Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Parlor and the Kitchen- The Measure of Things

The Lunch With Stennifer Contest ends next Monday at 11:59pm CST. Have you entered? Have you entered as often as you should? Don’t forget you still have time to buy books, post on facebook, and e-mail your friends for entry.

You, your bestie, me and Jen Lancaster at a swank lunch in your hometown, with cocktails and cupcakes, and a large goodie basket! Plus the whole event immortalized on both of our blogs. And a lifetime of memories… click here for the deets, and get those entries in!

One week from today my new book GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT will hit bookstores near you. This makes it a very exciting and nerve-wracking time for me, since as much as I have been waiting to get the book into your hot little hands, now I have to hope that you enjoy it and want to recommend it to your friends and family! I have to hope that the people who review it are kind, and understand what I was trying to say with this story. I have to hope that people like my heroine enough to root for her, even when she does things that we wish she wouldn’t do, even when she handles problems badly or makes mistakes.

It is always such a struggle to balance characters being human, flaws and foibles and all, and still being likable. Still being “people” even though they are just products of imagination.

There are some exciting things going on connected to the book that I want to share…

Monday September 7
Tune in to WGN at Noon to watch me do a cooking segment and talk about the book

Monday September 13
Indy Style Television
WISH Channel 8 Indianapolis
My Indiana pals, please tune in at 9am to see me, probably cooking and chatting about the book, certainly trying not to yawn during segment 

Tuesday September 14
Barnes and Noble Webster Place
1441 W. Webster
Chicago IL

Thursday September 16
Barnes and Noble Old Orchard
55 Old Orchard Shopping Center
Skokie IL

I hope you will watch me on TV, and come to one of the readings/signings if you are in the area…I would love to see you in person. And be sure to let your pals know as well!

When a new book comes out, with all the attendant hoopla, it puts me in the mind of measuring. How do I measure my own success, and how do others? What tools do the people who read use to measure the worth of the work?

I try very hard not to measure based on sales figures. I can’t control the amount of promotion the book may or may not get. For me, and many mid-list authors, it can be a total crapshoot. Does a review get picked up? Does someone with juice read the book and like it and help you by blogging or tweeting about you? Do you get anointed with the lucky stick?

I do my level best to measure based on the response I get from readers like you. The people who e-mail me to say that they heard me, that it made sense, that it moved them. The people who show up at events to get a book signed and tell me I entertained them. The people who buy my books as gifts for others, or ask their library to carry my work. This, for me, has to be the measure of my success, because none of the rest of it is much in my control. I’d love to be a bestseller someday, or have my work optioned for film or TV. It would be fantastic to get to a level where my publisher would send me out on tour so that I could meet more of you in person, and thank you for reading.

But that isn’t the measure I will ever use. If one person has a few hours of their life made more enjoyable by reading the words it occurs to me to put down on paper, then that is successful. If it could be a lot of people, particularly people who might not be related to me by blood, that is a bonus! And I try to remember that the measure of my life will never be the number of books I publish or how many copies they sell.

Measuring is something I often don’t bother to do in my kitchen. I’m a pinch of this, taste, pinch of that girl. Even when I start with a recipe, I frequently use it more as a broad roadmap and not as a specific path, changing ingredients, altering amounts, using what I have. And I love to make things with no recipe at all, just throwing things together until they taste good. Last week I made a simple weeknight pasta for myself and Charming Suitor….leftover chicken, orecchiette pasta, yellow squash and zucchini, some artichoke hearts…a little chicken stock and lemon juice. Parsley and chives. Capers and pine nuts. A little nut of butter. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated. Salt and pepper. I just sort of tossed stuff together and kept tasting and eventually there was dinner. Not the kind of thing I would ever write down or publish, but the kind of thing I am glad I can do. Because sometimes you just need a happy bowl of warm yummy.

When it is time to measure, I rely on a few key tools, and I thought I would share those with you:

Salter scale:

This digital scale makes baking a dream, and is very useful when you find recipes with weight measurements. Affordable and sleek, with everything you will need. It also can be helpful when you want to keep an eye on what you are eating connected to a healthy program, I can eyeball 4 oz of chicken pretty well by now, but it is easy to accidentally overserve yourself….this scale takes the guesswork right out.

Measuring Spoons:

I use these from Nigella Lawson for almost everything. I love the beautiful design, and think they look great hanging in my kitchen. Plus she has the addition of a “Dessert Spoon” on there, which is great if you have any old British cookbooks!

