowls with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan over the top of each bowl.

Recipe adapted from

Banana bread with walnuts and coconut oil

_MG_47413 large ripe-to-over-ripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, warmed until it liquefies, or olive oil
1/4 cup vanilla (or plain) yogurt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In the bottom of a large bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon until virtually smooth but a few tiny lumps remain. Whisk in egg, then oil, yogurt, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla extract. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over mixture and stir until combined. Stir in flour until just combined, then fold in chopped walnuts.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.

Recipe adapted from

Vanilla frozen yogurt

1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (full fat for best results)
1 1/2 cup half & half
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tbsp brandy

Pour 1 cup of the half & half into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and salt. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan and add the pod to the pan. Warm over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1/2 cup of half &half, yogurt and the vanilla extract. Whisk together until yogurt is fully incorporated. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean pod, add the brandy and freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Plum cake – zwetschgen kuchen

Last year was the first time I saw the little oval shaped, blue plums – called Italian plums here – at the grocery store. You can normally find the round type of plum, black or purple, year round in the produce aisle, but for some reason, the Italian plums only show up in season. I found a recipe in My Berlin Kitchen – my trusted source for good German recipes in English – for zwetschgen kuchen, Michael’s favorite, and later a slightly improved version of it on David Lebovitz’s website.
So when the plums became available this summer, I had to try this cake (or tart) right away. It was fun and easy to make – I made the dough by hand, as written in the recipe. The end result was delicious, not too sweet, with just a hint of tartness from the plums. It would be no doubt excellent with some vanilla bean ice cream on the side.

_MG_4661Dough and plum topping

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (225g) flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1/2 ounce fresh yeast, crumbled
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled to room temperature
pinch of salt
grated zest of one lemon
1 1/2 pounds (700g) Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered

Streusel Topping

3/4 cup (50g) sliced almonds
1/2 cup (70g) flour
6 tablespoons (70g) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ounces (55g – 4 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed, cold
pinch salt

Butter a 9- to 10-inch (23 cm) springform pan.
Mix flour, 2 tbsp sugar, salt and zest in a large bowl, set aside. In a separate small bowl mix 1/4 cup milk, 1 tbsp sugar and yeast and let rest for 5-10 minutes, until mixture begins to foam. Stir in the remaining milk, egg yolk, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, and mix everything together well. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and put in the buttered cake pan. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled.
While the dough is rising, make the streusel topping. Put the almonds, flour, brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the almonds are broken up. Add the 2 ounces of butter and salt and process until the mixture first becomes granular, then begins to clump together.
Use your fingers to smooth the yeasted dough across the bottom of the pan and about half an inch (1 cm) rim up the sides. Place concentric rounds of prune plum wedges over the dough, within the rim, pushing them close together.
Sprinkle streusel topping over the top and let the dough rise 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
Bake the tart for 45-55 minutes, until the streusel topping is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz