Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 02/2010

« June 2011 | Main | August 2011 »

14 posts from July 2011


~ Alert: It is Time to Start "Tuning Up for Tailgate"! ~

6a0120a8551282970b0133f327fe9f970b-800wiThe blimp is back and hovering over Melanie's Kitchen's chimney in search of recipes and tips for another year of Penn State Football, fun and food... and face it folks, no school quite cooks up tailgate like us right here at Penn State!

In exactly one month, Kitchen Encounters will again host "Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursdays", where I'll post Mel's Menu, tips and recipes for each and every game.  This'll give you plenty of time to to buy groceries, plan your party and get taped-up for Saturday's big game!

Beaver Stadium #1 For those of you who are new to Kitchen Encounters, all of the recipes I posted last season as well as the ones I will be posting this year are conveniently located and can be found by clicking into Category 18: Just Penn State Tailgate!

As always:  To leave a comment, ask a question or submit a request, just click on the blue title of any post in this blog, scroll to the end of it and type away!

Near the end of last year's season, a few of you (here on my Kitchen Encounters blog as well as over at Black Shoe Diaries, a sports blog for Nittany Lion fans) asked me for tips on how to successfully grill pizza.  While I answered all of your questions, over the Summer I decided to take it one step further and developed a detailed recipe with lots of step-by-step photos for you. Then when Jeff, an editor over at BSD, asked if I'd kick-off their foodie tailgating posts on their blog this evening (which flattered my little 'ole blue & white heart), I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to share with everyone!    So, to kick tailgate off here at KE this morning as well as over at Black Shoe Diaries tonight, and, to help all of you everywhere get your tailgatin' groove back:

~ How to:  Grill & Host a Great Penn State Tailgate Pizza Party ~

PICT4853Everyone loves pizza, everyone loves pizza parties and everyone loves personal-sized pizza they can customize with their favorite toppings.  That being said, a pizza tailgate party on a glorious Fall day at Beaver Stadium has got to be the #1 place everyone would just love to be! With a little pre-prep and planning, I'm here to tell you and show you how this can and will be one of your bestest, funnest, easiest tailgates ever!

PICT0551First your going to need dough.  My family loves my homemade pizza crust and so have all of the students I have taught to make it in my cooking classes.  So, for starters, I decided to put it to the test and see how it would fare on the grill... and it worked fantastic.  I make it in the food processor in less than 5 minutes.  Yes, I said less than 5 minutes.  To read my recipe for ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II:  Our Favorite Crust ~, click into Categories 5 or 12.

That being said:  Feel free to use your own recipe or your favorite store-bought dough.

PICT4766 ~ Step 1.  Depending on how much dough you have, line one or two 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper and spray the paper with no-stick spray.  Once your dough is mixed and has risen, using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide it into 3-ounce portions and roll it into balls.  My dough recipe yields 18 personal-sized pizza crusts and I plan on 2 crusts per person.  Using your fingertips, pat, press and push each ball of dough to form a crust about 6" round.

PICT4775 ~ Step 2.  Line one more baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.  As you form the crusts, place/layer them on the pan, four to a layer, interleaving the crusts with parchment paper that has been sprayed with no-stick spray on BOTH SIDES, meaning: all of the parchment paper touching the crusts must be sprayed!

PICT4786Note:  At this point, the pan of crusts can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours or overnight.  They can be taken up to the stadium in a cooler as is, or they can be precooked as follows:

~ Step 3.  Uncooked crusts "shrink up". Give each a second brief pat and press, stretching it to between 6"-7" round, just prior to grilling.

PICT4782 ~ Step 4.  Preheat your grill to high. Place desired number of crusts on the grill and cook until golden brown grill marks appear on the first side.  Using a long-handled grilling spatula, flip crust over and grill again, until golden brown grill marks appear on the second side. This should take just 1-2 minutes per side, but depending upon just how hot your grill is or gets, could take as long as 3 minutes per side.

PICT4795 Note:  Grilled and completely cooled crusts can be prepared 1-2 days in advance of topping, cooking and eating pizzas.  Cover them with plastic wrap or store them in a large food storage bag.  Grilled and completely cooled crusts can also be frozen.  How cool is that!

PICT4799 To cook pizzas on the grill: Preheat grill to high.  Top pizzas and place 1-2 of them on a disposable aluminum broiler pan, the kind with the corrugated bottom. Place on grill, close the lid and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3-5 minutes.  

Note:  Placing the crusts on this type of pan diffuses the heat really well, which insures your crust won't burn in the time necessary to melt the cheese.  It also prevents flareups caused by cheese and/or sauce dripping down into the flame.  It's also great if you're cooking a lot of pizzas all at the same time or at approximately the same time... you can thank me later!  

Now that we've grilled the crusts and know how to cook the pizzas, I'd like to share some of my favorite ideas for topping them with you.  All of the following toppings can be prepped a day or two in advance, placed in food storage containers (some in zip-top bags), refrigerated and then transported to the stadium in your cooler on game day.  Easy enough so far?

PICT4705 #1.  Sauces:  I like to give my family and guests three sauces to choose from.  My favorites are Parmesan-Alfredo, basil-pesto and tomato-basil, which just happen to be the three colors in the Italian flag!

Note:  While I make my sauces from scratch, feel free to use your favorite bottled brands.  You can read my recipe for ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I:  Our Favorite Sauce ~ by clicking into Categories 8, 12, or 22.  I'll be posting the others in the near future!

PICT4709 #2.  Fresh vegetables.  Feel free to use any fresh vegetables that you like, just remember to slice them very thin and/or chop them into bite sized pieces.  My four favorites are blanched, fresh broccoli florets, shaved Vidalia or sweet onion, small, sliced Campari tomatoes and white button mushroom caps. Occasionally I like to take the time to roast and slice some red and/or green peppers too!

PICT4714 #3.  Marinated vegetables.  My favorite duo is broken/coarsely chopped Kalamata olives and sliced artichoke hearts, but two other great suggestions are anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes!

PICT4720 #4.  Proteins.  In warm/hot weather, I love the taste of freshly grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (which have been cut into thin strips) and small shrimp (which were steamed using some fresh lemon juice and bay leaves).  In cool/cold weather, I head towards sauteed sausage and pepperoni!

PICT4729 #5.  Cheeses.  Real Parmigiano-Reggiano is a must.  Three accompanying options which work and taste great on grilled pizza are fresh mozzarella, goat and/or feta.

PICT4735 My tip for quickly and easily slicing soft, fresh mozzarella into thin and even slices is to cut the cheese ball into quarters and us an egg slicer!

PICT4755 #6.  Fresh herbs and dried spices. My favorite herb is fresh basil leaves, picked right out of the garden and torn into pieces. Rosemary, thyme and oregano work quite well too.

PICT4722 As for dried herbs, I keep them simple, relying upon my highly-flavored sauces to spice my pizzas up.  A sprinkling of garlic powder, an herb blend and some red pepper is all I require.  Once the pizzas are off the grill:  drizzle with EVOO, slice and eat!

PICT4811 How to:  Grill and Host a Great Penn State Tailgate Pizza Party:  The recipe for my pizza dough yields 18 personal-sized pizza crusts.  This will feed 8-10 adults or 3-4 college-age boys.

Special Equipment List:  2-3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; 5-6, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheets parchment paper; no-stick cooking spray; kitchen scale; plastic wrap (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; egg slicer; long-handled grilling spatula; 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans w/corrugated bottoms; cutting board; chef's knife or pizza cutter

PICT4807 Cook's Note:  What happens if you have grilled pizza crusts leftover or want to take one or two out of the freezer and don't want to heat up your grill?  Top and bake them in a 375-400 degree oven for 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.  To insure the crust gets as crispy as it does on the grill, place them on a rack in a baking pan!

PICT4808 Extra Cook's Note:  The topping combinations pictured in the three pizzas today are my favorites:  basil-pesto w/olives, artichokes, shrimp and mozzarella; Parmesan-Alfredo w/broccoli, tomato, chicken, mozzarella and basil, and; tomato-basil w/mushrooms, onions, mozzarella and basil.  Before going onto the grill, they were all sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes.  Once off the grill, they were drizzled with EVOO!


"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (7/23/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 Three weeks have passed since my last Kitchen Encounters Culinary Q&A with you.  Things got really crazy here immediately after the July 4th holiday weekend.  I've told you that my husband Joe maintains two amazing vegetable and herb gardens in our backyard.  Well, he's just as talented when it comes to fruit trees and so far this July, his cherries, blueberries and peaches have all produced overwhelming quantities of fresh fruit!

PICT0401 Besides freezing 38 pounds of cherries, 20 pounds of blueberries and making peach preserves, I decided to put the spotlight on baking fruit desserts (pies and galettes).  Last Wednesday Kitchen Enounters shot its 11th cooking segment for WHVL-TV's Sunday Morning Centre of it All Show and I made... blueberry galettes.  The show will air this Sunday morning at 11:30AM on our local channel 235!

