Posts Tagged ‘pie’


Got a Surplus of Apples? Make Easy Apple Butter

Monday, October 6th, 2014 by Sara

I love apples. So, what better way to embrace the apple season than going to pick your own? My family and I went apple picking at Crane Orchard in Fennville, Michigan a few weeks ago. We love this orchard for two reasons; number one because it’s so user friendly. And, also, about 1/4 mile down the road you’ll find the Crane family restaurant and bakery. The food is solid and straight forward, but we really go for the pie. Apple, blueberry, cherry, raspberry-rhubarb, peach. It’s all so good because the fruit comes from their orchards.
















When we arrived at the orchard we were greeted by an extremely enthusiastic apple aficionado. He explained that the Golden Supremes, Galas and Blondees were ready to pick, and then he cut us samples of each apple. They were all delicious, but the Golden Supremes were by far the best.















We grabbed a wagon, and made our way into the orchard. Tip: The deeper you go the more apples there are on the trees.















We picked all three varieties and came home with about 20 pounds of apples. Our favorite way to enjoy apples is to make apple butter because it’s such a versatile condiment. It can go sweet or savory.















Making apple butter is incredibly easy, and amazingly delicious! We use the crock pot method which is totally the way to go.

Apple Butter

Peel and core your apples (roughly 7 pounds), and cut them into 1/2-inch wedges. Place them in your crock pot with about 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar.
















Turn your crockpot to low, and cover with the lid. Cook until the apples are caramelized and soft. They reduce by about 2/3 of their original volume. This takes about 10 hours. We did this part overnight.

apples cut














Stir in a pinch of cinnamon, allspice, ginger and salt. Add a splash of lemon juice or cider vinegar, too.

With the lid removed, continue to cook the butter for an additional 2 to 3 hours or until thick.















To finish the butter puree it in the blender, or use an immersion blender. This final step blends in any apple skins that may be lingering, and makes the butter silky and smooth.

immersion blender


















Chill and enjoy!

What’s my favorite way to enjoy apple butter? Spread it on rolled out pizza dough (I love Trader Joe’s pizza dough when I don’t have time to make my own). Top with thinly sliced apples and finish with a sprinkling of blue cheese. Bake until golden brown and crispy. Whoa!

Now is the season to break out the crock pots, so why not christen yours by making a big batch of apple butter?

Sara Salzinski has been a chef instructor at the Chopping Block since 2002 and loves sharing her knowledge of all things food-related with her students. She loves interacting with her students, making them feel right at home and at ease. Sara is also the Curriculum Coordinator at TCB which means she develops the classes, menus and recipes. A lot of Sara’s inspiration for classes and recipes comes from personal experience. When Sara and her husband, who is also a chef instructor, are at home they join forces and make countless mouth-watering creations that are then taste tested by their 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son.


Exploding Pies and Trying New Things

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 by Ben

On an early autumn evening when I was about 12, my mom made one of my favorite dishes: fresh Peach Pie. She set it on the stove for us to enjoy after our family dinner. The glistening, sugary peach slices called my name from across our newly renovated kitchen, now equipped with oak cabinets and maple hardwood floors. Near the end of supper, my father turned on water for tea, but none of us realized he unknowingly switched on the wrong burner. Instead of coaxing a whistle from the teapot, the burner slowly heated the glass pie dish until it finally exploded, sending shards of burning hot glass across our new kitchen and causing the pie to fall directly onto the burner, catching on fire! Luckily, no one was near the pie when it blew up and the only pieces of evidence of the event are the burn marks that can still be found across the hardwood in my parents’ kitchen.

MoosewoodDespite loving baking, I had never made a pie before that fateful day of the exploding pie. I hadn’t even baked one since, until I recently dove into a vegetable pie recipe I found while perusing Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, a cookbook I picked up as a gift for my parents.

oven thermometerMaybe it was the fall weather that pulled me out of my baking slump, maybe it was the much-needed oven thermometer I picked up from The Chopping Block a few days prior. For whatever reason, I soon found myself in the middle of a cheesy roux sauce and beautiful vegetable filling. While I can’t say my first pie crust was perfect, the end result was a delicious way to fill the previous hole in my baking repertoire. I’ve included the abbreviated recipe from Moosewood, which includes instructions on the crust, filling, roux, and topping.

