Friday, November 27, 2015

Smoky Kale Dip

My boyfriend thinks kale is gross. However, he not only tolerates it but clamors for it once a year, on Thanksgiving. This is when I make my signature kale dip, piquant with lemon, mustard, and garlic and smoky with pimentón, an underused culinary star that transforms everything it touches into an umami taste sensation. Studded with crunchy and colorful bell peppers and topped with fresh tomato and scallions, this dip quells hunger as the house fills with the smell of roasting entrees. Even though it's mostly healthy and filled with roughage, it somehow tastes like bacon. 

serves 6-8 as an appetizer


1 17-oz container plain Greek yogurt (I use 0%)
1 6.5-oz bottle artichoke paste (I use this brand, which you may be able to find in the Italian section of your grocery store)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
dash Dijon mustard
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix (dry ingredients)
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
7 or 8 mini sweet bell peppers, assorted colors, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
pimentón (smoked paprika) to taste
2 cups kale, finely chopped (about half a head, unless you have a kale Medusa)
juice of one lemon

4 roma tomatoes, chopped
4 scallions, sliced

toasted bread rounds (I slice an assortment of rolls [whole grain, rosemary, olive], brush with olive oil, top with za'atar, paprika, garlic powder, or other spices, and broil like garlic bread)

5 or 6 mini sweet bell peppers, assorted colors, sliced


Combine the yogurt, artichoke paste, garlic, mustard, soup mix, water chestnuts, bell peppers, spices, kale, and lemon juice in a bowl. Mix well.

Mound onto a plate or serving dish.

Sprinkle with more pimentón.

Top with tomatoes and scallions.

Serve with toasted bread rounds and pepper slices.


  • This recipe has a lot of ingredients, but is easy to put together. I experimented with a bare-bones version of this and added more over the years. 
  • If you hate the idea of adding a processed soup mix, try a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
  • I've used different kinds of kale over the years. Most recently, I used a head of red Russian kale that was quite good. The kale is mostly overshadowed by the other ingredients, but it adds a serious vegetal note that craves expression in this party dip.
  • What you see in each photo is about half the dip. The two photos together give you a good idea of how much dip this recipe makes.
  • I use the hardcore pimentón that comes in a tin. I find that the tin keeps the smoked pepper fresh longer than a glass bottle with a screw-on lid. 
  • You can use regular bell peppers instead of mini, which are a pain to de-seed, but I love the sweet flavor of the mini peppers, and the stores are bursting with them this time of year.


This is a time-honored holiday favorite for two individuals, at least. Maybe you'll help us form a troika!

Boozy Pear Slab Pie

While we're still contemplating fall desserts, let me share this recipe: heaps of juicy pear chunks baked with pear brandy and vanilla bean in a flaky butter crust. The original recipe called for a sheet pan, but I used a 9 by 13 Pyrex dish for a fatter pastry that could envelop even more fruity goodness. I added some lemon zest to tart up the filling, and the result was a late-fall delight.


Pie Crust

3 3/4 cups pastry flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 sticks cubed cold butter
3/4 cups ice water
splash vinegar


6 tablespoons butter
1 vanilla bean
8 diced pears (I like green pears such as comice and bartlett)
4 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp pear brandy (a nice, cheapish brand is Mathilde)
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Your pie will end up looking like this, after hungry guests have gobbled most of it.


Pie Crust

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then dredge the butter cubes in the flour and crumble with your fingers until small, pebble-sized bits are uniformly distributed. Add vinegar and then ice water 1/4 cup at a time. Combine with the dough using either a rubber spatula (for weaklings) or your hands (for true chefs, who don't mind scraping clumps of batter off their digits).

When the dough is just able to form a ball, divide it into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. Place each on a sheet of plastic wrap (for your own sake, lay out the plastic wrap BEFORE making the dough, or else risk touching everything in your kitchen with buttery flour-encrusted hands). Flatten each dough piece into a flat, rectangular shape. Wrap with plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Filling and Assembly

Place the butter in a small saucepan.

Carefully split your vanilla bean down the middle with a knife. Scrape out the seeds using either that knife or your finger (messy! Go for the knife). Add the seeds and the whole pod to the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. The butter will begin to darken.

I'm not fond of the flavor of truly browned butter, so I let the mixture darken for a minute or so until it turned a muddy gold color and then took the pan off the heat. You may heat the butter until it's a nut-brown color if you wish.

Procure a large bowl and fill it with the diced pears, the cornstarch, the brandy, the lemon juice and zest, the sugars, and the extracts. 

Remove the vanilla pod from the butter and pour the butter mixture in as well. The pod at this point must be abandoned. 

