Walnut & Chocolate Pie

IMG_1845

When I was younger we used to have a forested path that went through the woods between our house and our neighbors house. Our neighbor had a daughter around my sisters age and I would always tag along with them to play in the woods. We used to climb trees and get lost in our backyards which stretched for acres and acres of forest land. We used to pretend we were characters in Anne of Green Gables or play “medicine man,” which involved picking wild berries & leaves and crushing them with rocks. I can’t imagine kids these days with their iPads and video games doing the same, but it made for an extremely memorable childhood. After long afternoons spent in the woods we used to head over to her house to have a snack. The best snack was a very special pie her mother used to bake. She used to call it “the willy wonka pie.” At such a young age, I hardly knew what was in it, but I knew I liked it. Whenever we used to go there I could smell that pie in the air and we would be exstatic to have a slice. It was always so delicious and a food memory I will never forget.

IMG_1816

Almost 20 years later I still think about that pie. On a whim I googled “willy wonka pie” just to see if it actually existed. The only results were of blueberry pie recipes, I guess related to when Violet turns into a blueberry in the film. Maybe calling it “willy wonka pie” was her way of building our excitement. Recently that pie has been on my mind more than ever, and my foodie self decided to sit down and understand what exactly was in there. Frantically messaging my sister on whatsapp we pieced together our memories:

“…definitely some chocolate”

“…sweet & salty feel”

“…caramel gooey interior”

“…had to have nuts, either pecans or walnuts”

IMG_1797

 

IMG_1850

IMG_1794

So I googled and googled and googled, putting together the best parts of  different recipes for chocolate pies & tarts that I saw into my own concoction of a recipe. I made a cookie crust from the crumbs of some leftover vegan chocolate chip cookies made with coconut oil along with graham crackers & salted butter (not so vegan anymore). I knew the interior had to be soft so I used butter, corn syrup, a bit of flour, vanilla extract and brown sugar. And the nuts, I cracked about thirty walnuts to use in the filling.

IMG_1767

IMG_1776

IMG_1780

IMG_1805 IMG_1804

As soon as that pie hit the oven, I knew I had nailed it. The smell was oh so familiar and comforting. Letting the pie cool for three hours was an impatient process as I just wanted to dig in. Eventually I did and it was delicious, the type of wholesome dessert I could eat forever. Gooey, nutty, buttery, chocolatey, but not too chocolatey melt in your mouth goodness reminiscent of my childhood.

IMG_1821

IMG_1848

Recipe

Pie crust of your choice (I am partial to cookie crumb crusts when there is chocolate or citrus flavors involved, for a simple cookie crust recipe refer here or here)

1/2 cup melted butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup all purpose flour

3/4 chocolate (roughly chopped, I used a mix of bittersweet & milk)

1 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Pre-bake your pie crust according to the recipe till golden brown.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the butter, eggs, vanilla, corn syrup, sugars & salt till combined (about two minutes). With the mixer on low gradually add the flour, chocolate & walnuts and mix till just combined. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and bake for 45-55 minutes till set. Let cool for three hours before slicing. Enjoy with confectioners sugar & whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

IMG_1808

IMG_1853

  • Share on Tumblr

My Favorite Sandwich

IMG_1755

I haven’t been blogging recently, after my birthday and our wedding anniversary celebrations I fell sick with an annoying cold that took forever to go away. I have also been working on some exciting projects (soon to be revealed) as well as writing & styling an exciting holiday themed piece coming out soon. It’s taken me awhile to get back into the swing of things. Plus with the recent anniversary gift of a beautiful Vitamix, dinners have been whatever veggies I can throw into the blender and make it work. And of course anything I can put on bread is always good. Give me some bread, avocado, a bit of herbs, some salty cheese and I am good to go. I could literally turn anything into a sandwich concoction. If I am in a restaurant eating a steak, somehow I manage to get some bread, put a little mashed potato, creamed spinach and a bite of beef and voila I have a noni version sandwich or as I like to call it “sandy.” This post isn’t about sharing a magical gastronomical invention I made in the kitchen, it’s more about real life and what I really like to eat when I am home in my pajamas in front of the television watching The Mindy Project or some horrendous reality show (I am American after all). Food doesn’t always have to be fancy or perfectly presented, sometimes you just need an honest, comforting bite and this recipe does that for me. I usually use whatever stress-free ingredients I have in the fridge, I had a lovely mahon (a dry & nutty Spanish cheese) that I had picked up from Lafayette Gourmet as well as some salty delicious bresaola. I also pickled some onion slices in red wine vinegar and rosemary for a tart touch. Feel free to switch the ingredients around to what suits your mood or preferences.