Measuring cups:

For me, these have to be metal and very sturdy. Mine are copper, but these would be great as well.

Pyrex Cups:

I collect old glass measuring cups for liquid measure, but the classic Pyrex are great.

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman
The single most useful tool for measuring and cooking in my kitchen arsenal, this is less cookbook and more atlas...it will guide your cooking in ways you cannot even imagine.  Go. Buy. Now.  Also available in convenient App form.

As for a recipe that requires specific measurements, I thought I would share this one…

Recently Charming Suitor and I took a road trip to Kentucky to visit his parents. They are just the loveliest people, married 55 years, spunky and affectionate, smart and witty and awfully kind. And the most hospitable of hosts. We looked at old pictures and yearbooks, they told all the embarassing tales one wants to hear about their beloved, we got to see all the old family homes and meet a wonderful family friend, and eat delicous meals.  Including my first foray into the world of BBQ Mutton, and let me say, my life is forever changed for the better.  I got twelve hours in the car with CS, singing along to guilty pleasure road trip songs, and pulling off the highway for little adventures.  It was a pretty perfect weekend. 

One of the highlights for me was the morning ritual of biscuit baking…light as air biscuits, crunchy on the outside and ethereal on the inside, glorious little pillows of delicious. Charming Mother, with much encouragement from Reverend Charming and my own CS, would arise to measure carefully the simple ingredients, and work her biscuit magic. Every morning a basket of them would disappear, mine and CM’s with butter and strawberry jam, RC's with butter and sorghum molasses, and CS' with every possible topping and yes I’ll have another please!

Thanks ezrapoundcake.com

Charming Mother’s Morning Biscuits

2 c flour
½ t salt
4 t baking powder
½ t cream of tartar
½ c shortening
2/3 c milk

Sift first four ingredients together, then cut in shortening. CM used two butter knives for this, with deft hands. I don’t know that I would be as successful with that method, so a pastry cutter would be fine. Add milk to bring together and roll out about ½ inch thick. Cut into biscuits the shape and size you desire, CM’s were about 1 ½ inches across, and bake on ungreased cookie sheet or foil pan, with bisuits just touching at 450. Timing is hard here, and will alter based on the size of your biscuits, you are looking for a good golden brown on the outside. I think these took about 8-10 minutes, but we seemed to go mostly based on smell…when the kitchen smells toasty and nutty and biscuit-y they are done.

I cannot guarantee yours will be as perfect as hers, but I can tell you that the measurements are pretty precise, I wouldn’t alter them.

In this week before my latest baby takes wings and leaves the nest to be delivered into your hands--books or no books, sales or no sales, the fact that I have my CS and that he loves me enough to take me home and share in the comfort of his family table, in the joy of his father’s stories and the glory of his mother’s biscuits, that is the greatest measure of success I could hope for. And I am grateful. So very grateful.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @staceyballis

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summerfest Repost- Tomato Time

thanks ufseeds.com
First off, don’t forget that the amazing Lunch with me and Jen Lancaster contest is still going on through September 6, so click here for all the details!

It is neighbor’s garden and Farmers Market time, and one of the things that everyone has in abundance is tomatoes. Were I not completely incapable of growing anything, and had a garden, I would grow tomatoes. And yes, I can hear many of you saying there is no such thing as a black thumb, and of course I could grow things if I wanted.

To you I say the following:

I killed mint.

Yep, that scourge of the garden, practically a weed, everyone I know plants one little piece and end up with something akin to an acre of the stuff.

Still not convinced?


Fake tree. Dead. All the fake leaves fell off of the fake branches like a weird little autumnal scene in my living room, except they didn’t turn colors first. I was left with an odd fake twiggy thing with a few leaves holding on for dear life. I am not exactly sure what happened, but once it gave up the ghost, I knew my plant growing days were over. People who know me well call me The Cooler, and ask me to come over and just touch their more insidious weeds. I buy fresh herbs, and I shamelessly accept piles of garden goodness from my green thumb friends, and I go to the farmstands in the country and farmer’s markets in the city.

It is a shock to many how much I love to cook with tomatoes, especially great ripe fresh ones, since most people know I cannot stomach a raw tomato.

Ditto tomato juice. Gack.

But cooked, in pretty much every fashion, LOVE! You will surely find me picking slices off sandwiches, pushing chunks off of salads, and declining Bloody Mary’s. And in the summer I am likely to make Caprese Salad with watermelon subbing in for tomato. I like my bruschetta topping cooked and served warm or at room temp. All of my gazpachos are white.