Wynelle’s Pot Pie

From Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, 1990


1½ c unbleached white flour

½ c chilled butter

3 Tbs ice water

½ tsp salt

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter… until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle the ice water over the flour, a little at a time, as you turn the dough with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough forms… Chill the dough until firm, 30-60 minutes, or roll it out immediately on a lightly floured board. Place the dough in a 10-in pie pan and crimp the edges


1 large onion, chopped

3 Tbs vegetable oil

2 medium carrots, diced

1 medium potato, diced

½ tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp dried marjoram

½ c diced bell pepper

1 c sliced mushrooms

½ c green peas

½ c corn

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, saute the onions in the oil until soft. Add the carrots, potatoes, paprika, basil, and marjoram. Cook, covered, on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 min. Stir in the bell pepper, mushrooms, peas, and corn. Add salt and pepper. Cover and continue to cook until the carrots begin to become tender.


2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs white flour

1 c milk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

¼ tsp nutmeg

2 c grated cheddar

Melt the butter in another saucepan. Add the flour and stir constantly on low heat for 3-5 min. Whisk in the milk, mustard, and nutmeg. Continue to stir on low heat until the mixture is hot and lightly thickened, but do not boil. Remove the roux from the heat and whisk in the grated cheese until well blended.


1 Tbs butter

2/3 c bread crumbs

¼ tsp dried marjoram

¼ tsp dried basil

Dash of sweet Hungarian paprika

In a small skillet, melt the butter on low heat. Add the bread crumbs and herbs, stir to coat them with the butter, and saute them for about 3 minutes or until the crumbs are very lightly crisped.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If there is any liquid in the bottom of the pan, drain the vegetables. To assemble the pie, spoon the drained vegetables into the pie crust. Pour the roux over the vegetable filling. Sprinkle on the bread crumbs and some cheddar cheese. Bake for 40 minutes.

If you enjoy making pie, or want to learn how, join us for our upcoming Pie & Tart Boot Camp on October 13 at the Mart. You’ll spend a day making perfect Pie Dough, Chicken Pot Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Mini Chocolate-Pecan Pies and Apple Ginger Galette.

Have you ever had an experience in your kitchen like the exploding pie? Share your stories with me. 


Ben Mast enjoyed meeting fantastic people and expanding his knowledge of cooking during his time as a retail associate at The Chopping Block. Now, he has returned to the small Mennonite town of Harrisonburg, Virginia to finish his degree in English and Writing. When he’s not cooking and studying, Ben enjoys spending time hiking, devouring fantasy novels, painting with watercolor, and playing tennis.


That’s Peachy: The Sequel

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 by Quincy

It’s that time of the year again. As we head into summer, peach season begins!

The almighty peach is back.

peachesI declared my love for the peach last summer. Now that it has returned, so has my inspiration.  Peaches can be used in so many ways, from a savory main course, a dessert, or just to add freshness and sweet flavor to a dish.

I hate to admit it, but I get pretty pumped up this time of year, which causes me to dive into the peach season a bit too early.  I suggest waiting until sometime in July which is when the peach is really at its ripest and sweetest. You’ll also see more peaches from local orchards, which pick their fruit closer to ripeness than peaches coming from longer distances.

That being said, I was able to achieve some pretty delicious dishes using the first peaches of the season.

To celebrate Memorial Day, some friends came over for a potluck backyard BBQ. I really wanted to create a special dessert for the occasion and who doesn’t like Tiramisu? I knew my friends love it, so I decided to do it differently: a White Peach Tiramisu, served in tiny blue mason jars.

White Peach Tiramisu

potteryI diced about 8 white peaches that were fairly ripe, put them in a large bowl, added a ¼ cup of sugar, 1 cup of white wine, ¼ cup of a really good peach liqueur and allowed the peaches to macerate for a couple of hours. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, I mixed together 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese, two cups of very well chilled heavy whipping cream, ¼ cup of sugar and the seeds from a fresh vanilla bean until smooth. Drain the peaches from the macerated mixture and reserve the juice.

