Linda’s Sweet Potato Pie

photo-24Norm said that the freezer is full, no room to fit another thing.  We are one week away, my Chanukah shopping is finished, the gifts are wrapped, the menus planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night.  All that’s left is the turkey, the sides and two more desserts, a chocolate ginger cake and pumpkin chocolate chip bread.  Desserts are key on Thanksgiving, less so on Chanukah.  What’s not to like about a jelly doughnut?

Our traditional Thanksgiving dessert is pumpkin chocolate chip bread but we always have a pie, or two, as well.  My personal favorite is pecan pie, but since my kids never developed a taste for it, it fell off the menu years ago.  My daughter prefers fruit pies, I like pumpkin.  There is one pie that I have wanted to try for years and that’s Sweet Potato pie (Have you noticed that I love Southern food? Strange for a kid from the Bronx.)  Last week my friend Linda and I were discussing Thanksgiving menus when she told me she was preparing 60 sweet potato pies, using ready-made crusts.  We figured out how to cut her recipe down to enough filling for two pies and armed and ready, I went home and made them.

I brought one to a friend who had invited us for Shabbat dinner, and put the other in the freezer.  The pie was a hit, although the ready-made crust was not, a good lesson to have learned in advance of the holidays. When Linda asked how the pies turned out, I was happy to give her a glowing report.  The filling wasn’t overly sweet, the texture was perfect (Linda told me that she doesn’t like runny pies) and the flavor….Fall was in every bite.

Did I mention that Norm said there is no more room in the freezer?  There will be in about an hour.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah to all of you.  It’s been great getting all of your comments.  Can’t wait to hear how it all turns out.

Sweet Potato Pie

Filling for two pies.

7 small red fleshed sweet potatoes

1 stick margarine

2 tsp vanilla

2 heaping tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp allspice

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tb flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup unflavored soy milk

Preheat oven to 375.  Boil sweet potatoes in their skins till soft.  Then remove from water, wait till they are cool enough to handle and peel. Linda said to then place the peeled potatoes on a dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, removing excess moisture.   Place sweet potatoes in bowl and mash, then add melted butter,  spices, vanilla, flour, sugars, beaten eggs, and soy milk.  Place mixture in food processor for a minute or two just to smooth out.  Pour into pie shells and bake for about 45 minutes.  I have included a basic pastry crust below.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or pareve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tb sugar

2-3 Tb ice water  (VERY IMPORTANT)

Cut cold butter or margarine into cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor, pouring ice water through feeder tube but only enough for dough to gather into a ball.  Remove dough, wrap in Saran and refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible.  Roll out on lightly floured board and place in pie dish.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In the past two weeks we have had many reasons to celebrate.  Our anniversary marking 36 years of marriage, and our son’s and daughter-in-law’s marking their first year of marriage.  There have also been weddings, engagements, and of course, birthdays.  In an embarrassment of riches the 4th of July almost slipped by unnoticed except that three recent experiences served as reminders of this 236th birthday.

We had the opportunity to tour a plantation in Nashville where we were reminded of one of the darkest periods of America’s past, and then just one week later we were filled with hope at the recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold President Obama’s Health Care Law.  Then, just a few days ago I read an article in a Temple Bulletin which included an excerpt of a letter that President Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport Rhode Island in 1790.   “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid….May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

I hope you can enjoy the 4th under your own vine or fig tree, but if not, Strawberry-Rhubarb pie with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream should do.  Happy 4th!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or pareve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tb sugar

2-3 Tb ice water

Cut cold butter in cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor and add ice water through feeder tube, but only enough water till dough gathers into a ball.  Remove dough and wrap in Saran wrap.  Refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible when rolling out.  This yields enough dough for two crusts.

Filling

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled, and sliced in half

4 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced

1  3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

i tsp vanilla

2/3 cup flour

4 Tb butter

In  a large bowl, mix cut fruit with flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place one pie crust on prepared dish.  Add fruit and dot with bits of butter.  Cover fruit with second crust.  Crimp the crusts together, make slits in the top, and brush with about 2 Tb milk or non-dairy creamer.  Sprinkle with sugar and place in oven to bake.  Place lined cookie sheet on the tray below the pie to catch any drippings.   Bake for  about 50 minutes or till golden.  Tip: If edges brown to quickly, cover with foil collar.