To view a short video/slideshow of how we shot this segment, and how we shoot cooking segments in general:

Download WHVL-Kitchen Encounters_ Galette & Pie Shoot-Medium

Kitchen Encounters had two great questions come in this week, both of which were posted directly here on the blog (sometimes I get them over on Facebook and other times via e-mail).  I apologize to both of you loyal KE readers for not getting my Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too post posted yesterday (Friday), as Friday is our regularly scheduled Q&A day, but I had a special guest from Atlanta coming for dinner last evening.  So, without any further pause, delay or adieu:  

Q.  Ken asks:  Mel, this may sound like an odd question, but what is the correct way to slice or dice an onion?  I read your post ~ How to:  Grill Great Sizzling Summertime Pizza ~ and I want to put sliced onion on my pizza this weekend!  Also, I remember the night at your house when you were making your ~ Blackened Flank Steak & Bacon Sandwiches ~ and you asked Joe to "shave" an onion for you.  What does "shave an onion" mean???

PICT1187  A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Ken, this is not an odd question, this is a great question.  It is such a great question, I've decided to do one of my "How to:" posts about it, with step-by-step photos to share with everyone.  You can look for it right here early next week.  As for a short answer:

There are two schools of thought on how to slice/dice onions.  I am not a proponent of the "leave the root end on and slice inwards toward the root".  Why?  I just think it's plain 'ole dumb and dangerous to teach people to slice toward their hands.  End of statement. That being said, as a lefty, self-taught chef, I found myself being most comfortable with "Plan B":  

 ~ Step 1:  Trim the root and top ends off the onion, to form two flat, stable surfaces and peel the skin away.

~ Step 2:  Place the onion on one of the flat, stable surfaces and slice it in half lengthwise.

~ Step 3:  Reposition the two halves with the stable "center" surface facing down on the cutting board.  Take notice of the lines on the surface of the onion that resemble stripes.  I'm going to refer to them as "the grain" of the onion, meaning:  to slice downward with the grain=follow the lines, and, to slice downward against the grain=don't follow the lines, slice opposite of them.

~ Step 4:  To slice the onion in semi-circlular sections:  slice downward, "against the grain" or "don't follow the lines".  The thickness of your slices will determine the thickness of your slices, but do your best to be as uniform as possible.  When I "shave" an onion, I am referring to paper thin slices of onion, which is how I like onions sliced for all sandwiches.

~ Step 5:  To dice the onion:  slice downward, "with the grain" or "follow the lines".  Once you have sliced through all of the lines, slice downward again, only this time "against the grain" or "don't follow the lines".  The thickness of your slices will determine the size of your dice and once again, do your best to be as uniform as possible. 

In Melanie's Kitchen, because I do not teach or train people for for the restaurant industry, I like to teach practical skills and encourage them to work at a pace they are comfortable with, meaning:  there is no need to chop an onion in 15-20 seconds like they do on reality TV shows. It's all about a job well done, not a race against the clock!


Q.  PSUinBosston asks:  Mel!!!!!  I just read your ~ Creamy, Chunky, Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad ~ post.  Tuna or chicken salad would be a dish I would really enjoy except I hate mayo and mustard.  I have heard rumors of great chicken salads in a light oil base.  I have tried to create them (with and without recipes) to no avail.  The closest I ever came was with my own modified crab cake recipe (which, of course, has no mayo).  It was fine, but tasted similar and made me sad there was no crab.  Please tell me you have the solution to my problems!?!?

PICT3418 A.  Kitchen Encounters: PSUinBosston... Great to hear from you again!!!  I'm so looking forward to getting back in touch with all of you Penn State football/tailgating fans/foodies over at Black Shoe Diaries.  I have some fun posts planned for our upcoming 2011 season, and, can you believe Penn State football and tailgate is only a few weeks away? 

As you probably already know, cooked chicken and canned tuna can be used interchangeably in almost all recipes.  It just so happens that back in May, I posted my recipe for ~ A Chilled Mediterranean-Style Tuna & Orzo Salad ~, which you can find by clicking into Categories 1, 2, or 14.  It is a light, refreshing change of pace from classic tuna salad and contains no mayonnaise.  It does contain 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard (which trust me, you wouldn't guess was in there if I didn't tell you it was), but you could omit it if you want to.  Orzo, which is a small rice-shaped pasta, which gets stirred into the mix, turns this into a really delightful, filling, Summertime meal.  That being said, I occasionally like to serve this flavorful oil-based salad on sandwiches, so I make it without the orzo.  I think this is the recipe you have been searching for, am confident it will solve your problem and put a smile on your face too!

Have a nice rest of the weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Spicy Bow Ties w/Brown Butter, Onions 'n Sage ~

PICT1290Growing up in the area of Eastern Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley , homemade noodles were something I just took for granted.  In my Eastern European family, my grandmother or mother made a lot of soup and when they did, I just assumed there would be homemade egg noodles in it.  The Lehigh Valley also has a large Pennsylvania Dutch community, so buttered noodles were served as a side-dish in a lot of my friends homes and in restaurants as well.  When I got married and moved here to Happy Valley (State College, PA) I was pleasantly surprised to find out that noodles would remain a big part of my life thanks to our close proximity to the Amish population.  Yes, noodles of some type have been a big part of my life, I love noodles, and I'm looking forward to sharing all sorts of homemade/made-from-scratch, noodle and dumpling-type recipes with you!

PICT1258 A bit about bow ties:  Farfalle, affectionately referred to as bow ties, is not a noodle at all, it is pasta, and more importantly it is macaroni, which means it is not made using eggs.  The Italian word for butterfly is "farfalla", for which it is named.  

That being said, when I was growing up, "in a pinch" bow ties were commonly substituted for homemade noodles in PA Dutch buttered-noodle-type side-dishes and casseroles.  I believe bow ties were chosen as a time-saving substitution because of their small size (fork friendly), ruffly nooks and crannies (for butter to puddle) and texture (slightly chewy in the center just like a properly-cooked homemade noodle). When our school cafeteria served "buttered noodles", they served "buttered bow-ties" with a crunchy breadcrumb topping and us kids just loved them... which probably accounts for their overwhelming popularity... kids love them!

PICT1278 Buttered-noodles are most commonly tossed in a simple mixture of melted butter and an occasional herb with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  That being said, it was my grandmother who made a lot of her noodles and dumplings taste over-the-top-delicious by tossing them in a mixture of brown butter, caramelized onions, salt and pepper.  My recipe is basically the same as hers, with the optional additions of some ground cayenne pepper and dried rubbed Dalmatian sage.  Why?  Well, cayenne pepper adds heat as well as a pretty golden color. Sage pairs perfectly with pork dishes or pork chops. When I was growing up, one of my favorite meals was breaded pork chops with buttered noodles and applesauce, so these two additions took my recipe over-the-top as well!

PICT11081  12-ounce box farfalle (bow ties)

12  tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks)

3/4-1  teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

3/4-1  teaspoon dried, rubbed Dalmatian sage

2-2 1/2 cups diced yellow or sweet onion

freshly ground sea salt, to taste

Note:  This easy side-dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes.  It is delicious served in place of rice or potatoes with just about anything!


~ Step 1.  In a 5-quart stockpot, cook and drain the pasta as directed.  Set aside.

PICT1110 ~ Step 2.   While the bow ties are cooking, prep the onion as directed and set aside.

In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides, or a 12" skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the cayenne and sage.






~ Step 3.  Add the onions and adjust heat to medium or medium-high, but, not TOO high.  









~ Step 4.  Saute until the butter is a nice golden brown and the onions are all browning around their edges.  This will take 8-12 minutes, depending on how your heat is adjusted.

Regulate the heat carefully, as this mixture can and will go from browned to burned very quickly.

Lower the heat or turn it off.  Add the pasta and using a large spoon gently and thoroughly toss to coat. Salt to taste.  Serve immediatley.

In every family, there are fantastic recipes that get passed down, and even improved upon, from generation to generation.  You can read my recipe for ~ Crispy Cinnamon-Cayenne Breaded Pork Chops w/Brown Butter 'n Sage Bow Ties & Applesauce ~ in Categories 3 or 19!

PICT1159Spicy Bow Ties w/Brown Butter, Onions 'n Sage:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings of bow ties.

Special Equipment List:  5-quart stockpot; colander; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides or 12" skillet

Cook's Note:  As I've taught many of my classes, brown butter, which is very simple to make is one of a cooks' or chefs' best secrets.  Depending upon the application, the addition of onion and  a couple of complementary spices can change an ordinary dish into an extraordinary one! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Crispy Cinnamon-Cayenne Breaded Pork Chops w/ Brown Butter 'n Sage Bow Ties & Applesauce ~

PICT1152 I hadn't planned on posting this recipe at this point in time, but I was taken aback a couple of days ago when one of my girlfriends, who is quite an accomplished cook, announced to me over a glass of wine that she "can't cook pork chops".  I wasn't sure what she meant by "can't", because as I said, she is a great cook so I pursued it a bit. She explained that whatever method she tries they always seem to come out tough and/or dry and had deemed pork chop cookery to be something best left to others.  As a person who has eaten and cooked a lot of pork chops in my lifetime, I told her I thought she was probably just trying too hard, because in my opinion, one should never try to do too much to a pork chop. My pork chop tips are as follows:  

#1) For thick chops (1 1/2"):  braise for a long period of time until it is fall-off-the-bone tender;

#2) For thin chops (1/2"):  pan-fry over high heat for a short period of time, or bread and pan-fry or deep-fry for a short period of time;

#3) Avoid grilling any pork chops, and;

#4) Always buy bone-in, center-cut, pork loin chops.

