Friday, December 10, 2010

My Love Affair With a Pie

Most days, being a food blogger is a labor of love. But then there are days when it's just love.

Like the other day, when I got an e-mail with the subject line, "We've got a pie with your name on it!"

Well, that got my attention.

So I go to pick up this pie, a gift from The Monument Café in Georgetown. I open the lid of the box, and see this:


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(Unfortunately, my photos do not really do this pie justice. This one that Christian Bowers took of his pie might give you a better feel for this thing.

A cloud of whipped cream piled atop a surprisingly rich, dense, chocolatey filling, on a crust made of candied walnuts. Did you hear that? A crust made of candied walnuts.

Pardon me while I go all teenage girl on you and say: OMG.

In an attempt to prevent myself from eating the entire thing, I took this pie to my office. Here are a couple of my co-workers' comments:

"I don't care if I have to work out for four hours because I ate a piece of that pie. It was worth it."

"It is demeaning to call this a chocolate pie. It is so much better than any chocolate pie anybody has ever eaten."

Cliff's Notes version: you must eat this pie.

Online ordering with full selection of pies and cakes available from Monument can be found here. The Monument Chocolate is a shockingly low $20 (but don't tell them I said that).

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Apple Fennel Panzanella

A couple of summers ago, my neighbor Jackie gave me some lovely bulbs of fennel that she'd received in her CSA box. Not having ever cooked with fennel before, I did some Googling and came up with a few recipes that sounded interesting, including this one for an apple fennel panzanella (bread salad) from Bitchin' Camero. I gave it a whirl and really enjoyed it, so I broke it out again for a holiday potluck we attended recently. The red and green are rather season-appropriate, and it makes for a nice, reasonably-healthy addition to the heavy trappings of the typical holiday table. I love the way the dressing soaks into the bread, giving the whole thing a delightful mustardy-garlicky kick, which is nicely tempered by the sweet apples and mild fresh fennel.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, so am reprinting the recipe here with my comments/changes.

Apple Fennel Panzanella

• 1/2 loaf stale Ciabatta bread (fresh Ciabatta works just fine, too)
• 1 Macintosh apple, thinly sliced
• 1/2 large fennel bulb (or 1 small one), thinly sliced
• Handful of salad greens
• Small bunch chives, snipped into small pieces
• 1 tsp. poppy seeds (I always forget to put these in, as you can tell from my photos)
• Finely chopped fennel fronds (for garnish)

Dressing:
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
• 2 tsp white wine vinegar (I didn't have any white wine vinegar, so used apple cider vinegar, which I thought worked just fine)
• Fresh garlic cloves, finely minced (The original recipe called for one clove. I love garlic, so I used five (!). Adjust according to your own garlic taste.)
• Salt (to taste)

Preheat the broiler. Slice the bread into 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch cubes. Arrange them on a cookie sheet and pop them under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the completely dry out and begin to brown slightly. Keep your eye on the bread – it burns quickly.

In the meantime, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, vinegar, garlic and salt. Toss the bread with the apple, fennel, greens, chives and poppy seeds, then drizzle with the dressing and give it a good toss, making sure everything is evenly coated. Garnish with bits of fennel frond.


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