Peach Pie

Peach PieY’all, I have never wanted Peach Pie in my life—cooked stone fruit has never been a favorite of mine. But after making Blackberry Pie in Maine and coming home to ripe peaches in the markets, I just had to make one. What can I say? I love to make pie.

Peach PieBaking with peaches isn’t quite as simple as just slicing up ripe fruit and crimping some pie dough. For one thing, if you find perfectly ripe, fragrant peaches, please just eat them as-is. There is very little more delicious. Plus, perfectly ripe peaches might make for an overly juicy pie.

For pie, you’ll need peaches that are just barely ripe. You certainly don’t want them to be overly soft, and they shouldn’t have any dark spots. They should have a little give if you squeeze them lightly, and they should be a little fragrant. Good pie peaches can be difficult to find—I recommend buying some that aren’t quite ready for eating and keeping them in a paper bag for a day or two, just until they are a little soft. This recipe only requires about eight peaches, but I usually buy a few extra since they are so delicate and temperamental.

Peach PieNow, let’s talk about pie. First things first—make yourself some pie dough. I’m partial to this whole wheat version right now. Put your dough in the fridge to chill and then peel all those peaches.

Peach PiePeach PieAgain, peaches are fussy. Peeling them isn’t as simple as breaking out a vegetable peeler or a paring knife—both of those will remove a ton of fruit along with the skin. The best way to peel peaches is to blanch and shock them. If you’ve never heard those terms, they basically mean boiling briefly and then plunging them into ice water to stop the cooking immediately.

Peach PieTo do this, start by cutting an “x” into the bottom of each peach. This will loosen the skin a bit and make it easier to remove.

Peach PieBoil each one for about 30 seconds before plunging it into ice water.

Peach PieOnce you can handle the fruit, use your fingers to start peeling at the “x.”

Peach PieThen slice them up! Aren’t they beautiful?

Peach PieAfter the peaches are peeled and sliced, this pie is a breeze. Toss the fruit with dark brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, and just hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. Peaches don’t need much to be delicious.

Let the filling sit for a few minutes to release any excess juice before transferring it into the bottom crust. Drape more crust over the top, then crimp and vent it before giving it a brush of egg wash and a good sprinkle of sugar. Bake your pie for about 45 minutes and let it cool to room temperature before slicing it up and serving it a la mode. I found Gifford’s Maine Wild Blueberry Ice Cream at Fairway the day after we returned from vacation 💙💙💙

Peach PieYeah, I take back everything I’ve ever said about not liking cooked stone fruit. This is a Peach Pie worth craving.Peach Pie

Peach Pie
makes one 9-inch standard pie

2 1/2-3 pounds whole fresh yellow peaches (about 8 medium peaches)
1 recipe Whole Wheat Pie Dough, or other good crust
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3-4 tablespoons cornstarch, depending on juiciness of peaches

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

For Serving:
ice cream

Peel the peaches. Fill a 4-6 quart pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Fill a medium-large mixing bowl with ice water. Use a paring knife to cut a small “x” into the bottom of each peach. Blanch peach individually in boiling water for 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pot and plunge it into the ice water for 15-30 seconds, or until they can be handled. Remove the peach from the water and continue with all remaining fruit. Starting at the “x,” use your fingers to peel peaches. Once all peaches are peeled, pit and slice them. 

Preheat oven to 375F. On a floured surface, roll out one disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter and fit it in the pan. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine peach slices, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cornstarch. Let sit 10 minutes to release some liquid. Transfer filling to prepared crust, leaving behind any excess liquid (there may be a lot). Refrigerate while you roll out the top crust.

On a floured surface, roll the remaining disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter. Lay it over the peach filling. Trim the overhang to 1/2-inch and crimp the edges. Use a small, thin knife to cut vents in the top crust.

Make the egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush the entire exposed crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes, tenting with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly.

Let pie cool completely on a rack. Slice and serve with ice cream, if desired.

Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry Compote

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteIt took me seven tries to get these pancakes right.

About a month before we left for Maine, I declared to my travel buddies, VJ and Adam, that I was going to make a a pancake recipe that we could all enjoy. They sort of smiled and nodded because I had clearly lost my mind—VJ is a gluten-free vegan and Adam is a bit of a picky eater, so this basically seemed impossible.

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteNever one to let logic stop me, I set to work. I looked at my pancake recipes and a couple more from around the internet, and then I had six consecutive fails. Every problem pancakes could have, these had: too dry, too bland, too thin, too many ingredients, too stuck to the pan—you name it. I had one batch that was somewhere in the realm of “okay” and as vacation drew near I figured it could work in a pinch, but I was less than enthused about it. I’d crack the code one day, but it wasn’t going to be in time for this trip.

