What have been some of your favorite food-related things this year? Is it something you discovered at your favorite market? Or a gadget you found online? Or a great Costco buy? I have a few things that I’ve fallen in love with.
A portable ice maker – I never got around to hooking up the ice maker in my refrigerator, so I always ran short. Now an ice maker on the countertop delivers ice whenever we want it. We make it in quantities and store bags of it in the freezer.
An air fryer – Honestly, I didn’t know what the fuss was until I got one myself. No need to fire up the regular oven just to bake a couple of potatoes, roast a chicken breast, make meatballs, toast nuts, or reheat a slice of pizza. I do believe it’s one reason my electric bill has gone down. It’s indispensable!
A pressure cooker – When I’m short on time, I can cook ribs under pressure before finishing them on the grill or in the oven. That’s where they’ll get that caramelized crust. The high pressure seriously reduces cooking time for cheaper cuts of meat, saving time and money. It’s also great for canning and for cooking dried beans.
An electric ice cream maker – Store-bought is good, but when you make ice cream at home, you can create your own flavors and control the quality. Even plain vanilla tastes better when homemade!
A set of dishers – Call them ice cream scoops or dishers. I’m talking about the type with a lever. They’re great for measuring out cookie dough, meatballs, or other things that should be evenly portioned. I’ve even used them to fill cupcake and muffin cups so they all are the same size.
Collapsible bowls, measuring cups, strainers – Typically made of silicone, these clever things save space because they flatten when stored. You can find them in all kinds of colors. These should have been invented a long time ago.
A kitchen scale – Most of the world measures dry ingredients by weight, not by volume. It’s much more accurate, especially for flour. You can toggle to use metric weight, and you can subtract the weight of a bowl or container to get tare weight. My bread dough improved significantly when I started weighing the flour.
On to the foods
Trader Joe’s garlic spread – This stuff is great on crostini, pizza, steak, burgers, and more. It has a lightly toasted flavor. Warm it up and pour it on some brie!
Tate’s Bake Shop Cookies – Hands down, these are my favorite store-bought cookie that doesn’t come from a bakery. Crispy, buttery, and addictive, they taste homemade. They also come in your favorite flavors.
Burrata – Similar to mozzarella, but much softer, this Italian cheese comes in balls stored in tubs of water or cream. I like to cut it open, sprinkle on some Kosher salt, and add a drizzle of good olive oil. Use with crackers, crostini, or pizza.
Shrink-wrapped gnocchi – It’s not as soft and pillowy as homemade gnocchi, but it’s a good change from regular pasta. I like to mix it with chopped fresh tomatoes, Italian herbs, sausage or meatballs, and black olives. Drizzle with olive oil and cook in the oven at about 350F for about 25 minutes or until the gnocchi are tender.
Homegrown tomatoes – Nothing beats their sweet, luscious flavor! If you can’t grow your own, check the farmers’ markets during the summer. The rest of the year, you’ll have to put up with rubbery hothouse tomatoes from Mexico.
TJ’s falafel mix – It’s just spicy enough, and it’s easy to make. But instead of deep frying mine, I like to cook it in the waffle iron. It comes out crispy, and the square craters are perfection for holding hummus.
Mackenzie’s brandied cherry cordials – I’ll regret telling you about these, but Mackenzie’s Chocolates makes their own brandied cherries and then wraps them in dark chocolate. Why the regret? Because every time I mention something I love, it disappears from the stores.
TIP OF THE WEEK
To keep greens fresh longer, place a paper towel into the bottom of the box or bag they came in. It will absorb extra moisture.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Linda Burroughs served a version of this pie when we had dinner at her home recently. It was a delicious way to use apples from her tree.
SMITTEN KITCHEN DEEP DISH APPLE PIE
For the crust:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
14 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
3 1/3 pounds apples (about 5-6 large) peeled, cored and sliced thin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup raisins
4 tablespoons plain or panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter. Use a pastry blender or your fingertips to work the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse cornmeal, with the largest pieces the size of small peas.
2. Add the egg, vanilla and water. Use a pastry blender or a fork to work them into the butter-flour mixture. Lightly knead the mixture together into a single ball. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Chill in fridge until firm, at least 60 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine apples, lemon, cinnamon, sugar and raisins in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Set aside.
4. When dough is ready, coat a 9-inch diameter springform pan lightly with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Remove chilled dough from fridge and cut it into thirds. On a well-floured counter, roll the first and second pieces into two circles, each the diameter the pan. Fit one of the circles into the bottom. Set the other circle aside.
Roll out the third piece of dough into a rectangle. Cut it into strips the height of the springform pan (about 3 inches wide). Press them to the inner sides of the pan. Use your fingers to press and seal the sides and base together. Patch any holes with a pinch of dough.
5. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with breadcrumbs. Pour the apple mixture on top. Place the second circle of dough on top of the filling. Pinch the edges to seal. Slash the top in 4-5 places. Brush beaten egg over top crust.
6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 60-70 minutes, until the filling bubbles up through the slashes and the crust is a deep golden brown. Cool in the pan on a rack for 45 minutes or more. Then run a knife between the crust wall and the pan. Open the ring. Slice and serve with whipped cream.