Enjoy,

Irene

Passover Lemon Meringue Pie

Last week I lost two important people in my life, my cousin Robert, who was more like an older brother than a cousin, and my close friend Ruthie.  I went back East for Robert’s funeral and what I experienced over the course of five days was the workings of a family who come together like pieces of a patchwork quilt, all different in design but stronger and more effective as one unit.  Almost my entire immediate family, as well as my extended family, came to Philadelphia where we spent our days cooking, eating, crying and  laughing in the comfort of our cousin Micheline’s home.  Even after both refrigerators and freezers were filled to capacity we continued to cook.  It kept us busy and focused, taking care of each other and everyone around us.

After the funeral we prepared Shabbat dinner for about twenty.  Everyone participated in their own way, some by offering words of comfort to the mourners, some by taking charge of the kitchen, some by providing comic relief.  On Saturday night, the evening before everyone’s departure, Denise (Robert’s daughter) said that it was just the kind of evening her father loved, having the family together, sharing good food and good wine.  The night ended with my daughter Shira, myself, and Denise all sitting around the table sharing a pie which we ate straight from the tin, one spoonful at a time.

Passover is just around the corner, a time when families get together.  May it be filled with joy, and not with sorrow, and with the memories of those we lost but will never forget, and why not make some pie that can be shared straight from the tin.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1/4 cup melted margarine

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

Blend ingredients together.  Press into a greased 9″ pie pan and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or till golden brown.

Lemon Meringue Filling

5 tbsp potato starch

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

3 eggs, separated

2 tbsp margarine

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

Combine potato starch, salt and 1/2 cup sugar in top of a double boiler and then add water.  Cook, stirring over boiling water till thickened. Cover pot, lower heat and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.   In a bowl, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Spoon a little of the hot cooked mixture into the yolks, stirring rapidly.  Then pour yolk mixture back into the pot. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add a drop of water if too thick.  Remove from heat.  Add margarine, lemon juice and lemon rind to filling and allow to cool to room temperature.  Pour into pie shell.

Meringue

3 egg whites

dash salt

6 tbsp sugar

Using a beater, beat egg whites with salt till foamy, gradually adding  6 tbsp sugar till smooth and glossy.  Pour Meringue over pie filling and bake in 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Chill and serve.

Enjoy,

Irene

Plum Galette

There were days when we just didn’t want to get on the bus to Orchard Beach.  We wanted to escape the crowds, the scene, the heat of our apartment, and the people.  We would take our transistor radio, a book, a towel, and a reflector, and  just like thousands of others teens in New York City,  and just like the song, we could be found up on the roof.   How can I explain what attracted us to this large tar-covered space.  It was not scenic or pretty, had no charm, the tar was hot and you could get it on your feet if you weren’t careful.  It was convenient but it wasn’t about convenience.  It was about finding a place that felt so far away from everything happening below.  Our own little retreat in the middle of the city.  We didn’t seem to care about the lack of atmosphere, we always had fun and for some reason, nobody ever came looking for us.  But even up on the roof  you wanted something great to eat.  I don’t remember what we brought with us, if anything, but if I had it to do all over again, then I think a slice of pie would be just perfect, plum pie.

Plum Galette

Dough

1 1/2 cups flour

1 stick butter or pareve margarine, cut into 1/2 ”  cubes

3 Tbs sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3-4  tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, combine flour, butter, sugar and salt till dough looks like cornmeal.  Slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time,  and pulse until dough forms into a ball.  Remove dough, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for an hour or two.

