Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Custard Pie and one with Coconut

My mom loves coconut custard pie, or really any dessert with coconut. For Easter this year I figured a egg custard pie was appropriate and this recipe is easily adaptable to add coconut.

custard pie ingredients
To be able to make my mom her coconut and the rest of us plain custard pies I used: a package of 6 pot pie pans with lids (easier storage, I don't have to fight the plastic wrap), 2 9 inch premade pie crusts because I haven't figured out how to make a good one from scratch yet, 4 eggs, sugar, milk, whipping cream, vanilla extract, salt and sweetened flake coconut. And of course I forgot the ground nutmeg when taking the photo, and it is optional or you can add cinnamon.
individual pie crusts
I probably could have gotten the pie crust into the sixth pan but the filling wouldn't have stretched that far.
cold milk mixture
In a medium pot, add 1 cup milk, 1 and 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream and about a 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Bring just to a boil and remember to watch it carefully, milk hates to be boiled and shows it's revenge the minute you turn your back on it. Just try it and see the mess you'll have to clean up.
egg and sugar mix
You can use a hand mixer but not when trying to take photos. Blend 3 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk (save that white!), 3/4 cup granulated white sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
tempering the eggs
When the milk is just to boiling turn it off and stir it around a bit, with a small cup, carefully (it's still hot) and slowly, with the mixer on low, add some of the milk to the eggs. Wait a minute or two and add another cup. Repeat this process until all the milk is added to the eggs.

uncooked custard
If you did it slowly and carefully, this is what you get, no scrambled eggs and no 2nd degree burns.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remember that egg white we saved? Use it to brush the insides and edges of the crusts with.

I added just about a 1/2 cup of the shredded coconut to the center pie crust for mom, then ladled (with a measuring spoon) the custard evenly between the pans.

custard pies ready for baking
I tried to get them as even as I could, and carefully put the pan in the oven.

I baked for 30 minutes then checked the crust for browning, mine was fine but if yours is getting too brown, very very carefully cover the edges with aluminum foil.

Turn the oven down to 250 degrees and bake for another 25 minutes.

finished custard pies
Ta Da!! After pulling the from the oven go ahead and get them off that hot pan and onto a cooling rack, let cool for 2 hours and you can serve warm or use the nifty lids that came with the pans and stick in the fridge overnight and eat cool the next day.

Mom preferred the coconut, but well I knew she would and since I won't eat processed coconut I can't compare but my plain custard was pretty tasty.


6 inch pot pies pans
2 9 inch pie crusts
3 eggs, 1 separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


Preheat oven to 400°F

Roll out the pie crusts and shape into pans.

In a saucepan, combine the nutmeg, milk and heavy cream. Heat until just starting to boil - Carefully! You have to watch it.

In a mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer, blend the one egg yolk, the three whole eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla.

Slowly... add in the hot milk mixture using a ladle or small cup, with the mixer on low, continuing to beat so the egg mixture already in the bowl does not scramble.

Place the pie pans on a cookie sheet. Brush the insides with the egg white.

Add 1/2 cup of coconut to each crust.

Carefully pour the custard mixture into the pie crust.

Bake for 30 minutes then check for crust browning, if needed, very very carefully add aluminum foil strips to cover the edges.

Reduce the oven temp to 250°, and bake for about another 25 minutes. It's done when still slightly jiggly but not liquidy.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. Serve at room temperature or chill overnight and serve cold.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Part 3: Tzatziki Sauce and Squash Side Dish

Here is the conclusion to our Greek/Med Dinner from a couple weeks ago.

Tzatziki is part of an appetizer in Greek or Turkish dishes, it's served as a dip with pita bread.

Here in the US you'll see it listed as Cucumber Sauce a lot of times.

What you need: yogurt (we'll get into specifics in a minute), olive oil, red wine vinegar, a cucumber, fresh mint, garlic and salt and pepper.

yogurt drainingThe yogurt, if you are lucky enough to live in a area that has a store that carries plain Greek yogurt, buy that, you'll get to skip a step. If you're like me and have never seen plain Greek yogurt in the store, just get whichever brand you like or is cheapest. Important point here, vanilla yogurt is not plain, it's vanilla so read the label carefully, vanilla would just be ick. You'll need 16 oz, usually 2 containers.

Now to get the yogurt ready, we've gotta get all that extra water out, I could be mistaken but I believe this is about half the process of making yogurt into cheese, but anyway, I use coffee filters and a mesh strainer and a bowl to drain the yogurt. (It works better with the basket filters we used to use but the #4 shaped filters are fine for 1 container of yogurt.) This needs to be done preferably the night before you want to mix the sauce, just fill the filters with the yogurt, put those into the strainer and set the strainer over a bowl, you can cover with a paper towel or plastic wrap then stick in the fridge.

