Thursday, May 24, 2012

Backyard Bounty: Mulberry Pie

Keith comes from a rather more self-sufficient family than average. Both sets of grandparents have a history of growing quite a bit of food for themselves. Not just a crop of homegrown tomatoes, which is all I really aspire to in my garden, but fruit orchards, strawberry patches that yield a gallon of berries daily in prime season. You know, the kind of agriculture that toes the line between "garden" and "farm." Having grown up in times more tight-belted than I'm likely to ever see, the idea of letting food that just falls into their laps go to waste is a little absurd to them.

"We should eat those," Keith said, letting the guilt get to him. "We should make a pie."

City-girl Becka did not even know we had a tree that produced edible fruit.

It's a learning process.

So while Keith was mowing the yard this weekend, I plucked and foraged every ripe mulberry I could get my hands on. Just so we're clear, mulberries are tiny and it takes a long time of crouching on the ground to get a good haul of already-dropped berries and, no, I am not old, but I am not that young anymore. And if we plan to continue this whole berry business (and we should!), we're gonna need a system that causes me a lot less pain.


I proudly presented my berries to Keith, and we agreed that, it being something like 90ยบ that day, the pie could wait until more reasonable temperatures. Pie is important, but not turning on the oven when the house is already in the 80s is equally important.

I left the baking to Keith. He used Alton Brown's crust recipe, swapping more butter for the lard (which we do actually have, for once, but it was still in the freezer). He tossed together a pie filling with the mashed berries, sugar, vanilla, pomegranate liqueur, and a gelling agent of some sort. Since we didn't have a huge pile of mulberries, Keith opted to make a couple of rustic free-form pies rather than worry about filling a pie pan. They came out beautifully.

It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to participate in this level of "from-scratch" cooking. Obviously we didn't raise the cows for the butter or grind our own wheat, but it's always incredibly satisfying to have at least one ingredient in a dish that you produced from your own land... even if the tree was already there when you bought the house.

Next step: actually start eating the nuts from our walnut and hickory trees.

Mulberry pie

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuna Coleslaw Salad... thing

Ha! Remember that one time when I started that blog and was all, "I am totally going to write stuff here"? Well, better late than never, right?

Also this is why I didn't tell anyone about the blog yet.


When I started dating Keith years ago, I knew that (if I was lucky) dating a chef was going to have a major impact on the way I experienced food. I'd always, at least as an adult, been a fairly adventurous eater and enjoyed cooking for myself, but I tended not to learn a lot in the kitchen. I thought that dating a chef would mean amazing gourmet meals at home at an incredibly low cost (and, indeed, my time with Keith has made it much harder for me to fork over money at a restaurant), and that part was true. I have eaten some amazing food in the last 4+ years.

What I didn't expect was how he would change my perspective on more "low-rent" foods. I will admit - with some degree of glee - to a certain amount of food snobbery. So when Keith gave me coleslaw on our first date, I was skeptical to say the least. But here's the thing: I had exclusively consumed bad coleslaw up until that point. Soggy, runny, not-so-fresh coleslaw. I also, for no particularly good reason, thought it was made with iceberg lettuce, but that's neither here nor there. But this coleslaw Keith made me? It was good. Freshly purged cabbage, yummy mayo dressing, pumped up with minced habanero and perfectly ripe mango. I was a convert. When we catered our wedding reception last year, I requested coleslaw for the salads as we developed the menu.

The story with tuna salad is not dissimilar. For a road trip last summer, Keith packed up more pints of freshly made tuna salad than we should really admit to (kept in a cooler with lots of ice!). I'd had and enjoyed tuna salad before, but it was always just a bit of a filler - nothing special. But this tuna salad, with Keith's recipe? I'm surprised it lasted more than a day (in a cooler! with ice!).

So I have some cans of tuna lying around, and I figured, you know, I should eat the tuna. Because tuna's good for you! And I like fish. But I was scared of making tuna salad without a recipe, and without the right ingredients. Then I reminded myself that I knew what I wanted my tuna salad to taste like, so I knew how to make it. Pretty simple, right? Tuna, tangy dressing, crunchy veggies. Because of the veggies we actually had on hand, this turned out to be a bit of a tuna salad-coleslaw hybrid, which is why I was rambling on about coleslaw. This is a highly customizable recipe and great for using up small amounts of leftover raw vegetables.


Tuna Salad
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt (I used organic & full fat)
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp mustard (any variety)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 1/3 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup red/green cabbage, sliced into short, thin strips
  • 1 small carrot, diced small or grated
  • 2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
Mix first six ingredients until well incorporated. Flake tuna with a fork into smaller pieces and add to dressing. Add all veggies to dressing and stir to combine. Serve on its own, with a nice seedy whole-grain bread, or in a lettuce wrap.

After the photo shoot, I dutifully rolled up my lettuce wrap and ate it, but truth be told, I think lettuce wraps are little more than a way of punishing people for trying to enjoy food, so I recommend the first two options.