7.22.14 Sour Cherry Hand Pies with Brandy Crust

Now, that it’s cherry season (finally), I’ve been eating sweet cherries like it’s going out of style. But besides snacking incessantly on the somewhat ridiculous amount of Door County sweet cherries currently residing in my kitchen, last weekend I picked up some beautiful, bright red sour cherries. I figured some pie making was in order. And not just regular old pie. Hand pies. Because there’s something super awesome about having your own tiny pie all to yourself. Something very awesome indeed.

And a tiny pie bursting with sour cherry goodness is about as good as it gets. You could probably even get away with eating one of these for breakfast (it’s full of fruit, so it’s basically healthy, right?). But I still haven’t gotten to the best part yet. The part that has to do with my latest pie crust epiphany. Are you ready? Okay here goes.

Let me explain a couple of things about pie crust. I realize you all are probably nowhere near as big of a food nerd as I am, but bear with me. The thing about a good pie crust is that you want it to be as tender and flaky as possible. I think that’s something we can all agree on. The enemy of a tender, flaky crust is gluten. Gluten is the product of two partial proteins present in wheat flour, which forms when water is added to the flour. Gluten is what makes that nice loaf of bread you’re eating deliciously chewy, but in pie crust we want to avoid gluten to keep things nice and tender. Somewhat recently, some genius discovered that if you replace some of the water in your pie crust with vodka, you end up with a more tender crust. It makes perfect sense - less water, less hydration, less gluten formation, and the alcohol bakes off in the oven, leaving you with one deliciously tender crust. Genius.

Well, obviously I had to give this a try. Also obviously, I decided to take it a step further. Vodka is a great choice to add to your dough if you’re looking for a nice, neutral flavor. But if we were to add, say, brandy instead, well what then?  Not only would it have the same wonderful effect as vodka, but now we’d have an extra delicious brandy-flavored crust; a perfect compliment to that delightful cherry filling. So there you go. As if you needed a reason to make sour cherry hand pies even more awesome. You’re welcome.

Sour Cherry Hand Pies with Brandy Crust

makes 6 pies

Yes, pitting cherries is a huge pain. I usually don’t recommend buying single use kitchen gadgets, but a cherry pitter is going to save you loads of time and energy here. You’ll be thankful you have one.

crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, very cold
  • 1 oz very cold water
  • 1 oz brandy 

filling and assembly:

  • 1 heaping pint sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water
  • sugar

1. Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Being careful to handle the butter as little as possible, cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the flour. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until the pieces are small (about the size of a pea) and the mixture has a grainy texture.

2. Add the water and brandy, mixing until the dough is all incorporated into a ball. If dough is still very sticky, add a bit more flour a little at a time, until dough is workable. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15-20 minutes before working with it further.

3. Mix cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in bowl until cherries are evenly coated.

4. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. On a floured surface, roll out your dough into an approximately 12 x 15 inch rectangle. Cut into six 5 x 6 inch rectangles. Brush edges of each piece of dough with water.

6. Divide cherry mixture evenly between the six dough pieces, fold dough over, and seal edges tightly by crimping with a fork. Transfer pies to parchment lined baking sheet.

7. Cut a couple of small slits in the top of each pie with a very sharp knife. Brush the top of each pie with beaten egg/water mixture, then sprinkle with sugar (raw or turbinado sugar works great for this).

8. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until pies are golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool slightly, then devour.

7.18.14 White Russian Popsicles

So, recently I purchased a popsicle mold, and after just over a week of ownership, I’ve come to the conclusion that this may have been the best summer purchase I’ve made. Ever. Let me explain. Popsicles are fantastic, yes. I mean, who doesn’t love a nice icy treat on a hot summer day? But beyond your standard ice pops, there’s a whole other world of popsicle awesomeness. That’s right, I’m talking about boozy pops. Welcome to my latest obsession.

It all started with these bad boys, which basically taste like a negroni on a stick (yes please). Then the ideas started flowing. I mean, once you start thinking about it, there are a lot of awesome cocktails that would make a mean popsicle (I’m working on a peach-ginger-whiskey number right now that’s bound to be fantastic). The only trick is mastering the correct level of alcohol in these things. Too much, and your poor pops won’t freeze; too little, and well, you may as well have just made regular pops. But right in the middle, you end up with a tasty, boozy, frozen delight. It took a couple of trial runs (oh darn), but I think I’ve finally hit the sweet spot.