Braised Veal Chops #7 (Last Picture) Back in October I posted my recipe for ~ Veal Loin Chops Braised in Tomato-Basil Sauce ~, which you can find in Categories 3, 12 or 19. In this recipe, I also point out that you can substitute pork loin chops for the veal chops without hesitation or compromise.  In this recipe, I use thick, 1 1/2" chops exclusively and trust me when I tell you, these chops will be moist, juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender.  That being said, today I'm going to show you my favorite way to make thin, deep-fried, breaded pork chops that are super-crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside!

PICT1031 When I was growing up in Hometown, PA (a suburb of Tamaqua. PA) we all called them "skinny pork chops".  They were "skinny" because they were sliced really thin, 1/2".  They were always bone-in, because as my dad tells me: doesn't everyone know everything tastes better with the bone left in it or on it?  In our family, my dad was/is the master of these pork chops, pan-frying them until golden brown and always serving them with baked beans and his home-fried potatoes.  On those nights, my brother and I were "washed up" and ready for dinner a half an hour before it was on the table!

When I was graduated from high-school, my fiancees grandmother, who lived in the Lehigh Valley or South Tamaqua, also served "skinny pork chops".  Nana, being what is referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch (which culinarily is similar to Amish but religiously is not), was their family's master of these pork chops, breading and frying them until they were golden brown and always serving them with buttered "bow-tie" noodles and her homemade applesauce.  On those nights, my fiancee and I showed up ready for dinner a half an hour before it was on the table!

Today it is almost 100 degrees in Central PA and my husband Joe's 86-year-old mother told him she was getting hungry for "skinny pork chops", "the ones Mel makes with the applesauce".  I had my butcher cut the chops and as for the rest of the ingredients, I had the noodles on hand in my pantry and always have homemade applesauce in my freezer.  My recipe, while similar to Nana's has changed just a bit over the years.  I dip my chops, which have been spiced with cinnamon and cayenne pepper, in a light beer batter (rather than beaten eggs), then coat them in Panko (rather than ordinary bread crumbs) for a flavorful, super-crunchy crust.  While I like to deep-fry them, because it produces chops with a crispy outside and a juicy inside, pan-frying works well too.  As for my bow-ties, I like to coat them in a mixture of browned butter and caramelized onions.  Just like Nana, my applesauce is homemade and you can get my recipe for ~ Simply Silky-Smooth Spiced Apple & Pear Puree ~ in Categories 4, 8, 18 & 22!

PICT1035  For the Pork Chops:

12, 1/2"-thick, bone-in, center-cut, pork loin chops (Note:  Because these chops are so thin, plan on 2 per person.)

2  cups pancake mix, for dredging

2  tablespoons ground cinnamon

1  teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, more or less, to taste

3  cups additional pancake mix, for batter

2  12-ounce bottles beer

2  8-ounce boxes panko breadcrumbs

corn or peanut oil, for deep-frying

freshly ground sea salt

applesauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite store-bought brand, served warm, room temperature or cold, your choice

PICT1052 ~ Step 1.  Using a few paper towels, pat the pork chops dry.  In a deep-fryer, preheat oil to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.

~ Step 2.  In an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish, using a fork or a spoon, thoroughly combine 2 cups of the pancake mix with the ground cinnamon and ground cayenne pepper.

PICT1050 ~ Step 3.  In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk, combine 3 cups of the pancake mix with the 2 bottles of beer.  Mixture will be a thick but drizzly consistency.  If at any point during the frying process, the batter gets too thick, just whisk in a little more beer (from the bottle your are drinking) or some water.

PICT1036 ~ Step 4. Place 1 box of the panko in a second 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish.

~ Step 5.  From left to right, set up an assembly line in the the following order:  pork chops, dry flour mixture, wet batter, dry breadcrumbs, deep-fryer.  Lastly, line a large 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with 2-3 layers of paper towels (for putting the finished chops on) and preheat oven to 200 degrees.  The frying process will go quite quickly, and, as whenever you are "dipping and frying", use one hand exclusively to dip, keeping the other hand clean and free.  To deep-fry:

PICT1060ONE AT A TIME, dredge each chop in the dry flour mixture to coat it on all sides.  Give it a gentle shake, letting excess flour mix fall back into the dish...








Dip the chop into the wet beer batter.  Lift it out of the batter and give it a second or two for excess batter to drip back into the bowl...








Dredge the batter-dipped chop into the dry panko breadcrumbs, making sure the chop gets coated on all sides.

Note:  After half of the chops are deep-fried, add the second box of panko to the dish and continue the frying process.







Place chop in preheated deep-fryer and fry for exactly 3 minutes. Using a pair of tongs in your clean hand, remove the chop from the oil, place on the prepared baking pan and lightly salt on both sides.  Repeat the above process until all chops are fried and on the pan.

PICT1104 ~ Step 5. Place pork chops in the oven (do not cover) to keep warm while preparing the Brown Butter Bow Ties.  Note:  If you are not serving the bow ties, the chops can be eaten immediately!

For the brown butter bow ties:PICT1108

1  12-ounce box farfalle (bow ties)

12  tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks)

3/4-1  teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

3/4-1  teaspoon dried, rubbed Dalmatian sage

2-2 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

freshly ground sea salt, to taste

Note:  This easy side-dish can be prepared in about 20 minutes.  It is delicious served in place of rice or potatoes with just about anything!

PICT1110 ~ Step 1.  In a 5-quart stockpot, cook and drain the pasta as directed.  Set aside.

~ Step 2.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides, or a 12" skillet, melt the butter and stir in the cayenne and sage.

PICT1111 Add the onions and adjust heat to medium or medium-high.

PICT1116 ~ Step 3.  Saute until the butter is a nice golden brown and the onions are browning around the edges.

Regulate the heat carefully, as this mixture can go from browned to burned very quickly.  Add the noodles, toss, salt (to taste) and  serve immediately:





PICT1163 Crispy Cinnamon-Cayenne Breaded Pork Chops w/Brown Butter 'n Sage Bow Ties & Applesauce:  Recipe yields 12 pork chops or 6 servings.

Special Equipment List: paper towels; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; fork or spoon; whisk; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; tongs; 5-quart stockpot; colander; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides or 12" skillet

Cook's Note:  As in every family, there are fantastic recipes that get passed down, and sometimes even improved upon, from generation to generation.  This delicious meal is certainly one of them!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ WHVL-Kitchen Encounters: Pie & Galette Shoot (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:09)

PICT0415 It is late evening, but it has been a great day which was preceded by a busy, busy two weeks.  The fruit trees and berry bushes in our backyard gardens literally buried me in fresh fruit this year... 38 pounds of cherries, 30 pounds of blueberries and an overwhelming amount of peaches.  I froze as much as I could, baked as many pies and galettes as I could, posted those recipes, plus my recipe for pie pastry, and will be making/posting peach jam early next week.  Did I forget to mention all of these posts, as well as the pie crust are up and can be found in Category 6!

The spotlight went  on me and these recipes earlier today when Kitchen Encounters had it's 11th shoot with WHVL-TV, channel 235!

For those of you who'd like to see a short video/slideshow of this particular shoot, as well as take an insiders peek at how we shoot my cooking segments here in Melanie's Kitchen:

Download WHVL-Kitchen Encounters_ Galette & Pie Shoot-Medium

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary, Photo and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Creamy, Chunky & Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad ~

IMG_4704While English settlers brought salads dressed with a creamy egg mixture to Colonial America, it doesn't take a food historian to figure out that tuna salad was not one of them as manufacturing canned tuna didn't occur until 1903.  I enjoy reading history about life in the colonies, so it is fun for me to imagine Betsy Ross serving her family a typical-of-the-time composed (layered), creamy-coated dinner salad made with readily available ingredients such as:  eggs, chicken, ham, lobster, potatoes and/or turkey.  Moreover, knowing the French were creating versions of mayonnaise during the early 1750's, followed by the invention of the sandwich in 1762 (by the English nobleman and Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu), I smile at the possibility of Paul Revere's wife packing an egg or chicken salad sandwich in his saddlebag for his famous ride in 1775... or maybe even an early version of the lobster roll!

Is there such a thing as "classic" or "traditional" tuna salad?

IMG_4665In my opinion, not in terms of a formal recipe.  When I use the words classic or traditional in the context of tuna salad, I think of the special way my mother made it for me or your grandmother served it to you.  After all, tuna salad really only requires three or four things:  tuna, mayonnaise, celery and/or onion!  

Eggs, pickles, herbs and seasonings eventually got added to it depending on where one was raised and the availability of ingredients.  The most important ingredient is obviously tuna, so (also in my opinion), in terms of using the words "classic" or "traditional", I'm referring to canned-tuna and I think you are too!

IMG_4717I particularly enjoy tuna salad on a sunny, hot, Summer day.  Since it is exactly that here in Happy Valley today, I deem this a tuna salad kind of day. I'm going to make my all-time favorite recipe, but, I will tell you, when I go out to lunch, tuna salad or a tuna salad sandwich is one of my favorite things to order and I'm not snobby about it.  I'm very accepting of creative, refreshing, unique flavor combinations.  That being said, I'm critical and judgmental if my tuna salad is not: chilled, creamy, chunky and crunchy.  I am totally unforgiving if it is:  mushy, watery and/or bland!  

IMG_4783If I'm ordering a sandwich, my favorite breads for tuna salad are untoasted, medium-sliced, fresh brioche, egg challah, a croissant or a soft semolina roll, as they all seem to melt around each and every delightful bite.  When I want my bread toasted, I choose whole wheat or whole grain bread.  That being said, if I have leftover tuna salad in my refrigerator, I love to snack on it throughout the day on top of one or two crackers!  