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteBut then, there was cornbread. On the second night of vacation, we decided to grill out. Grilling is not my forte, so Adam took the lead there and I worked on side dishes. I threw out a few ideas to VJ; sautéed spinach was a definite winner, but she sort of lost her mind when I mentioned veganizing my already-gluten-free Southern-Style Cornbread. I had never attempted a vegan version of that recipe, but I figured it would be easy enough. I could swap almond milk soured with vinegar for buttermilk, use a few tablespoons of vegan margarine in place of butter, and I could crack open a can of chickpeas and use the aquafaba in place of the egg. It’s that last change that made that cornbread so good, and when VJ asked for my overhyped Cornmeal Pancakes last Wednesday morning, it’s that change that made a solidly “okay” recipe into one I’ll make again and again.

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteCornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteCornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteCornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteHave you heard of aquafaba? It’s having a bit of a moment right now—it made The New York Times. If you’re in the dark about this miracle of modern baking, I’m sure you’re not alone. Literally translated, aquafaba means “bean water.” And that’s exactly what it is—the liquid from cooking (and canning) chickpeas. If you have a can of chickpeas (or any bean, actually) in your pantry, you have aquafaba in your house right now. Who knew?!

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteCornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteCornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteBefore you go clicking away from this blog forever, hear me out. I know using the cooking liquid from chickpeas in baking sounds absolutely bizarre, but it actually makes a lot of sense, scientifically speaking. Like eggs, aquafaba is super high in protein and very viscous; when whipped, it can even hold stiff peaks! You don’t need to break out your mixer for this recipe though—just three tablespoons of liquid aquafaba help these Cornmeal Pancakes to stay fluffy and keep them from being too crumbly. And since aquafaba doesn’t have a distinctive flavor like other vegan egg replacers (I’m looking at you, flaxseed), it doesn’t distract from the slightly sweet corn flavor 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

These Cornmeal Pancakes, y’all. They’re light and fluffy with crispy edges and a rich corn flavor. Oh, and they’re beautiful too.

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteYou could certainly serve them with butter (or vegan margarine) and maple syrup…

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry Compote…but I am all about this Blackberry Compote.
Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteCornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteCornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry CompoteIt only has four ingredients and takes less than ten minutes to prepare, and it’s basically like topping your pancakes with pie filling (but with much less sugar).

However you choose to serve these Cornmeal Pancakes, I hope they make your friends and family as happy as they made mine.

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry Compote
Photo courtesy of Valancy Jane.
Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free} with Blackberry Compote

Cornmeal Pancakes {Vegan & Gluten-Free}
makes about 12 pancakes

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk 
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup cornstarch 
1/4 cup granulated sugar 
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea canning liquid)
1/3 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola), plus more for cooking
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Serving:
butter (vegan or regular)
pure maple syrup 
Blackberry Compote (recipe below)

In a liquid measuring cup, combine unsweetened almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit 5 minutes or until curdled.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add almond milk mixture, aquafaba, oil, and vanilla, and whisk until combined.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add batter to the pan in 1/4 cup increments, leaving space between pancakes. Let cook until the edges no longer look raw, about 2-3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove to a plate. Repeat process with all remaining batter, adding oil to the pan as necessary.

Divide pancakes among serving plates. Top with butter, maple syrup, and/or Blackberry Compote. Serve immediately.

Blackberry Compote
makes about 2 cups

12 ounces fresh blackberries 
3 tablespoons granulated sugar 
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
juice of 1/2 lime

In a small saucepan, combine blackberries, sugar, and cinnamon. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until a sauce forms (about 5 minutes). Use a potato masher to mash blackberries until the desired texture is reached. Bring to a boil for 1 minute before removing from heat. Stir in lime juice. Let cool completely.

Compote will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Blackberry Pie

Blackberry PieI hope you have a place like Swans Island.

Blackberry PieI don’t necessarily mean an island off the coast of Maine with one store and a population of 300 (but I highly recommend it). I mean a place that you find endlessly enchanting. For my parents, it’s Santa Fe. For my older sister, it’s Isla Mujeres, Mexico. For me, it’s this little island four miles out to sea. I just can’t get enough.

Blackberry PieThe appeal of this place isn’t the broad spectrum of activities—in fact, it’s the opposite that keeps me counting the days between trips. Whereas in New York I am constantly bombarded with people and noise and tasks that must be dealt with right-this-second, on Swans Island, a car passes the house once every ten minutes, the only consistent sound is that of a bell on a lobster boat floating a mile away, and there is literally nothing I have to do. As Swans Island has limited phone and internet access too, this is a place where it really is possible to get away from it all.