And so, may I introduce my latest creation, the Lebowski pop. After thinking it over (for like 2 seconds) I decided a White Russian popsicle needed to happen. As we all know, the Dude is a major fan of the White Russian, and well, really who isn’t? Plus, this was a great way to use some of the awesome cold brew coffee we’ve been brewing up over the past couple of weeks. Coupled with the fact that adding cream to a popsicle base is basically amazing (think super smooth, rich, creamy texture), well I figured there was no way to go wrong here. I was right. What a popsicle! I think the Dude would definitely approve.

White Russian Popsicles (a.k.a. Lebowski pops)

makes 10 popsicles

1. Mix all ingredients together and pour into your trusty popsicle mold. Cover and insert the popsicle sticks. Freeze until firm (I like to let these set at least 8 hours - more if you can).

2. Run hot water over the bottom of the molds for 20-30 seconds to loosen pops. Remove pops from molds and serve. Leftover pops can be wrapped in parchment paper and stored in the freezer for several days.

7.15.14 Cooking with FillMyRecipe + Mango Cucumber Chile Salad

As a food blogger, I love doing awesome things with food. And when I come across others in the Madison community whose love of food leads them to do awesome things too, well obviously, I have to tell you all about it. Recently, I met Sara Parthasarathy, founder of FillMyRecipe , and learned about all of the wonderful things she’s doing to make good authentic Indian cooking fun and accessible to all. Which is definitely awesome in my book.

Spice Kit for Rajmah (Kidney Beans) Masala

Spice Kit for Rajmah (Kidney Beans) Masala

Now I’ve always loved Indian food. And our recent travels to India only helped to reinforce my affinity for it. While I’ve been known to cook a few delicious Indian-inspired dishes, when it comes to real, authentic Indian food, I still have much to learn. Indian cooking can be complicated, and a little intimidating for many cooks. Not to mention, recipes often involve many spices, some of which are not the easiest to find in Wisconsin. If you weren’t lucky enough to have obtained a somewhat ridiculous amount of spices in New Delhi like I did, you may find yourself in a bit of a bind when it comes to some recipes. So when the craving to cook some serious Indian food strikes, what is one to do?

In the past, my answer was usually just to hack it with whatever spices I had laying around (not always with the best results), or just throw in the towel and go to an Indian restaurant. Luckily, Sara Parthasarathy, an expert at Indian cooking, has devised FillMyRecipe to help us Indian food aficionados cook up some very tasty, authentic Indian recipes. Hand made right here in Madison, each Ethnic Spicery Packet comes filled with pre-measured, individually packed spices, and an authentic recipe from Parthasarathy’s family. Curries, daals, masalas - with all of your spices measured out and ready to go, making good Indian food with one of these spice kits is a snap. And when you love Indian food as much as I do, this is a very, very good thing.

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Of course, with all of the delicious Indian food you’re sure to be whipping up, you’ll probably need something light and refreshing to go with. My current go-to is this super simple mango, cucumber, and chile salad. It’s beyond easy to make, and while I can’t vouch for any Indian authenticity, it certainly is delicious.

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Mango Cucumber Chile Salad

serves 2 as a side

  • 1 very ripe mango, sliced
  • 2 persian cucumbers (or ½ english cucumber), thinly sliced into rounds
  • ¼ tsp (or to taste) cayenne chile powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp thinly chopped scallion
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (mint, cilantro, basil, chives or a mix)
  • 1 lime

1. Arrange the mango and cucumber slices on a plate. Evenly sprinkle chile and salt over. Top with the chopped scallions and herbs, then cut lime in half, and squeeze juice evenly over everything.

7.11.14 Bitter Greens and Bacon Quiche with Feta and Parmesan

I recently had a quiche revelation. Up until this point in my life, the quiches I had been consuming were primarily made in a shallow pie dish or tart pan. In fact, quiche is probably not the word you would want to use for these creations of mine. Egg pie perhaps. Custard tart maybe. Delicious, yes, but not nearly enough volume for the filling. And with all the delicious things you can put into a quiche, maximum filling space is of the utmost importance. At least to me. Something needed to be done. Namely, I needed to ditch the pie plate, and make a real, actual, no-holds-barred quiche. I’m talking the kind of quiche with a super tall crust, and more delicious custardy filling than you know what to do with. Yeah. That’s a quiche.

