summer salad pie

summer salad pie

In May, I had my first surgery. It was minor, but it was not. I suppose it wouldn’t really be surgery if it was merely something minor, but really, it was quite minor. I spent many long moments post-laparoscopy melodramatically contemplating my mortality. That kind of thinking got me nowhere except dullsville, waist-deep in chocolate bars and pop tarts.

I feel better now. I’m still on the mend somewhat, but I’m alright. Summer has been beautiful up here. Warm and sunny and everything you hope for in the one season where you don’t need to wear a winter hat (or bonnet, as the locals would say). This past weekend, I cooked and baked for the first time in godknowshowlong. It was nice. I made a minty grasshopper pie. We cooked up a buttload of foraged mushrooms. We had vino and alfredo-y pasta, my fave. And I made this,….. this thing.

summer salad pie

This here is a gelatin salad nimbly resting in a cheese pie shell, topped unceremoniously with a tuna salad heavy to celery. The gelatin itself is of the lemon persuasion – mixed with tomato sauce – and is chockablock with onions, olives, and more celery.

And that’s really all you need to know, because any more would probably be incriminating.

If 1960s style cuisine gets you pumped, this is for you. Put on your best apron, don your pearls, set your hair in rollers, and get ready to finely dine on deep dish gelatin and tuna.

summer salad pie

Summer Salad Pie
Recipe adapted slightly from Betty Crocker’s Dinner in a Dish Cook Book © 1965

“Pretty as can be”: serves 6-8

Cheese Pie Shell

1 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c. + 1 tbsp shortening
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 tbsp ice water

Heat oven to 475 F. Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly. Stir in cheese. Sprinkle water gradually over mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, tossing lightly with a fork after each addition (if dough appears dry, a few drops water may be added). Gather dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1″ larger than a 9″ pie pan. Ease into pan; flute edges of dough and prick with fork all over. Bake 8-10 minutes; cool.

Gelatin Salad

1 pkg. (3 oz) lemon gelatin
1 1/4 c. boiling water
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Few drops each
Worcestershire sauce
and Tabasco
Dash pepper
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
1/4 c. chopped onion

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in tomato sauce, vinegar, and seasonings. Chill until slightly thickened. Fold in celery, olives, and onion. Pour into cooler Cheese Pie Shell. Chill thoroughly.

Tuna Salad

1 can (5 – 6.5 oz) tuna, drained
1 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp minced onion or scallions
1 c. diced celery
Salt
Paprika
Mayonnaise

Lightly mix tuna, lemon juice, onion, and celery. Season with salt and paprika to taste. Chill. Just before serving, drain and mix in just enough mayonnaise to thoroughly coat salad. Spoon on top of chilled gelatin salad. Serve.

If I’ve done one thing this summer, it’s read more than my share of dated romance novels. They’re all quite aggravating, and it’s hard to accept that they’re so blantantly anti-woman and yet all penned by women. Did these ladies have no self respect? This particular diatribe doesn’t sound much like me, I must have changed during my post-surgical convalescence. To make up for my unexpected feminist thoughts, I continue to blast through these books.

romancey

We traveled down to Windham, NY, which is on the edge of the Catskills, to watch a world cup downhill mountain bike race. It was one of the most wildly exciting octane-fueled weekends I’ve ever experienced. I was starstruck and could not stop grinning like a crazy person for three days straight. It was a blast, and I hope we can make it to some of the other sanctioned races someday, which take place all over the globe (Norway? Austria? France?!).

There were other events at Windham, including cross country races and a pump track showcase showdown. Bikes are nothing but fun. It’s been a slow summer in the sense that I’ve been limited to spectating, but I was reunited with my mountain bike for the first time in over three months last weekend, and I was nearly as overjoyed by that as I was at the chance to stand next to my favorite downhill shredder, who happened to be shirtless, while at Windham.

windham

pump track

A few weeks ago, I had nine active logging jobs. Things have cooled down a bit since then, because that was over the top and ridiculous. Speaking of over the top, the wood is piling up, just like the pulpwood you see here. This might be the tallest stack I’ve seen yet.

pulp

Lastly, my multiple gardens are in full force. Lilies and plenty of other good stuff in the flower beds, with datura about to bloom next week. Scallions + kale + black radishes, along with greens, peas, tomatoes, carrots and beans in my veg garden. It’s been a top shelf summer.

veglily and skull

mulled wine mousse with poached pears

poached pears

Today’s offering to holiday cheer is a double wino whammy: Mulled Wine Mousse, served with pears poached in mulled wine and pomegranate juice. As I recently told you, I’ve been listening to a lot Hanson’s Snowed In, and in their words, this dessert is what Christmas means to me.