However, bring some heat to the party and the tomato is my bestest friend. I love a good red sauce on my pasta. I think of ketchup as a major food group. I adore tomato soups of all warm varieties. I like them confit in olive oil, and even like tomato pudding, a really old school side dish that could easily be a dessert with just a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

So, in honor of the height of tomato season, I thought I would share some of my favorite ways to prepare them! After all, you can only eat so many of them raw before you get bored…

thanks tomatocasual.com


thanks domestifluff.com

For a hilarious read about Jen Lancaster making this soup, click here.

Can be served hot or cold and can easily be turned into a gajillion other recipes.

Approx 4 lbs. fresh tomatoes - I use a mix of plum and cherry for depth of flavor, but use whatever your garden grown…it is only essential they be fresh and very ripe.
1 medium sweet onion or 4 large shallots, diced fine
2 T Herbes de Provence
¼ c Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Cut tomatoes in half, toss in olive oil to coat, and arrange cut side down on 2 oiled sheet pans. Be sure that the pans have at least a 1 inch rim, otherwise you will have tomato juice all over your oven.

Add the onion or shallot evenly on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the herbs and liberal salt and pepper. Roast approx 1.5 to 2 hours until skins are loose and the flesh is soft.

Peel skins off tomatoes and discard. Dump the contents of the sheet pans into a large bowl, being sure not to lose any juices. You can mash them with a potato masher for an extra chunky texture, but I often use my immersion blender to get a soup that is a good balance between smooth and chunky. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

I serve this hot, room temp, or cold with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream and some chopped fresh mint for grown-ups. Yes, basil is natural, but mint and tomatoes are a really summery combo, and unless I have been to visit, you should have plenty around.

Add alphabet noodles, mini meatballs, or cooked rice for kids. Stir in toasted croutons and drizzle with olive oil and shredded Parmesan for a classic Pappa al Pomodoro. Add fresh basil and garlic and you have a chunky pasta sauce.

Add fresh oregano and it becomes pizza sauce. Freezes beautifully, can be canned if you are ambitious, and lasts up to two weeks in fridge.


thanks themomsbuzz.com

3 sticks unsalted butter
6 T sherry vinegar
6 T tomato water (chop 2 large fresh peeled tomatoes into a large dice and cook over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes, then strain in a sieve lined with cheesecloth to just capture the juice. Can substitute one small can of crushed tomatoes strained)
2 T strained tomatoes (from making the tomato water)
12 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T chopped shallot
2 t Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until browned but not burned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve, but be sure it does not congeal…should be barely warm, but still liquid to make the vinaigrette.

In a blender (or with your immersion blender), combine the vinegar, tomato water, olive oil, shallot and mustard. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the reserved butter and blend until thickened. Season to taste and set aside at room temperature until ready to serve. If you have to put it in the fridge, be sure to bring it back to room temp before serving.

I use this as a salad dressing (regular or pasta salad), but also as a dip for shrimp, skewers of veggies, or cooked chilled cheese tortellini skewered with artichoke hearts for an elegant appetizer.


thanks chicagofoodies.com

6 slices bread, crusts removed and cubed (I recommend Challah, brioche, or soft white bread for this. NO sourdough, whole wheat or other full flavored breads here!) about 2 ½-3 cups cubes.
¾ c butter, melted
1 1/3 c packed brown sugar
½ t salt
½ c boiling water
20 oz homemade tomato puree (or canned if you do not have a garden full of tomatoes and too much time on your hands)

Scatter the bread cubes evenly over the bottom of a 1 ½ qt buttered casserole dish, and pour the butter over the cubes. Let absorb completely, about 10-15 minutes. Mix tomato puree with water, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 5 minutes, then pour over bread. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Serve hot.

To serve as a vegetable, leave as is, or drizzle with a splash of balsamic or sherry vinegar. To serve as a dessert, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, olive oil gelato, or crème fraîche mixed with a little bit of honey.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Parlor and the Kitchen- Granola

I love granola.

Oops, that’s not granola, that’s my Charming Suitor’s dog the Amazing Wonder Boy. Isn’t he cute?

Altho Granola would be a great name for a dog…but I digress.


Here is the problem I have with granola. The false sense of virtuousness I get when I eat it. Long considered a “health food”, and often the only option at brunch type restaurants for those of us who eschew a gloppy bowl of oatmeal. (gack) But while granola is touted as “healthy” and is certainly better for you than say pancakes and sausage, it is traditionally packed with fat and sugar and is very sneakily caloric.

