Thursday, November 18, 2010

Order Your Pies Now!

The Pie Queen is taking orders for Thanksgiving! If you want a delicious homemade pie to serve next week, with no work from you other than handing over a little cash money, now's your chance! You can pick up your pie in the East Bay or have it delivered in the East Bay or SF on Wed., Nov. 24 or the morning of Thurs., Nov. 25.

A word about our flavors. We're not really into making kooky, crazy pies. We don't want to freak you or your guests out by putting weird things into your apple pie. Especially at Thanksgiving. We made a ravishing pumpkin-ginger mousse one year, in lieu of the pumpkin pie, and the guests lost it. Where was the PUMPKIN PIE???? It didn't matter that the mousse was delish; what mattered that what was supposed to be there, wasn't. So we'll let others make grapefruit-huckleberry-campari tart and curried fig-balsamic galettes. At this time of year, there's just something comforting, and right, about having the same old thing.

So, our most popular Thanksgiving pies are listed below, but hey, if you're longing for Meyer lemon meringue or chocolate silk instead, it can happen. All pies are possible! Crusts are all-butter; fabulous butter-lard or vegan/nondairy upon request.

Classic Apple.

Classic Apple with Raisins. Marvelous.

Pumpkin. Made with fresh slow-roasted winter squash. Custardy goodness, not stolid stodge.

Sweet Potato. Southern fave! Made with roasted sweet potatoes.

No-Crust Pumpkin or Sweet Potato. A pie without a crust? Yes! If you're avoiding wheat or grains, you can still enjoy the best part of pumpkin pie. We'll bake our delicious pumpkin or sweet potato filling for you "as is" and skip the crust.

Pear & Quince. Luscious autumn treat! Silky pears layered with gently spiced poached quince.

Cranberry-Tangerine. Something delicious different! Nutty, crunchy walnut or pecan crust, tangy chilled ruby-red cranberry filling with a hint of tangerine. A PQ family favorite!

Payment is COD, cash only. Email PQ at dixieday(at)aol(dot)(com) for more information.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Just in time for High Pie Season-- Pie Queen Kitchen is open for business! It's just a week until Thanksgiving, and you know what this're gonna need a pie, or 3. But you've already got a lot on your plate--turkey! tofurkey! gravy! buttermilk mashed rutabagas-n'-taters!--and perhaps facing down a crust and peeling all those apples is just one task too many.

And that's fine with me! I'd love to be your pie-bakin' hands for hire.

We're on yur Thanksgiving table, bakin' yur pies!

Here at Pie Queen Kitchen, our pies are all-natural & made from scratch, using local & organic ingredients whenever possible. I like to know where my ingredients come from, don't you? So, Pie Queen Kitchen uses locally ground Guisto flours, Clover and Straus butter and cream, eggs from local, free-range hens, all-natural lard from happy pigs, and fruits and vegetables grown by farmers I trust.

Here are some of our most popular Thanksgiving pies. But any pie is possible! These pies are made with all-butter single or double crusts. Truly delicious butter/lard crust, or dairy-free vegan crusts, available upon request.

Classic Autumn Apple. Made with a mix of tart and sweet California apples, lightly sweetened and spiced. With or without raisins.

Pumpkin. No Libby's here! Made with fresh, slow-roasted winter squash, eggs, cream, and spices. A custardy delight! (Also available in a tofu-based, egg-free version.)

Sweet Potato. A Southern favorite! Made with baked sweet potato, brown sugar, eggs, and cream.

Cranberry-Tangerine. Something different! A tangy, ruby-red, chilled cranberry-tangerine filling in a crunchy walnut crust. Perfect with fresh whipped cream!

Pecan. More nuts, less goop! Finally, a pecan pie that doesn't curl your molars. Also available in Chocolate-Pecan.

Pear & Quince. A luscious autumn treat.

Pies are $22-$28 each, and can be baked in a disposable foil pan or in a reusable glass or metal pan (available for refundable deposit or a small additional fee.)

For more info and to set up an order, call me at 415-623-6212 or email at dixieday(at)aol(dot)(com).

