corn dogs and pie

corn dogs

The Tulip Festival street fair was this past weekend, which for many years has also meant our Annual Corn Dog and Pinot Grigio Wine Pairing Event. Unfortunately our friends no longer own a wine shop downtown, so we can’t pick up a hot, greasy corn dog at a street vendor and carry it through the crowded festival to the shop for our wine pairing. Instead we had a sit-down dinner party with storebought corn dogs (which it turns out you can eat a LOT more of than the greasy street fair kind), and I made macaroni salad and rhubarb custard pie to go with.

corn dog dinner

I don’t remember all the wines we tried this year, but the two (by far) best were an Italian bottle that was light, sweet and slightly effervescent, which held up well to the sweet corn dog coating, and a complex and astonishing 2007 Weingut Knoll Grüner Veltliner. Maybe it was cheating, since it wasn’t a Pinot, but dang, it was good.

rhubarb custard pie

For the pie, which was made with my first harvest of rhubarb for the year, and bright orange local eggs, we drank the last of some amazing tawny port. I would never have thought of the pairing, but it worked splendidly.

Not sure how everyone else did, but I only needed to take one Tums that night, which I thought was getting off easy.

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spring brunch

field tulips

Spring has sprung at last (although it’s raining again today, at least it’s a relatively warm rain). The tulip fields are coming into bloom (clogging up the local roads with tourist traffic), and my own garden is dancing with narcissus and muscari. We had a small brunch party this past weekend to celebrate spring/belated Easter, and it was good.

stuffed eggs

Of course, there were curried eggs (shown here without their blanket of curried bechamel). I don’t mess around with this recipe very much, because it’s so darned tasty – I especially love the fresh dill in the stuffing. I did use Mexican crema in place of the usual sour cream, since we had a big jar of it.

prosciutto asparagus

And the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, which we tossed into the oven at 400° and then forgot about yet somehow did not destroy. We still don’t have local asparagus, but this was lovely stuff from California by way of our local co-op. The prosciutto adds enough fat and salt that we don’t need to add any additional seasonings.

gazpacho

One of our guests brought a big bowl of gazpacho, which was a fabulous idea and really delicious with the eggs and asparagus. We might have to make this a regular feature of these brunch parties. He added kernels of fresh corn, which I’ve never had before in gazpacho and really liked. We ate leftovers of this for dinner with a few poached shrimp.

rhubarb pie

lemon cream tart

Then there was pie. I did a straight rhubarb pie with a butter crust and lattice top, then we tried a new recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours for Lemon Cream Tart. The word “cream” here is misleading, as the tart doesn’t contain any. It does, however, have almost a full pound of butter in it. It was like a shortbread cookie filled with lemon curd, but very (deceptively) light and fluffy lemon curd. I was glad we had guests to help eat it, otherwise I might have done myself a mischief.

pate sablee

Spring is off to a good start.

tulip dancer

Shaker lemon pie

lemony

This isn’t so much of a “when life gives you lemons” thing, as a “go out and buy lemons so you can make this!” sort of thing. You need no excuse to make lemon pie.

sliced lemons

I’ve mentioned this pie before – it’s what we had for a snack when I took Kate McDermott’s Art of the Pie class last year – but I hadn’t made it myself until now. What I like about it is how easy it is to make – you just need to think ahead a little to give the lemons time to macerate in the sugar – and how much it’s really about the flavor of the whole lemon. I made it for Easter brunch and, while it was eclipsed a little by the rhubarb custard pie I made at the same time, we ended up needing to make copies of the recipe to hand out to our guests. This is good pie.

Shaker lemon pie

Lemon Shaker Pie

Thanks to Kate McDermott for the recipe!

  • 1 recipe for a double pie crust (mine is just 2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, salt, and ice water)
  • 3 large lemons
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten

Wash and dry the lemons. Slice them as thinly as you can (we used a mandoline to good effect), pick out any seeds, and combine them with the sugar in a container. Stir well and allow to sit overnight, or at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Roll out your bottom crust and lay it in a pie pan. Give the lemons a stir and mix in the eggs and salt, then pour this into the pie shell. Top the pie with either a lattice or a solid crust (make sure to cut steam vents if doing a solid top) and put it in the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 375° and bake another 20-25 minutes, until set. Let cool before cutting.

Depending on the tartness of your lemons, you might serve this with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

apple pie

apple pie

Last week I was asked by the editor of Grow Northwest magazine to shoot a cover photo for their November-December issue. The catch? I’d need to bake an apple pie. Oh, darn.

Although I like other apple desserts and baked goods, I’ve never actually been that fond of apple pie. This is probably because I’ve never put much effort into baking them – if I’m going to go to the trouble to make a pie I’d rather it be rhubarb or pear-custard or blackberry. But I had a big bag of apples left here by my parents, and I wanted the photo to look like an apple pie – tall and rounded and golden – so I put some back into it.

apple pie filling

ready for the oven

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chess pie

buttermilk chess pie

You may have noticed by now that I don’t make a lot of sweets – I honestly don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and when I do crave dessert it’s usually chocolate chip cookies. One type of dessert I do go for, however, is custard. Whether it’s an old fashioned cup custard, a fancy crème brûlée, or a pear custard pie, I love the creamy tartness of it.

