Cook in Harmony With the Natural World

Cook in Harmony With the Natural World

Photo: Courtesy Rizzoli.

1. Empanadas de Zarzamora (Blackberry Empanadas)

These sturdy little hand pies travel well, and are just as welcome in a school lunchbox as they are when tucked into a tackle box or the front pocket of a turkey vest.

Yields 12 to 18 empanadas

Photo: Courtesy Rizzoli.

For the dough:

  • 2 ⅓ cups organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

For the filling:

  • 2 cups blackberries or dewberries
  • ½ large Granny Smith apple, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons organic milk
  • 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar

Make the dough: Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size lumps of butter.

Beat the egg and vinegar in a small bowl, then stir in ? cup ice-cold water. Add this to the flour mixture and pulse until just incorporated and the dough looks shaggy and barely holds together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. Form it into a flat disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Make the filling: Combine the blackberries, apple, tapioca flour, cinnamon, agave nectar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and orange zest in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring often and being careful to not break up the berries too much, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a well-floured work surface, roll the chilled dough out to a 3/16-inch thickness. Invert a small (4- to 4-inch diameter) bowl over the dough and cut a circle using the point of a knife. Repeat for the rest of the dough, gathering the scraps and re-rolling them to use all the dough.

Hold a dough circle in the palm of your hand and place 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling in the center of it. Dip the forefinger of your free hand in water and moisten the inside edges of the empanada, then fold it in half gently. Dry and lightly flour your fingers; then, starting at one end of the semicircle of dough, pinch the edges together with your index finger on top and twist the dough to bring your thumb to the top. Continue this process to seal the edges of the dough, forming the traditional braided edge on empanadas called the repulgue.

Arrange the empanadas on the parchment-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. With the point of a sharp knife, make a few small slits in the top of each empanada to vent. Brush with the milk and sprinkle them with the sugar. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

2. Persimmon Chiffon Icebox Pie

A light, airy, spiced persimmon cloud in a mesquite gingersnap crust-this no-bake pie makes for a perfect ending to a holiday meal. I often make this the day before and stash it in the fridge until our meal.

Serves 12

Photo: Courtesy Rizzoli.

For the crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups mesquite gingersnap crumbs (recipe follows)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, plus a little more, melted

For the filling:

  • ½ cup organic brown sugar
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup organic whole milk
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 ½ cups persimmon pulp
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
  • 1 cup caster sugar (buzz organic cane sugar in a blender on the highest speed to make your own)
  • Candied ginger, to garnish the top

Make the crust: Mix the gingersnap crumbs in a bowl with the melted butter just until the crust holds together. Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or until needed.

Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, gelatin, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg until it is a uniform consistency. Stir in the milk, egg yolks, and persimmon pulp until smooth, then place over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly, then stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour, or until the mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon.

In a mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until foamy; continue to beat on high while adding the caster sugar a little at a time, until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks.

Gently fold the meringue into the chilled persimmon mixture, turning lightly with a spatula until it is evenly blended. Mound into the pie crust and decorate the top with candied ginger. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.

3. Beet and Blood Orange Salad

No doubt my version of this Alice Waters salad has morphed some since she first made it for us at Organic Gardening magazine; the first taste of that salad sent me into stratospheric bliss. Blood oranges-in season only during the winter-add a soft, floral note.

Serves 4 to 6

Photo: Courtesy Rizzoli.

  • Grated zest and juice of 1 blood orange
  • ¼ cup white champagne vinegar, or raspberry vinegar
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 4 roasted beets (recipe follows), sliced
  • Rocky Top and Swiss chard trimmings (or radicchio, arugula, other spicy lettuces, or spring mix)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • ½ cup toasted black walnut pieces

Combine the orange zest and juice, vinegar, oil, and salt to taste in a pint jar, cover, and shake vigorously.

Pour 2 tablespoons dressing over the cubed beets, toss, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Arrange the salad greens on individual plates, top with a portion of the beets, a sprinkle of minced shallots, and a drizzle of dressing. Sprinkle each salad with walnuts before serving.

Garden-to-Table Recipes