Deliciousness and decadence.

mulled wine mousse

The concept of an alcoholic mousse makes me think of technicolor desserts in 1960’s cookbooks, and so I’ve tried to present the finished product here in a similar vein. I personally love affected food photos, whether tinged yellow or pink in hue (or both!). There’s something about those 60’s cookbooks – Dinner in a Dish my companion of choice – it’s as if the photos make for instant food memories. And at Christmas time, there’s nothing better than a food memory or two. Am I right?

Yes. I am right.

Speaking of memories, the masses (aka 1 of you) have been clamoring (aka making one chill request) to see my tasteful holiday decorations. Ask and ye shall receive, gentle readers.

xmas decorationsxmas decorations xmas decorationsxmas decorations

We cut down a beautiful balsam fir found on a woods road a few miles from home. It is strung with some lights, popcorn and cranberry garlands, and eight ornaments – plus an American flag bow as a tree topper. I’ve been making a wood-burned ornament for each of the past few years, and it may come as no surprise that this year’s ornament is a tuberific potato plant. Potato Inspector represent!

The crĂšme de la crĂšme of my holiday decorations is my 6-species wreath, which contains fir, spruce, white cedar, white pine, tamarack, and red osier dogwood. I would like to drown it in liquid plastic and let it live forever on my front door. But I’ll settle for two or three months.

mulled wine mousse

Today, I discovered a hint of scratchy throat syndrome. Since I have a (second!!) job interview on Wednesday, I am not in the mood to get sick, especially right before the holidays. So, this morning finds me sitting on the couch……. with onions in my socks.

Old remedies claim that onions-in-socks can cure just about anything. Colds, the flu, a fever, you name it. Probably hunger, too. The smell is a bit unappetizing.

Anyway, how about some mousse?

Mulled Wine Mousse with Poached Pears

Serves 10-12

For the poached pears

++Ingredients++

4-5 pears (I used sweet little Comice pears)
2 c. mulled wine (recipe follows)
2-3 c. pomegranate juice (as needed to cover the pears in the pan)
1-3 tbsp honey, if desired

++Directions++

Peel the pears, leaving the stem. Cut the base to create a flat surface, if needed.

In a small saucepan, bring mulled wine and pomegranate juice to the boil. Add honey, if using. Add pears, fitting them into the pot tightly so that they don’t tip over. If making fewer pears, as I did, there is nothing you can do to stop pears from tipping. In this case, just go with it, occasionally rotating them.

Cover pears with a round of parchment, and a pot lid, if you have one small enough to fit inside the saucepan. I used my smallest pan, so covered the pears with a small plate. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the firmness of the pears. Turn heat off, and allow to remain in the liquid until cool.

For the mousse (inspiration here)

++Ingredients++

1/2 c. mulled wine (recipe follows)
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3 eggs, separated
1 c. sugar (I assume other sweeteners could work equally well)
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp lemon or other citrus zest
1 tsp cinnamon

++Directions++

Put half a dozen ice cubes and a cup or two of water in a large bowl, set aside. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over mulled wine. Let sit for one to two minutes.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, combine egg yolks and 1/2 c. of sugar. Whisk for several minutes, until mixture becomes thin and pale. Whisk in the gelatin/wine mix, and cook for two to three minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat, and place in the ice bath, stirring occasionally, until mixture has slightly cooled. Remove from ice bath before the mixture chills completely, or it will become too thick to incorporate into the mousse.

Meanwhile, combine cream with remaining 1/2 c. sugar, zest, and cinnamon, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Whip until stiff peaks form. Fold into gelatin mixture, 1/3rd at a time. Set aside, and clean out the electric mixer bowl.

In a cleaned electric mixer bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the bowl of whipped cream and gelatin. Scoop into individual glasses, or a large serving dish, and refrigerate an hour or overnight.

Serve with slices of Mulled Wine Poached Pears, and even with cubes of Mulled Wine Gelatin if you’re feeling frisky.

