We finally have fall weather here in San Diego and I’m enjoying autumn vegetables. This side dish features butternut squash, chick peas and black rice, and is warm and cozy. The clementine vinaigrette gives it a sweet bite and pine nuts make it extra rich. I love the bright and warm combination of citrus and fennel. To me it tastes sunny and cozy and wintery all at once.
A fellow food blogger invited me to participate in a recipe challenge from Melissa’s. Melissa’s sent us a box of fresh and seasonal produce and we were challenged to come up with a recipe featuring at least 2 or 3 of the items, sort of like “Chopped.” (FCC Disclaimer: I received the box for free, but have not otherwise been compensated. Opinions and recipe development are entirely mine.) I immediately gravitated to a beautiful butternut squash, pine nuts and cranberries. Unfortunately, Little Bird also gravitated to the cranberries… and ate the entire bag in a few minutes.
I decided to add the garbanzo beans for extra protein. I usually cook with dried beans, and start from scratch, but the convenience of the vacuum sealed beans was nice and the taste was a step up from a can. Apart from throwing the rice in the rice cooker, the only “cooking” was chopping and roasting the squash. Little Bird enjoying shaking up the vinaigrette in a jar.
While learning about the Mama’s Kitchen Pie in the Sky fundraiser, I had the opportunity to watch Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace and Sea and Smoke demonstrate his recipe for Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. He gave me permission to share the recipe below. Chef Gordon also dropped lots of pie knowledge and tips during the demonstration. Fortunately, I took furious notes and share his best tricks and tips for making pie here.
Don’t forget that you can save yourself the time and trouble of baking by having Chef Gordon and other top San Diego restaurants and bakeries make a pie for you. Purchasing a pie for $25 will provide over 8 healthy meals to neighbors in need. That’s a win-win-win. You can also donate a pie to clients as well.
Chef matt Gordon’s advanced Pie making Tips
A cold kitchen and cold hands are best for pastry. The butter should never melt. The chef said that he sometimes goes into their walk-in refrigerator on hot days. Interestingly, he shared that the best pastry chefs often have naturally cold hands.
Use parchment paper between the dough and your rolling pin to roll out the dough more easily.
Adding egg yolks to the dough (as this recipe does) is called an “enriched” recipe. It is great for wet batters (such as pumpkin pie and pecan pie) when you don’t want to pre bake the crust. Although this recipe calls for brushing the crust with egg white before putting the filling in, he says it isn’t necessary for an enriched crust.
Citrus zest adds great flavor to any baked goods, such as this crust.
Wet finger can band aid together a tear in the crust. As you want to handle the dough as little as possible, never ball it up to roll out a second time.
Many home cooks have spices in the cupboards for ages. Fresh spices make a huge difference. (I love grating fresh nutmeg with a microplane.)
Use raw pecans. (I had always wondered which was better for pie!)
Setting the oven to 325ºF (instead of hotter) can prevent over browning the crust. You can use a bit of foil, too. (I use a pie shield.)
Don’t use the fan if you have a convection oven. A conventional oven is actually better.
My sister Marjorie has been making a fresh cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving since she was a teenager. She shares her recipe for easy cranberry clementine sauce every year, since I never write it down. I’m happy to share it here because now I will be able to look it up next November, too! This is also a fun recipe to make with kids.
Mama’s Kitchen is a San Diego charity that provides free meals to adults and children affected by HIV/AIDS and cancer. As I do, they believe FOOD is LOVE. One of their biggest annual fundraisers also happens to be the biggest bake sale on the West Coast and features one of my favorite obsessions: pies! Each professionally baked pie you purchase provides over 8 healthy meals delivered to neighbors in need. This year Mama’s Kitchen delivered their 7 millionth meal. Seven million, can you believe it?
About Mama’s Kitchen
Mama’s Kitchen started with one woman, cooking for her neighbors. The organization was founded in 1990 when volunteers from the AIDS Assistance Fund discovered that many of their clients were becoming too ill to take care of themselves. They realized that a reliable home meal delivery service was needed to ensure that these individuals would continue to receive nutritious, life-sustaining food. In 2004, Mama’s Pantry was opened to provide HIV/AIDS-positive individuals who are able to prepare meals the opportunity to supplement their nutritional needs. Today, the community-driven organization has expanded its service to San Diegans affected by AIDS or cancer that are vulnerable to hunger. Mama’s Kitchen provides three meals a day, for every day of the year, free of charge, to approximately 350 men, women, and children in San Diego County. Learn more and make a donation at www.mamaskitchen.org.
Pie in the Sky
Mama’s Kitchen’s annual Pie in the Sky bake sale is one of their largest annual fundraisers. All proceeds directly fund thousands of free, hot and nutritious Mama’s Kitchen meals, which help ensure that no one living with AIDS or cancer will go hungry in the San Diego community. Hundreds of volunteers will take to the streets to sell the pies to friends, family and co-workers. Many of San Diego’s top pastry chefs, caterers, and bakeries such as Urban Solace, Sea and Smoke, Sycuan, Sea World, Behind the Scenes Catering and more will donate traditional Thanksgiving pies for this annual Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale. Pies will be available for pick-up the day before Thanksgiving on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at more than 20 convenient Wells Fargo Bank branch locations throughout San Diego County and at Mama’s Kitchen in City Heights. You can purchase a pie through my personal page, or set one up yourself.
Photo credit for above photos: Mama’s Kitchen
If you are interested in picking up a chef-made pie and helping a good cause, the Pie in a Sky bakesale is a win-win. Interested in baking your own pie or live outside of San Diego? You can purchase a pie for a Mama’s client and then try one of these recipes:
As promised, here is the recipe for cinnamon cream cheese frosting, the perfect topping to the gluten-free Pumpkin Smash Cake and gluten-free pumpkin cup cakes shared yesterday. Both the cake and the frosting have greatly reduced sugar. I think our tastes must be changing, because I used a quarter of the sugar others use in this frosting and it still tasted sweet to us. I do not like to use sugar substitutes, but prefer to just add less sugar.