Mix the filling. I like to use my hands to make sure everything is well-integrated and to have as much tactile contact with the pie as possible. I like to think that I'm adding good vibes.

It's time for assembly!

Roll out the larger rectangle of pie dough on a floured surface. I used to cover the dough with plastic wrap before rolling, but that turned out to be too messy and difficult. A little flour does the job just as well. 

The moment of truth: see if that rectangle fits in your 9 by 13 pie pan, creating a nice ledge around the edge.

If it does, fantastic! Carefully pour in the pie filling.

You're nearly done!
Stick this lovely, juicy mess into the refrigerator while you roll out the other dough rectangle.

Lay the top over the filling and crimp the edges or otherwise seal and style them. Prick holes in the top with a fork or do something artsy such as slash lines in it with a knife. I slashed crossed diagonal lines into my crust, which produces a lattice-type effect without the labor.

If you feel like adding even more fat to this monster, brush the top with the heavy cream. Some people at this point would sprinkle sugar on top. I'm of the opinion that a good pie needs as little sweetener as possible; hence, you will find no sugar dotting a Tipsy Crumpet creation.

Line the upper rack of your oven with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

While the oven is preheating, set the pie in the refrigerator. Let it sit there for 20 to 30 minutes.

Now, place the pie in the oven, on top of the foil. If your pie is as bubbly as mine, you'll be glad you did. 

Let the pie bake at 425 for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 350.

Bake another 30 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and the filling is simmering away.

Remove and place on a wire rack. Let cool for at least an hour before serving. Because of all the butter, I would avoid serving this with ice cream. It doesn't need it, and the flavors will come out better without it.


  • This recipe has heaps of butter. I tried omitting some the second time I made it, but the results were not as sensual and the filling not as velvety.
  • For me, the more lemon, the better. I'd be inclined to tempt fate next time by zesting two lemons into the pears rather than one.
  • Along those lines, I'd be tempted to see what two vanilla beans would do to this recipe. I adore the black specks created by the bean, but find the flavor to be milder than I would like.
  • The first time I made this, the pie crust was as crunchy as a cracker. The second time, it was nearly perfect. I can't explain why this was, but I've found again and again that pie crust has its own mind. In the second case, the vinegar appeared to have helped. I added it out of fear that I had overworked the dough, and the crust baked up nicely.
  • I would go for a tart green pear rather than a soft and sweet bosc. You need all the tartness you can get to counter the mellowing effects of the brandy and the heat.


A tasty pie and a crowd-pleaser.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Triple-Pepper Sicilian Pizza

I hadn't made a pizza in a long time and was hankering to bake a round. It was then that I espied Mark Bittman's recipe for a rustic Sicilian-style pie in the New York Times. The dough required 24 hours of refrigeration and multiple origami folds, all but ensuring failure in the hands of the clumsy Crumpet. A challenge! I accepted. The recipe, with some variations a la Crumpet, yielded a pie bursting with the colors of fall foliage and supported by a crisp yet billowy crust studded with air pockets. I don't know if I'll ever go back to rise-and-punch pizza dough.

yields a large rectangular pie cut into 12 slices


You will want to start the dough about 24 hours before baking time.


3/4 tsp, or 2 grams, yeast (less than half a packet)
1 7/8 cups water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil


Heat the water to wrist temperature.

Obtain a large, rectangular Tupperware container. In it, mix the yeast and 1 3/4 cups of the water (save the remaining 1/8). Mix in the flours with your hand. (I love to use my hands while cooking! If there isn't a little bit of hand in there, or, in one memorable case, part of a finger, it's not a Tipsy Crumpet production.) The flour will be rough, moist, and shaggy. Let it rest for 20 minutes, covered in plastic wrap.

Dissolve the salt in the remaining 1/8 cup of water. Mix the salt water into the dough. It's okay if it doesn't fully combine. Let the dough sit for another 20 minutes, covered in plastic wrap.

Moisten your hands, then spread 1 Tbsp olive oil on top of the dough. One-third of the way down the length of the dough, lift that end as best you can and fold it under so that the third of dough is underneath the rest of the dough. Do this on the other side. Basically, imagine folding a piece of paper one-third of the way down on both ends so that the ends meet and form a seam underneath the paper. Does this sound hopelessly confusing? I wish I could draw a diagram. It's not that complicated once you do it.

Put the lid on the Tupperware and slide the container into the refrigerator.

An hour later, repeat the process.

An hour later, repeat again. You have now folded over the ends of the dough three times.

Go and do something else for the rest of the day.

The next morning, perform your folds yet again with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil.

Three hours before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Rick Easton, who helped develop the recipe, says that refrigerating the dough until baking is fine, but the Tipsy Crumpet took a more cowardly approach.

Now that the dough is relaxing at room temperature and forming bubbles, let's think about topping the pie.