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Mulled Wine

For one regular-sized bottle of wine

++Ingredients++

1/2 c. granulated sugar (or 1/2 c. other sweetener, such as honey or agave)
1 bottle red wine
1/2 unpeeled orange or 1 tangerine, cut into sections
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaping tbsp mulling spices (allspice, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and mace)
1 tbsp brown sugar

++Directions++

In a large pot, combine sugar with a few splashes of wine. Add orange slices. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for five minutes. Using a spoon or spatula, flatten the orange slices, exuding the juice and releasing the zest.

Add the rest of the wine, the cinnamon stick, and the mulling spices. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to boil or simmer, as this will reduce the alcohol content. Near the end of cooking, add brown sugar to round out the flavors.

Serve immediately, when hot, or use in recipes such as Mulled Wine Mousse, above.

DSC03693

mulled wine gelatin

I can’t think of a single thing that I don’t love about the holidays. I love eating cookies. I love staring in awe at my tastefully-decorated balsam fir tree. I love jumping around frenetically to Hanson and New Kids on the Block Christmas music, dancing myself silly until I hit a poorly-placed moose antler with my ankle, and sink into the carpet in pain. And I love repeating the whole ordeal day after day after day.

And on this day (roughly Day 20 of my holiday celebrations), after yet another senseless and disgusting gun-based tragedy, I also can’t think of a single thing I’m not thankful for at this time of year. I’m thankful our friends in Newtown are safe. I’m thankful to be in good health and good cheer. I’m thankful for the suspense of funny-shaped gifts under the tree. And, I’ll be honest, I’m so very thankful for the deliciousness that is mulled wine.

Last year, I wrote up a series of Christmas cookie recipes, with each being given a new or fanciful twist. This year…. well, this year, I just want to drink mulled wine. But I’m not much of a lush by trade, so I’ve been forced to get crafty. Oh, darn.

mulled wine gelatin

And so, crafty one that I am, I’ve created a few recipes that I hope you’ll love, with mulled wine as the star of each one. Up first – beautifully deep-colored mulled wine in wiggly, jiggly solid form, or Mulled Wine Gelatin.

For all of my mulled wine craftiness coming to you now and in the near future, I used a ginormous 1.5L bottle of the cheapest red wine I could find. I usually grab a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, but whatever you like best will work. The drier the wine, the more sugar you may wish to add, especially if the end product is going to be gelatin. Keep in mind that liquid sweeteners can be used in place of granulated or brown sugar, and I find that it works well to add honey if in need of an extra sweet touch.

This is an easily eaten jello, and while it is alcoholic in nature, I doubt you’d feel inclined to eat enough of it to do much damage. That said, it’s tasty, unexpected, fun to eat, and filled with Christmas cheer. Cheers!

mulled wine gelatin

Mulled Wine Gelatin

This will fill one medium-large gelatin mold, or three smaller molds. I used three cups of a 6-cup mini bundt pan for this recipe.

++Ingredients++

1/2 c. mulled wine, cold (recipe to follow)
2 packets powdered gelatin (2 scant tbsp)
1 1/2 c. mulled wine, heated to a near-boil
1 tbsp honey

++Directions++

Place the cold 1/2 c. of mulled wine in a medium bowl. Pour the two packets of gelatin over the wine, and let sit for a minute or two. Pour in the hot wine, and stir well. Add in the tbsp of honey, and mix to combine. Pour into molds, and chill in the fridge for at least four hours before serving.

Eat responsibly.

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Mulled Wine

For one regular-sized bottle of wine

++Ingredients++

1/2 c. granulated sugar (or 1/2 c. other sweetener, such as honey or agave)
1 bottle red wine
1/2 unpeeled orange or 1 tangerine, cut into sections
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaping tbsp mulling spices (allspice, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and mace)
1 tbsp brown sugar

++Directions++

In a large pot, combine sugar with a few splashes of wine. Add orange slices. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for five minutes. Using a spoon or spatula, flatten the orange slices, exuding the juice and releasing the zest.

Add the rest of the wine, the cinnamon stick, and the mulling spices. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to boil or simmer, as this will reduce the alcohol content. Near the end of cooking, add brown sugar to round out the flavors.

Serve immediately, when hot, or use in recipes such as Mulled Wine Gelatin, above.

mulled wine gelatin

Stay tuned for more recipes featuring the perennially delicious mulled wine. Meanwhile, give your friends and family great big hugs, and let them know how much you appreciate them. Life is so very sweet.