The average granola bar can have almost as many calories as a 3 Musketeers bar, and let’s be honest, who needs to think twice about THAT decision?
Mmmm.  3 Musketeers Bar
Some of the homemade granolas on tap at local restaurants can be over 350 calories per half cup. So when they bring you that large bowl with over a full cup of the stuff, served with a couple of hundred calories worth of yogurt and another hundred or so of fresh fruit, you are now enjoying a 1000 calorie breakfast. You could have had two eggs, three strips of bacon, hash browns and two pieces of toast with butter for the same number. And yes, 1000 calories of whole grains and fruit and nuts and yogurt is “better” for you fiber wise and cholesterol wise, but in the world of weight management, a calorie is a calorie and you can eat “healthy” right into a weight gain if you don’t pay attention to things like this insidious granola business.

A popular granola from the “unclothed furry woodland mammal” company currently on the market packs a whopping 280 calories for ½ c serving, 120 of those calories from fat! Delicious, of course. But is that really as “healthy” as it could be? They list ¼ c as a serving on the package, but let’s be honest, is ¼ c of granola going to be a good filling breakfast for anyone who isn’t a squirrel? For most of us, we eat anywhere from ½-1 c of cereal in our bowls, which could be over 600 calories by the time we add even the skimmiest of skim milk!

I want to be healthier, to eat smart and well, and to eat things that are delicious. So I decided to see if I could make a granola that I loved that was a little bit better on the fat/sugar/calorie end of things. And I think I have a recipe that is good enough to share! It is dead simple to do, despite the large number of ingredients, and easily adapted to suit your particular tastes.

One of the things I wanted to do was bring in some low-calorie bulk to the party, since whole grains are good for you, but are high in calories. Enter Puffed Millet Cereal. At only 60 calories a cup, it is a whole grain that I used to replace 3 c of rolled oats, at a savings of 300 calories for the recipe. On the mornings when I really want an extra-full bowl of something, I can take ½ c of this granola and mix in ½-1 c more of the puffed millet cereal for a low-cal filler. I also added in toasted wheat germ and golden flax seeds, which don’t bring much taste, but do add some good health benefits. A special touch was some Grape Nuts cereal because I love the crunch.

A mix of nuts, natural sugars, a little unsweetened coconut, and applesauce to replace a lot of the fat and sugar and we have a winner! It will last a couple of weeks in an airtight container, or up to 3 months in the freezer. If you are going to freeze, leave out the dried fruit and just mix in before you eat.

Stacey’s Power Packed Granola
3 c rolled oats
3 c puffed millet cereal
½ c barley flakes
½ c toasted wheat germ
1 c whole grain cereal nuggets (like Kashi whole grain or Grape Nuts)
½ c flax seeds
1 c shredded coconut, unsweetened
½ c sunflower seeds
¼ c white sesame seeds
1 c raw slivered almonds
¼ c chopped pecans
¼ c chopped raw cashews
1 t kosher salt
1 c natural unsweetened applesauce
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla
¼ t almond extract
1/3 c amber agave syrup or brown rice syrup
4 T honey
¼ c light brown sugar
2 T peanut oil
1 c golden raisins
½ c dried cherries

Preheat oven to 325.

Mix all of the dry ingredients except the cinnamon, raisins and cherries together in a large mixing bowl.

Mix applesauce, honey, agave, sugar, vanilla, almond extract, oil and cinnamon in a bowl until well blended.

Add to dry ingredients and toss together lightly until very well mixed.

Spread the mixture out on two greased baking sheets and bake in oven, turning over about halfway through baking and re-distributing the granola evenly during the baking process (I find a bench knife works great for this).

The goal is to get it evenly deeply golden without burning. Depending on your oven this is about 40-50 minutes. Watch closely when you get towards the end of the baking time, as it can quickly overbake! The granola is not at full crunchiness until it cools, so go by color. Should look toasty, but not mahogany. Let granola cool completely, then mix in fruit.

Store in airtight containers.

This is my favorite mix of flavors, but feel free to substitute for different nuts, different dried fruits, and other grains.

(Because of the reduced amount of both fat and sugar in this recipe, this is not a granola that clumps into clusters, it stays pretty loose. If you aren’t as concerned about calories and want that more solid style, increase the light brown sugar to ¾ c and the peanut oil to ½ c, which should give you the clumping you want.)

