Monday, June 30, 2008

Cheap Eats: Dok Bua

There are few places that will serve you a literal platter of food for under $10, but at Dok Bua, a feast is available every night of the week. Their nightly dinner special offers some of their most popular dishes, served with jasmine rice, tom yum soup, two spring rolls, and two pork dumplings, all for the low price of $9.95. It may not look like a ton of food, especially with the spring rolls and pork dumplings placed in rather large sections of the plate by themselves, but it sure is filling. The noodle and rice dishes are filling in their own right, but with the extra side of rice, you're sure to bring home some leftovers.

Dok bua may not be a classy place - in fact, it's pretty kitschy - but the food is authentic, delicious, and fresh. The pad thai (pictured above) is not like the greasy, overly-sweet stuff you find at some restaurants, but balances the sweet and savory very well. The menu, if you choose to order something other than the special, is vast, and they even have an all-picture menu if the names of dishes are unfamiliar. But why order something else if you can be stuffed to the gills for $10?

Dok Bua is located at 411 Harvard Street in Brookline, just outside of Coolidge Corner, and is open every day from 11am to 10:30pm. The dinner special is served after 4pm.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Strawberry Lemon Bars

Yeah, so I'm a little crazy. For my other blog, which focuses on books, I've signed up for a 24 Hour Read-a-thon - one whole day of nothing but reading and blogging about reading. So naturally, I took another whole day to get ready, including cooking lots of things so I can be well-fed (and well-caffeinated).

I read about these Strawberry Lemonade bars a while ago on Baking Bites, and I had been waiting for strawberry to really hit before giving them a go. And luckily, strawberry season and my reading marathon fell at exactly the same time.

With their sweet berry taste and lemony zing, these babies are sure to keep me going.

Strawberry Lemon Bars (adapted from Baking Bites)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

1 pint strawberries, leaves removed
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
powdered sugar

Preheat oven 350°. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together 1/4 cup sugar and butter. Add flour and salt slowly; mixture will be crumbly. Pour into pan and press into an even layer. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to turn golden.

In a food processor, puree the strawberries. Reserve 1/2 cup of the puree, then press the rest of the puree through a fine sieve, which should produce about 1/4 cup of juice; discard pulp and save the juice. In the food processor (no need to wash it out), combine strawberry puree, strawberry juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and eggs, and process until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse until combined.

Pour the filling over the crust and return to the oven for an additional 25 minutes (or longer if the filling has not set). Cool completely before cutting, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Can be served at room temperature or cooled in the fridge.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

Ah, coffee. How I've missed you.

I've left my job, meaning I am no longer close to a Bruegger's, and thus cannot get 18 cups of coffee a day with my magic mug (don't worry, I'm close to it having paid for itself, though, and I'll make that up through less frequent visits). And while my roommate has a one-cup coffee maker, I don't like it - it's loud and spits everywhere and I'd rather just leave it alone. Thank god for cold-brewed coffee.

The New York Times ran this recipe last summer, but I've just discovered it. The amazing part is that the coffee tastes much smoother and creamier with this brewing method, and there's less acid, which my stomach is quite happy about. And while I normally add milk and Equal to my cup, I didn't feel the need to add anything to this. Another plus? There's more caffeine (apparently the hot water destroys some of the caffeine in a normal hot-brew), so this coffee is that much more potent.

Cold-Brewed Ice Coffee
1/3 cup ground coffee
1 1/2 cups water

In a 2-cup measuring cup (for easy pouring later), stir together coffee and water. Cover well with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight.

Strain coffee once through a fine mesh sieve to remove grounds, then strain a second time through a paper coffee filter to remove any other sediment. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix a 1:1 ratio of coffee and water (or to taste - I used less water). Add milk and sugar to taste.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cheap Eats: Bostone Pizza

Forget that hard-as-a-rock square slice from your elementary school days. Bostone Pizza on Newbury Street knows how to serve a proper Sicilian pizza.

While many pizzas serve as vehicles for cheese delivery, the dough is the real star of the show in this case. The edges are buttery and crispy, not at all dry. The bottom of the crust is also very crispy, and yet the top is soft and pillowy, a perfect bed for the toppings. And with 4 or 5 different topping options available at any one time, including a Slice of the Day, there's always something delicious to go with that beautiful dough.

