24 June 2012

Farmers Market Forage: Fresh Strawberry Pie & Grilled Veg Sandwiches

I've been itching to get to the Saturday Farmer's Market in Calabasas for weeks.

In fact, we had plans to go twice in the last month only to scrap them because Egan woke up late or took longer to feed or I spilled formula all over me and the kitchen floor.  Outings can be a lot to coordinate.

Do you remember the movie Out Of Africa (or any movie involving the British traveling in Africa) when they would go on safari and would take EVERYTHING including fine china?  That's what I feel like traveling with baby!!  It's just wrong.

We finally got it together and had our Farmer's Market Safari.

So happy to see all the local bounty!  I had to restrain myself from buying every color in the rainbow.  The fact is I just don't have as much time to play in the kitchen as I used to.

I kept it simple.

I bought tons of super-sweet strawberries along with an eggplant and a huge tomato that I could add to the zucchini, red peppers and lettuce we had in the garden at home.

A perfect summer meal was coming together in my head.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Limoncello Spritzers and Fresh Strawberry Pie.

For the sandwiches, I just sliced the vegetables (except for the red pepper) lengthwise about 1/4-inch thick drizzled them with olive oil seasoned each side with salt, pepper and crumbled Herbes de Provence and let them "marinate" until the grill was ready.

I also put together a zippy tarragon "aioli" by adding chopped tarragon, lemon juice, zest, garlic powder and a good amount of salt and pepper to mayonnaise.

Grilling the vegetables was pretty straight-forward--I cooked them until they were tender, not mush.  I roasted the peppers until they were charred then put them in a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap for 10 minutes or so to sweat the skin loose.  Pulling the skin off was easy then I just sliced the peppers in half scrapping out any loose seeds.

I like lightly toasted bread for sandwiches.  It assures the bread doesn't get soggy--so does slathering un-toasted bread with a bit of butter, but that's another story!.

I only do a light toast because I don't want the bread to be so sharp it cuts up the roof of my mouth.  Maybe that's just me who has that issue?

Bread toasted, I added the aioli, lettuce, tomato, eggplant, zucchini and roasted red pepper.  Voila.

The Limoncello Spritzer is a riff on Electric Lemonade.   Great for summer.

  • Limoncello
  • Simple syrup
  • Mint
  • Lemon juice
  • Ice
  • Sparkling water 
  • Blueberries

So refreshing.  And pretty.

Finally.  The Pie.

I love Strawberry Pie and like most things I'm full of opinions about what works and what doesn't in a Strawberry Pie.

  • savory crust
  • sliced or quartered strawberries
  • whipped cream
  • whole strawberries (how do you eat that???)
  • Jello

Here's What Happened:
I had a recipe from Cook's Country that I wanted to try.  Basically, they created the filling using fresh strawberries with a little gelatin for stability.

The recipe is not complicated.  You cook down 2/3 of the strawberries into a jam, add the sugar and gelatin then when the filling is cool you fold in the remaining fresh strawberries and pour into a baked pie shell and chill.

So I threw together my basic cream cheese crust and tested out their filling.

Things I Would Change:
Per usual I made changes.
  • The first thing I did and would do again was add vanilla to the "jam."  I like the mellow flavor that vanilla brings to fruit.
  • I would use a little less gelatin the next go around.  The pie was a little too firm. The recipe reflects this change.
  • In order to make the flavor of the berry elements more compatible I would lightly sugar the fresh berries before folding them into the filling.
  • I used lime instead of lemon.  It's more interesting.

The Results:
Close, but not EXACTLY what I wanted.  Mind you, I am splitting hairs here.  Truth be told I'm on a quest for PERFECT Strawberry Pie, not just good Strawberry Pie.  This pie is good.  Not Perfect.

The filling was a little tight, but the real hair I'm splitting here is that there was a distinct difference in taste between the strawberry gel and the chunks of fresh (uncooked) strawberries.  The gel was sweetened and the fresh berries were not.  To me there should be a uniformity of taste between the two or at least congruity.

I'm not sure if this recipe is the path to my dream Strawberry Pie, but I learned a few things which is always valuable.