*Dietary restrictions: I cook in a home kitchen, so I can't promise a strictly gluten-free or nut-free environment for those with serious allergies. But if you just have a common dietary-choice issue, like being vegan or wheat-free, well, PQ loves a challenge! I can make vegan, dairy-free and/or eggless crusts and fillings, as well as wheat-free crusts. Just ask!*

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oderatus, sinuata

Why am I awake and typing madly at 7am? Who knows? But the coffee and toast are made and I'm cozy in bed listening to the cold rain, glad that it's watering the sweet-pea and bachelor's-button seeds planted yesterday up in the garden. Oh, sweet peas! How I love them. They smell so incredibly sweet, especially the old-fashioned ones, which were specifically bred & cultivated for their scent. Their Latin name is "Lathyrus odoratus"--as you might expect, anything with "odoratus" in the name is a good thing.

Most really sweet-scented flowers use their perfume just like you do--for sex! Since they can't hit the bars, they have to get the hotties to come to them, by sending out a waft of tasty, tasty scent to attract the creepy-crawly pollinating bugs who'll climb in for nectar. Presumably, flying past a rose is like walking past a doughnut shop for a bee--irresistible.

On their way down to the nectar bar, they get powdered in pollen, which is full of the plant's genetic material. Then they head off to flower #2 (because each flower only offers a tiny siplet of nectar, so everyone can get a little lovin') and track the previous flower's pollen all over the floor. Which makes the plant babies (fruits with seeds, to grow more plants) happen.

Not surprisingly, many flowers are only perfumey before they're pollinated. Once they get knocked up, as it were, they don't bother. Sweatpants and dirty hair after that! The flower itself often drops its petals and dies off shortly after pollination, so the plant can put its energy into fruit & seed production. If you're growing flowers for cutting, it's important to be able to visually identify your flowers' status pre- and post-pollination, because a flower that hasn't been pollinated will last a lot longer in a bouquet than one that has.

Sweet peas, though, just spread their gorgeousness around for the sake of it, since they self-pollinate before the flowers even open. Thank you, sweet peas! Since I've always had such limited gardening space, I've always felt strongly that any plant had to pull its weight and be either edible, a useful companion plant (like alyssum or marigolds, which repel aphids from other plants), or a banquet for the pollinators (bees love anything blue, hence the bachelor's buttons). But now I'm mellowing and making space for that which is simply shamelessly pretty, too.

My latest favorite is Salpiglossis (also called Stained Glass Flower or Painted Tongue), which I fell in love with out at the farm at UCSC. I had one last year, bought at the fabulous Flora Grubb, called Chocolate Royale, which produced a big ball of really beautiful deep, deep maroon-brown velvety flowers, all summer long. Plus, I love that its Latin name is Salpiglossis sinuata--so belly-dancer-ish!

And in your gardening news: stop by new gardening/groovy stuff shop Succulence on Sat, Feb. 13, for their grand opening party. I met co-owner Amy Shelf at the Underground Farmers Market last month, and she's just as nice as can be (she and her husband run 4-Star Video on Cortland Ave; Succulence is out back). Plus, she'll have some of her groovy preserves and pickles on hand. I'm going to go and remind her about her offer of a lemon-marmalade-making date...

And Pam Peirce, doyenne of gardening in the Bay Area's kooky microclimates, has recently revised and updated her classic reference book, Golden Gate Gardening. She'll be talking at Flora Grubb at 1pm on Sat., Feb. 28th.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

lemon tart

Living in SF on and off for 15 years, there's a certain built-in sense of place you get after a while. You know automatically which way to turn to get the train outbound or inbound, which way is the ocean and which way is Oakland. You fall asleep on BART coming from Rockridge, look out the window and know immediately, with a sinking heart, that you've missed 24th St and are headed somewhere past Daly City. The train pulls up in Colma and you realize you've gone 4 stops past where you wanted to be, and that you're going to have to sit on the cold concrete bench and wait for the next Bay Point-bound train to take you back to where you meant to go in the first place. Then again, at least you woke up in Colma, which is more than most people do.*

Back to 24th St, 14 Mission bus to Cortland, 24 Divis up the hill, finally home again, home again, jiggity jig. And unlike your umbrella last week, you didn't leave your french tart pan on the train, a good thing.

