Monday, October 8, 2007

My other boyfriend is Trader Joe.

I love Trader Joe's. If you live in the Pittsburgh area and haven't made the trek to the Trader Joe's on Penn Avenue yet, you should. You probably own a car, so going there and loading up will make the trip well worth it!

Why is it worth this trip? Trader Joe's specializes in inexpensive, natural foods, many of which are also organic. It also caters to those with special dietary needs who would otherwise find themselves going broke at "Whole Paycheck". In fact, many of the foods that Trader Joe's carries are manufactured by makers you already trust and love, but with the artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives removed.

This recipe features many of the good things Trader Joe's has to offer, and shopping for the ingredients will give you a tour of most of the store! If you don't have a TJ's nearby, just approximate with my notes.

Asian-style Vegetable Soup

1 container TJ's Ginger Soy broth
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 package TJ's Harvest Mix Vegetables (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, onions, peppers, and mushrooms -- Birds Eye has a similar mix)
1/2 package extra firm tofu, cubed OR 1/2 pound of frozen uncooked shrimp
1/2 package TJ's rice stick noodles
3 green onions, snipped into 2 inch lengths
4 pieces of fresh cilantro

In a 4 quart pan, combine the first three ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Add the vegetables and shrimp if using. If using tofu, heat 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil plus a drop of sesame oil in a pan. Cook tofu cubes to remove excess moisture and until just browned.

When Shrimp starts to turn pink, or when broth begins to simmer again, add noodles. Also add tofu at this time if using. Allow to simmer 7 minutes, until noodles are soft. Remove from heat and add green onions and cilantro, stirring them in. Allow to sit 3-4 minutes.

Serve hot. Serves 6, and when made with tofu, the whole pot will cost you about $5 to make!

Saturday, October 6, 2007 does a body good.

There have been changes afoot around the Small Space Kitchen. With some health changes has come eating changes, and so the Kitchen is headed toward a vegetarian theme. I still have chicken in my freezer, though, so until that runs out, there will be some more meaty things coming down the line.

But today we have a personal favorite, Peach-raspberry pie. I love pie. Love. It. I also love hitting the jackpot at the Haymarket and getting 5 beautiful, gigantic, freestone peaches for $2, and a container of raspberries for $.75.

Peach pie is one of those things that often gets lost in the shuffle. In a lot of ways it's the "middle child" in the pie triumvirate which includes apple and cherry. Strawberry pies don't often compete, as they're not usually a baked pie, and blackberry pies due to rarity have the benefit of novelty.

Why do peaches lose out? It's hard to say, especially since when done right, they are much easier to prep for a fresh fruit pie than apples or cherries. And after you read through tutorial and recipe, however, I'm sure peaches will hit higher on your pie radar!

Step 1: Start with the right fruit. There are two main types of peaches you'll encounter, freestone and cling. You may have seen these words appear on canned peaches and wondered what they meant. While it means little to you the consumer of a canned, pitted fruit, the difference becomes apparent when working with the fresh, whole fruit! Freestone peaches develop so that the flesh is free from the stone -- the stone being the pit. Cling, on the other hand, are the peaches whose fruit comes away from the pit in clumps, giving the would-be pie-maker a much more difficult task. Ask your produce person before buying to make sure.

Step 2: Be a blancher, not a fighter. When you get your peaches home, rinse dirt from peaches under running tap water in the sink. Then either boil water in a tea kettle or pot, and then pour the boiling water over the peaches, or place them in the boiling pot for 3 minutes. Blanching your peaches allows the skin to peel off easily with your fingertips or the help of a small knife. Either way, the blush of the skin should decrease a bit as you boil the fruit -- this is simply the translucent skin pulling away from the flesh. A uniform translucency tells you your peaches are ready.

Step 3: Slice! Be careful, as the blanched skinless peaches are slippery. Firmly keeping a finger in the stem end will do the least damage to your fruit as you slice the fruit off of the stone.

Once you've sliced your peaches, toss them with some lemon juice to prevent browning. Sliced peaches may be refrigerated overnight if you want to spread the workload over two days. Here again they out-do apples -- refrigerated peaches retain their texture and flavor much better than apples.

Where do the raspberries come in? While I love peaches, they are often a very straight-line sweet flavor. The raspberries add a touch of tang and depth, making what would be a very good pie truly memorable. It doesn't take many raspberries to add zest to the pie.....just toss them thoroughly with the peaches to get good distribution.

And the recipe:

Peach-Raspberry Pie


  • 1 (15 ounce) package pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 5 cups sliced peeled peaches (4 extra large, or 6 medium)

  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, picked over and rinsed

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).
    Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts. Brush with some of the beaten egg to keep the dough from becoming soggy later. Prick with fork to prevent bubbles.

    Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour over the peaches, and mix gently. Pour into the pie crust, and dot with butter. Cover with the other pie crust, and fold the edges under. Flute the edges to seal or press the edges with the tines of a fork dipped in egg. Brush the remaining egg over the top crust. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam.

    Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble through the vents. If the edges brown to fast, cover them with strips of aluminum foil about halfway through baking. Cool before serving. This tastes better warm than hot.

    picture to come!