Bostone Pizza is located at 225 Newbury Street (between Exeter and Fairfield) and is open Monday through Saturday, 11am to 9pm, and Sunday, noon to 9pm.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Grease-free Spanakopita

The farmers' markets have finally arrived! And while there's not much produce out yet, it's exciting to know that there will be so many fresh ingredients in the coming months. I picked out some terrific spinach this week with the hopes of making spanakopita. And yes, it's more time consuming to use fresh spinach (and not baby spinach or frozen spinach), the outcome is a much greener taste - you can tell that the filling didn't come from a bag.

I grew up eating things wrapped in filo dough - mostly berag, because I'm really not a fan of paklava. The filo we used was the very thin kind - the kind that rips when you just look at it. It's frustrating sometimes, but the results are worth it when you bite through a little crispy cloud of goodness. It wasn't until I visited Greece that I encountered the other kind of filo dough (although I'd seen it in our Armenian market before). The "other kind", labelled country-style or horiatiko or sometimes just "thick," is denser and not so fragile and is a great place for beginners to start. It also makes dishes a little heartier, as this dough has more body. And, as an added bonus, it sucks up any extra grease, making the results feel a little more healthy (even if there is still a stick of butter in there).

Grease-free Spanakopita
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 yellow onion, finely chopped
-2 lbs fresh spinach, ribs removed; washed and chopped
-10 oz feta cheese, crumbled
-1/2 bunch parsley, washed and finely choppd
-2 eggs
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 stick unsalted butter (you may need more)
-1 package "country-style" filo dough (should be 8 or 10 sheets)

In a large pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and saute until the onions begin to brown. Add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the leaves are cooked down. Pour the spinach mixture into a colander and drain out as much water as possible. Allow the mixture to cool, still draining in the colander. When it is cool, press out any additional water with your hands, then put the spinach in a large mixing bowl. Add feta, parsley, eggs, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and mix to incorporate.

Preheat oven to 325°. Melt butter and brush the bottom and sides of a large glass baking dish. Carefully lay down one sheet of dough, then brush on a layer of butter. If the dough is too large, fold over the edge to fit into the pan, making sure to butter everywhere the sheet overlaps. Continue to layer the sheets and the butter until you have used half of the dough (4 or 5 sheets). Add spinach mixture and spread out so that all the dough is covered. Then lay down another sheet of dough, and continue alternating between dough and brushing with butter. For the final sheet of dough, instead of folding it over to fit into the dish, trim the sides so it fits exactly. Use any remaining butter on the top layer. Before baking, cut into servings, making the slices as large as you would like (I got 12 out of my pan).

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vospov Kheyma - Cool Meal for Hot Days

Well, it's gotten a little cooler, but the humidity is still at roughly 150%, making it feel brutal out. I was thinking that I hadn't cooked anything Armenian in a while, and between that and the heat, I figured vospov kheyma would be a perfect meal.

"Vospov" means lentils in Armenian, and this dish is traditionally served during Lent to replace regular kheyma, made out of raw meat. But, as I've said before, I'm not a big fan of the stuff, and I tend to turn towards the vegetarian versions. Vospov kheyma is more dense than the stuff I make with tomato sauce and doesn't attempt to taste like the real thing. Instead, with the combo of lentils and bulghur, it has a more earthy flavor, and only a few small pieces can fill you up.

I enjoy eating this when it's hot out because I find they taste best if eaten straight from the fridge, nice and cold. Plus, the scallions and parsley sprinkled over the top just taste so bright and fresh.

Vospov Kheyma
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 cups red lentils
3 cups water
1 cup fine bulghur
3 onions, finely chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
cayenne powder

Mix together chopped scallions and parsley and set aside.

Wash lentils. Put water and lentils in a medium pot and boil until lentils have absorbed most of the water and are soft. Add a little more water if lentils are not tender. Remove from heat and add bulghur, mixing well. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Saute onions in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add to lentil mixture. Also add about 2/3 of the scallion/parsley mix and enough salt to taste.

Mold into individual portions by taking as much as will fit in a closed fist and gently compacting it until it stays together. Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with cayenne pepper, and garnish with remaining scallion/parsley mix.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cheap Eats: Petsi Pies

Are pies the new cupcakes? This Bostonist hopes so. From cup-pies at the Piehole on ABC's Pushing Daisies to the opening of Pie Bakery in Newton a few months ago, it seems like we're on the verge of a new flood of sweet treats. But Petsi Pies, in Somerville and Cambridge, has been around since 2003, proving it's not a fad.