Filling

15 Italian plums, pitted and cut into wedges

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbs flour

Toss plums with flour in a bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a floured board, roll chilled dough into a circle till about 1/4 ” thick.  Transfer to parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Pile plums in center, leaving about 1 ” border of dough all around.  Fold dough in pleats around plums and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for about 45 minutes or till golden.  Serves 8

Enjoy,

Irene

Blueberry Peach Pie

This is a thank you note.  Last week my middle child got married and during the weekend celebration I kept looking at our guests, realizing that although it was my son standing under the chuppah, there were many people at the wedding who had left their footprints on his path.  Family and friends that nurtured him and helped him grow into the man he now is.  I had exactly the same  impression observing the family and friends of my daughter-in-law,  seeing how close they were to her, how proud they were of the woman she has become, and how much it meant to her to have them there.

After the wedding, the celebration continued with  Sheva Brachot, a Jewish tradition.  I think I can speak for both sets of parents when I say that we feel so fortunate to have friends who wanted to host these “dinner parties” in honor of the bride and groom.  Yes, it was a long week, exhausting and emotional, but this morning as I am sitting by myself, I am so grateful to everyone who participated in this wedding in every imaginable way.  From those who came to Houston from near and far, to others who could not come but who gave unending support, to the friends who cooked for us and opened their homes to us, others who whispered words of encouragement,  family and friends who spent time writing toasts and Divrei Torah,  teaching classes, those who attended Sheva Brachot,  friends who helped with shopping, packing, organizing, transporting and much, much more.  I could not have done it without you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  To my sister who had one request that I did not honor, I felt Mommy and Daddy everywhere.

This past Shabbat, both families would be spending our last day together.  We would share five meals over the course of the day, one of which was afternoon tea.  As cooking is one way that I express my love and appreciation, I spent most of Friday afternoon preparing the food, including baking a Blueberry Peach Pie.

Blueberry Peach Pie

Basic Pie Crust  (this is enough for one crust, I doubled recipe to made a double crusted pie)

1 1/2 sticks butter ( cold and cut into small pieces)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbs sugar

2 -2 Tbs ice water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place butter, flour and sugar in food processor.  Pulse and add ice water, slowly, till dough forms into ball.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll dough out on floured board and place in greased pie pan.  Place a sheet of wax paper over dough and add dried beans to prevent pastry from puffing up.  Bake crust at 400 degrees for 1o minutes, reduce heat to 375, and bake an additional ten minutes.  Crust is now ready for filling.

Blueberry Peach Filling

2 pounds of large peaches, peeled, pitted and thickly sliced

1 pint blueberries

1 cup sugar

2 Tbs quick cooking Tapioca

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs sweet butter, cut in small pieces

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mace (optional)

In a large bowl, combine peaches, blueberries, sugar and tapioca. Add lemon juice, butter, cinnamon, mace,  Fill pie crust.  Place second crust on top, and brush with an egg wash (one egg and 1 tsp water combined), make slits in top crust and bake at 375 for about an hour.  Tip: Place a cookie sheet on the bottom of oven to catch any drippings.

Enjoy,

Irene

Sour Cherry Pie

I long for slow, lazy days.  For me that opportunity comes once a week, on Shabbat.  It is the only day when I don’t rush out of bed, I don’t rush to work, I actually don’t rush to do anything other that what I want to do.  The morning starts by going into the kitchen and pouring myself a large fresh cup of the French Press coffee that Norm prepared for me before he departed for shul.  I collect the newspaper, my magazines, whatever book I happen to be reading, and step into  my backyard where I spend the next several hours in a state of bliss.  I stare at the garden, smell the roses, watch a hummingbird or a butterfly, and read.  It feels so luxurious that it is almost sinful.

As a child, after she finished shopping and cooking, I would often find my mother sitting on a chair, leaning on the windowsill and looking out over the Grand Concourse.  Just watching the people pass by.  Or she would visit with her next door neighbor over a cup of coffee, in the middle of the day!  Sometimes she would spend her morning in the kitchen, making home-made noodles or baking cakes or cookies.

How do we recapture the ability to enjoy those lazy days of summer that we so loved and still need?  For me, taking the time to make a homemade pie is a way to slow down.  You can’t rush a pie.  You have to make the dough for the crust, chill it, roll it, prepare the filling and bake it.   I find it increasingly important to take the time out of a busy schedule and doing something in a leisurely way because if we don’t, how will we bake pie?