2  12 1/2-ounce cans solid white tuna, packed in water, well-drained, your favorite brand (Note:  My favorite brand is pictured above and I prefer my tuna out of the can, not those new-fangled pouches.  My Italian relatives and probably more than a few food critics might disagree with this next statememt, but I also prefer my tuna packed in water... I'll add my own EVOO thank you!) 

2  tablespoons sweet pickle relish, well-drained

4-6  extra-large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and coarsely chopped

4-6  ounces diced red onion

4-6  ounces diced celery

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2-3/4  cup mayonnaise

1/2  teaspoon each:  celery seed, salt and coarsely ground black pepper

PICT0975 ~ Step 1.  Place the tuna in a colander to drain.  Using your fingertips, not a fork, break the large pieces up into chunks.  Add the sweet pickle relish to the colander to drain as well.  While the tuna and relish are draining:

~ Step 2.  Hard cook, drain, peel and chop the eggs as directed and set aside.  Prep the onion and celery as directed and set aside.  

Note:  To learn how to perfectly hard cook eggs (eggs without that unsightly green ring around the yolk that forms as a result of overcooking), read my post ~ A Little Thing Called:  Boiling Eggs ~, found in Category 15.

PICT0983 ~ Step 3.  To prepare the dressing: In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together the Dijon mustard and EVOO, until thick and emulsified.

Add 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise, the celery seed, salt and black pepper. Continue to whisk until a thick, smooth, light-colored dressing has formed. 


PICT0987~ Step 4.  Add the drained tuna, pickle relish, chopped eggs and diced onion and celery.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly coated in the mayonnaise dressing.  If you want your tuna salad a little creamier, fold in 1-2 tablespoons of additional mayonnaise.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Serve well-chilled.

IMG_4674Creamy, Chunky & Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad:  Recipe yields 5-6 cups or 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  colander; 4-quart saucepan; cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

IMG_4680Cook's Note:  The tuna salad sandwich is often referred to as "the mainstay of everyones childhood" or the "lunch staple of the office generation."  Other variations include a "tuna melt", which is served open-faced on toasted bread with cheese melted over the top, and a "tuna boat" or "tuna sub", which is served on a hot dog or sub/hoagie roll with lettuce and sliced tomato. Children tend to love tuna salad scooped into pita pockets or wrapped in flour tortillas!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #11: Apple, Blueberry Cherry or Peach-Almond Galettes ~

6a0120a8551282970b014e89e63163970d-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Easier than Pie:  Rustic Peach & Almond Galettes ~. These round, flat, free-form, unpretentious desserts are without questions just as good as any fruit pie you have ever tasted without all of the work.  You can find the detailed recipe, with all of my detailed step-by-step directions and photos in Categories 6 or 20!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment (in which I make them using blueberries), just click on the following link:

Apple, Blueberry, Cherry or Peach-Almond Galettes

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and, click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!


"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Easier than Pie: Rustic Peach & Almond Galettes ~

PICT0871 Easier than pie?  Absolutely.  Better than pie?  That's a toss up.  Hailing from France, a galette is usually a round, flat, free-form, unpretentious, rustic pie- or tart-like dessert made of flaky pastry dough (although in some regions a galette is a flat cake made of yeast dough).  There are probably as many variations as there are regions in France.  Just like pies and quiche, galettes can be sweet or savory and can be filled with almost anything (or combination of things) you can think of:  fruit, jam, nuts, meat, cheese, vegetables, etc.  The word galette is derived from "galet", which is a pebble that has been weatherworn to the shape that is perfect for skipping across the water.  In some regions, buckwheat or maize crepes are also called galettes, as are various cookies.  "Flat as a pancake" in French:  "plat comme une galette"!

PICT0696 Every Summer, at about this time in July, my husband's backyard fruit trees and berry bushes produce more fresh fruit than I can keep up with.  If you regularly follow Kitchen Encounters, you already know I've posted recipes using our garden's strawberries, sour cherries and blueberries so far this week.  Now it's time for peaches!

In all cases, I freeze as much as I can, I can as much as I can, and, I bake as many pies as I can, but I am here to tell you:  As much as I love to bake pies, I can't always find the time to do it, which is when galettes take center stage in my kitchen.  Before I go any further, I don't want you to think a galette is by any means a compromise to a pie because it surely is not.  Any type of a galette is indeed an informal, charming treat, right down to its thin, buttery, crispy, pizza-like pastry crust. That being said, there did come an afternoon two or three summers ago when Joe's peaches and a box of prepared pie crusts turned into two fabulous galettes and saved the day for me:

Downtown People It was exactly this time of year, because The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts was going on in downtown State College (as it is as I write this post).  This five-day, carnivalesque event lasts from Wednesday thru Sunday. It attracts over 125,000 people to our town and it is also inevitable that I get unexpected, but most welcome visits from old friends or alumni who come back into town for this very large, arts and crafts, food and music, sidewalk and street festival.

Chicken on a Stick "The Fest" encompasses most of the downtown shopping district, zig-zagging through streets, alleys and large portions of the Penn State's University Park campus.  Besides meandering through the streets gazing at endless booths of arts and crafts, visitors to our town can relax, cool-off, eat and drink in our towns many restaurants and cafes, or eat "take away" from a large selection of street food booths: there is pretty much something for everybody at The Fest!  

In preparation for Arts Fest, many local residents arrange to take vacation during this time, leaving town for exotic destinations.  For those of us locals who stay:  we "grocery up", making sure that all shopping is done well in advance (as traveling is not as quick and easy as we are accustomed to and parking is a veritable nightmare).  It's also in our best interest to buy a few extra items like chicken breasts, a rack or two of ribs and a 12-pack or two of our favorite beverages, just in case the doorbell rings!

On this particular Saturday afternoon, the skies turned black and the thunderstorms rolled into town with a vengeance.  This was not one of those "time out" twenty-minute interruptions, this was an "everybody get off the street, shut down the fest" storm system.  I was cooking a pot of chile, with my plan being to share it if I got guests and freeze it if I did not.  Joe had been slow cooking four huge racks of St. Lewis-style spare ribs, and my finishing them off in the oven was no big deal.  Just as Joe and I were the discussing the debacle, which we knew must be occurring downtown, the phone rang.  One of my sons former fraternity brothers, four of his friends and their girlfriends, who had been planning on spending the evening enjoying the entertainment at the fest and eating downtown, were left with nothing to do.  Even having a few drinks at a bar was out of the question for them as the crowds had swarmed all of the establishments. They wanted to know if Mel's Kitchen was open . "Of course", was my answer, and it was the truth.  Unfortunately for me, I only had 8 brownies leftover from the day before and with 12 of us for dinner, that wasn't going to quite "cut it".  Moreover, all of my homemade pie crusts, blueberries and cherries were frozen, so on short notice a pie was out of the question: 

It was "4th and 1 at my 40 yard line with less than 4 minutes in the game" and it seemed obvious that I had to punt.  But, 30+ years of living at Penn State (NOT the Girl Scouts) had taught me to "be prepared" and think outside of the box... or go straight to the box in an emergency.  I had a box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts on hand in my refrigerator and Joe's peaches were ripe and ready to pick.  I decided to call a trick play. I'd never made a galette using boxed pie crusts or peaches before, but I had every confidence in the world I could execute perfectly and run this dessert quickly and easily into the endzone for a game-winning touchdown!

















1  15-ounce box Pillsbury Pie Crusts, containing 2, 9" pie crusts, at room temperature (Note: By all means use homemade pie pastry if you have it or the time to make it.  That being said, after a week of posting pie pastry and pie recipes, I wanted to post this super-easy, time-saving substitution as example that good things occasionally do come out of a box!

6  cups fresh fruit or berries, prepped as follows:

peeled and sliced apples, or:

blueberries, or:

pitted sour cherries, or:

unpeeled and chopped or sliced peaches

6  tablespoons cornstarch

2  teaspoons quick-cooking tapioca

2  teaspoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

3  tablespoons apple, blueberry, cherry or peach brandy

1  tablespoon lemon juice, preferably fresh but bottled concentrate works just fine

1  cup sugar

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1/2  teaspoon salt

6  tablespoons crushed almond biscotti, about 3, 3/4-ounce almond biscotti, for sprinkling on crusts (Note:  Crushed homemade or store-bought biscotti not only add wonderful flavor, they soak up and prevent excess juices from oozing out of the galettes.  Tip:  Use some of your own or purchase several good-quality biscotti, process them in your food processor and freeze the crumbs to have on hand at all times!)

4  tablespoons lightly-toasted almonds, for sprinkling over fruit

1  large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for glazing crusts

a sprinkling of bottled Sugar 'n Cinnamon, for topping

PICT0722 ~ Step 1.  Prep the peaches, or whatever fruit you have decided to use, as directed and place in a large mixing bowl as you work. Measure and add the cornstarch, tapioca, flour, brandy, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt.






~ Step 2.  Stir all of the ingredients together and set aside for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a thick pie filling has formed.

While the filling is thickening:

Cover a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil, then place a sheet of parchment paper over the foil. 

Place the biscotti in a food storage bag and using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound into crumbs.

PICT0741 ~ Step 3.  Unwrap and unroll the crusts, placing them on the pan, overlapping them by about 1" towards the center of the pan, as well as hanging over the left and right sides of the pan by about 1".

