Chocolatier Chuck Higgins reports that he’s ready to sell his Santa Fe sweets business, C.G. Higgins Confections. I've enjoyed his stuff for years so this makes me a little wistful. I’ll have more details on that in the paper soon.
I learned from a recent Edible newsletter that Coonridge Dairy had a crazy propane refrigerator explosion that left Nancy Coonridge and a worker with second-degree burns. The dairy is way, way out in the middle of nowhere beyond Pie Town, off the grid, and the refrigerators run on propane. Well, something happened and an explosion wrecked part of the facility. There’s a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for the dairy to put in two new (expensive) solar refrigerators. The goal is $10,000 and as of this writing $4,026 had been raised.
Meanwhile, the second annual Macaroni and Cheese Festival takes place next Saturday, Aug. 20 from 2 - 6 pm at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. It’s adults only, which WTF except probably because ticket price of $45 includes free beer and wine tastings (full pours cost money). Buy five tickets and get the sixth free. I understand that selling booze is important, but the vast majority of people I know who are obsessed with mac and cheese are children. So it's a little bit of a bummer. (Side note: Are there places in Santa Fe that deserve props for their kid-friendliness? Places that are surprisingly NOT kid-friendly? Let me know. Public props/shaming will ensue.)
That same day is the Bosque Chile Festival at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. From 11am - 7 pm there will be entertainment, kids’ activities, arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, beer, wine, and chef demonstrations. The event is free. For $5 you can vote in the chile and salsa taste-off. At 7:30 there's a concert with a band doing an Earth, Wind and Fire tribute. Tickets for that cost $22--but kids get in free. You're a shinig star, no matter who you are, shining bright to see what you can truly be! Man, I love me some Earth Wind and Fire.
Making pies this week? Try baking one in a disposable aluminum pie plate. <record scratch> Say WHAT? You probably already have a favorite kind of pie plate—most bakers do—and you may also know that each kind of material has its own advantages. Fancy ceramic pie plates are the prettiest, Pyrex dishes allow you to see how fast your bottom crust is browing and aluminum, well, aluminum pans are cheap. But who wants to present a gorgeous pie in a 69 cent pie tin from Albertson’s? A blogger over at Serious Eats did a massive comparison project (yum!) and came away with a surprising result: “Dirt-cheap disposable aluminum proved to be the greatest surprise of all, baking up an especially crisp and golden crust.”
I can’t bear the thought of using a disposable pan for a pie I’m not giving away, so I’d be tempted to try something thin and aluminum, but reusable.
Don’t feel like a pie expert yet? (Ha ha! You never will. Join the club.) King Arthur Flour has an outstanding Pie Baking Guide that will guide you through the basics–and some hardcore nerdy pie tips.
Got tomatoes coming out of your ears? I do. Every night I’ve been having a simple salad of tomato wedges, sprinkled with salt and pepper and tossed with a little olive oil. Honestly, it’s perfect. Tonight I drizzled the toms with a little balsamic glaze and it was slightly better than perfect—but only slightly.
The other day I gathered up nearly 20 pounds of fresh tomatoes and made tomato paste using this simple method from The Kitchn. For 20 pounds of fruit I needed both of our big All Clad stock pots—and my new favorite kitchen gadget, the Kitchen-Aid fruit and vegetable strainer attachment that I mentioned last week. It proved its worth separating those tomato skins and seeds from the pulp, even if it did require a couple of cleanings during the process.
YES, tomato paste is best made with paste tomatoes, but my Romas didn’t take off this year, while the garden is bursting with juicy Celebrity and Better Boy varieties. It worked, I just had a thinner, waterier tomato mixture to begin with. My improvised solution was to simmer the juice on the stove for a while, until it was thick enough to safely pour into two half sheet pans and bake for several hours (turn on convection for this part! It saves about half the time.) Also, use #2 this month for Grannie’s ol’ bottle of Fruit Fresh.
Related: Are you not using restaurant sheet pans at home? Because you should be. They’re cheap as dirt, sturdy as hell and handy for every single task. A half sheet pan is about the size of your biggest cookie sheet. Quarter sheet pans are really useful, too. Both are improved with the addition of silicone baking mats. I have Silpats and knockoffs and they work equally well. You can also buy gridded racks that fit inside for elevating a chicken, say. They double as cooling racks, too.
Question on cork recycling: My dude recently tried to take our huge bag of wine corks to be recycled at Whole Foods, only to find they are no longer accepting them. Do you know of a place in your area that accepts wine corks for recycling?
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