Sour Cherry Pie

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or parve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbs sugar

2-3 Tbs ice water

Cut cold butter or margarine  into cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor and add water through feeder tube but only enough for dough to gather into a ball.  Remove and wrap in saran and refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible.

Filling

2 lbs. sour cherries, pitted or 2 – 24 oz. jars of sour cherries. (I used the jars and the pie was really good but of course fresh is always better)

2 Tbs tapioca

1 cup sugar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Place cherries in a bowl and add tapioca, sugar, and lemon juice. Let sit for about fifteen minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Set aside 1/3 of  the dough and roll the remaining 2/3 into a circle slightly larger than your pie dish.  Gentlly place dough into greased pie dish.  Cover dough with a sheet of silver foil and add dry beans as a weight.  Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and  beans and add  cherry filling.  At this point you can roll out the remaining dough.  My personal preference is for a top crust as opposed to lattice.

Brush the top of the pie with either  milk for a dairy dessert or orange juice or soy milk if you want a parve pie. Sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for about one hour or until pie has browned.

Enjoy,

Irene

Caramel Apple Tart

I attended a day camp called Funland during one summer, or maybe even part of a summer.  Most summers were spent in the “mountains” at a bungalow colony in upstate New York.  Typically these colonies were filled with Jewish women and children who were escaping the city’s heat and humidity.  We passed the time by playing: the women played cards and the kids played with each other.  We were always at the club house or at the pool, sitting in a garden glider (porch swing) or catching lightning bugs. Me, my cousin Mel, our friend Roz and her cousin.  Not much else was going on and we didn’t seem to mind.

My husband had a similar experience outside of Toronto (of course substituting the lakes for the mountains) at Lake Simcoe and Chrystal Beach on Lake Erie. Long lazy days on the shore.  He too never attended sleep away camp until he was old enough to be a counselor.  He then spent many summers on staff at a Young Judea Camp in Ontario and, then, one summer at Camp Ramah in Canada. The seed was planted.

In 1994 our daughter went to Camp Ramah www.ramah.org in Ojai for the first time.  I am not sure if she loved the camp as much as we loved having her be a part of Ramah.  We loved the site, Ojai, the campgrounds, the staff, the kids, and visitors day.  Our own memories receded as we saw the rich and rewarding experiences that Ramah offered. Well, among our three children, at least one has either been attending or working at Camp Ramah for over 15 years.  There is a specific place where we sat each year on Visitor’s Day, (up on the hill in front of the chapel) catching up with our family, friends and our children’s friends. We will miss it this year (none of our children will be there) but we still feel very connected to all that Ramah stands for. Our hope is that our children feel the same way.

I recently found out that Zach L., Camp Director and one of my favorite people, is an amazing cook and once a week prepares a meal for his hanhalla (senior) staff. Here is one of his recipes.

Caramel Apple Tart

Crust

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

2 large egg yolks

Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in food processor.  Add butter and blend until texture is of coarse meal. Add egg yolks. Pulse till dough starts to form.  Gather dough and shape into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap and chill at least 1 hour. (Dough for tart crust can be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled.)

Caramel sauce

¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

¾ cup whipping cream

3 tbsp unsalted butter

Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil until caramel thickens enough to coat wooden spoon, whisking often, about 10 minutes. (Caramel sauce can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill. (Whisk over low heat until warm before using)

Filling

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

5-6 large McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples (about 2 ½ pounds), peeled, cored and quartered.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Add apples and toss until evenly coated.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray tart pan with baking spray.

NOTE : You can either

1) Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Cut overhang even with the top of pan. Press sides of dough to bring 1/4 inch above sides of pan.

OR

2) Take refrigerated dough and press it in the pan.

Arrange apple quarters, cut side down, in circle around outer edge of pan, fitting snugly. Cut remaining apple quarters lengthwise in half and place in center of tart, fitting snugly.  Drizzle with 1/3 sauce.  Bake tart until apples are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove tart from oven; brush with additional 1/3 caramel sauce. Cool tart to room temperature. Re-warm remaining caramel sauce and drizzle tart lightly with remaining 1/3 sauce.

Adapted by: Zachary L.

Enjoy,

Irene