This is what ends up in the bowl the next day, and the yogurt has a much firmer texture.

minced garlicYou need about a tablespoon of minced garlic, this is 3 little cloves, minced as fine as I could get without mincing my fingertips. I have no real knife skills but I get by.

peeled and seeded cucumberI'd call this a good sized cucumber, about 8 inches, peeled and seeded. Then chop into small pieces, not minced but not big chunks either.

chopped cucumberNow we have to get rid of as much water in the cucumber as we can. Cukes are mostly water, but really like to keep it so after chopping lay the pieces out onto a kitchen towel and roll them up, now you might need some help but grab each end and twist with everything you've got, preferably over the sink. You don't want to dry the cucumber or give your hands towel burn but you want to get a lot of the water out, more room to put flavor in now.

This part can be a little tricky due to how big your cucumber is but add 1 tablespoons oilve oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, a healthy pinch of kosher salt and a few turns of fresh pepper, throw in the minced garlic and give a good stir. The cucumber should be nicely coated with everything but not have a puddle in the bottom. If it's not enough liquid to coat everything add another 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and another teaspoon of vinegar.

Finely mince the mint, about 3 leaves and add to the mix, I use my really good Henkels kitchen shears for the mint.

tzatziki sauceDump in the drained yogurt and give it a good stir. You can serve it right now but the flavors will intensify after about an hour so I usually cover it with plastic and then cook dinner. Check the seasoning and add and needed salt or pepper.

Serve with pita for dipping or just about any type of meat, beef, lamb, chicken and pork I know all taste good with it, fish I haven't tried.

16 oz plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tea red wine vinegar
3 fresh mint leaves
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

Drain yogurt over night, peel and seed cucumber the chop into small pieces, squeeze to drain excess water. Add cucumber, olive oil, red wine vinegar salt, pepper, mint and garlic. Stir to combine and add yogurt. Let rest for an hour or so and serve.

And onto the easy peesy Squash side dish. Seriously easy.

sliced yellow squash and zucchiniWe've got a yellow crookneck squash and a zucchini here, Mom used a mandolin to slice these, I'm too scared of slicing me to really use it. A teaspoon or so of minced garlic.

Remember the onions that had been marinated with the pork for the Souvlaki? Grab some of those too.

Throw all of it into a skillet with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and let it just hang out on medium heat. Go ahead and stir it occasionally.

About 10 minutes later, here's what you've got. My mom loves this stuff, I have no clue because I won't eat squash. She did say it went good with the meal and gave the kids a veggie to eat but me and my Dad passed on it.

So that's the conclusion of the Greek Med dinner. If anyone tries it please let me know how it turns out.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Souvlaki - Greek Kabobs

Part 2 of our Greek/Med dinner I started posting last week.

From Wikipedia:
Souvlaki or souvlakia is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It may be served on the skewer for eating out of hand, in a pita sandwich with garnishes and sauces, or on a dinner plate ready for insertion, often with fried potatoes or pilaf. The meat is traditionally pork in Greece and Cyprus, or in modern times increasingly chicken. In other countries and for tourists, souvlaki may be made with other meats such as beef, lamb and sometimes fish (especially swordfish).
The terminology of souvlaki and its variants is confusing and inconsistent. Depending on the context, the term 'souvlaki' by itself may refer to any of the variants. In some regions and some restaurants, the name shish kebab is used to denote a particular variant of souvlaki (e.g. with vegetables on the skewer), but it is essentially a synonym.
The word souvlaki is a diminuative of souvla (skewer), itself ultimately derived from the Latin subula (awl).

To make our souvlaki I used a pork tenderloin, parsley, mint, onion, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil. You'll also need some form of skewers and an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill.

The recipe called for marinating in a bowl for 2 hours to overnight, I like using Alton Brown's method of a plastic baggie holding the marinade then set into a bowl just in case, the baggie is thrown away afterward and hopefully I have one less bowl to wash.

Instead of really measuring, I pulled a handful of parsley and gave it a rough chop, I stacked about 8 mint leaves and chopped them a little, and a good heavy sprinkling of dried oregano (I couldn't find fresh in the grocey) all went into the gallon sized baggie.

Then a quartered onion and a couple smashed and peeled garlic cloves joined the herbs.

I poured in about a half cup of olive oil and roughly a 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar.