PICT0745 ~ Step 4.  Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of biscotti crumbs on the bottom of each crust to within 1" of the border around each crust.  Using a large slotted spoon, evenly distribute the pie filling over the crumbs, leaving excess juices in the mixing bowl. While this seems like a waste of perfectly good juices, because these galettes will bake for only about 30 minutes, there is no time for any excess to thicken, meaning: they will just ooze out of the galettes onto the pan as they bake.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of almonds over the filling on each galette.

PICT0750 ~ Step 5.  Using your fingertips, making your way around each crust, fold the dough, like you would fold fabric, up and 1"-1 1/2" over the fruit filling, pleating the dough to form a protective rim to keep the filling from oozing out.

PICT0757 ~ Step 6.  In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk the egg and the water together.  Using a pastry brush, liberally paint the surface of both crusts with the egg wash.

PICT0760 Sprinkle the Sugar 'n Cinnamon liberally over all:  the crusts and the filling.  Easy enough so far?

PICT0809 ~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 10-15 additional minutes.  The fruit juices will be just bubbly, not bubbling over, and the pastry will be a lovely golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow galettes to cool on pan, about 15 additional minutes before...

PICT0828 ... transferring to a cooling rack to cool to the temperature you want to eat them at.  Hot, warm, slightly warm or room temperature, you can't and won't go wrong.

Using a large chef's knife or a pizza cutter, slice into six wedges.  Serve immediately just as they are, or: top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream:



Easier than Pie:  Rustic Peach & Almond Galettes:  Recipe yields 2, 7" galettes or 12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; flat-sided meat mallet; large slotted spoon; pastry brush; cooling rack

Cook's Note:  This is such a lovely alternative to pie.  While you might be inclined to experiment with other types of nuts and flavors of biscotti, trust me when I tell you that almond is the perfect complement to any and all fruit galettes!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ The True-Blue, Very-American Blueberry Pie ~

PICT0663 It is time to meet Americana head on.  Did you know that blueberries are only one of seven native North American food plants which are now grown on a large scale and cultivated commercially?  Before I go any further, I probably should mention the other six:  Concord grapes, cranberries, strawberries, corn, beans and squash.  This means, these plants were in existence before any of our immigrant ancestors arrived in this new world and the Native Americans were eating them and creating their own recipes/uses for them long before they introduced them to the original Colonists.  That said, beloved blueberries were domesticated entirely in the 20th century and it did not take long for this "very American berry" to gain the unconditional love of the world. 

PICT0551 Three types of blueberries supply over 90% of the market:  lowbush, highbush and rabbiteyeLowbush varieties (marketed as "wild blueberries" or "huckleberries") are very small, are harvested by machine and are sold almost exclusively to processing plants who make and sell blueberry products like "wild blueberry pie filling" or "wild blueberry preserves". While this sounds like they'd be the cream of the crop, their flavor is actually disappointingly bland. Highbush blueberries are the result of the hybridization of wild native plants. They are picked by hand and are sold fresh, representing over two-thirds of the total blueberries sold in our markets.  Rabbiteyes, which are native to the Southeastern United States were/are called rabbiteyes because the berries turn pink before they turn blue, or the eye color of a white rabbit. They are very similar to highbush blueberries, which are native to northeastern North America. Rabbiteye bushes get quite high, up to 20 feet, and, they bloom earlier in the year than the highbush, which sadly, makes them susceptible to Spring frosts.  Highbush are smaller than rabbiteyes and were called highbush simply because they were/are taller than low bush varieties.

PICT0435 Highbush blueberries are what my husband Joe grows in our Central PA backyard.  The berries are larger and plumper than rabbiteyes and the fruit is juicier with a thinner skin. Their quality is compromised very little by freezing them (which is great for me because, every year, I have a lot to freeze), while the rabbiteye berry skin tends to get tough when frozen.  Rabbiteyes, eaten out-of-hand are a bit sweeter, but in my opinion: highbush berries are truly the best variety for the best price.

When selecting blueberries, it is noteworthy to mention that size is not an indication of flavor, shrinkage is.  Always choose blueberries that are plump and look like they are ready to burst. Berries that have begun to shrink and wrinkle, while usable, will be less flavorful.  AND, no matter what variety you choose to use, be generous -- blueberry pie should be full of berries.

You'll need 2, 9" pie pastries, my recipe or your favorite one, prepared according to directions. You can find my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee: Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~ in Categories 6, 15 or 22.  You'll also need 8 cups of blueberries, either fresh or frozen.  As I mentioned above, I like blueberry pie bursting with blueberries and 8 cups is what I deem necessary for my pie.  If your blueberries are frozen, remove them from the freezer and allow them to partially-thaw for 20-30 minutes, until they are soft and pliable on the outside but still frozen on the inside.  If you thaw them completely, the juices run out and the berries get mushy, which is a situation to be avoided at all costs, so:  error on the side of a little too frozen rather than a little to thawed out.

PICT0393 ~ Step 1.  Roll one pie pastry as directed and place in a 9" pie or quiche dish.  Using one knuckle and two fingertips, form a decorative border around the perimeter of the dish.  Place the pie shell in the refrigerator.  Prep the second pastry as follows:

PICT0566 ~ Step 2. On your favorite pastry board or silicon mat, using your favorite rolling pin, roll the second pastry as directed.  Using 1 or 2 leaf-shaped pastry cutters, make leaf-shaped cut outs, as close together as possible, across the surface of the pastry....



... If you don't have leaf-shaped pastry cutters, using a very small paring knife, just cut simple, random-sized leaf shapes, as close together as possible, across the surface of the pastry.


~ Step 3.  Using a thin spatula, carefully transfer the leaves to a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with a sheet of parchment paper.

Using the back of the paring knife, not the sharp blade, press some lines that resemble the fibrous veins of tree leaves across the top of each one.  Do not cut through or even halfway through the leaves.  Just score the tops.

Place pan of leaves in refrigerator with the pie shell while preparing the pie filling as follows:
















8  cups fresh blueberries, or, frozen blueberries that have been partially-thawed to a pliable on the outside while still icy on the inside state, about 20-30 minutes

1/4  cup blueberry schnapps

2  tablespoons lemon juice, preferably fresh or the best bottled concentrate available

zest from 1 lemon, if using fresh lemon juice

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

3  tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

PICT0599 ~ Step 4.  Place the fresh or partially-thawed blueberries in a large mixing bowl.  Add all of the remaining ingredients.  If you have a fresh lemon on hand, use its juice and zest.  If you do not, don't let that stop you from making this pie... use bottled concentrate.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently  and thoroughly combine all.  Set aside to allow the flour and tapioca to "work its magic", about 15 minutes, or until a thick pie filling has formed.

PICT0608 ~ Step 5.  Starting around the perimeter of the pie dish and layering your way upward toward the center/top of the pie filling, arrange the pastry leaves across the surface of the pie filling.

Ever wondered what the "rush" a pastry chef feels when a dessert starts looking extraordinary feels like?  The feeling you are about to experience is going to be pretty close!

PICT0614 ~ Step 6.  In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk together:

1 large egg

2  tablespoons cream

1 tablespoon water

Using a pastry brush and a light touch, brush the surface of the leaves with the egg mixture.

You surely don't want to soak the leaves in egg mixture, but some of it is destined to drizzle down into the pie filling, so don't angst over this.

PICT0619~ Step 7.  Liberally sprinkle the entire top of the pie with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.

~ Step 8.  Bake pie on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Loosely cover with a piece of aluminum foil and continue to bake another 15 minutes.  

Note:  I also like to place a piece of aluminum foil on the rack beneath the pie at this time, to catch juices before they drop to the bottom of the oven and burn.  

PICT0653 Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30 more minutes (covered loosely with the aluminum foil).  The pastry leaves will be a beautiful golden brown and the blueberry juices should be quite bubbly.  Remove from oven, place on a cooling rack and cool completely, several hours or overnight, prior to slicing and serving:





The True-Blue, Very-American Blueberry Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" pie or 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" pie or quiche dish; pastry board; rolling pin; leaf-shaped pastry cutters; paring knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; thin spatula; large rubber spatula; fork; pastry brush; cooling rack

Cook's Note:  As hard as this is to do, allowing this pie to cool overnight, uncovered and unrefrigerated is when it will be at its best.  Blueberry pies are notoriously juicy and this long rest give the juices plenty of time to redistribute themselves!

PICT0715 Extra Cook's Note:  Like cherries, blueberries freeze well.  Place 8 cups, enough for one pie, in each food storage bag.  Freeze the individual bags flat, prior to stacking, so the berries in the bags at the bottom do not get smashed!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ I Can't Lie, this is Real Sour-Cherry Streusel Pie ~

6a0120a8551282970b01901e10edaf970b-800wiIn my foodie life, there are many things that I attest to loving.  In my foodie pie life, a sour cherry pie made the same day Joe picks the cherries from our tree is at the top of my Summer dessert list.  In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat.  

6a0120a8551282970b01538fe3093e970bMy grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as  "pie cherries", but if you are on a quest for them, they are also marketed as tart cherries.  Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have learned is ideal and is why our tree thrives.  That being said, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the very end of June or the very beginning of July.  Picking them is a bit tricky, as they are at their absolute best if left on the tree until you think they will begin to spoil if left there one more day, while at the same time getting them all picked at once before the birds devour an entire tree full of them.