Slice with sauce and toppings


The original recipe called for no sauce, but I wanted a richer, more tomatoey pie and adapted a garlicky red pepper and sundried tomato spread I found on the One Perfect Bite blog. It should be thick but spreadable.


1 cup drained and coarsely chopped roasted red peppers from a jar
3 Tbsp water
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil and herbs, mostly drained (a teaspoon or two of oil drippings is okay)


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add water as needed to thin the sauce for spreading.


Before beginning the topping, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Slide a heavy, nonstick jelly roll pan or cookie sheet (at least 13 by 18 inches) into the oven to preheat.

You can top with anything you like. Here's what I chose for a bright fall pizza.


1 small bag of mini multicolored bell peppers (contains about 10-12 little peppers)
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably the tiny, multicolored ones you can get at the farmers market)
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 bunch fresh oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste


Remove the tops, seeds, and cores from the peppers (decapitate them and scoop out the innards as best you can). Slice them into thin rounds.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the peppers for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, tear the mozzarella into small pieces.

Putting it All Together

When you have your peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and herbs assembled, return to your dough. Turn it onto a floured surface and gently prod until it's a rectangle roughly 1/2 inch thick.

Carefully take the pan out of the oven. Spread a tiny bit of olive oil on the bottom and sides of the pan and even more carefully daub the oil with a paper towel to blot.

Flip the dough onto your arm. Lift the other end with your hand so as to retain the shape of the rectangle as you carry it to the pan. Set it down flour side up.

Spread the sauce on the dough. Top with mozzarella, then peppers, then cherry tomato halves. Sprinkle the rosemary on top, with a little salt and pepper.

Retain the oregano: you'll add that once the pie has been baked.

With oven mitts, slide the pan onto the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Slide the pan to the middle rack and bake 15-20 minutes more.

When the pie is golden-brown and seems done, remove it from the oven.

Sprinkle on the fresh oregano leaves.

Slide the pie onto a cutting board and slice into 12 squares.


Look at those air pockets!


  • Bittman's recipe calls for the oven to be preheated to 500. Most baking pans warn you against going above 450, so I turned down the heat and upped the baking time.
  • You could possibly get away with 1 cup more whole wheat flour and 1 cup less white bread flour in the dough.
  • I would love to try different topping combos including, but not limited to, sliced white mushrooms, red onions, kalamata olives, basil, tomato chunks, homemade tomato sauce, garlic, veggie sausage, whole sundried tomatoes, etc. The key thing is to not have a soggy, heavy topping: a thin layer of sauce or tomatoes, a reasonable amount of cheese, and a smattering of flavorful, well-chosen toppings is all you need.
  • Bittman specifically calls for a metal baking pan rather than a pizza stone. After two hours of dithering at Le Creuset, Strosnider's, and Williams & Sonoma (I was in Bethesda), I bought the Williams & Sonoma Goldtouch 15 by 21-inch baking pan, which worked like a champ. It has little ridges all along the bottom that caused the pie to glide off the pan with no scraping at all (Bittman describes a mixture of blind faith and elbow grease to release the pie, which terrified me). I could hear a slight amount of metallic settling in the oven, but the pan worked wonderfully to produce a crispy, airy crust and is well worth the $40 you'll spend to be fancy.
  • Bittman calls for putting the pan atop a baking stone that has been heating for at least half an hour. I would have done this, but my baking stone started releasing funny scents a few years ago and had to be put out of its misery. Hence, my decision to preheat the pan itself.
  • It was easy to cut this pie, even straight out of the oven. It's all about the crust.


5 stars: great leftovers; bliss on a cool autumn night

Monday, November 16, 2015

Chardonnay Winter Fruit Pie

I have been on a pie kick lately and wanted to make this creation from Ken Haedrich's superlative tome on all things pastry-encased, Pie. I tweaked the recipe just a bit, but it is a sophisticated and drunkenly delicious dessert no matter what you do. Imagine immersing winesaps, bartletts, and braeburns in white wine and sugar for an hour, simmering the wine to reduce it to a heady syrup, and then baking both wine and fruit in a tender crust, resulting in woozy spoonfuls of flaky dough, winter fruit, and buttery white wine reduction. Try it for yourself and wait for your neighbors to come knocking on the door clamoring for whatever you've got in the oven.

That layer of soup at the bottom is a puddle of Chardonnay goodness.

for one 9.5-inch deep dish pie pan

Flaky Mostly Butter Crust

I've been experimenting with crusts and decided to go with a 3/4 butter, 1/4 shortening crust for flavor, flakiness, and ease of rolling. The results were tasty and produced a delicate crumb. 


