Sunday, June 07, 2009

Savoring Summer

Don't even think about looking at the calendar.

Archivists will technically catalog this Sunday as one of spring - what with its balmy but relenting temperatures and gentle breezes - but nature's colors and the season's flavors may tease you into thinking we're thick into summer's sway.

Should you decide to cheat and look at your Microsoft Outlook, your Day Timer or some other scheduling system, you'll notice the summer solstice is two weeks away.

"Pshaw," you say.

For me, rhubarb is one of the most Pavlovian flavors of summer. I see rhubarb, what with it's glistening ruby and fuchsia ribs and chartreuse leaves, and memory sends me reeling to a time when my hands were sweaty/sticky and freckles covered my face.

Growing up for a time outside Minneapolis, I remember rhubarb prospering with reckless abandon, and neighbors offering it up freely, those cherry jello-colored stalks ready to release the tart punch my taste buds longed for.

Mom would always take those rhubarb ribs, boil them down, pour in a heap of sugar and spices and mix the concoction with fresh strawberries. The slice of pie that waited for me at the end of the day was a sweet reward for all my toiling while playing Capture the Flag and Hide and Seek with the neighborhood horde, as my dad called them.

I'm not the only (quasi) Minnesotan thick in the middle of a love affair with rhubarb.

Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion fame waxes poetic on NPR about the partially poisonous plant.

He quips and sings about the pinky-red speckled vegetable (yes, vegetable) during his radio broadcast, and has even written a collection of short stories entitled Rhubarb, four monologues from "Lake Wobegon" about a time and place where life's a little slower and sweeter.

How apropos, considering one can pull out rhubarb's sweeter flavors if you slowly, lovingly prepare those crimson stalks.

The sight of rhubarb makes me want to throw on a gingham apron and pre-heat the oven, ready for silent reverence in the cathedral that is my kitchen. In this fantasy, the trinity and I (okay- butter, flour and Crisco) silently meditate as I swiftly and carefully blend them into what's destined to become light and flaky pastry. After some careful fluting, I'd pour in my strawberry-rhubarb concoction (maybe some raspberries, too?) and wait for the oven to bake my communion.

Making strawberry-rhubarb pie is almost spiritual in nature, and tasting it is treating your palate to pastry nirvana.

I'm looking forward to my next "Come to Jesus Moment." This is what I'm thinking about baking:

Summer Sway Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

deep dish, nine inch pie plate
Pie crust (you're on your own with this one - I've got a killer recipe that I'm not giving up)
5 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
3 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
2 cups berries (raspberries or blueberries, or mixed if you prefer)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon salt
  • Preheat oven to 375* and place rack in lower third of oven.
  • Put the butter aside. Toss fruit and other ingredients in large bowl.
  • Pour fruit mixture onto unbaked pie crust. Cut butter into small bits and sprinkle over the filling. Cover with another layer of pie dough.
  • Brush pastry top with water and then sprinkle sugar atop dough. Cut slits in top to allow for ventilation.
  • Bake for about two hours - until pie filling is bubbling out of the slits.
  • Cover edge of pie with foil if crust begins to over-brown.
  • Allow to cool at room temperature for 4-5 hours before serving.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Noel Bell said...

"Making strawberry-rhubarb pie is almost spiritual in nature" uh ah :-)

Tina L. Hook said...

Does anyone in town serve Rhubarb Pie - for the baking challenged?