Blackberry PieBlackberry PieFaced with a lack of activities, each of my friends and I have found ways to pass the time. Almost all of the things we do together (hiking, beaching, cooking, etc.) take place in the afternoons, so we each have to find a way to while away the mornings. Adam has been tearing through a book, VJ has put together 2.5 puzzles, and I have been wandering the sides of the road with a saucepan in hand, foraging for berries.

Blackberry PieThe last time I was here, I found mostly blueberries and raspberries—Blue-Razz Pie was the result. This time, the vast majority of the berries have been blackberries, so Blackberry Pie it is.

Blackberry PieBlackberry PieBlackberry PieThis pie, y’all. It’s made with my Whole Wheat Pie Dough and a super simple blackberry filling. Just fold some sugar, cinnamon, lime, and cornstarch into a few cups of fresh blackberries and it’s good to go. Now you can concentrate on the top crust.

Blackberry PieWhile you may top your pie however you like, may I suggest a lattice? They’re very easy and I love all the pockets of blackberry filling that peek through. Start by laying a few strips of dough parallel across the top of the filling. I cut my strips in different widths because I think it’s cute.

Blackberry PiePeel back a couple of the strips of dough and lay one perpendicularly across the filling. Then place all the strips back in their original positions.

Blackberry PiePull up the strips you didn’t move the first time and lay another strip across. Keep doing this until you don’t have any room left.

Blackberry PieBlackberry PieBlackberry PieCrimp the crust, brush it with egg wash, and give it a good sprinkle of sugar.Blackberry PieBlackberry Pie

Bake until beautiful and serve a la mode.Blackberry PieBlackberry Pie

Share with friends and definitely go back for seconds. It’s vacation, after all.Blackberry PieBlackberry Pie

Blackberry Pie
makes one 9-inch standard pie

1 recipe Whole Wheat Pie Dough or other good crust
4 cups fresh blackberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
juice of 1/2 lime

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
sugar, for sprinkling

On a floured surface, roll out one disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter and fit it in the pan. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine blackberries, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, salt, and lime. Fold with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until everything is evenly coated. Transfer filling to prepared crust, discarding any excess liquid. Refrigerate.

On a floured surface, roll out the other disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter. If you’d like a lattice crust, slice the rolled dough into strips (see photos above for instructions). If you want a full top crust, lay the rolled-out dough on top of the filling and cut a few vents. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang, and crimp the top and bottom crust edges together. Refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Make the egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush the entire exposed crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes, tenting with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly.

Let pie cool completely on a rack. Slice and serve with ice cream, if desired.

Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Pimiento Cheese {Ten Years in New York}

Pimiento CheeseAs of today, I have been a resident of New York City for ten years.

TEN YEARS.

A decade.

Long enough that I can officially call myself a New Yorker without anyone trying to argue with me. (There are rules.)

Pimiento CheeseI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—living in New York is not for the faint of heart. If you want to live here, prepare to work all the time and spend all your money on rent for an apartment that would be sub-$1,500 anywhere else. And for that matter, prepare to feel like you are never in that expensive closet that you call home. Prepare to have moments where you wonder why you ever thought it would be a good idea to move here.

But also, prepare to meet some seriously amazing people.

Photo by Arnab Chatterjee.
Prepare to end up doing work that is far beyond your wildest expectations.

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Victor Ochen.
Prepare to have moments where you just stop in your tracks and go “Oh my gosh—I get to live here.” Ten years in, I still have those.

Most of all, prepare to appreciate your roots. I couldn’t wait to get out of Texas ten years ago. I had decided that I was *done* with all things Texan (beyond family and friends, of course). But a funny thing happened when I moved to New York—I developed Texas pride.

Ten years out, I have a collection of “Don’t Mess with Texas” t-shirts. I am a diehard Texas Rangers baseball fan. If I find out that there’s another displaced Texan in the room, I want to meet them—I need someone to commiserate with about the lack of decent barbecue in this city.

Pimiento CheeseSpeaking of barbecue, I had no idea how much I would miss the cuisine of my native state. As you may have noticed, I’ve spent ample time making salsa, guacamole, and the best damn Enchiladas Suizas you’ll find in Downtown Brooklyn. But I didn’t grow up on an all-Tex-Mex diet.

Pimiento CheeseToday’s recipe, Pimiento Cheese (pronounced “puh-men-uh cheese”), was a staple in my house growing up. My mom put it on tea sandwiches and stuffed it into celery with great frequency…and I totally hated it. Pimiento Cheese is made primarily of cheese and mayonnaise, two things I refused to eat as a child. But as I have grown up, I’ve developed a taste for this southern staple. Unlike Texas, Pimiento Cheese is not available in grocery stores up here, but that’s totally fine by me. Homemade is always better.