Traditional Tiramisu is made with ladyfingers. How many individual desserts you’ll be making will determine the amount of ladyfingers needed. I broke each ladyfinger into 3 pieces and soaked them for a few seconds in the reserved peach juices.  In each Mason jar, I added a tablespoon or so of the mascarpone mix, followed by a layer of the soaked ladyfingers, and then followed by a tablespoon of the diced peaches.  I repeated this procedure a couple of more times, ending up with the mascarpone mix on top.  I chilled them for a couple of hours and right before serving, sprinkled a little cinnamon on top. This turned out to be a really beautiful, fresh and flavorful summertime dessert.

Peach Salad

peachsaladwedgesI wanted to use up a few peaches for a quick and simple lunch, so I made a salad of Romaine lettuce, scallions, sliced white peaches, sliced honey crisp apples, cucumber and sliced Roma tomatoes.

I finished the salad with a drizzle of prickly pear vinaigrette which I made from prickly pear syrup that I made a couple of days before.  Yes, I said prickly pear, the fruit of the nopal cactus from south of the border.  The fruit is similar in texture to watermelon and has amazing color.  The syrup is made like other fruit syrups, but make sure to strain the many hard seeds of the fruit.

Here’s how you make the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup prickly pear syrup

1/2 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and minced

Whisk everything together to emulsify and season with salt and pepper to taste.

If prickly pear is difficult to find or you’d prefer something a bit simpler, just eliminate the syrup from the recipe and add a teaspoon of honey. A couple of days later, I made the same salad, but also added some fresh blueberries.  It gave the salad additional freshness and sweetness.

Peach & Blueberry Crumble-Top Pie

peachcrispSpeaking of blueberries!  The next peach creation was a fresh peach and blueberry crumble-top pie.

I peeled and sliced about a half-dozen fresh peaches. To this, I added a cup of fresh blueberries, ½ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of flour, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt, the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon.  After all ingredients were well mixed together in a large bowl, I poured the mixture into a 9-inch pie shell and topped it off with a crumble mixture.

This crumble mixture consisted of 1 stick of chilled and diced unsalted butter, 1 cup of all purpose flour, ½ cup of granulated sugar, ¼ cup of firmly packed light brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt placed in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. You can also rub the mixture with your fingertips until the crumble is the size of large peas. Place the crumble on top of the fruit-filled pie shell and baked it on a parchment lined sheet pan for 40-45 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. The crust and the crumble mixture should turn a nice golden brown.

But I didn’t stop there. Last night, I made two more dishes using peaches.

Peach Gazpacho


peachsoupFor the soup, I used white wine, champagne vinegar, a bit of cayenne pepper, olive oil, honey, diced cucumbers and of course, peeled and diced peaches.  All of the ingredients are pulsed together in a food processor until smooth but with some texture left to the peaches. Chill for at least a couple of hours, but it’s even better chilled overnight.

Spoon the mixture into small bowls, garnish with small dices of red pepper, peeled and seeded cucumber, roughly chopped cilantro and buttery brioche croutons. Lastly, a drizzle of a quality extra-virgin olive oil.  This is my favorite use of the almighty peach.

Seared Salmon with Peach Salsa

peachsaladMy last dish starring peach is fish with peach salsa on a bed of sautéed baby spinach.  The peach salsa is made by mixing together diced peaches, halved grape tomatoes, thinly sliced jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced red onion, roughly chopped fresh mint, basil and cilantro, olive oil and honey.

I sautéed the spinach with a couple of thinly sliced cloves of garlic and finished it with a couple of tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

The peach continues to be an inspiration for me. It’s my favorite fruit of the summer. When I think of its flavors I think of its versatility as an ingredient in many dishes. And the summer is only beginning, leaving me with several more months to be inspired, create and experiment with the almighty peach.

 What’s your favorite peach creation?