Calories per ½ c serving: 180

And be sure to save up those calories, because whoever wins lunch with me and Jen Lancaster is not only going to enjoy a decadent meal, there will be cocktails and desserts, so get ready to splurge! Haven’t entered the contest yet? Click here and get on it, you aren’t too late!

Oh, and in case you can't get enough of cute dog pics....here is my nephew, Sir Sweetness, Little Sister's gorgeous smiling boy!  Has there ever been such a handsome fellow?

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Follow me on Twitter @staceyballis

Friday, August 20, 2010

Feasting Friday- Popcorn

We have to talk about popcorn for just a moment.

thanks smallbitesonline.com

Popcorn is my frenemy. On the one hand, properly made and consumed in moderation, popcorn is actually good for you, and as a snack, a much better choice than chips or cheesy things. On the other hand, moderation is often hard to come by. Popcorn is one of those things I cannot ignore, if it is near me, even BAD neon-yellow-overly-salt-slightly-stale bar popcorn, I am powerless to its siren song.  At movies, despite my best efforts, the bag never much makes it past the first ten minutes of the film.

Growing up, and even today, my dad always made the popcorn. Pretty basic, just oil and popcorn and salt, served in one enormous woven wood bowl, with little individual bowls on the side. Plunking down in front of the annual showing of Wizard of Oz, or the latest episode of Hill Street Blues, those perfectly popped kernels of goodness were the best possible couch snack.

When the microwave popcorn fad started, I was perplexed. Popcorn takes like five minutes on the stove. And doesn’t taste of chemicals. Why would anyone buy that? Over the years I have taught many friends to make popcorn “from scratch”, and they are always amazed at how fast it is, and how much better it tastes.

My version is pretty basic. Stockpot with good lid on over high heat. Eyeballed 3 T of peanut oil, canola in a pinch. ¾ c Orville Redenbacher popcorn kernels. (yes, Orville Redenbacher. I have tried others. This one is the best. Full stop.) Dump into pot and swirl to be sure the oil coats all the kernels. Plunk on cover. Wait for popping. Don’t touch. When popping slows from roiling explosions to gentle occasional pops, remove lid, and give one shake just to get the last few popped. Dump in bowl and salt to taste. If it takes you more than five minutes start to finish, I’d eat my shoe.

The problem with this ease and deliciousness is that it makes one crave an enormous bowl nearly nightly, which can wreak havoc on both the diet and the digestion. It takes much willpower not to popcorn binge with regular frequency. But I have discovered that by abstaining for a while, and thinking of it as a treat and not a major food group, I have brought a lot of the joy back. A couple of weeks ago Charming Suitor and I were getting ready to snuggle up on the couch and watch a DVD and I suddenly realized we had never eaten popcorn together. This seemed a travesty of enormous proportions. Especially since I didn’t even know whether he LIKED popcorn. I cleared my throat and said, somewhat nervously…

“Would you want popcorn with this movie?”

“Um, YES! That would be great! I love popcorn!”

Reason #74 on the list of why I love this man.

“Be right back.”

I went to the kitchen. Five minutes later, I came back. One bowl. Two hands, bumping into each other occasionally. Crunchy, salty, easy. The bowl is definitely more satisfying when shared. He told me it was the best popcorn he had ever had. And even though it didn’t taste any different than the gazillion other times I had made it, he was right. It was the best popcorn I’d ever had too.

Want to gild the lily? Try one of these recipes.

Herbed Popcorn

3 T peanut oil
¾ c popcorn kernels
3 T nutritional yeast (this will be with the dietary supplements at your local Whole Foods or health food store, and while it sounds like a strange addition, it has a nutty flavor that is reminiscent of parmesan cheese and pairs great with popcorn…if you can’t find it, you can substitute grated parmesan)
1 t ground mustard powder
1 ½ t salt (and more to taste)
1 t dried thyme leaves (or herbes de Provence or Italian herb mix)
½ t garlic powder
¼ t cayenne pepper (optional)

Mix all of the spices and herbs with the nutritional yeast in a small bowl.