1010437_520457528013296_662635763_nA bit about sour cherries vs. cherries in general:  Sour cherries should not be confused with their cousins, the reddish-black Bing cherry and the peachy-blush Rainier cherry.  These two sweet cherries (which are larger and firmer than sour cherries) are great for eating "as is" like any other fresh fruit, but they do not make for great baked desserts.  When sour cherries are cooked, they become quite sweet, plus, they hold their shape better than their sweet relatives. Sour cherries are a bit too tart to eat more than just a few out-of-hand, but they make superb preserves, pies and cobblers.  That said, I make a decadent sweet-and-savory sauce from our cherries and duck stock that is served with roast duck or pan-seared duck breast. 

PICT5314Once the cherries are picked, you have no more more than 24 hours to "use them or lose them", which is why you will rarely find them in the grocery store.  This year our now 14-year-old tree broke its previous record by presenting us with 38 pounds of delectable goodness. What do I do with all of these cherries?

PICT5333 I admit to having been overwhelmed the first year our tree bore fruit.  But, by the next year, I had done my homework and invested in the best dang cherry stoner money could buy:

The Westmark Cherry Stoner is made in Germany and no cherry pitter is faster or more efficient at removing the stones from a lot of cherries without bruising the fruit.  In about 2 hours, we literally have all of our cherries ready for baking and/or freezing.

This nifty little gadget is a bit pricy ($55.00-$65.00), but if you have a lot of any type of cherries to process, this machine is for you!

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc5cde0970b Once the stones are out of the cherries, I weigh, portion and pack 2 pounds of cherries into plastic ziplock food storage bags.  Two pounds, or about 6 cups, is what I deem necessary for one sour cherry pie.  I freeze each individual bag flat and I do not stack the bags on top of each other until they are frozen, so the ones at the bottom don't end up being smashed.

PICT0464 Note of importance:  When it's time to bake a pie, I do not thaw the cherries to room temperature because too many juices run out of them.  I place my frozen cherries in a large mixing bowl and let them partially-thaw, to a "pliable but slightly frozen icy state", stirring them occasionally. This takes about 20-30 minutes.  In this picture, the cherries are soft and pliable on their outside yet still frozen on their inside.  Notice:  there is no juice puddling in the bottom of the bowl.

PICT0384 Whenever I am making a berry pie, and especially a sour cherry pie, I always take the time to make homemade pie pastry.  If I do say so myself, I make a super-flaky pie pastry and I highly recommend you try my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~, found in Categories 6, 15 & 22.  My sour cherry pie recipe deserves all of the love that only a homemade crust can give.

Before getting started.  You'll need 1, 9" pie pastry, my recipe or your favorite one, and  2 pounds of pitted sour cherries, about 6 cups, either fresh or frozen.  If your cherries are frozen, remove them from the freezer and allow them to partially-thaw for 20-30 minutes, until they are soft and pliable on the outside but still frozen on the inside.  If you thaw them completely, the juices will run out and the berries get mushy, which is a situation to be avoided at all costs, so: error on the side of a little too frozen rather than a little to thawed out. While the cherries are thawing, prepare the streusel topping according to the following directions:


For the streusel topping:

4  tablespoons salted butter, cold, sliced or cut into cubes

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned, uncooked oats

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves



~ Step 1.  Prep, measure and place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl as listed.








~ Step 2.  Using a hand-held pastry blender and a paring knife, "cut" the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs.

Set aside while preparing the following cherry pie filling:



For the pie filling:

2  pounds pitted, sour cherries, about 6 cups, fresh, or, if frozen: partially-thawed, NOT completely-thawed

3/4  cup sugar

6 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1/4  cup cherry brandy

1/8  teaspoon salt

PICT0467 ~ Step 1.  Place the cherries in a large mixing bowl.  If they are frozen, give them time to partially thaw, about 20-30 minutes.  You want them soft and pliable on the outside and still slightly frozen on the inside.  Stir occasionally with a large rubber spatula.  Add all of the remaining ingredients.  Using the spatula, toss until well-coated and set aside about 5-10 minutes, until a thick pie filling has formed, stirring occasionally.


~ Step 2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

~ Step 3.  Using a large spoon or spatula, transfer and evenly distribute all of the pie filling and any/all juices into the prepared pastry shell.  Do not press down on the pie filling.  

~ Step 4.  Using the same large spoon or spatula, evenly distribute all of the streusel topping over the pie filling.

Bake as follows:

PICT0487 ~ Step 5.  Bake on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven, 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and continue to bake until cherry juices are bubbling up through the nicely browned streusel topping, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven, place on a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing and serving, 4-5 hours or overnight.

Note:  Before I preheat the oven, I like to place a piece of aluminum foil on the oven rack below the center rack the pie will be placed on.  It is not unusual for cherry juices to drip down the sides of the pie dish as it bakes and this catches the juices before they hit the bottom of the oven and burn -- a no mess solution.

6a0120a8551282970b01538fe3093e970bI Can't Lie, this is Real Sour-Cherry Streusel Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" pie or 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cherry stoner; 9" pie or quiche dish; pastry board; rolling pin; cutting board; paring knife; pastry blender;  large spoon or spatula; aluminum foil; cooling rack

Cook's Note:  As hard as this is to do, allowing this pie to cool overnight, uncovered and unrefrigerated is when it will be at its best.  Cherry pies are notoriously juicy and this long rest gives the juices plenty of time to redistribute themselves!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Making Pate Brisee: Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~

PICT0392Here in Melanie's Central Pennsylvania Kitchen it's the height of the berry season.  In our backyard, it's been a great year for sweet strawberries, Joe's sour-pie-cherry tree yielded 38 pounds of gorgeous cherries, and, his plump, juicy blueberries will be taking over my kitchen by the end of this week.  So, before posting my recipes for some great berry pies and rustic fruit galettes, I thought it best to begin by posting my favorite recipe for pie pastry.

PICT5314 Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, here in our house there is always some sort of fruit or vegetable, cheese or protein that can be turned into a delicious pie dessert or hearty pie meal (a quiche).  As I just mentioned, my husband's fruit trees and vegetable garden, from apples to zucchini, almost continuously challenge me weekly to bake a sweet or savory pie of some sort.

Creamy Crabmeat Quiche (Just Out of Oven) #1 My family also loves quiche, so it is not unusual for me to occasionally serve one of these savory main-dish pies for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Do I ever use a boxed pie pastry for pie or quiche? I'm not going to lie:  of course I do, but for some reason I'm more inclined to "cheat" when making quiche... perhaps it is because when eating a hot, savory pie, you don't seem to miss the flaky pastry quite as much.

PICT0435 When faced head-on with "pie or no pie based upon having the time to make a crust from scratch", my vote will always be, "buy the crust and make the pie", but I always try to arrange for or figure out a way to make the time, because nothing compares to a great, homemade, flaky pie pastry.  In reference to time, pie pastry takes almost no time to prepare, less than 5 minutes by hand and about 1 minute in the food processor, but to do it properly, it needs at least 2 hours to chill followed by about 15 minutes to unchill before it can be rolled.  Here is a time-saving tip: even if you need only one pie crust, always make two, which takes the same amount of time, then freeze the extra pastry.

PICT0364 Is making pie pastry really "as easy as pie?"  Yes and no.  While pie pastry itself is a pretty straight-forward combination of a few simple ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, fat and liquid), the ratio of these ingredients, and the time-honored method of how they are combined, determines the quality of the pastry produced. The more fat (butter, shortening, lard), the richer and flakier the crust, which also makes it more delicate to work with, meaning:  if it rolls like a dream, sticks to nothing and doesn't start to get soft and bit melty by the time you're done putting it in the pie dish, it's probably not going to be a rich and flaky pie crust.  The more pies you bake and the more you experience various pie/pie pastry recipes, you'll notice a few fancy words for different types of crusts and terms for methods to bake them. The following should answer any questions: 

Pate (pronounced paht), without an accent over the "e", is the French word for "dough", "paste", "batter" or "pastry". Pate brisee (pronounced paht bree-ZAY) is a rich, all-purpose pie dough or short pastry used for both sweet and savory crusts (like pies, tarts and quiches) that can be served hot or cold.  The flaky brisee is prepared using butter, shortening and just a hint of sugar. Pate sucree, (pronounced paht soo-KRAY) a variation of pate brisee, is a rich, sweetened short pastry, used exclusively for desserts such as pies, tarts and filled cookies.  The sucree (which will be a separate post here on Kitchen Encounters) is prepared using butter only and quite a bit more sugar.  Pate sucree is sometimes mistakenly referred to and confused with pate sablee (pronounced paht sa-BLEE).  While both sucree and sablee pastry are sweetened and prepared identically, the sucree is prepared using granulated sugar while the sablee is prepared using superfine sugar (or caster sugar as it is known in Britain).  

In the case of brisee, sucree and sablee, all three are chilled prior to rolling, baking or blind-baking.  Blind-bake or bake blind is the English term for baking a pie shell before it is filled.  For full instructions, you can read my post ~ How to: Blind Bake a Pastry Shell ~, by clicking into Categories 6 or 15.  Also, in the case of all three, they are quite quick and easy to prepare, especially if you have a food processor, and today I'm going to show you just how quick and easy it truly is... less than 1 minute using a food processor.  Chill  in pie terminology means just what the American slang term does:  relax.  Chilling your pie pastry for 2 hours or overnight allows the fat to re-solidify, the gluten in the flour to relax and results a really flaky, tasty pie crust.