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All I can say here is, mission accomplished. This eggy masterpiece puts my old, shallow “quiches” of yore to shame. The amount of filling it can hold is impressive, to say the least. Plenty of room for delicious add-ins, like bitter greens, bacon, creamy feta, and some high quality parm. Not to mention, a quiche like this makes for one satisfying meal. Sure, it takes some time to make, but the results are totally worth it. And since it’s best served at room temp, you can bake it at your leisure, pop it in the fridge, and serve it whenever. Breakfast, lunch, dinner - it’s really perfect for any meal. We packed ours up to the capitol square for some al fresco dining during last week’s Concerts on the Square, and it made for some killer picnic fare. But trust me, no matter how you eat it, it will be awesome. A good quiche always is.

As a side note, this week (July 9th, to be exact) marks the 1 year anniversary of Wisconsin from Scratch’s first ever blog post! Thanks to all of our awesome readers, it’s been one fantastic (not to mention delicious) year! Here’s to many more!

Bitter Greens and Bacon Quiche with Feta and Parmesan

makes 1 huge quiche (10-12 slices)

Yes, you should most definitely make your own crust for this. It’s easier than you think. Some helpful tips here.

  • 1 9-inch pie crust, pre-baked in a 2 inch high cake or springform pan (recipe follows)
  • 4-5 slices bacon, chopped crosswise into small pieces
  • 3 cups bitter greens (i.e. mustard, kale, arugula, chard), roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (I used Sartori’s SarVecchio Parmesan)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.Cook bacon pieces in a pan over medium heat until they begin to crisp up. Add the greens, and lemon juice, and cook until greens are just wilted, about 3-4 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Stir in the feta and half of the parmesan cheese.

4. Spread half of the greens mixture evenly in the bottom of your pre-baked crust. Pour half of the egg mixture over top, followed by another layer of greens, and the rest of the egg mixture. Top with remaining ½ cup parmesan.

5. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake quiche at 325 degrees until top is golden brown, and filling is just set, but still jiggles slightly, about 90 minutes.

6. Cool quiche completely, slice, and serve.

Basic Pie Dough

Makes 1 9-inch crust.

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 oz of water
  • a pinch of salt

1. Measure the flour into a large bowl.

2. Being careful to handle the butter as little as possible (we need to keep it cold, and body heat will warm it up), cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the flour.

3. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until the pieces are small (about the size of a pea) and the mixture has a grainy texture.

4. Add the salt and the water (very cold) a little bit at a time, mixing until the dough is all incorporated into a ball. If 1 oz of water doesn’t seem to be enough, you can add a bit more, but add it a little bit at a time, and use the least amount of water possible to hold the dough together.

5. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15-20 minutes before working with it further.

6. Grease a 9-inch springform pan or cake pan with 2 inch high sides and preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Once the dough has been chilled, roll it out and shape it into your greased pan, making sure crust reaches all the way up the sides of the pan (tall crust = lots of room for filling).

7. For blind baking (baking just the crust with no filling), you will need to weight down the crust so it doesn’t bubble and form air pockets while it’s baking. You can buy pie weights, but I just cover the crust with Al foil and throw in some dry beans or rice. Once the pie has baked at 325 for about 20 min, you can remove the foil and beans (or what have you) and continue to bake for about another 15 minutes to get a good brown on the crust.

8. Remove the crust from the oven, cool and fill according to recipe instructions.

7.8.14 Fingerling Potato and Zucchini Hash

Well I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July weekend. I can definitely say that mine was pretty great. Between a neighborhood Fourth of July extravaganza, a wedding in Milwaukee, an amazing backyard bbq (complete with two entire smoked pork shoulders and this ridiculously amazing corn), a lovely bike ride, and some quality terrace time, I stayed pretty busy. Oh what a weekend.

Of course, with a weekend this busy, I knew I was going to have to kick things off with some a killer breakfast in order to fuel me through all of these fun activities. Luckily, after a visit to the farmer’s market on Saturday, I was well stocked with everything I needed to accomplish just that. Fingerling potatoes, zucchini, garlic, onions, and fresh dill from my herb garden. Oh yes, I was ready to throw down some serious brunch. And throw down I did.  

Fingerling potato and zucchini hash, you may be my new favorite summer breakfast. Summery, smoky, slightly spicy, and topped with an egg - really, does it get much better? At least for the time being, I’m going to have to say no.