This is the pork tenderloin I bought, I only used one of the pieces, it comes sliced in about half, so close to one pound of meat to serve 3 adults and 2 kidlets.

Cubed Pork Tenderloin

I cut the tenderloin into slices more than 1 inch cubes, something like a 2 bite size.

Toss the meat into the baggie with a healthy pinch of salt and a 1/2 tsp or so of fresh pepper and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or let go overnight. I did all this part the morning of the day we were going to eat.

These are the skewers I have, I don't like using the wooden skewers because you have to soak them to keep them from catching on fire. I really do like those spiral skewers but have yet to find someplace that doesn't charge $20 for 4 skewers. These are metal and $2 at your nearest Wallyworld, mine get used mostly for roasting marshmallows on the gas cooktop but whatever.

Skwered marinated pork tenderloin

I started the box o' pilaf we were having with this dinner and had the pita and tzatziki made so now it was time to cook the pork. I pulled the marinated meat out of the fridge and skewered it, I used the large pieces of onion to help keep the meat on the skewer and the rest went into the squash (recipe next week). The grill was heated to medium, about 350 degrees.

The skewers were placed across the and cooked for 5-6 minutes per side, tongs came in very handy here. I let one set cook for a couple minutes longer per side, Mom has an abject fear of moist pork.

pork souvlaki

After they were cooked I put the pita on the grill to reheat it. The pork came out very tasty with a slight flavor of the herbs and being tenderloin was very tender.

Next week I'll post the final part of this dinner, the squash side dish and the tzatziki sauce that's really good for just about anything.

1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, smashed with a can and peeled
1 medium onion, quartered
1 tbsp oregano, fresh or dried
2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients and marinate 2 hours to overnight. Skewer the meat (remember to soak wooden skewers) and grill 5-6 minutes per side.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pita Bread

I really like trying to make different ethnic foods, Chinese, Latin, Italian and some Mediterranean. We really like Gyros around here, the ground lamb or beef mixed with spices and cooked on a spit, I've found a restaurant that makes that better than I can (they have a spit) so I've given up trying to make Gyros and have moved on to other Med/Greek and some Turkish foods.

This recipe is part 1 of a 3 part series on a dinner we had of Pita, Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce and Sauteed Squash. We also had rice pilaf but it was an out of box mix, I have trouble cooking rice that does not come in a mix or minute box.

This is the first pita recipe I came across and I just kept coming back to the easiness of it, it might not be the best one but the flavor was right and if I'd made my dough balls a little smaller they might have puffed up more.

What You Need: AP Flour, Active Dry Yeast, Salt, Honey and Water, the Olive Oil is for coating the bowl for rising.

Yeast mixture bloomingAdd a half cup of warm water and 1 tbsp of honey to the yeast and let it bloom, I like recipes that start with this step so I can make sure my grocery store yeast is still good without throwing an entire recipes' worth of ingredients in the garbage.

Sift 3 cups of flour with 1 tsp salt and add to the yeast mix (in a bigger bowl). Combine and add another cup of flour and 1 cup water. Mix with a spoon then switch to using your hands, if it's still too dry add up to another half cup water. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. It should be a little sticky.

Risen Pita DoughAdd a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a clean bowl and swirl around to coat the sides, add the dough ball and flip it over to coat it with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise to double in size about an hour.

Punch the dough down and with as little kneading as possible divide into at least 10 balls ( I did 8 and they were just too much). Flatten these with your hands to about 1/4 inch thickness (you want a 6 inch or so circle or close to it) and place on a greased pan. Let rise again for about 30 minutes til again doubled in size.

I was in a bit of a hurry at this point so yeah they be ugly.

Bake on the bottom rack of the oven at 450 for 5-6 minutes.

Finished pita breadLet them cool on a wire rack, and they are ready to eat.

Since I made these in the afternoon, while grilling the meat for the Souvlaki I threw these on the grill as well to toast the outside a little and reheat them.

1 packet active dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup warm water
1 and 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour and extra for board
1 tsp salt
Olive oil for the bowl

Combine yeast, honey and half cup water and let stand for 10 minutes. (The blooming part)

Sift 3 cups flour with salt and add to yeast mix.

Add 1 more cup of flour and up to 1 and a half cups water, mix with spoon and then hands.

Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Dough should be a little sticky.

Lightly oil a clean bowl. Put the dough in the bowl, cover and let rise for about 1 hour.

Divide dough into 10-12 pieces and pat into inch circles, place on greased pan and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Bake for 5-6 minutes on the bottom rack of a 450 degree oven.

Cool on a wire rack, and if you want to add some color, throw on the grill for a few minutes just before serving.