Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

You know it’s springtime when the Rhubarb starts showing up in the grocery stores.  I like to think that Rhubarb Pie is one of those southern staples that everyone’s grandma made for them when they were a kid, but apparently that is not the case.  Or maybe those kids just weren’t paying attention to the stuff their grandmas were putting in the pie, because I witnessed a surprising number of people who seemed to have no idea what it was.  When I walked into my Publix the other day, the rhubarb was in the cold counter right in front of the door where they usually display the “Great Deal!” meat (ie, the meat that is going to expire about 45 minutes after you buy it) and the seasonal fruits and veggies that are on special.  The kind folks at Publix had obligingly cut the stalks into small lengths and packaged them up in 1 pound increments, but they had forgotten to tell people what it was.  The packages just read “Publix Produce Department” and a price, and I watched several people pick it up and put it back down again with that facial expression that says “I should probably recognize this, but I don’t, and I don’t want to ask someone at the risk of sounding clueless.  Oh look!  These steaks are only $4.99, and they’re only a little green!”  So home I went with my rhubarb, gleefully planning my pie (and possibly some jam? We’ll see.) and thanking the kind folks at Green Giant for not finding a way to package it in a can, making it instantly recognizable to the masses, and thus securing me a steady supply for the length of the season.  Don’t judge me. The good produce goes quick around here, and if I’m the only one who knows what it is, then there’s no danger of them selling out before I’ve had my way with it (insert evil laugh here).

Anyway, everyone (or maybe just me.  See above.) knows that rhubarb and strawberries were made for each other.  I mean, they’re like soul mates.  So it was destiny that strawberries were on sale too, and from Florida no less (yes, I’m aware that’s not technically local, but really it’s only a few hours from here, and that’s much closer than California or Mexico, so again, don’t judge me.  A girl’s just gotta buy non-local, out of season strawberries sometimes.) so I stocked up on them too and ran right home to begin construction on my piece de resistance.  Except I had a pie crust Fail.  Such a large Fail, in fact, that I didn’t even photograph the soggy, wet, sticks to everything in a 2 foot radius, pie crust that I first made.  I have a basic pie crust recipe that pretty much always works for me, so I usually just ignore the ones that come standard with most pie recipes.  This time however, in a spate of rhubarb inspired excitement, I decided to set aside my time-tested favorite in favor of a new kid in town.  In my defense, it was pretty close to my standard one, with just a few changes.  For instance, I’ve never seen vanilla extract added to a pie dough before.  It also wanted like 11 tablespoons of butter, which seemed a little excessive to me for just a single crust recipe, but who am I to argue? I mean, someone obviously tested this recipe and it worked right? Since it is from a well respected publication, right?  Um, no.  Don’t be fooled.  If you think 11 tablespoons of butter is too much for a single-crust pie dough, you’re right.  It is.  It will only make a shaggy, sticky mess, and not a pie dough that can be rolled out (Fail), placed in a pie pan (Fail) and made to resemble something similar to a golden and flaky crust (Major Fail).  Do I sound a little bitter about it?  It’s just that I was so excited about the shining example of a pie that was soon to be issuing forth from my oven, and this stupid crust fiasco forced me to make another dough which needed to chill for a couple of hours and by this point it was like 11:30 pm and I had to wait until the next day to bake my masterpiece.  But I’m totally over it.

Long story short, I made my standard pie crust, it turned out beautifully (duh), and the pie was just as wonderful as I had hoped. It was tangy, but sweet, the strawberries and the rhubarb perfectly complimenting each other, and since I used a crumb topping, the tendency of strawberries and rhubarb to be soft and runny was perfectly balanced out by the crunchy oats and brown sugar on top.  It was just what I needed to make this early spring we’re having around here (74 degrees outside while I made the pie.  In March.) even more perfect.  So go.  If you see an unidentified pinkish, stalky thing in your produce department, buy it.  Make a pie.  And tell someone next to you what it is so they can make one too.