Fingerling Potato and Zucchini Hash

Serves 2

Aleppo pepper is a Turkish chile powder with a nice fruity flavor and a bit of spice. You can get it from Penzeys, or in a pinch, use your favorite chile powder in its place. Serve this hash with some good hot sauce and sourdough toast for one terrific brunch.


  • ½ lb fingerling potatoes, cleaned and cut into ~½ inch pieces
  • 2-3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into small pieces
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup scallion (green parts only) chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into ~½ inch pieces
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp fresh dill + more for garnish
  • 2 eggs, poached or over easy


1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan filled with enough salted water to just cover the potatoes. Bring water to a boil, then continue to cook until potatoes are tender, but still hold their shape, about 5-7 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside.

2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, then add the chopped bacon. Cook until bacon is beginning to crisp up, about 3-4 minutes. Drain out any excess bacon grease, so you are left with about 1 Tbsp. Add the onion, scallion, and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cider vinegar, cook for about 1 minute more, then add the cooked potatoes, zucchini, Aleppo pepper, salt and black pepper.

3. Continue cooking for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the dill. Divide hash between 2 plates. Top each plate with an over easy or poached egg. Top with fresh dill, and serve.

7.2.14 Strawberry Salad with Raspberry Cinnamon Vinaigrette

The Fourth of July (incidentally, one of my favorite holidays of all time) is fast approaching. I don’t know about you, but I’ll likely be spending my holiday weekend boating, suntanning, and probably crushing a few too many of these. Or these. Oh yes, and of course eating. Because we all know that the Fourth is a great excuse to have a cookout. While we all love burgers, brats, ribs, and all of the gloriousness that is the Fourth of July BBQ, it’s always a good idea to have something a little lighter to go along with. Otherwise, when all is said and done, you’re looking at a serious case of the meat sweats. And so, in a (delicious) effort to avoid said carnivorous condition, I present to you this marvelous strawberry salad, the perfect thing to round out an afternoon of backyard meat-eating.

Of all of the salads in the world, this one has to be one of my favorites. Fresh strawberries, crunchy pea shoots, toasted nuts - one fantastic combination. But add in a deliciously spicy-sweet raspberry dressing, and well, you’re looking at one particularly tasty salad. It’s good all year round, but during peak strawberry season (a.k.a right now!), well, it’s on a whole other level. For real.

Oh, and if you’re looking for some more ideas for your Fourth of July cookout, we’ve got you covered. Such as these Banh Burgers (Banh Mi in burger form? Yes please). Or how about five quick summer vegetable recipes? (smoked paprika corn on the cob? summer squash with chile and mint? oh my). And since no cookout is complete without dessert, well you really can’t go wrong with this raspberry peach galette. With all that, you’re sure to have one delicious Fourth this year.

Strawberry Salad with Raspberry Cinnamon Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6

This salad is also great with the addition of sliced avocado or fresh crumbled goat cheese.

Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup olive or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp raspberry blush vinegar (or use apple cider vinegar in a pinch)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad:

  • 5 oz mixed salad greens
  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into halves
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts*
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 oz fresh pea shoots (you can find these at the farmer’s market or at Asian grocery stores. You can also sub chopped snap peas for some extra crunch)

1. To make dressing, combine the oil, raspberry vinegar, honey, cinnamon, and hot sauce in a bowl and whisk thoroughly until mixed. Or to make things even easier, you can put the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid, and shake until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Place salad greens in a large bowl add dressing and toss to coat greens. Top with the strawberries, walnuts, mint, and pea shoots.

*To toast walnuts, heat a large pan over medium heat on the stove. Add walnuts to the pan, and cook, stirring constantly until they begin to brown and take on a toasty aroma (about 5-6 minutes).

6.24.14 Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Jam

Can it be strawberry season forever? Please? I have to say, I may be going a little overboard on the strawberries these days, but really, can you blame me? The season for perfectly red, juicy, ripe strawberries is altogether too short in my opinion. And so, I’m making the most of strawberry season this year. Starting with the semi-ridiculous amount of berries I picked just this last weekend.