As usual, I was coming home after a transbay baked-goods run, not wanting to face rush hour and then late-night driving in the Green Bean, aka the PQ's nifty '95 beetle-green Taurus. The destination? Leslie's family-and-friends b-day party, a soupfest of fun, with cheese, bread and two fab soups, lentil and chicken and rice. Yes, Chicken Soup with Rice, just like the Maurice Sendak poem.

Leslie asked for a sweet, and since I still had the last few lemons from D's Oakland tree in the fridge, I made a lemon tart. What a hit! I used the recipe from the Bouchon cookbook as posted on Epicurious, and at first I was wary, since it was more of a creamy/fluffy filling rather than the typical jelly-ish french-bakery style. But it was tart and super-lemony and just lovely. Partly because I made one tart for what turned out to be 15 or so people (plus kids), everyone only got a little sliver, which was maybe why they all raved and wished for more. But regardless, I think that Mr. Keller might be onto something. Here's my version:

Birthday Lemon Tart

I made this with Meyer lemons, which are sweeter and more fragrant than your usual Eureka/Lisbon lemons. You can increase the sugar a little if you can't get Meyers.

Tart crust:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
7 tbsp butter, very cold, chopped into chunks
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp cold water

Mix flour, salt, and sugar, then cut in butter until it forms little nickel-sized bits. Whisk egg yolk, vanilla, and water together; add and toss together until dough comes together when squeezed. Don't worry if it seems crumbly; it will get moister as it rests. Put in a zip-lock bag, seal, and chill for at least 1-2 hours. Roll out into a round on a lightly floured surface (if it's too sticky to roll, just press into pan as evenly as you can). Tuck into a 9-inch fluted metal tart pan with removable bottom. Bake for 20 min at 350F, rotating as necessary for even browning, until golden brown. Let cool.

2 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon (use a microplane!)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp butter

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, beat yolks, eggs, and sugar together. Whisk until mixture is foamy and beginning to thicken. Add 1/3 of lemon juice and keep whisking. After a minute or two, add another 1/3 of juice. Repeat. Keep whisking until mixture gets thick and opaque, and mounts up a little as you whisk (whisk should leave trails). It should take about 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat. Beat in butter, 1 tbsp at a time. Remove top of double boiler from water, and let cool. It will thicken and get fluffy as it cools.

Spoon filling into crust. If desired, brown lightly under the broiler (watch carefully, as it will only take a minute or two). Serve chilled or at room temp.

Leslie's dad wanted me to be his Big Love second wife after tasting this; her mom fully agreed and said I could come for dinner at their house anytime, as long as I brought them a tart.

* Colma is the Bay Area's necropolis, with more graveyards than neighborhoods. Sure, some people do live here, but the vast majority? Very quiet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Steph's Cafe this Thursday

The Pie Queen is throwing open her jam cupboard! And not just for the usual friends and family, but for YOU. How? Sign up here and come to the Underground Farmers' Market on Thursday, Jan. 28 in San Francisco. Both the sign-up and the market are free, but you gotta be on the list. Why? Because the market, essentially a bake sale by your jam-making and kombucha-fermenting neighbors, is selling stuff made in people's non-health-inspected kitchens. So the city can't let it happen unless it's a "private party" with a guest list.

It's going to be great, though, and the PQ is madly emptying her jam cupboard and making marmalade and fresh bread to sell. Putting an emphasis on going local as much as possible. Bread will have whole wheat flour from wheat grown at Pie Ranch, honey from my buddy Eli, who keeps his hives in the Castro, cornmeal from a local farmer and miller, and butter from Straus. And the jams will be local, too--my friend Deb just gave me a big bag of lemons from her backyard tree in Oakland. Tomatoes for the cool tomato-ginger preserves came from Riverdog in Guida last summer, and apricots came from an old orchard up in Davis as well as from Frog Hollow in Brentwood, as did the pears for the vanilla pear butter.

Mad scramble to get some signage together, as well as creating the actual product. But last night's SPUR panel discussion about the Economics of Street Food was really inspiring. I'm thinking this pie/jam/baked stuff biz could really happen this year. Selling under the name Steph's Cafe this time. Come and say hello!