IMG_1740

IMG_1737

IMG_1748

Recipe

2 slices of your favorite bread (I like a crusty brown loaf)

cheese of your choice (I used Spanish mahon)

vegetarian OR meat/fish of your choice (I used bresaola, but I also like to use smoked salmon or Lebanese sausage)

topping options: avocado, radish, cucumber, pickled onions, parsley, cilantro, mint, thyme, chives, tomato, good olive oil, sea salt (I used Maldon flakes), crushed red pepper (I used Turkish chili)

Assemble on bread and enjoy with your favorite TV show :)

IMG_1763

IMG_1759

  • Share on Tumblr

A Naked Cake for my 29th Birthday

IMG_1700

So I turned 29 last week and with the birthday celebrations came a naked cake which I baked for myself. I love the idea of making my own birthday cake, especially considering that someone always gets your favorite flavor wrong (don’t tell anyone, but I really don’t like chocolate cake). I like my cakes light and fluffy, and I don’t even like buttercream frosting (I am going to get shunned from the dessert community with these bold statements). I’ve mentioned Wright’s Dairy Farm & Bakery in Rhode Island before, a wonderful bakery I have been going to since I was a little girl. They make the most unbelievable fresh strawberry vanilla cake with whipped cream (made from the cows on their farm). No other cake makes me happier. I used fresh raspberries and blackberries on my cake, with a freshly whipped vanilla cream for the frosting. I love simple, rustic cakes that look homemade and like they are made with love. And this year I made myself just that…

IMG_1684

Recipe (adapted from the Joy of Baking recipe seen here.)

I halved the entire recipe to make a smaller cake. This is the halved version below.

1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

6 tbs granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk, which created a nice texture and flavor)

Preheat the oven is 350F. Grease & line the base of baking pans with parchment paper (I used three five-inch mini round pans). Sift together the flour, baking powder & salt in a bowl and set aside. In a mixer (I used a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a paddle attachment) beat the butter until creamy. Slowly add the sugar (about three minutes) until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and keep mixing. Then add the vanilla extract. With the mixer still going alternatively add the flour and milk until combined and a batter stage is reached.

IMG_1672

IMG_1673

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 30-34 minutes. Stick a butter knife or tooth pick in the center and when it emerges clean the cakes are done.

Let cool completely and remove from the pans after twenty minutes.

Whipped Cream Frosting

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs confectioners sugar

Using a mixer or a whisk (if you have the energy) beat the ingredients in a large bowl till you reach stiff peaks. I like to cool the bowl in the fridge or freezer prior to whipping.

Assembly

IMG_1675

IMG_1679

Use a serrated knife and cut each cake layer in half horizontally. I had five layers as my batter ran short on the final pan so I didn’t half that one. Using a palette knife or flat spatula spread the whipped cream frosting on the top of each cake layer, avoiding the edges to create the “naked” look. Stack each layer on a cake stand and garnish with fruit, flowers, etc.

IMG_1688

IMG_1681

  • Share on Tumblr

Video: berry crumble in a cast iron skillet

When my brother-in-law a.k.a. the technology king said to me “let’s do a food video, you know…just for fun,” flashbacks of my traumatizing first video came through my mind. Eventually I said why not and we put together a very spur of the moment and unplanned video, you know…just for fun. Lo and behold I was beyond happy with the results. The lighting was crisp and it turned out very nicely considering how little we had prepared for it.

I made one of my favorite g0-to desserts: berry crumble. I’ve made this dessert with almost every kind of fruit: apples, pears, nectarines, plums, peaches, etc. It’s so simple and perfect for a dinner party. It can be made ahead and baked right before guests arrive, which makes the rest of your meal much less stressful. I decided to make this version in a cast iron skillet (my new obsession), I just love how everything tastes better when made in one. The recipe instructions are on the video. I hope you enjoy watching it!

Berry Crumble in a Cast Iron Skillet from noreen wasti on Vimeo.

 Videography & Editing by: Dev Shahani 

  • Share on Tumblr

Summer Table Setting: Whimsical Place Cards

IMG_1283

Whenever I am entertaining I like to add a personalized touch. I think guests always appreciate a little personalization whether it be in a place card, goody bag or menu card. I wanted to share one of my favorite ideas that I like to do when having a sit-down dinner: hand-written place cards. It isn’t much work at all and there are so many different ways to execute place cards. I recently did a piece for Good Taste magazine on entertaining for a summer soiree, which included a whimsical approach to place cards (to read the full article, just click here).

IMG_1287

Lemon and lime citrus fruits served as the “place card holders.” And these were just leftover in my pantry! I like to use things that might be laying around the house before going out and buying something. You never know what sort of random objects could work in a beautiful tablescape. I wrote each guests’ name on a piece of square card stock and punched a hole in the corner. Using satin twine (you could use ribbon, string, anything) I tied the place card around each citrus fruit. It really creates a bright, summery feel and that extra personal touch for your guests. I hope you try this for your next party!

IMG_1280

IMG_1276

IMG_1270

  • Share on Tumblr