A few final words of wisdom:  if you've been intimidated by making pie crust from scratch in the past, hopefully you won't be after today.  That being said, relax and do your best.  If while following my directions your pastry does not look exactly the same as mine, just come as close as you can without overworking your dough (which results in a tough crust).  Why did I just tell you this?  Because no two pie crusts EVER process exactly the same way -- not even for me.  

PICT0303~ Step 1.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, measure and place:

2 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon sugar

1  teaspoon salt

Using a series of 6-8 rapid on-off pulses, pulse to thoroughly combine these dry ingredients.

~ Step 2.PICT0310  It is important to keep the following ingredients very cold, so prep them just before you are ready to process your pie pastry:

6-8  tablespoons ice water + 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, or, 6-8  tablespoons plain water

several ice cubes (added to above water)

Note:  I use vanilla extract when making a sweet dessert and omit it when making a savory quiche.

12  tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

4  tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening, plain or butter-flavored

PICT0316 ~ Step 3.  Add the butter pieces and shortening to the flour mixture in the food processor.  

PICT0322 Using a series of 16-18 rapid on-off pulses, process until the mixture looks light and dry and resembles tiny, irregular flakes and crumbs.

PICT0324 Add 4 tablespoons ice water and process again in 3-4 rapid on-off pulses.  Add 2 more tablespoons water and process in 3-4 rapid on-off pulses.  Stop and feel the pastry, taking care not to touch the blade.  It should be just damp enough to mass together but will not have formed a ball in the processor.  If necessary, add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time, processing for an instant, 1-2 pulses, after each addition.  Gather the dough up (taking care not to touch the sharp steel blade).  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide dough in half and form into two balls, about 12 ounces each.  

PICT0342 ~ Step 4.  Place each ball of dough on a piece of plastic wrap.  Using the heel of your hand and your fingertips, pat press and flatten each ball to form a disc, about 1/2" thick and 7" round.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours, or overnight, prior to rolling and forming a pie crust (or freezing).

Note:  Technically, if you have not overworked your dough, you can roll it out without chilling it, but chilling will definitely produce a more flaky, flavorful crust.  Here's why: Chilling re-solidifies the fat (whatever kind is used), keeping it in the flaky state, as well as relaxes the gluten in the flour, which will help to keep the crust from shrinking as it bakes.

PICT0350~ Step 5.  It's almost time to start rolling.  You'll need two tools:  a pastry-board and a rolling pin. There are a lot of fancy boards and mats available, as well as a variety of rolling pins.  It's too bad one can't test drive them before purchasing, because I've had some less-than-desirable results, especially with roll-up plastic mats, although I do like the silicon ones. 

I'll be using my favorite Vermont maple pastry board that has a "lip" across the front which keeps it from sliding around while rolling  pastry.  I use it exclusively for bread, pasta and pastry, meaning:  I've never left any meats or vegetables touch its surface.  If you don't have a designated pastry board, place a dampened kitchen towel or paper towel underneath whatever you do have to keep the board from sliding as you roll.  Next, you'll need a rolling pin.  There are several different types and any type you have on hand or feel comfortable with will work just fine.

PICT0361 ~ Step 6.  Remove the pie pastry from the refrigerator and set it aside to soften until it is soft and pliable, but still somewhat chilled.  If you've formed the pastry like I did, about 12-14 minutes is just perfect. Unwrap the pastry and place it on the pastry board, on top of a piece of wax paper that has been lightly sprinkled with some bench flour. Lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry as well.

PICT0370 ~ Step 7.  It is time to roll out the pastry and my tool of choice is a very small rolling pin that allows me to roll from the "center out", which is the Golden Rule of rolling out pie pastry.  It also allows me to apply just the right amount of pressure wherever it is needed to insure a pie crust that will be even in thickness.

Note:  If the pastry cracks in spots around the edges, just pinch and pat the crack closed before it gets too large and continue rolling.

This nifty little rolling pin rolls from the "center out" in all directions until the pastry is approximately 2" larger than the size of my pie dish (or any other size or shape I need it to be).

PICT0379 Note:  This is a 9" quiche-type dish, which I adore baking pies in. This pastry, if rolled just a bit more will easily fit a 10" dish as well.






~ Step 8.  Lift the pastry up (on the wax paper). With conviction, gently but firmly flip the pastry upside down into the pie/quiche dish. Remove the wax paper.  Do NOT worry one little bit if it tears or rips. In fact, if you've prepared your pastry correctly, it probably will. Pat/press it into the dish and repair any rips.  Using kitchen shears, trim the pastry to within 1/2" of the dish's perimeter and form a basic border.

Using one knuckle and two fingertips, form a decorative border around the perimeter of the dish (as pictured below).  Place the dish/unbaked pie shell in the refrigerator to chill while preparing the pie filling.

PICT0393 Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry:  Recipe yields 2, 9"-10" pie pastries.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 1-cup measuring container; small cutting board; paring knife; plastic wrap; pastry board; wax paper; rolling pin; 9" or 10" pie or quiche dish; kitchen shears

PICT0520 Cook's Note:  After pie pastries have been pre-formed, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated , they can be stacked and frozen for up to 6 months.  In preparation for "pie holidays" like Thanksgiving or July 4th, I take an hour from any given day to make and freeze 6-8 of them several weeks ahead of time. When the holiday arrives, all I do is thaw them in the refrigerator, roll, form, fill and bake.  How easy is that... you can thank me later.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ 4th of July Yankee Doodle Dandy Macaroni Salad ~

PICT0285Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni. Fun song to sing?  If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will give explain.  Sans the folk who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni maker/press which he bought in Italy.  Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America, more importantly, macaroni and cheese.

PICT0242 So -- why did Yankee Doodle Dandy stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni?  Was he some sort of a nut?  In the time period, this British pre-revolutionary war song was nothing more than the British making full-blown fun of American colonists, who they deemed to be poor, backward, lowly, uneducated, "country bumpkins" or "hicks". The British slang for idiot was "doodle", hence the name Yankee Doodle (or Yankee Idiot).  It was nasty.

Back in the 1700's, both European men and women prided themselves in making a fashion statement whenever they were in public, and, a man who was a fashion leader was called "dandy".  So, was Yankee Doodle actually a dandy?  Not by the British standards.  In the song they have the poor idiot, Yankee Doodle, riding into town on a pony, not even a proper horse, and, sticking a feather in his three-cornered tricorne or coonskin hat in the hopes of making a respectable fashion statement equivalent to that of a stylish man of Europe.  

 Macaroni But why would he call a feather macaroni?  Well, he didn't -- remember the British wrote this song and back then "macaroni" was another derogatory term used to describe men who dressed in outrageously excessive clothes, which included tall, heavy, white wigs laden with hundreds of small, tight curls.  In extreme cases, the wigs were built upon and around heavy wire forms.  These extreme wigs were worn intentionally by men who were in the business of bringing macaroni from Italy to Britain and France, and, they proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis".  

What does this mean for us foodies? Well, whether macaroni was named after the wigs, or the wigs were named after the curly little Italian pasta remains a "chicken or the egg" mystery, but for me: every year on the 4th of July I find myself proudly humming this tune and preparing macaroni salad in honor of it.

PICT0152 A bit about macaroni:  Macaroni is a small shaped semolina and water pasta and does not contain eggs. While most macaronis are tube-shaped, the most famous being elbow macaroni, there are other forms including shells, twists and spirals.  My favorite for making macaroni salad is mafalda and it resembles miniature ruffled-edged lasagna.  I like this shape because it is very fork-friendly.

For my recipe, you will need:

3  12-ounce boxs mafalda, or, 2 16-ounce boxes elbow macaroni

PICT0161 ~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the macaroni, briefly stir and cook until al dente.  Do not overcook. Drain into a large colander and rinse under cold water until pasta is cooled to below room temperature. Allow pasta to continue to drain and "dry", about 45 minutes.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently toss occasionally during this "drying" process.  Note:  Rinsing off the starch and drying the pasta keeps macaroni salad from getting pasty.

PICT0166 For the sauce ingredients:

6  cups mayonnaise

6  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1  teaspoon celery seed

2  tablespoons each: dry English mustard, cayenne pepper sauce and sugar

1  teaspoon each:  salt and white pepper


For the fresh ingredients:

2  generous cups diced red onion

2  generous cups diced celery

1  generous cup peeled and diced carrots

1  generous cup diced green bell pepper

1  generous cup diced red bell pepper

8  jumbo eggs, hard-cooked and coarsely chopped (optional)

~ Step 2.  While the macaroni is draining and "drying", hard-cook the optional eggs in the same 8-quart stockpot.  For instructions on how to cook perfect eggs without those tell-tale green rings that denote overcooking, you can read my recipe for ~ A Little Thing Called:  Boiling Eggs ~ in Category 15.  Prep all of the fresh vegetables as directed and pictured above.

PICT0167~ Step 3.  In a very large mixing bowl, measure and place all of the sauce ingredients as listed.  Using a large rubber spatula thoroughly mix until mixture is uniform in color.







~ Step 4.  Using the same spatula fold all of the fresh vegetables into the sauce mixture.  Don't fold the optional hard-cooked eggs in yet.