Make no mistake we ate this pie--every slice.  It's good, just not perfect.  But the whole summery meal really hit the spot!

Fresh Strawberry Pie
yield= 9-inch pie
adapted from Cook’s Country

5 oz (1 c + 1T)          flour
¼  t                            salt
1/8 t                           baking powder
2.25 oz (1/4 c)          cream cheese
3 oz (6 T)                  butter, COLD & diced into ½ -inch cubes
1 ½ t                          apple cider vinegar
1 T                             COLD water

3 lbs.                          fresh strawberries (or 2 lbs frozen & 1 lbs fresh) – divided
1 c                              sugar
pinch                          salt
2 t                               gelatin
2 T                              water
2 T                              lime juice (1 lime)
1 t                               vanilla
2 T                              sugar

For the crust:  Combine flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processer and pulse to aerate. 

Add the cream cheese to the flour mixture and pulse until the cheese is no bigger than peas. 

Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like dry oatmeal. 

Add the water and vinegar all at once and pulse until the dough starts to gather in large clumps in the bowl.  NO, it will not come together into a ball.  DO NOT add more water because you think it won’t stick together.  Test the dough by pinching a small amount between your fingers and if it sticks together it’s perfect. 

Dump the dough (it will be crumbly, but not flour-y) onto a large piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to help you gather it into a ball.  DO NOT KNEAD.

Wrap up the ball then flatten with your hand and refrigerate for an hour minimum or until you’re ready to bake.  If you skip this step it will be difficult to roll out.

Roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface or between two pieces of floured plastic wrap and transfer to your pie pan. 

Trim the edges leaving 1-inch excess dough then fold half the excess under and crimp or pinch the edges. 

Refrigerate for 20 minutes or freeze for 10 to set the dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line the chilled crust with buttered foil or plastic wrap and fill with pie weights or beans.  If using plastic wrap be sure to fold in the edges of the plastic over the pie weights so the plastic won’t melt.

Bake weighted crust for 20 minutes or until set.  Remove the weights and the foil or plastic and bake the crust until lightly golden—approximately 20 more minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling:  While your crust is chilling in the refrigerator, cook down 2 pounds of hulled strawberries in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it measures 2 cups and is a jam consistency.  This will take around 25 minutes.  Be sure to stir the strawberries so they cook down evenly and don’t scorch. 

In a small bowl or cup combine the water and lime juice.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the mixture and allow it to soften.

Once the strawberries are cooked down add the 1 cup of sugar, pinch of salt and softened gelatin.  Mix well.  Reheat the strawberries to melt the gelatin.  Once the gelatin is melted (it will disappear), add the vanilla and cool the filling for 30 minutes.  While that cools, hull and quarter the remaining strawberries, place them in a bowl and sprinkle with the additional 2 tablespoons of sugar.

After 30 minutes fold the fresh strawberries into the filling then pour into the cooled crust and chill the pie at least 4 hours (so it will set) before serving.

Coordinating the steps:
  1. Make the dough anytime from 3 days to 1 hour ahead
  2. Roll out the dough to form the crust and chill
  3.  Preheat the oven while the dough chills
  4.  Bake the weighted crust
  5. While the crust bakes cook the strawberries for the filling
  6. While the filling cooks, hull, quarter and macerate the fresh strawberries
  7. Crust and filling can cool simultaneously
  8. Fold fresh strawberries into the filling and pour into the cooled crust
  9. Refrigerate

Limoncello Spritzer
yield – serves 2

4 oz     Limoncello liqueur
2 T       simple syrup
1          lemon, juiced
1          sprig fresh mint
            sparkling water or club soda
2 T       blueberries

Place mint sprig in the bottom of a cocktail shaker with the simple syrup, lemon juice and liqueur. 

Fill shaker ¼ full of ice (crushed preferred) replace the lid and shake hard to bruise the mint and chill all the ingredients. 

Pour the contents, dividing evenly between 2 glasses filled with ice.  Top off with the sparkling water and garnish with blueberries.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous05 July, 2012

    made a very pretty pie...
    sandwich - would love to do a taste test...
    doughnuts...brings memories...
    thanks for the inspiration and memories.