Pate Brisee

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces

4-6 tablespoons ice water

1 beaten egg (for glaze)

2 tablespoons rolled oats

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
  2. With machine running, add 4-5 tablespoons ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Form dough into a ball. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.
  4. Roll dough out into a 10-11 inch round ( I know that’s a broad range, but it really depends on how deep your pie pan is and how much overhang you want for crimping your edges.  I usually just roll it out until it looks like it will fit.)  I do this on a lightly floured countertop, but you can do it between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to eliminate some mess.  Place dough into 9 inch pie plate and trim overhang.  Crimp edges decoratively if you desire.
  5. Refrigerate dough for 30 or so minutes, preheating oven to 350° while dough is chilling.  Line crust with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake in center of oven for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and weights.  Brush bottom and sides (not edges) with beaten egg, and sprinkle with the oats.  Bake until crust is golden, about 20 more minutes.  Cool completely on rack.  (I hardly ever let my crust cool completely.  I’m usually too impatient.  I’ve never noticed any detrimental effects, but if you have the time it’s probably not a bad idea.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping

Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

Topping:

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Filling:

3/4 pound rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick on sharp diagonal (3 1/2 to 4 cups)

2 1-pint baskets strawberries, hulled, halved

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

  1. For topping, combine 2/3 cup oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom in processor. Add butter and cut in until crumbly. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oats.  Set aside.  I didn’t bother with the processor for this, I just used a pastry cutter, which worked fine, and also eliminated all those dishes.
  2. For filling, mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom in heavy large saucepan. Let stand 30 minutes. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until juices thicken, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour filling into prepared crust. Cover with topping. Bake 20-30 minutes (I baked mine for 27) until topping is golden and juices bubble.  Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Tomato and Corn Pie

For those of you wondering if I’ve lost my mind, let me assure that I haven’t.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated tomatoes.  With a passion.  I don’t even like them to be on the same plate as anything I’m planning to eat.  My family and friends have had to put up with this peculiarity for years, and they’ve kindly refrained from telling me that I’m completely mad, but clearly I was.  This pie has officially converted me into a tomato…well not a tomato lover, but at least a tomatoe liker.  I still won’t put them on a sandwich – that juice is just too much for me – but baked into this soft crust with creamed corn, cheese and fresh herbs was just perfect.

The crust is not your typical pastry, but rather a biscuit dough that bakes up into a wonderfully light and fluffy crust that really elevates this into the ranks of awesome vegetable dishes.  The bottom soaks up all the juices from the tomatoes and corn and the top gets all crusty and golden…perfect.

I’ve recently become very interested in eating seasonally and I’m trying to buy locally grown produce , so I do realize that this is the wrong time of year for a dish that is supposed to highlight the tomato, but I simply don’t care.  Now that I’ve had this, I will happily look forward to the day when my own garden with provide me with wonderfully ripe and juicy fruit (fruit? right?) to recreate this perfect summer dish.

As you can see, I didn’t spend a lot of time making this dish aesthetically pleasing.  The dough was very hard for me to work with as it was written in the recipe.  It calls for 2 cups of flour, but at that amount I couldn’t scrape the “dough” out of the bowl, much less roll it out into a pie round.  I added some more flour – I’ve no idea how much, I just coated my hands and the counter (several times) and rolled it out as best I could, and it was fine.  Aside from that, this was really not too hard to make.  The worst part was getting everything ready to go in; peeling and cutting the tomatoes, chopping the herbs, etc.  I have no idea how you all peel tomatoes, but I just put them in a little boiling water for a few minutes until the skin pulls away and I can peel it off. And for those of you who have a strange aversion to mayonaise (you know who you are), you won’t even know it’s there, but you’d definitely miss it if you left it out (although you might be able to substitute something else like sour cream or creme fraiche).  Mixed with the lemon juice, and on top of the cheese, the mayo added just the right amount of creamy to balance out the tanginess of the tomatoes.

Overall, I’d say this dish was a winner.  It will be even more perfect once the tomatoes get ripe and it’s so hot outside that you can’t stand to turn the oven on for more than a few minutes.  Luckily this only bakes for about 30 minutes, so you can have it in and out in no time.   As for me, I can’t wait for the weather to get hot, and this was just the first taste of a beautiful summer to come.

Tomato and Corn Pie

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 lb beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups corn (from about 3 ears), coarsely puréed in a food processor
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 7 oz coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (1 3/4 cups)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then blend in 3/4 stick cold butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball.

Divide dough in half and roll out 1 piece between sheets of plastic wrap into a 12-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Remove top sheet of plastic wrap, then lift dough using bottom sheet of plastic wrap and invert into a 9-inch glass pie plate, patting with your fingers to fit (there will be just enough dough to line plate without an overhang). Discard plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice. Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, 1 tablespoon basil, 1/2 tablespoon chives, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, pepper, and salt, then sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal. Cut 4 steam vents in top crust and brush crust with 2 teaspoons melted butter.

Bake pie in middle of oven until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.