I had had a piece of plain custard pie – no fruit – a few years ago when we happened across the Pie Lady’s shop in Blackwater, a tiny town in central Missouri. It was incredible, and I always said I was going to make it at home – then, of course, never did. But I recently became aware of the existence of something called chess pie. A plain, very sweet custard pie, it’s a classic Southern dessert often made with cornmeal and lemon, but sometimes buttermilk. I had buttermilk in the fridge this week, and decided to see what I could do with it.

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Art of the Pie

Art of the Pie

I tend to think I make a pretty good pie. Last Easter I made a strawberry rhubarb pie that vanished within seconds, and the Easter before that the blackberry pie I baked caused grown women to wander around the house moaning softly with delight. Every Christmas I bake sweet potato pie with bourbon (one of my personal favorites), and my Missouri-born husband thinks I make the best pecan pie he’s ever had. That said, however, when Kate McDermott contacted me about taking one of her Art of the Pie classes, you can bet I didn’t turn her down. For every prize winner I’ve turned out, there’s also been a sodden mess somewhere along the line, and I’ve always been curious which things are truly important in pie baking, as opposed to simply customary. In other words, how does it all really work?

So last Sunday, on a muggy afternoon in downtown Seattle, I joined five other women (including my friend Patricia of the blog Cook Local – see her post on the class here), to learn more of the mysteries of pie. Kate sets aside four hours for these classes, which turns out to be about perfect. We sat down at 3, and by 7 we were all walking out with hot pies.

Art of the Pie

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mushroom galettes

dinner

We had a pretty successful farmer’s market run on Saturday, so we’re trying to meal-plan our way through the week so everything gets used. This dinner was designed to use up a bag of truly splendid oyster mushrooms and a bunch of spinach from Frog’s Song Farm.

mushroom galette

I wanted to do some sort of tart, to really feature the mushrooms’ flavor, so I took my usual approach of opening three or four different cookbooks and kind of combining ideas from all of them. Continue reading

the pie lady of Blackwater

Blackwater, MO

As we drove on a sweltering summer’s day from Kansas City to Columbia, Missouri, we made a lunch stop in Blackwater, a very small town near Boonville. We hadn’t really planned anything for lunch – we had eaten a lot of round things (i.e. bagels and doughnuts) with the family in K.C., but were feeling peckish while still aways out of Columbia. I saw a sign for “Blackwater historic downtown” and for some reason decided that meant restaurants, so we took the exit and wound our way through rolling hills and cornfields until we suddenly emerged in a small, unlikely frontier-ish town studded with flags.

When we parked the car the first thing we saw was a small storefront with a handmade sign informing us of the availability of sandwiches, soup and pie. We went in. The place was full of hand sewn items: aprons, potholders, baby accoutrements and pillows, and there were two tables set with napkins and placemats. On a counter sat some plates, pitchers and a number of pies.

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a slight pie mishap

bosc pears

There’s a box of lovely bosc pears from the Wenatchee Valley that are just ripening in our basement. Pears are a real use-it-or-lose-it sort of fruit, so I thought I’d make one of my pear custard pies to take on a visit to a relative. A good idea, but a few problems in the execution.

The pie baked up beautifully, with a golden crust and pretty browned-sugar spots on the top, but of course it hadn’t set up completely (I could probably have left it in the oven a little longer). Generally custard pies will finish setting up on their own, so I didn’t worry about it. But instead of letting the pie cool on its rack in the kitchen, we impatiently packed it up in a cake carrier and took it off in the car.

Lesson learned: do not transport a hot, unset custard pie in an enclosed container. Between the jiggling of the moving car and the heat trap of the carrier lid, the pie completely liquified on the trip down, becoming instead a pie crust filled with sweet pear soup. I put it in the fridge when we arrived, but it only congealed slightly. Aargh.

However! Once we had polished off our lovely takeout dinner from Szechuan Bistro (if you’re anywhere near that neighborhood, and you haven’t had their dry-fried string beans with tofu, go get some now), we felt able to face the wreck of the pie. There was vanilla ice cream in the house, so I simply scooped the pie filling out of the shell and dumped it all over ice cream. It tasted wonderful.

But next time? I’ll make sure it stays pie.

Pear custard pie

Pear custard pie

I gave J a bottle of Vin Santo dessert wine last Christmas. I believe we had tried some at a wine tasting not long before, and been rather excited by it. But then the bottle lurked in our cellar all year, waiting for the appropriate occasion. Of late, though, I’ve decided that wine-opening occasions have to be created, not just awaited, so I went searching for possible accompaniments.

We recently bought ourselves a copy of What to Drink with What You Eat, so I looked up Vin Santo. Along with the usual recommendations of biscotti and nut-based desserts, I saw pears. Aha! We are definitely in the heart of fresh pear season around here, so I went digging for a recipe I remembered liking back in the mists of time – a pear custard pie that my mother used to make. She got the recipe at a farmer’s market meeting and then printed it in the Cashmere Valley Record newspaper’s recipe collection. Usually when we eat pears around here we poach them in sugar water and top them with pecans, brandy and sour cream. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with that, but pie sounded fun. Continue reading