the first ever sugar cured guest post

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To no one’s surprise, we here at sugar cured do our best at all times to surround ourselves with people who love good food. Many of my dearest friendships began over common culinary interest, and as a matter of fact this blog might never have existed if Joanna and I hadn’t bonded when she recognized the recipe for the leftover soba noodles with eggplant and mango that I brought for lunch one day last August.   So it was just a matter of time before we featured the culinary talents of one of those food-loving friends in the form of a guest post.

A couple of weeks ago, the sugar cured girls had the good fortune of sous chef-ing on the creation of these delicious meat/spinach pies with our good friend Rahad Gondoli (who has chosen to write under a pseudonym in order to keep the origins of the top-secret family recipe shrouded in mystery). Mr. Gondoli writes:

This is an old family recipe.  And like almost all old family recipes over the generations it’s been slightly amended and meticulously perfected again and again. The recipe originates from the Levant, and like many dishes from the region different peoples claim its ownership.

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I’ve only known it from my dad, and him from his mom, and so on. One of my earliest food memories is my dad rolling out thawed dough balls next to mounds of flour on our wood block table. He’d juice the lemons with an orange plastic lemon squeezer and stand back from the table to sharpen his knives with a thin steel rod.

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It’s always a special occasion to have meat and spinach pies, and when we make them we make a lot, to share with others. I hope you enjoy them.

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Lebanese Meat and Spinach Pies

For the meat filling:

2 lbs ground round
3 medium white onions, chopped fine
3 tablespoon corn oil
Fry onions in oil. When brown, add meat and salt and pepper to taste. Brown meat. Once meat is done cooking, drain grease and oil and add juice of 3 lemons or to taste.
Let thaw rhode’s frozen dinner rolls. It will take about 1-1.5 hours. Place frozen rolls on wax paper, overlay with wax paper, and put a towel over the rolls and wax paper sheets.
For the spinach filling:
2 10 oz. bags of fresh spinach, chop fine
3 large white onions, chop fine
1/2 cup corn oil
juice of 1 lemon or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Combine above ingredients like a salad and mix.
Make the thawed dinner rolls as flat as you can with your fingers, then add a little flour and flatten with a rolling pin. You want a roughly 5-6 inch diameter flat dough pad. Place either spinach or meat mixture off center, and fold dough up into a triangular pie formation. Leave a little bit of the pie open, do not seal completely.
Spray cooking sheet with Pam or rub butter on it. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cook pies until they are browned.
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thin slices of heaven

I think I would have grown up to be a very different person if I hadn’t grown up with a Grandma who is the best pie maker in Dexter, Iowa.

I once heard Grandma Kay tell the story of the very first pie she made, back when she was in high school. Her older sister tasted it and said, “this is pretty good but the bottom crust is too thick.” I think Grandma Kay has spent the last 60-plus years making up for this apparent error, because I have never tasted a one of her pies that was not perfect. And I have tasted a lot of them.

If your church needs to raise some money to build a new fellowship hall, Kay will have 3 apple pies ready for the bake sale. If you’re celebrating a birthday or a special accomplishment, you might be lucky enough to have a most-coveted black raspberry pie made for you. Or maybe you’ll luck out and stop by her house on a random Tuesday and there will be a custard pie, that pinnacle of comfort foods, waiting for you just because she was pretty sure you’d be coming to visit.

This week was Grandma Kay’s 82nd birthday, and it would have been wrong to celebrate it with anything except pie. Our family has been so spoiled by Kay’s pies that we don’t like to share them very much. Once, when my sister Kaly merited one of Grandma’s raspberry pies to celebrate her qualifying for the high school State Track Meet, Kaly put a sign on the pie that said DO NOT EAT written with a fat red Sharpie. So I made two coconut cream pies from my much loved recipe from another one of my much loved Grandmas (whose pies I wrote about here). Two pies = leftover pie with a big cup of black coffee for breakfast = life doesn’t get much sweeter.

Coconut Cream Pie

For the crust:

1 1/4 c flour

2 t sugar

1/2 t salt

1 stick (8 T) butter, thoroughly chilled

1/4-1/3 c very cold water

Cut the butter into small cubes and place in a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in flour, sugar, and salt, and use a pastry cutter or a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. You want to end up with a mixture in which the butter is in pieces about the size of oatmeal flecks and thoroughly mixed with the dry ingredients. This is the stage when most of the mixing happens and you will barely mix the dough once you add the liquid (that’s what makes for a flaky crust). When you’re ready to add the water, start with 1/4 c and drizzle it over the butter/flour mix. Use your hands or a smooth the mix and gather everything in a ball. Add just enough water to make everything stick together. Knead the dough just a few times.

At this point, if the dough feels soft to you, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. If it doesn’t feel soft, turn it out onto a well-floured countertop to roll it out. Be sure to add sprinkles of flour as you roll to keep the dough from sticking to the counter or your rolling pin. Roll the dough into a circle with a 12″ circumference and then transfer it to a 8″ pie pan. Crimp the edges. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent it from bubbling up when you bake it. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until just starting to turn golden. Cool before adding the filling.

For the filling (read my previous post about Grandma Nette to explain the strange fractions going on in this recipe!)

2/3 c sugar

2/3 t salt

2 2/3 T cornstarch

1 1/3 T flour

2 2/3 c whole milk

3 egg yolks

1 T butter

1 1/3 tsp vanilla

2/3 c coconut flakes

Mix salt, sugar, cornstarch, and flour in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for two minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture should be thickened by this point. Stir half of the hot milk mixture over the slightly beaten egg yolks. Return to pan and cook over medium heat for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add butter, vanilla, and coconut. Cool slightly and then pour into your prepared pie crust. Finish with meringue or whipped cream. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Posted in Pie

(red white and)blue

Remember that scene in Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version, not the subpar remake, of course) when Violet Beauregard turns into a blueberry? I’ve been checking my skin for signs of purple discoloration all week, but I’m happy to report that the only change is the freckle intensification that happens every summer. I’m feeling rounder, but that’s probably because I’ve eaten my weight in blueberry desserts this week. If you are what you eat, Violet and I are destined for the same sad fate.

If you need some advice on how to use up 5 pounds of freshly picked blueberries in 5 days, I’m your girl. First, have friends who love fresh fruit and share as many as they will take off your hands. Cook up a big batch of oatmeal and eat it with blueberries and almonds and cinnamon every morning.

Make this cake for all your snacking purposes. (Recipe here: http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/07/blueberry-boy-bait/ ) I can’t vouch for its usefulness as boy bait because the girls of the bloggers’ apartments ate the whole thing with no help from the boys at all. Their loss.

Finally, and most importantly, use the balance of the berries to make Joanna’s excellent blueberry pie recipe. True, the pastry gods did not intend for pie crusts to be created on days when the heat index is >115 degrees.

But this pie is worth the trouble, pilgrim. Especially warm, a la mode, after a day at the beach, right before the fireworks start. I hope your 4th of July celebration carries right onto into the weekend!

Blueberry Pie

2 pie crusts, premade or prepared (I’ll write a post about making pastry soon. Let’s focus on the blueberries for now)

4 c fresh blueberries

3/4 c sugar

3 T cornstarch

1/4 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1 T butter

Preheat oven to 425. Mix berries, sugar, starch, salt, and cinnamon all together. Line pie plate with one crust and pour berry mixture in. Dot with cubes of butter. Top with a lattice or whole crust. Bake 45-50 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven, until crust is golden.