Quincy has been a Chef Instructor with The Chopping Block since 2006. He has a great passion for cooking and enjoys teaching others to cook. When he is not at The Chopping Block, he can be found trying out new recipes on friends and family. Quincy also travels throughout Mexico, especially in the town of San Miguel de Allende, where he checks out the many new and exiting restaurants opened by chefs from all over the globe. This love of traveling has also taken him to such far off places as China, as well as several European countries, which brings inspiration to his cooking and teaching.


Pitch the Pie & Bake a Rhubarb Cake

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 by Maggie

It was Sunday afternoon a couple weeks ago, and I needed to bring a dessert to our friends’ house that evening for dinner. I had bought rhubarb at the fabulous 61st Street Farmers Market in Hyde Park the day before and really wanted to use it, but didn’t have time to bake a pie.

moosewood-restaurant-book-of-desserts-13008l1I consulted my Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, one of my oldest and most loved cookbooks, and found Erma Mabel’s Rhubarb Cake on page 133. It’s a simple recipe that can be put together in minutes and beautifully highlights the tart rhubarb. It’s not too sweet, and is perfect accompanied with some freshly whipped cream.

Since that dinner, I’ve already made it again for a potluck, and this time, I used rhubarb from our plant in our little backyard.















I will certainly make it at least once more before rhubarb season ends. The recipe calls for all purpose flour, but I just substituted my gluten-free flour blend and added about ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum and made it gluten free.

Erma Mabel’s Rhubarb Cake

½ cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1.5 cup flour (can sub gluten-free flour)

3 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

(1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, if making gluten free)

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

rhubarb2.5 cup chopped rhubarb (about 4 stalks), chopped into 1-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a round cake pan or spring form pan and dust with flour.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt (and xanthan gum). Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl or cup. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.

Spread about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with all of the rhubarb pieces. Top with the rest of the batter, spreading as evenly as possible but with a light touch – try not to push the rhubarb pieces into the bottom layer of batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.

Do you have any favorite rhubarb recipes to share?

Maggie Swanson is in her third year working as a class assistant at the Chopping Block. She and her husband have lived in Chicago for over ten years and they love the endless dining opportunities in the city. Maggie has enjoyed being in the kitchen for as long as she can remember and is now thrilled to introduce 3 year old son Eliot to the joys of cooking. Maggie has been on a gluten free diet for over four years. She has developed significantly as a cook through discovering how to make gluten free food delicious. Maggie always has a hard time answering questions about her favorite thing to cook or eat because she's always trying something new!


Overcome Your Fear of Desserts

Thursday, April 24th, 2014 by Quincy

I love having friends over for dinner and sharing my love for food with them. When people walk into my home for a dinner party of any kind, be it an intimate gathering of four or a Thanksgiving table of 15, it needs to be a special, hopefully perfectly timed evening where everyone feels comfortable and welcome.

These dinners always begin with a special cocktail that I create for each occasion, along with appetizers or nibbles. Then there’s usually soup or salad and then the entrée.  At this point I’m very cool, confident and am patting myself on the back with how smooth everything is going. But now it’s time for dessert. Agh!

I start to panic a bit when I think of desserts because they aren’t necessarily my strong suit.  I love eating dessert; I enjoy making dessert; I was brought up in a great dessert-making family. My sister Kathy is, seriously, the best with desserts, as were both my grandmothers, my mother, and my other three sisters. I’m thinking it was a gene that was inherited by the women in my family.  I say this because my younger brother, who is studying to become a chef, and I didn’t inherit that gene. We’re definitely savory guys through and through.

But once you have a few tried and tested desserts up your sleeve, there’s no need to stress over the last course of your meal.

Here are some of the tastiest desserts I’ve created:

  • Italian Zabaglione
























I prepared this dessert to finish one of my favorite dinners for a small intimate party with good friends and neighbors.  I made Seared Cod with a Dry Riesling Beurre Blanc Sauce. For dessert, I served an Italian Zabaglione, which is a rich, egg yolk-based custard, made with Marsala wine. By whisking together egg yolks, Marsala wine and sugar in a heavy bowl over a sauce pan with simmering water, you can create one of the richest and most delicious desserts. I layered the Zabaglione with an assortment of berries that were macerated with Amaretto Liqueur.  For someone who shies away from sweets, I have to admit that this was a pretty spectacular dessert.