3 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold butter (12 Tbsp)
1/2 stick cold shortening (4 Tbsp)
1/2 cup ice-cold water 


Sift flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Slice the butter and shortening along the tablespoon markings on the wax paper and crumble them into the dough with your hands until the pieces are as the size of small peas. No wait, I'm sick of that comparison! The size of those pebbles that get into your shoe and annoy you, but not enough for you to take the shoe off and do something about it. The size of the camera window on your iPhone. The size of those Cheez-It bits you get at the bottom of the box that are too small to eat one by one but too big to ignore, so you pour them into your palm and stuff them into your mouth as quickly as possible. Much better!

This is where I take my little bowl of water that I put in the freezer five minutes ago out of the freezer and sprinkle it on the flour. There is some ice lining that bowl. Scrape it in as well. Mix everything together with your hands until you get a shaggy lump, adding a tiny bit more water as needed.

Divide the dough into two rounds, one slightly bigger than the other. Wrap in plastic and slide those frisbees into the refrigerator. Now break out the bottle opener or, if you're like me, ready your hand for the screw-top, because the wine is coming out!



4 large apples: a mix of varieties delicious for pies, such as winesap, jonagold, braeburn, etc.
3 large pears, preferably comice, bartlett, and/or bosc
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio (I used Concha y Toro Xplorador: $10 cheap!)
3 Tbsp cornstarch
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces


Slice the apples and pears. No, don't peel them! The skin is good for you, it doesn't mar the flavor at all, it doesn't taste obnoxiously granola once baked for an hour, and who doesn't want those red color accents making the pie look as if it really is full of apples? Keep that crispy, yummy skin on and slice that fruit up as thinly as you can. Toss it all in a bowl.

Stir in the 1/3 cup of sugar, mix, then pour that cupful of wine into the bowl. Your fruit will gurgle happily.

Leave the fruit to luxuriate in its Chardonnay bath for an hour, stirring occasionally. 

Strain the liquid into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer at medium-high heat until you have about 2/3 a cup. (I kept measuring in my glass measuring cup, which seems to handle heat pretty well.) Be careful: if the liquid gets too hot and stays that way, you'll start to smell burning sugar. You want your wine happily toasty, not snapping at you.

Pour the reduced syrup over the fruit and mix well. Ohhhhhhh, that smells good.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining two Tbsp of sugar and the cornstarch. Stir the mixture into the apples and pears, then stir in the lemon zest, vanilla, and salt. 

Preheat the oven to 400.

It's time to pour your beautiful mess into a pie shell. But wait, where's the shell? Take the larger of the two dough disks out of the refrigerator. On a floured surface (I use a silicon mat), roll it into an even circle that looks to your spatially challenged eye as if it could cover the interior of your 9.5-inch pie pan.

This is the first time I tried this, but it worked like a charm. Place your silicon mat on a surface where it doesn't matter if it gets rained on by a little flour (not my tablecloth, alas). Place your pie pan top-down on the pie crust. With a confidence you may not really feel, flip pan and mat over. Gently prise the edges of the dough from the mat: voila! Your pan is filled. Nudge any overhang to the top edges of the pan to create a fancy edge for your crust. 

Pour the fruit mixture into the shell. Top with the two Tbsp of butter and place in the fridge.

Now, roll out the top crust. Once your spatially challenged eye has hazarded that it may cover the pie, take the pan out of the fridge and use the same technique as above to top the pie with the dough.

Does the dough cover the pie? Why yes, it does! Form a rustic edge with your fingers. You can crimp if you want; I used a fork to tame my voluptuous hillocks.

Slash the top of the pie with a knife a few times to create steam vents, or prick with a fork.

I then like to put the pie back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Colder is always better when it comes to pre-baked pie crust.

Line the bottom of your oven with foil, especially if you went overboard with the Chardonnay like I did.

Place the pie on the center rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Lower the heat to 375, rotate the pie, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. The filling should be bubbling through the golden-brown crust.

Pull the pie from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before trying a slice. The book says to cool the pie for two hours, but you are not likely to do that: if you had that kind of willpower, you'd be baking broccoli! The pie will be runny when you cut into it, but slurping up the hot, winey filling will more than make up for any aesthetic discomfort, and anyway, more Chardonnay means a brighter post-baking glow.


  • I used bosc pears, but found them to be slightly watery and insipid. I'd go with a firmer, tarter green variety next time.
  • Next time, I think I would use 14 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp shortening for the crust, just to experiment. You could also try 8 Tbsp butter and 8 Tbsp shortening: you won't regret anything so long as you make your crust from scratch.
  • This pie needs no ice cream or whipped topping! The flavors are so good, you won't want to obscure them. This is a complex pie that needs to be savored on its own to be fully appreciated.


5 stars.