Pimiento CheesePimiento CheeseMy Pimiento Cheese recipe calls for minced serrano peppers in addition to the requisite extra sharp cheddar, mayonnaise, and sweet pimientos. This spicy addition, along with some garlic and a hefty dose of cracked black pepper, brings this classic dip over the top. It’s just…everything. Literally. I mean, it’s salty, spicy, creamy, sweet, great on crackers or stuffed into celery, and makes a killer sandwich spread. I’m pretty sure it’d be great in an omelet, too.

Pimiento CheeseBasically, I’m saying that Pimiento Cheese is the perfect food. And while I may officially be a New Yorker now, I have no intention of giving up this little part of Texas.Pimiento Cheese

Pimiento Cheese
makes about 2 cups

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 ounce jar pimientos* or roasted red peppers
1 clove garlic
1-2 serrano peppers, seeded (if desired)
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/4-1/3 cup (4-5 tablespoons) mayonnaise

For Serving:
celery
crackers

Grate the cheese on the large-holed side of a box grater. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.

Drain the pimientos and blot with paper towels. Mince pimientos, followed by garlic and serrano pepper(s). Transfer to the mixing bowl. Add black pepper and 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) mayonnaise. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it all together. If desired, add more mayonnaise by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached.

Transfer to a serving bowl and press plastic wrap to the surface. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving with celery or crackers. Pimiento Cheese may also be used as a sandwich spread.

Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

I find pimientos with the shelf-stable pickles or on the international/Goya aisle at my grocery store.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaThe countdown to vacation is officially on! I am T-4 days away from driving up to Maine with my friends, VJ and Adam, and I. can’t. wait.

A lot of the appeal of this trip is that we can all be together while also doing our own things. VJ will be perfectly happy putting together puzzles all day long. I have big plans to spend at least a couple of days foraging and baking. This will be Adam’s first time to Swans Island, but I know he’ll settle in quickly. The great thing about this trip is that everyone can do exactly what they want to do—there are no definite plans or must-do activities. It’s positively blissful.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaThe only thing that’s difficult about being on Swans Island is figuring out the menu. There are no large grocery stores on-island, so all groceries have to be carted over from a market on the mainland. This means that we spent last Saturday night gathered around Adam’s kitchen table planning out every single meal and snack so that we can shop efficiently and thoroughly. Easy enough, right?

WRONG. While Adam and I basically eat everything, VJ is a gluten-free vegan. Granted, she is the least difficult gluten-free vegan ever (ever ever ever), but it’s still a challenge to plan meals that we can all enjoy together. Honestly, it’s simpler to just make two grocery lists and hope for some ingredient overlap. Regardless, I’ve taken it upon myself to make one thing we can all share and enjoy equally. This Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola is the result, and it’s freaking fabulous.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaLike most granola, Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola is super easy to make and infinitely more delicious than anything you’ll find in stores. It’s basically like crispy, crunchy Nutella-flavored magic…but gluten-free, vegan, and perfect for sharing with all my favorite people.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaOats and chopped raw hazelnuts are coated in a mixture of oil, maple syrup, dark brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla, before being baked until crisp. Once the granola isn’t searing hot anymore, four ounces of dark chocolate are mixed in. This creates some seriously amazing clusters 😍 You could certainly enjoy your granola like that, but I like to wait until it reaches room temperature and stir in a bit more chocolate—textural diversity for the win. Also, all that chocolate 😊😳🍫🍫🍫

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaI’ve already made two quarts of this granola for our trip. That may seem like a lot for three people, but between breakfasts and snacks, I know it’ll disappear quickly. And how couldn’t it? With crispy oats, toasty hazelnuts, a double dose of chocolate, and a big hit of salt to balance it all out, it’s guaranteed to keep all of us coming back for more.Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola
makes about 5-6 cups

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (I used certified gluten-free oats)
1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
6 ounces chopped dark chocolate, divided

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a rimmed quarter sheet pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oats and chopped hazelnuts. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar. Use a fork to whisk in cocoa powder and salt until mixture is smooth. Pour liquid ingredients over oats and hazelnuts. Fold everything together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread into one even layer. Bake 40 minutes, stirring at the 15 and 30 minute marks. Let cool in the pan on a rack for at least 20 minutes, until it’s warm but can be handled. Scatter 4 ounces of chopped chocolate over the top and stir in. Let cool completely. Stir in remaining 2 ounces of chopped chocolate.

Granola may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.