  • White Peach Upside Down Cake with a Brown Sugar Amaretto Crust

peach upside down cake














Over the summer, I had a small brunch on the back deck of my apartment for friends. It was a great brunch with Peach Bellinis, several breakfast meats, egg dishes, and several veggie dishes as well.  While shopping for the brunch, I saw some beautiful white peaches. I bought a few to make the nectar for the Peach Bellinis and then thought why not pick up some more and come up with a dessert using them as well.  I got home, did a bit of research and came up with White Peach Upside Down Cake with a Brown Sugar Amaretto Crust.  It turned out to be another one of my all-time favorite desserts.

  • Mexican Chocolate Pot de Crème, topped with Grand Marnier Whipped Cream and Chopped Dark Chocolate Bark

mex pot de creme














The next dessert was inspired by my love of traveling! For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been traveling to an extremely beautiful colonial city located in the central highlands of Mexico called San Miguel de Allende.  I go once a year and spend an entire month there.  It’s a charming city with amazing restaurants, great chefs, friendly people and is very walkable.  There is a restaurant there, Café San Agustín, which specializes in Mexican hot chocolate and churros. You go there any given night and the place is packed with people there to experience the cooked-to-order churros and the hot chocolate.  So I wanted to pay tribute to not only San Miguel, but also Café San Agustín with a dessert inspired by their Mexican hot chocolate.  I’ve made this dessert twice already.

The inspired dessert was a Mexican Chocolate-Pot de Crème, topped with Grand Marnier Whipped Cream and Chopped Dark Chocolate Bark.  This is another one of those egg yolky, custardy, pudding-like desserts, except that it’s made with chopped Mexican chocolate which is found in most grocery stores in the Hispanic section. If you are not familiar with Mexican chocolate, it is sweetened with ‘piloncillo’, Mexican raw sugar, spiced with ‘canela’ (the Mexican variety of cinnamon), vanilla and almonds along with some incredible bittersweet chocolate.  It ends up being a very rich and very decadent, a truly special dessert, made with lots of love for very special friends.

Along with dessert and coffee, I also served this amazing liqueur called Mandarin Napoleon. Produced in France, it’s a liqueur that is Cognac-based and infused with macerated mandarin oranges as well as a blend of aromatic spices.  This is truly one of my favorite after-dinner drinks.  Years ago,  I worked as a wine bar manager at a popular Chicago French restaurant and this was one of the best selling items on the bar menu.  That’s why I love it!  Along with its great flavors, it brings back memories of this wonderful restaurant, its amazing cuisine and my fellow co-workers.  It also has a very special place in my heart because it was the place that my stepdad proposed to my mom.

  • Apple Crumb Pie with Walnuts and Raisins















The last dessert was actually a spur of the moment decision that involved an abundance of Honey Crisp apples I had on hand.  It was an apple crumb pie with walnuts and raisins.  I loved the simplicity of the topping for this pie.  The recipe for the crumb topping was just ¼ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup of all purpose flour, ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of chilled butter, cut up into small pieces, all blended together to resemble coarse corn meal. After tossing together ¼ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl with 6 cups of sliced apples.  I placed it all in a 9 inch, unbaked pie crust shell, top with the crumb topping, cover loosely with foil and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 25 minutes.  Remove foil after the 25 minutes and continue cooking for 25-30 minutes until top is golden brown.  If you prefer an apple that has a bit more tartness, I would recommend using Granny Smith apples.

The lesson I learned was that, even though I had not inherited the dessert-making gene from my grandmother, I was able to conquer my fear of making tasty desserts. And I encourage those dessert-challenged home cooks to conquer their fears as well!



Quincy has been a Chef Instructor with The Chopping Block since 2006. He has a great passion for cooking and enjoys teaching others to cook. When he is not at The Chopping Block, he can be found trying out new recipes on friends and family. Quincy also travels throughout Mexico, especially in the town of San Miguel de Allende, where he checks out the many new and exiting restaurants opened by chefs from all over the globe. This love of traveling has also taken him to such far off places as China, as well as several European countries, which brings inspiration to his cooking and teaching.