PICT0185 ~ Step 5. Add and fold macaroni into veggie mixture. Fold in eggs, cover and refrigerate 6-8 hours or overnight and up to several days (3-4-5) in advance of serving.

Hats off to Yankee Doodle!

Stick a fork in it and enjoy this joyous American holiday:

PICT02424th of July Yankee Doodle Dandy Macaroni Salad:  Recipe yields:  20-24 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; large colander; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

PICT0294Cook's Note:  This recipe has been written so you can easily make half as much.  That said, when I'm making it, it's usually for a big gathering, so I published the large quantity version -- enjoy.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Spit-Roasted Pineapple a la Steven Raichlen ~

PICT0100 Back in February I had the pleasure of assisting The GrillMaster himself, Steven Raichlen, with a live cooking demonstration that he was giving at Penn State's WPSU-TV studios.  Every February WPSU invites a Celebrity Chef to host their fundraiser/Connoisseur's Dinner. As WPSU's cooking consultant, to date I've worked with Lidia Bastianich, John Folse, Joanne Weir, Martin Yan and Steven.  Besides prepping their demo food to their specifications and making sure their demo executes as flawlessly as possible, it is my "job" to prepare a tasting of all recipes being served that day to a studio audience of about 125 people.  The best way for me to describe this annual experience is:  extremely exciting, educational and exhausting!

Steven Raichlen & Mel 2-11-11It goes without saying, all of these chefs are over-the-top professionals who prepare fabulous food.  They are also entertainers who captivate their audiences and Steven wowed this year's crowd.   If you've never done or experienced a live cooking demo, or tried to cook on camera, it's all about simultaneously cooking and talking while developing an eye-to-eye rapport with your audience.  An amusing way for me to explain doing this is:  

Remember those little wind-up toy monkeys? The ones that all-at-the same-time played the harmonica with their mouth, clanged the cymbals with their hands and beat the drums with their feet?  It's kind of like trying to do that + cook edible food at the same time, and believe me, it is by no means easy!

Every year and with each chef I always learn at least one new skill or unique method of cooking and I inevitably emerge with a "favorite" recipe.  This year, it was this recipe of Steven's (from his latest book Planet Barbecue) that tickled my artistic fancy:  A beautifully carved, spit-roasted pineapple, which we served to the audience for dessert with Penn State's Creamery ice cream!

Since Kitchen Encounters just finished posting a week of Summertime entree recipes making use of ~ My Sweet 'n Spicy Summer Tropical Fruit Salsa ~ (found in Categories 4, 8, & 13) and grilled pineapple, I couldn't let the sun set on my June blog posts and begin my 4th of July weekend without posting my rendition of  Steven's stunning, star-spangled, pineapple dessert!

PICT0008~ Step 1.  Start by looking for a golden ripe pineapple or giving a slightly green-tinged pineapple a day or two at room temperature to ripen to golden.

Using a large chef's knife, cut the leafy top (called the crown) and the bottom off the pineapple.  

With the pineapple standing upright, carefully trim the rind (the prickly skin) off the fruit, just enough to expose the brown eyes and the succulent yellow fruit. 




~ Step 2.  It's time to release the creative genius within yourself.. if you need a glass of wine or a cocktail or two, you've got my blessing, but I am here to tell you: this is not as hard as it looks and it is really fun to too!

Starting at the top of the pineapple and working your way to the bottom, use a very sharp paring knife to make a V-shaped spiral cut to remove "a spiral line" of the fibrous brown eyes from the pineapple.

Continue this process until you have worked your way around the entire pineapple.  You have just created a work of edible art!

PICT0026 ~ Step 3.  In a shallow baking dish, using a tablespoon, thoroughly combine:

1  cup sugar

2  tablespoons ground cinnamon

1  teaspoon ground cloves

In a small bowl or measuring cup, melt:

4  tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

PICT0031 ~ Step 4.  Set your grill up for spit-roasting... aka the rotisserie.  The rotisserie set-up varies from grill to grill, so be sure to set it up according to the manufacturer's specifications.

Thread the pineapple lengthwise onto the metal rod of the rotisserie so that it passes through the middle (the core) of the fruit.  Position the spit over a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish.

PICT0032 ~ Step 5.  Preheat the grill as hot as it will go.

Using a pastry brush, thoroughly and liberally brush the pineapple all over its surface, including the flat top and bottom sides, and into all of the spiral nooks and crannys, using about half of the  melted butter, or about 2 tablespoons.






~ Step 6.  Using a tablespoon, sprinkle about one-third of the sugar mixture over the entire surface of the pineapple, including the flat top and bottom sides.






~ Step 7.  Attach the spit to the grill and turn on the motor.  Spit-roast the pineapple until it is golden brown on the outside, about 10-12 minutes or longer, depending upon how hot your grill gets.  When the pineapple is golden...





~ Step 8.  With the motor running on the rotisserie, using a long-handled grilling brush, baste the pineapple with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.  Sprinkle with another third of the sugar mixture.

Continue to cook for about 5 minutes.  Baste with the last tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with the last of the sugar mixture. Cook about 5 more minutes or until...

PICT0100 ... deep golden brown, caramelized and just plain gorgeous!

Turn the rotisserie off, remove the spit and return it to the baking dish. I find it helpful to let it rest here for about 10 minutes prior to attempting to remove the pineapple from the red-hot metal rod (spit).




~ Step 9.  Using a little bit of firm pressure and pushing, slide the pineapple off of the metal rod onto a serving platter.  Slice and serve immediately.

I like to serve the warm pineapple slices topped with a generous scoop of butter pecan ice cream, some chopped, sugar-crusted spiced pecans (get my recipe for ~ Super-Crunchy Sugar-Crusted Spiced Pecans ~ in Categories 2, 6, 11 & 17), along with a dollop of freshly whipped cream! 

This dish, and all the recipes in Planet Barbecue, is amazing: 

PICT0132 Spit-Roasted Pineapple a la Steven Raichlen:  Recipe yields 8 dessert servings.

Special Equipment List: grill with spit/rotisserie; cutting board; large chef's knife; paring knife; shallow baking dish; tablespoon; small bowl or measuring cup; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish: pastry brush; long-handled pastry brush; 2 1/4" ice-cream scoop

PICT0008Cook's Note:  Still hungry for pineapple?  To try one of my own pineapple dessert recipes, which goes great with ice cream too, ~ A Simple, Summertime Treat: Pineapple Cobbler ~ can be found in Categories 6, 10 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Super-Crunchy Sugar-Crusted Spiced Pecans ~

PICT5582 What?  Sugar-crusted pecans in July?  Shouldn't Mel be posting this around Thanksgiving or Christmas?  Well folks, while we mostly associate these addictive little treats with holiday snacks and hostess gifts (presented in pretty little glass jars all adorned with ribbons and a bow), I'm posting this in July because I'm going to be using them in a few sumptuous salad and scrumptious dessert recipes this Summer.  In fact, I'm going to be using them later today to garnish a spectacular grilled pineapple dessert to kick off our 4th of July weekend.

PICT5569 There are a lot of recipes for making sugar-crusted pecans and they along with the method for baking the pecans really don't vary very much from cook to cook.  All of the recipes are quite easy, including mine, which I'm sharing with you today. How the recipes do differ usually revolves around the type and intensity of the spices.

So, what makes my sugar-crusted spiced pecan recipe blog-worthy? For starters I beat my egg white with vanilla extract instead of plain water which adds a layer of flavor instead of just tasteless adhesive for the sugar and spice mixture to stick to.  Next, I add two spices which compliment each other and the pecans perfectly:  ground cinnamon and ground cloves. Lastly, I do not skimp on the spices.  Once you taste these, I'm pretty sure you'll agree this is a special recipe:

PICT55482 1/2  cups pecan or walnut halves, about 11-12 ounces

1  extra-large egg white, at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract, not imitation

1  cup sugar

2  tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ground cloves

1/2  teaspoon salt 



~ Step 1.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

~ Step 2.  In an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish, using a tablespoon, thoroughly combine the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Set aside.

~ Step 3.  In a medium mixing bowl, over medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer beat the egg white and the vanilla together until frothy, about 30-45 seconds.

PICT5555 ~ Step 4.  Add the pecan halves to the egg mixture.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the pecans into the egg mixture until they are all thoroughly and evenly coated.

PICT5559 ~ Step 5. Add pecan mixture to spice mix. Using the spatula, fold the pecans into the spice mixture until they are all thoroughly and evenly coated.

PICT5563 ~ Step 6.  Transfer pecans to a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Using your fingers, do your best to spread them out in a single layer. Note:  Even though you will be stirring occasionally throughout the baking process, getting them in a single layer initially gets them off to a really good start to becoming super-crunchy.

PICT5567 ~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of preheated 250 degree oven for 1 hour.  About every 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and using a large spoon or spatula, give them a quick stir.

Remove from oven and cool completely in pan, about 1 1/2-2 hours prior to using or storing them.

Here is a picture of coarsely chopped sugar-crusted pecans garnishing my recipe for ~ Spit-Roasted Pineapple a la Steven Raichlen ~, which you can find by clicking into Categories  6, 10 or 21!

PICT0132 Super-Crunchy Sugar-Crusted Spiced Pecans:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups.

Special Equipment List: 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; tablespoon; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; large spoon or spatula

Cook's Note:  For the most part, I just place these in a pretty bowl on my kitchen counter for passers by to gleefully munch on.  However, if you've made several batches of them, they can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)