Sweet-Tarts in their Resurrection Bodies

I’m not even going to pretend to write a new recipe for today’s Wednesday Recipe. Because it’s June 5, 2013, and if you missed the recipe I posted on June 6, 2012, you need to not miss it now.

When we decided to try and grow some strawberries in the yard, I kind of assumed that the most we’d get would be a few berries for noshing on while weeding or whatever. I was not thinking we’d be in ‘please help me find more good strawberry recipes and while you’re at it get me some tequila for strawberry margaritas’ territory.

But that’s where we are. And I’m not complaining. It’s a beautiful place to be.

One of my best tips for preparing food that tastes fabulous is follow the seasons. Great things happen when you combine the flavors that happen to come into season at the same time. Sliced strawberries go quite well atop a spinach salad. And strawberry + rhubarb are a natural pair.

My mom insisted that rhubarb was disgusting…then she had a taste. Now she’s a believer. If you think you don’t like rhubarb, let me make you this pie first. If you really don’t like it after that point, I don’t know how to help you. But I’ll pray for you, because rhubarb? Rhubarb is THAT GOOD. Strawberry-rhubarb pie is like Sweet-Tart candy in its resurrection body, especially robed in white–either lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (the kind with actual vanilla in it, please.)

The recipe for the filling is quite simple; you can find it at the bottom of this article (by me) here. But I used a new all-butter crust recipe from my beloved Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, and it brought this pie to a whole new level. I can’t stress enough the difference this makes. Alas, it is neither gluten-free nor particularly ‘healthy,’ but it has none of the BHT, BHA, partially hydrogenated lard, metabisulfates and dyes of the refrigerated ones.

But the taste says everything.

So without further ado:

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie That Will Make You Swoon with Pleasure

For the crust:

(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

1/3 cup ice water, plus extra as needed

3 tablespoons sour cream

2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and frozen for 15 minutes

1. Process flour, sugar, and salt together in food processor until combined. Scatter butter over top and pulse about 10 times, or until butter is the size of small peas.

2. Mix ice water and sour cream. Pour half of this mixture over flour mixture and pulse until incorporated (3 pulses.) Repeat with the remainder.

3. Squeeze mixture. Does it come together? If not, add a bit more ice water and pulse a few times before proceeding. If so, dump onto parchment and divide in half, squeezing lightly into 2 balls. You do not want the warmth of your hands to melt the butter! Wrap and refrigerate 1 hour. Before rolling out, allow to rest on countertop 10 minutes.

Here is how I roll a pie crust with minimal swearing:

Trace around your 9″ pie plate with a pencil on some baking parchment, leaving about a 1/2″ seam allowance of sorts.

Put the dough-ball in the middle and roll gently from the center, a little at a time, rotating, rotating, rotating. Don’t be afraid to dust the paper and the rolling pin with flour!

You should see lots of large pieces of butter in the rolled-out crust.

Now, with the oven preheated to 400F and both crusts rolled out, mix the pie’s innards:

3 cups rhubarb, cut into small pieces
3 cups stemmed and sliced strawberries
1 cup granulated sugar (I like organic cane juice)
2 TB cornstarch
the juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon of salt

and pour into raw-crust-lined pie plate:

Cover with second crust, pinch to seal; trim excess crust. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes; lower heat to 350 and bake an additional 30-40 minutes. Cool in a pan on rack. The juices will thicken as the pie cools.

I shouldn’t have done that food-bloggy thing where everything is all close-cropped and blurry-edged. You need to see what a total disaster my kitchen becomes when I make something like this, and to know that this pie–this pie? It is worth it.

Yes, Yes, of COURSE I care about health…

Most of the responses to my recent Her.meneutics post (“The Dark Side of Healthy Eating”) have been very positive, for which I’m really grateful, not least because the spirit of that post really captures some important aspects of my upcoming book.

Offspring #1 enjoys a strawberry.

But some readers have asked whether or not I do, in fact, care about healthy eating–or whether I’m more:

“lets [sic] all eat hot dogs and bacon full of nitrates! (which are proven to cause cancer) and make fun of the people who give it up in the name of being healthy.”

Yes, I do care about health! I’ll serve (and eat) the occasional hotdog, but I’ll choose an organic, humanely-raised, nitrate-free variety. Our family tries to eat mostly organic and/or free-range animal products–and we eat mainly vegetarian meals. We grow and eat organic fruit and veggies right in our own backyard. I make yogurt. You get the idea.

It’s just that I think “health” in eating means more than just seeking dietary ‘perfection’ single-mindedly, as if it is the be-all, end-all of life. To me, dietary ‘health’ must include the health of the planet, and it must include a sense of food justice–an awareness of those who don’t get enough (or enough of the right foods).

And it must include gratitude and fellowship.

So, yes, I do care about ‘healthy’ eating. There are many, many things I don’t let my children eat. But I’m equally concerned that my orientation toward good food isn’t a frightened flight away from “what everyone else is eating.”

Offspring #2 enjoys being strange with a strawberry.

As I said in the piece,

“Do some foods testify more clearly to the goodness of God by virtue of having been produced in ways that honor God’s creation, God’s creatures, and God’s people? Certainly. But there remains that dietary ‘perfection’ is elusive, if not entirely illusory, and that our lives are much more than the food that sustains them.”

A strawberry picked and eaten in the garden, warmed by the sun, speaks more clearly to me of God’s goodness than one I might purchase in a plastic clamshell, shipped from 3,000 miles away, in the dead of winter.

But if someone offers me the latter kind of strawberry, I’ll accept it, for the sharing imparts a kind of grace that goes beyond nutrition, taste, or ecological impact. I don’t know why, exactly.

It just does.