Named after owner Renee's childhood nickname, Petsi Pies offers a vast array of sweet and savory pies, as well as other baked goods like scones, creative sandwiches and salads, and a wide range of coffee and tea drinks. It feels a little naughty to have a meal that is entirely composed of pie, but it tastes so right.

The Spinach, Ricotta, and Pine Nut tart makes an excellent meal, although, if you're starving, you might want to pair it with a salad. The crust is tender but not overly flaky. The ricotta makes the filling very creamy, while the spinach brings in a fresh flavor and helps bind it all together. With pine nuts sprinkled generously on top, this is one perfect slice of heaven.

When it comes to dessert, choosing which flavor of pie to have could be difficult. The Mixed Berry is amazing - juicy, sweet, and tart, filled with luscious blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. The Peach Blackberry is another flavorful fruit pie, with a crumb topping that makes it feel like a crisp in pie form. Both are served warmed, which brings out more of the amazing flavor. The Sweet Potato Pie is another luxury. It's less sweet and more starchy than pumpkin pie, but the sweet potato is rich and flavorful nonetheless.

Petsi Pies has two locations (285 Beacon Street in Somerville and 31 Putnam Avenue in Cambridge) and is open Tuesday through Friday 7am-6pm, Saturday 8am-4pm, and Sunday 9am-2pm. They are closed on Mondays.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

So Sad!

Tastespotting, an amazing site that showcased the best of food blogs, has been shut down. Where will I go for food porn and recipe inspiration?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Scooper Bowl 2008!

It's that time again - time for all-you-can-eat ice cream, served in the sweltering heat! The 26th Annual Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl, a fundraiser for cancer research and treatments at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, opened today, and I hit it up with a fellow Bostonist writer to scope out the scene (and eat all the ice cream, of course). It was packed, as to be expected, and the ice cream was melting faster than we could eat it. That doesn't mean we didn't get to try almost half of all the offerings on hand...

My favorites:

Brigham's Xtreme Razberry - Brigham's will always hold a dear place in my heart, as it was a big part of my upbringing and my family eats it every time we get together. Peppermint Stick is my all-time favorite, and lately I've really been into Just Jimmies. But this new flavor may have usurped the others, at least for a little while. It consists of a rich raspberry ice cream, with a fudge swirl and tons of mini raspberry cups (like peanut butter cups, but filled with raspberry goo). The name makes it sound stupid, but the taste... oh, the taste makes you forget all about the ridiculous name.

Doriti Gelati's Mango gelato - This is, by far, not the best gelato you can get around Boston, but the rich mango flavor, with just a hint of coconut, was pleasing and refreshing.

Ben & Jerry's One Cheesecake Brownie - I'm not a fan of cheesecake, but this stuff was awesome and tasted just like the real thing. The cheesecake ice cream was filled with big chunks of fudge-y brownie. We also tried the Cake Batter, which tasted just like cake batter, leaving me to comment "And the snozzberries taste like snozzberries!" I'll take any chance I can get to quote Willy Wonka...

Breyers' Mint Chocolate Chip - I'm also not a big fan of Breyer's... at least, I wasn't until I tasted this flavor. There's still too much air in the ice cream for my taste, but the mint flavor was fantastic, and it was packed with tons of huge chocolate chunks - a very good ratio between mint and chocolate. Hell, I might even buy this at the market some time...

What was your favorite flavor from the Scooper Bowl?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rosemary Lemonade Soda

The absurd heat continues here in Boston, and although I'm spending most of my time inside my nice, cool apartment, I'm still more interested in finding unique cold drinks than in new food.

Last night, I had a framboise lemonade at the Publick House that was tasty but a little weak. So of course, it made me want to try my hand at a slightly different lemonade. The rosemary simple syrup was a breeze to make (although I made mine with Splenda instead of sugar), and I have plenty left in the fridge for my next lemonade fix.

Rosemary Lemonade Soda
1/4 cup rosemary syrup (see below)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
seltzer water
small rosemary sprig

Mix syrup and lemon juice in a measuring cup. Fill a pint glass with ice, then pour syrup and juice over the ice. Top with selzer and garnish with rosemary sprig.

Rosemary Syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1 sprig of rosemary
1 cup sugar (or granulated Splenda)

Put water and whole rosemary sprig in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then add sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool. Before using, remove the rosemary and strain out any little pieces. Store in the fridge.

Cheap Eats: Cool Drinks

With the temperature hanging in the 90s, this Bostonist forgets about hunting down cheap meals and only wants something nice and cool to drink. Be it iced tea, iced coffee, or ice cream, these drinks are the best way to keep cool.

Bubble tea at Boston Tea Stop – There are so many flavor combinations to be had at the Boston Tea Stop, you could cool down with a new drink every day this summer. Pick from black tea or green, milk or no milk, tons of different flavors (try the rose flower for something different), and tapioca pearls or coconut jelly (or a combo of the two). The tapioca and jelly (shown above) make the drink fairly filling; pair the drink with some ice cream mochi for a great snack. (Boston Tea Stop is on JFK Street in Harvard Square.)

Greek frappé at Athan’s Bakery – No, it’s not the same as a frappe here in Massachusetts. A Greek frappé consists of instant coffee, milk, sugar, and water, shaken with ice and served in a tall glass. It’s a delicious alternative to a typical iced coffee, especially with one of Athan’s pastries (try the apricot and almond strudel) or their gelato. (Athan’s Bakery has two locations: Beacon Street and Washington Street in Brookline, and Washington Street in Brighton Center.)

Nutella frozen hot chocolate at Paris Creperie – Mix together nutella, skim milk, and non-fat frozen yogurt, and you get one creamy and smooth treat. Chocolate-hazelnut is not a common frappe flavor, which is why this one stands out from the pack. Paris Creperie offers a wide variety of smoothies, but this one is the clear winner. (Paris Creperie has two locations: Harvard Street in Coolidge Corner and Cambridge Street in Beacon Hill.)

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dutch Babies, Two Ways

I saw this recipe the other day for a make-at-home Bickford's Big Apple, the one thing I always order at Bickford's. So when my roommate suggested pancakes this morning, I was thinking something more along the lines of a Dutch baby rather than a traditional pancake. My recipe is super easy - it only takes a couple of minutes to get the batter ready, and then you get to kick back while they bake in the oven... no slaving over the hot stove, flipping each pancake.

I opted for the traditional topping of melted butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar, while my roommate went with mixed fruit- bananas, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, topped with powdered sugar.

Dutch Babies
4 eggs
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sifted flour
2/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp soft butter

Preheat oven to 400°. In a blender, process eggs on low until light and frothy. Add the rest of the ingredients and process on medium until smooth, scraping down the sides if anything sticks. Butter 2 9-inch cake pans. Pour batter into pans and bake for 20 minutes.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Surplus Bagel Chips

I enjoy bagels, but only when they're fresh. If they start getting old, or if they've been frozen, the texture loses a lot of integrity, leaving me with no desire to eat them. So when there's a whole dozen on hand, past the point when I'll eat them by themselves, I feel the need to get a little creative.

Making bagel chips is the prime way to use the leftover bagels, transforming them into a snack that I will eat. Plain or savory bagels are great to serve with a fresh dip, like this delicious hummus-like Rosemary-Lemon White Bean dip from Mark Bittman. My favorite bagel, rosemary olive oil, is an especially good pair for this dip. Sweeter bagels, like cinnamon raisin, are great with a little peanut butter. (For sweeter bagels, use melted butter instead of olive oil, and hold the salt). Either way, bagel chips are easy to make and even easier to eat.

Bagel Chips
bagels, as many as you have on hand
olive oil
kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 300°. Slice bagels into 1/8-inch pieces, making sure they a consistant thickness. Brush one side of each slice and lay on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until chips are brown and no longer soft to the touch. Cool on a wire cooling rack before serving.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kale Lasagna with Bechamel

Lasgna is not a difficult thing to make, and there are so many variations that it can be a completely different meal every time. I've always made lasagna with a tomato sauce and lots of ricotta, subbing in whatever veggies I have on hand. Lasagna made with bechamel, which I order whenever I see it on a menu, always seemed difficult and time-consuming. It wasn't until I actually tried making bechamel that I discovered just how easy it is.

Replacing tomato sauce and ricotta in a lasagna with bechamel makes the final product seem lighter and springier (even if the milk has more fat than the ricotta would have). The pasta doesn't need to be cooked beforehand as long as it it completely covered with sauce; the heat, moisture, and steam will cook it through.

Kale Lasagna with Bechamel
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6-8 large leaves of kale, chopped and stems removed
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
5 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
4 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
1 pound fresh pasta, rolled out as thin as possible

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add oil and cook until fragrant. Add kale and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted down and carrots are tender. Set aside to cool.

For the bechamel, using a small sauce pot on medium-low, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture is golden, stiring constantly, about 6 minutes. In a separate pot, heat milk until almost boiling. Add milk to butter, 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add salt, nutmeg, and parsley.

To assemble, cover the bottom of a glass baking dish with a layer of sauce. Lay down a layer of pasta. For each layer, add bechamel, making sure the pasta is completely covered by the sauce so it will cook through. Alternate layers of the kale mixture and the chopped mozzarella, finishing with mozzarella on the top.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake lasagna for 30-50 minutes, until cheese on top begins to brown. Cut a few holes through the layers to allow steam out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hot Dog Safari 2008

How could you not want to go to an event with the name "Hot Dog Safari"? Eddie Andelman's 19th Annual Hot Dog Safari was held this past Sunday at Suffolk Downs, and it was something I felt I had to experience at least once. The event benefits the Joey Fund.

To say that the event was a madhouse is putting it kindly. Many of the attendees were acting like they hadn't been let out of their houses in years, pushing and shoving and standing in the way of everything (in other words, it was similar to a typical day at Market Basket). I even saw some people wrapping up hot dogs in napkins and stuffing them in bags to take home - I don't know about them, but I was ill with hot dog by the time we left, and there was no way I was going to eat another one for a while.

The booths were set up along one wall, with different restaurants and meat companies offering their wares. For some reason, there were other companies offering hot dogs as well (Long's Jewelers offering Pearl hot dogs?). The longest line was for the Sausage Guy, so we gave that one a pass. We did manage to try about half of the offerings, and like I said, that was more than enough hot dog for me.

The overall winner was the Pearl hot dog, with a really nice snap from the natural casing, a really juicy interior, and a very even blend of spices. Bad Dawg was a close second, but it was overall too salty, throwing the flavor off balance. Fudrucker's also had a good dog with a nice casing and balanced spicing. So after 3 great hot dogs, we were really surprised by Kelley's offering - it was completely tasteless and mushy, but they were offering it on buttered and grilled buns, which kept their line long. Just gross.

There were a few other options besides hot dogs as well. Firefly's barbeque was on hand with pulled pork sandwiches - delicious, but I found a large piece of bone in my first bite, which always turns me off. I picked at the rest, and there were some excellent charred bits in among the softer meat. Harrow's Chicken Pies was also there; I'm not usually a fan of pot pies, but theirs was much thicker and heartier than others I've had, and it was fantastic.

The biggest disappointment of the day? No one was wearing a pith helmet! I go to a safari, I expect someone to be in full safari gear, or at least in a pith helmet. I have to say, I was really let down by this.

So while this was a fun event to go to once, I doubt I'd go back. I mean, the next time I feel the need for a side-by-side hot dog comparison, I'll grab a few friends and fire up the grill.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Asparagus Ricotta Tart

"Something creamy."

That was the direction we were given for dinner last night. None of us could really decide what we wanted, so the challenge of "creamy" was thrown out there. Ann and I spent quite a while perusing Tastespotting, various blogs, and saved recipes to see what we could find. Eventually, I found this recipe from Bon Appetit, and we all agreed that it sounded fantastic.

It wasn't until we were actually eating it that we realized just how creamy and delicious it was. The puff pastry was light and airy, the ricotta and asparagus puree tasted like spring, and the Comté cheese (which smelled like feet while it was being grated) added a nice saltiness and just a hint of tang. The recipe, with our revisions, is below.

And of course, as I've mentioned before, it irks me that puff pastry comes two to a package, making it necessary to use both. Ann devised a raspberry chocolate tart with the second half that was just amazing. I'm pretty sure we'll be hanging on to both of these recipes for a while.

Asparagus Ricotta Tart, adapted from Bon Appetit
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
1 pound slender asparagus spears, trimmed
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 slices of proscuitto, cut into 1/3 inch pieces
2/3 cup grated Comté cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out dough slightly, to mend creases. Cut a half-inch-wide strip from each side. Brush the edges of the dough with egg, then top with the strips to form a raised border. Brush the border with egg; reserve rest of the egg. Transfer to a baking sheet and set in the fridge to chill.

Blanch asparagus until tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately move to an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain, and snap the tips off the stalks and reserve. In a food processor, puree the asparagus stalks with the remaining egg. Mix in the ricotta, oil, salt, and 1/3 cup of the Comté. Remove pastry from fridge. Layer the proscuitto pieces along the pastry, then top with ricotta mixture. Lay the asparagus tips over the top of the ricotta, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup Comté.

Bake until the puff pastry is browned and the filling is set, about 25 minutes.