Friday, August 24, 2012
Come on in! Welcome to one of my "happy places". Thanks to my friends Jill and Kristin the last two summer seasons I've been able to escape to this oasis of no cares and worries and enter down this road to Jill's wonderful garden where she allowed me to "weed for food" and also get free "talk therapy" on my knees in the dirt.
Here is the beautiful scene on the other side of the driveway with a view of the serene Minnesota countryside. The sky is bluer than blue and the butterflies flutter and kiss the petals of the brightly colored zinnias. Here in this slice of heaven I found comfort the months after losing my mom and also as I made the mental preparations to leave our home in Minnesota to make a home in California.
These wonderful friends have been tending and nurturing this garden for a few years and were kind enough to let me get close to the growing process. They grow oodles of my favorite kale and chard and all the rest was just icing on the cake. This cherry tree was heavy laden with sour pie cherries just begging to be picked! In the Fall there are pears that make the sweetest sauce spiked with vanilla bean.
Take a breath and picture the blue, blue sky and the vision of looking straight up in the tree and seeing these cherries bursting from the tree. Breath it in, can you see it?
When our weeding (and talking) is done we make a harvest for the day. We are hot, sweaty and covered in dirt, but our reward is a healthy pile of vegetables. Not pictured are the raspberries I would pick from the bush and eat directly on my "break" and the old beaten up used yogurt container filled with the most gorgeous bunch of flowers you'd usually find at the most trendy flower shop. I felt blessed every time.
Now comes a true confession. Before this moment, I had never made my own pie crust from scratch. I know, I know, pie crust is easy you say. I had a fear ok? I had rid my fear of yeast by mastering "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" . It was high time to make my own pastry crust. Plus my daughter, Maria (the midnight baker), demanded I get over it.
Look! I did it! It wasn't hard at all. I watched my mom making pie crust by cutting in the fat with two knives...I tried that, only to get a tough crust. This time a treated myself to a new tool, a pastry blender. That did the trick. The crust was flaky and my son said it was awesome. My critics have spoken. I will never buy another refrigerated pie crust again.
There are more pie crust recipes out there to make your head spin. They are all basically the same. But there's the question of the kind of fat to use, and the choice of cold water or even adding a Tbsp. or two of vodka. I opted for this basic recipe but I used half butter and half Crisco.
(Found in my mom's recipe box)
Make a pie crust. Your own favorite or the recipe above. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
3 Tbsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. salt
5 c. pitted cherries (sour or sweet)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla (sometimes she used almond extract)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter cut into cubes
1 Tbsp. milk
A cherry pitter works well if you have one, but if you have help and some time you can pit them with a paring knife.
Whisk together sugar, corn starch and salt. Stir in cherries, lemon juice and vanilla. Pour the cherry mixture into a dough lined pie plate. Make strips of dough to top in a lattice pattern. Remember it doesn't have to be perfect...this is art. Your own creation.
Place pie on a baking sheet (in case it runs over, and it will) Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake until and the filling is bubbling. About and hour or so.
My heart has always been in both Minnesota and California. We are now well into our new adventure of living in Los Angeles. This is a new "season" of our lives. I welcome the year round growing season and new crops. If you know me well, you'll know that next to kale my other favorite ingredient, lemons! Pictured are the wonderful meyer lemons in my in-laws backyard!! Once again I am blessed. We will deeply miss seeing our loved ones in the Midwest regularly, but do have the gift of having all of our children in one place (at least for now) Parents and friends that feel like family here too. Stay tuned for our culinary adventures on the West Coast.