So, with a huge flat of berries taking up my counter, I was left to the task of figuring out exactly what I was going to do with them. And quickly. There’s been a lot of spontaneous strawberry snacking going on in our household, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before those berries were nothing more than a fond memory. I could think of about a million things to make with them, but narrowing them down, well that was a little tricky. In the end, I went with the obvious answer - jam. I mean, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy freshly made strawberry jam. And I personally am slightly obsessed with the stuff.

So jam it was. But while I was excited about the end product, the idea of standing over the stove, stirring a pot of berries for, well, far too long didn’t seem terribly appealing. Plus, in past experiences with strawberry jam-making I always seemed to have trouble getting my jam to the right consistency. So with this in mind, I decided to try something totally different - roasting the berries. And I’ll tell you what - it worked like a charm. It’s beyond easy (only 3 ingredients!!!), requires very minimal participation on your part during cook time, and the results are - dare I say - even more delicious than regular stovetop jam. Of course, it helped that I added a generous pour of good balsamic vinegar to the berries before roasting. Which made the resulting jam deliciously sweet with a lovely complex flavor.

Oh, and the consistency problems I had before? Well not any longer. After roasting, I strained out the liquids until the jam reached the perfect consistency. What’s more, in doing this, you end up with a surprise bonus - strawberry balsamic syrup. As if I needed an excuse to mix up a cocktail. It’s great mixed with sparkling water (and perhaps a little vodka) for a refreshing strawberry balsamic soda. And I’m sure you can think of about a million other uses for it too. So there you go - two awesome recipes for the price of one. And strawberry season has only just begun. I’d say it’s off to a good start.

Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Jam (and bonus Strawberry Balsamic Syrup)

Makes about 1 ¼ cup jam + ¾ cup syrup

  • 2 lbs strawberries, hulled and cut into halves
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

1. Place strawberries in a bowl, add sugar, and stir to mix thoroughly.

2. Let berries sit and macerate while you heat your oven to 250 degrees.

3. Once oven is heated, pour berries and their juices into a 9 x 13 baking dish, and spread out so they are in a single layer. Pour balsamic vinegar over berries, place baking dish in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Check berries every 30-40 minutes and give them a quick stir.

4. After 2 hours, remove berries from oven - they should look very dark red and a little dried out on the edges. There will also be a lot of syrup. Mash berries with a fork or a potato masher, then use a sieve to strain off the liquid syrup until jam reaches your desired consistency (don’t forget to save the extra syrup!). Store jam in the refrigerator, and use within a couple of weeks (should not be a problem).

6.20.14 Sushi Rice Salad

If you’re like me, you have certain foods that you get random cravings for all the time. In the summer, the craving that seems to strike me most is for sushi. And when I’m not craving it, Forrest is. So at any given time, odds are that at least one person in our household is jonesin’ for some sushi. But the problem with sushi is that you either have to go out someplace to get it, or resign yourself to making it at home. And while making your own sushi isn’t too terribly difficult, it can be a bit of a project. On a random weeknight, I’m not always in the mood to bust out the bamboo mats and start rolling some sushi. Which is why I invented this salad for when the craving strikes. Rice, nori, vegetables, sesame seeds, and a soy ginger wasabi dressing - it’s basically a sushi roll in salad form, no rolling required.

Now I like to eat this salad as a side (it’s awesome with teriyaki salmon), or when the mood strikes, I’ll add some protein and call it a meal. Really, you can throw in anything you might conceivably find in a sushi roll, and you’ll be set. Seared tuna steak, shrimp, a tamago-esque omelet cut up into pieces - really your possibilities are endless. I’ve been known to throw some cold smoked salmon on top and call it breakfast (I know, I know, sushi for breakfast? But trust me, it’s amazing). To each their own. But I’m telling you, once you start making this salad, you’ll be hooked. Just make sure you have some cold rice in the fridge (also perfect for making fried rice at a moment’s notice), and your next sushi fix is only minutes away.

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Sushi Rice Salad

serves 4

Dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 ½ Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp fresh grated ginger
  • ½ tsp wasabi (or more to taste)

Salad:

  • 3 cups cooked and cooled white or brown rice (from about 1 cup dried rice)
  • 1 cup chopped seeded cucumber 
  • 1 large avocado, chopped
  • 2 sheets nori, torn into small pieces
  • ¼ thinly sliced scallion, green part only

1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk thoroughly until mixed. Or to make things even easier, put the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid, and shake until combined.

2. Mix together the rice, cucumber, avocado, nori and scallion, then toss with the dressing until well coated.