Put oil and popcorn in a large pot, shake to be sure all the kernels are coated, cover pot with tight fitting lid and turn the stove burner on high. Leave the pot alone until you hear the popping slow down, and then give it a shake or two just to be sure that you are getting all the kernels popped. When the popping slows to three seconds between pops, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and pour the popcorn in a bowl large enough for you to mix it around easily. Sprinkle hot popcorn with about 1/3 of the yeast/spice mix and toss popcorn thoroughly. Taste. Add more yeast mix and salt until you get the flavor you want. Once you have the right balance, let the popcorn sit uncovered at room temperature until completely cool. Store in Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers for up to 36 hours. You can toast on sheet pans in a 400 degree oven for 3-4 minutes to recrisp or if you want to serve warm.

Thanks myrecipes.com

Awesome Caramel Corn

6 quarts popped corn (see method above)
1 c butter
1/2 c light corn syrup
1/2 t baking soda
2 c brown sugar
1 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 c toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 250.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. When it has stopped foaming, stir in corn syrup, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring pretty constantly. Once it begins to boil, stop stirring and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the soda and vanilla very carefully, as the mixture will foam up and expand. Put the popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Pour the caramel over the popped corn and mix well. Sprinkle the almonds in and give one last mix. Spread the corn onto buttered sheet pans and bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Brown Butter Kettle Corn

3 T peanut oil
¾ c popcorn kernels
½ stick butter
1 T granulated sugar (I use Superfine if I can get it, but regular sugar works great)

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium high heat until the butter solids go a lovely golden brown, but don’t let it burn. Should smell nutty. Remove from heat and reserve. Make popcorn according to directions above. Drizzle browned butter over popped corn, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with sugar and toss well, then salt to taste.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Parlor and the Kitchen- Pie in the Sky

Every foodie has their favorite cooking shows. Those of us who grew up on Julia still tune in to watch her unassuming and brash way in the kitchen. I have a massive platonic girl crush on Nigella Lawson, who can make tumbling blueberries into a bowl seem like a prelude to a kiss, and who always looks as if she has been recently laid. Well.


But I have equal love for the Two Fat Ladies, who never once made anything I would want to put in my mouth, but were a delight to watch. They are wonderful food entertainment, often incomprehensible, seemingly totally unaware that they are being filmed for television, and unapologetic about their vices.

But nothing makes me happier than shows where food may not be the focus, but is a definite supporting character. I love Brenda’s sugar addiction on The Closer, watching her sneak a chocolate bar is as much fun as watching her get the confession. Whether it is Michael Weston’s yogurt obsession, or the passionate devotion to fruit of Damian Lewis' character Charlie Crews on the all-too-short-lived Life, or the huge family meals on Everybody Loves Raymond and Soul Food, watching characters engage with food is enormous fun.

Lucky for me (#47 on the DAMN I’m lucky list, to be precise) my Charming Suitor is a foodie like me, so I can usually convince him to watch fun food shows with me. And our latest find is a gem from England called PIE IN THE SKY. A five season tasting menu starring the subtle and delightful Richard Griffiths, the show follows Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe, a gourmand of epic proportions, as he tries to extricate himself from police work and solving mysteries so that he can devote himself to his role as the chef/owner of a small restaurant.

You heard me right, Chickens, your Polymath has actually found a show that is a POLICE PROCEDURAL WITH COOKING!!! Be still my heart. He finds the clues, and the escargots. He sniffs out the bad guys like a truffle pig. He plays the suspects against one another, and plays classical music for his chickens for the most delicious eggs.

In the first episode his nemesis first serves him prosciutto and dry white wine before shooting him in the leg and stealing the sterling silver peppermill he keeps in his pocket. CS and I were hooked.

I cannot recommend it enough. It is a delicious bit of fluff.

So in honor of Henry Crabbe, and his restaurant Pie in the Sky, a summery pie recipe, perfect for the current and fleeting abundance of ripe and juicy nectarines and peaches. It is easy to assemble, quick to bake, and cool and creamy and refreshing to eat after a summer meal.

Nectarine or Peach Soufflé Pie

1 ½ cups graham-cracker crumbs
8 T butter, melted
6 nectarines or peaches, peeled
1 ½ cups sour cream
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
½ t nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put graham cracker crumbs in a bowl and pour in melted butter over, tossing lightly until moistened. Pat half of the crumb mixture over the bottom and up the sides of a deep 9- to 10- inch pie plate or springform pan.

Cut the fruit in half and remove pits. Arrange pitted side up on the crust. Mix sour cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour the filling over the fruit and sprinkle with the remaining crumb mixture. Bake 40 minutes, until puffed and set in center. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Know what else is delicious? Lunch. With your best bud. And me and Jen Lancaster. Enter to win here.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath