Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Rustic Cottage and a Rustic Tart (with Wine-Soaked Figs)

Zenobia!
A few weekends ago, I ventured north, up to the Catskills, where I met my friends Diane, Becky, and Ryan in this rustic cottage, aka Zenobia, for an artists' retreat/non-NELP NELP (we have all taught there together, but not this year). The other three were staying for the week, but having just started a new job in D.C., I could only be there for le weekend.

Me, spreading pyllo for spanakopita, Becky at the stove

On Saturday night, Becky and I took on dinner-- a pie night, of sorts-- with spanakopita and roasted asparagus and butternut squash with pecans on the savory side of things, and a rustic tart-- to go with our rustic cabin-- for dessert.

Alice Bradley was the principal of Fannie Farmer's School of Cookery

Initially I just set out to make a strawberry-rhubarb rustic tart, but as Becky and I were chopping vegetables, Ryan read to us from this book-- The Alice Bradley Menu Cookbook, from 1937. Alice organized her cookbook into menus for 3-meals a day for an entire year!

As Ryan read over a menu that included a fig tart, we got to thinking...we had some dried figs in the house, and thought they'd make a nice addition to the strawberry and rhubarb. Since we were in the woods, sans internet, I had to approximate a recipe, but here is basically what I did...

Strawberry-Rhubarb and Wine-Soaked Fig Rustic Tart

Ingredients
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved
2 c. strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 c. rhubarb, chopped
2 c. (or approximately 6-8) dried figs
1/2-1c. red wine
1 c. sugar
3 Tblsp. cornstarch (can use arrowroot)
1 egg, beaten
1-2 Tblsp. Turbinado sugar (for dusting)

Directions
1. Soak figs in 1/2- 1c. red wine for at least one hour. Meanwhile, prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. When figs are adequately soaked, chop them, and combine with chopped rhubarb and sliced strawberries in a medium bowl. Stir in 1 c. sugar and 3 Tblsp. cornstarch. 

3. Roll out pie crust into a 10-11-inch circle on a cookie sheet. Scoop filling onto the center of the pie crust. Spread, leaving a 2-in. border. Fold edges of pie crust over filling. Brush and seal with an egg wash. Sprinkle Turbinado sugar over the entire tart. 

4. Place in oven for 10 minutes at 425, then lower heat to 375 and let bake for approximately 30 minutes longer, or until crust is golden brown and filling starts to bubble. Serve with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

Play Bananagrams while you wait for the tart to bake!

The finished tart was incredibly delicious, particularly with the addition of the seeded figs. I'd call it a new favorite. More importantly, it was so nice to be back in the kitchen, reading books, and making jokes again with these three smarty pants.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's about that time of year...



To go berry picking for your summer pies, tarts, and jams! It's still strawberry season in the North, and on to blueberries in the South. Raspberries, black raspberries, and blackberries will be ready soon.

The pictures above are from the Oregon State University Archives, and feature berry pickers on Oregon "victory farms" in 1946.

*Top: "Kneeling is Stanley Boyer -- one of the best strawberry pickers in the Portland area. His record was 21 crates of strawberries in a 6 hour day."
*Middle: "Joan Renner, 15 years old, from West Linn, is transferring blackcaps from her picking carrier to a crate on the John Phillips farm in the Carus community of Clackamas County."
*Bottom: " Portland Victory Farm Volunteer raspberry picking platoon at lunch at a farm near Troutdale, Oregon."


Happy summer solstice and happy picking!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Strawberry Pie

With the farmer's markets overflowing with fresh, juicy strawberries, I couldn't resist the urge to buy a few pints and make a strawberry pie.


My last attempt at a strawberry pie was last summer. I was making the pie for a party and left it in the refrigerator to chill as guests arrived. When I went to take it out a few hours later, a piece had been cut out (a pie bandit!) and the filling had spilled into the space. Though delicious, the pie had not set very well, but I never knew if the recipe or the pie bandit was to blame.


This year, I used a slightly different recipe and kept friends far from the fridge as the pie chilled. And guess what? It set! And it was bursting with fresh strawberry flavor.


Strawberry Pie


Ingredients:

1 9-inch pie crust, baked

2 pounds fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water


Slice about 3 cups of the strawberries into quarters. Either crush the berries with a fork or process in a food processor until mushy. You should have about 1 1/2 cups crushed berries. Place the crushed berries in a saucepan over medium heat with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture begins to thicken slightly, about 5-7 minutes.


While the mixture is cooking, soften the gelatin in the cold water and set aside.


Remove berry mixture from the heat, add the softened gelatin and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool to almost room temperature.


With the remaining berries, set aside the most attractive ones and slice in half (these will go decoratively on the top of the pie). Cut the rest into quarters and fold them into the cooled mixture. Pour this mixture into the baked pie shell then arrange the halved berries on top. Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.


Adapted from: Sing For Your Supper


Friday, June 17, 2011

Putting Meringue on Lemon Pies

A 1940 U.S. Forest Service photograph: "CCC enrollee baker Toivo Maki is putting meringue on lemon pies which he baked for the enrollees at the Gegoka CCC camp, Superior National Forest, Minnesota."

Find out more at Oregon State University's digital collections.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Koffee Kup in Hico, TX



Images of Hico, Texas' Koffee Kup and their pecan pie à la mode sent in my Brodie, forever holdin' down the Nothing-In-The-House TX fort. Perhaps all an attempt to get me to come visit?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pie Takes The Cake Interviews Nothing-In-The-House!


A few months ago I joined the Church of Pie group, a collection of folks dedicated to pie, on Facebook. When I posted our Pi(e) Day video, Gina Hyams, author and owner of the sweet site Pie Takes The Cake contacted me and asked if she could interview me about Nothing-in-the-House. I spoke about the origins of the blog and my love for pie, and sent in a few photographs. It turned out so nice! Check it out here.

Gina also sent me a review copy of her adorable Pie Contest In a Box. I'll be writing about it here as soon as I can round up some contestants, judges, and audience!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

English Country Pie



I try not to stray too far into pie-themed tangents here, but Fairport Convention is one of my favorite bands, Dylan ain't too shabby, and y'all know how I feel about pie...