Breaking your routine every once in a while is a good thing. Shake it up. I thought after returning from our journey this spring that I would want routine forever and ever. But routine has gone out the window these last months. It might have something to do with the total eclipse, or the cast of characters streaming through our guest room. Some days I love this. A touch of the unknown – What will our guests want to do today? When are they coming and going? – is mixed with feelings of comfort and pride as we show people our home, our city, our community.
One routine I have missed is baking. Granted, between the lack of air conditioning in our apartment (I’m working on it, Mom) and our big west and south facing windows, I don’t often want to turn on the oven. But something inspired me. Something big, the size of softballs. Skin the mottled colors of sunsets. A scent you could smell wafting through the air as we strolled through the farmers market one cloudy Saturday morning. How can you go a whole summer without making a peach pie? I was feeling the same pangs of guilt as last summer when I made only one strawberry-rhubarb pie. I had barely even eaten a perfect peach this summer, much less baked it in between layers of buttery crust.
Another routine that has been finding its footing again is my go-to pie dough. I used to stick with the one I had been making for years, then I switched to the one out of The New Best Recipe. But this summer has been the summer of The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, a cookbook that has been reawakening my love of pie. This is a take on their all butter crust, but I’ve subbed some of the all purpose flour with rye for a darker, earthier flavor. I would recommend trying it, but if you don’t have rye flour and don’t want to purchase some, you can just replace it with all purpose flour and still get a perfectly crumbly, wonderful crust.
We are back. Back in the U.S. Back on the west coast. Back in gray and rainy Portland. This past weekend we had a taste of spring, but otherwise it has been wet. And between the weather and having a bit more time on my hands and a fully functional kitchen again, I have been cooking some of my favorite warming meals. (Big shout out to friends Mac and Carmelle who are letting us room with them while we look for a place to live!) This recipe is one of those dishes. You may have heard of this pie, or at least the book series it is inspired by, Redwall. When I was younger, my older sister Emily was obsessed with the series, which focuses on a series of woodland creatures who live in mostly an abbey. If I recall correctly, there are castles and ghosts, banquets and wizards. I think of it as Camelot meets the Borrowers. My mother, being the amazing woman she is, somehow found a recipe for this pie, Deeper ‘n Ever Turnip ‘n Tater ‘n Beetroot Pie, and would make it for us, making us feel as if we were at the table during those banquets, eating alongside otters, squirrels, and birds.
This pie screams cozy to me. You start with a buttery, savory pie dough, layer the filling with cheese, mashed vegetables, beets, caramelized onions, and more cheese, and bake until the crust is golden. As an adult, I realize the amount of work that goes into this, and how long my mom must have spent in the kitchen making it: caramelizing onions, mashing potatoes and turnips, boiling beets, shredding cheese. It also is a great base for something that is easy to riff on – you could add squash, greens, mushrooms, peppers.
My sister recently made me aware that my strawberry rhubarb pie recipe – the one that really inspired me to start this blog in the first place – wasn’t on this website. How could that be?! The time is right to tell you the story behind it, seeing as this weekend is Father’s Day and it’s rhubarb season.
Growing up, my father was a produce aficionado. He snacked on radishes like they were popcorn, and his perfect dessert was a bowl of the ripest berries. My dad’s love of fresh ingredients got me excited about food at a young age, and cooking became a pillar in our relationship. It still is – every time we talk we brag about dishes we’ve made, the latest cookbooks we’re itching to buy, and restaurants we’ve tried lately.
When I was in high school, we decided to spend a summer on a quest for the perfect strawberry rhubarb pie. We read probably a hundred recipes, and baked a pie a week. For the crust we experimented with vodka and leaf lard. To perfect the filling we adjusted our rhubarb to strawberry ratios and tried different spices like ground ginger and orange zest. We refined our technique for rolling out the dough, and watched through the oven door as juices bubbled through cracks in the crust. After cooling on the counter for hours, the first bite was always exhilarating. When we finally landed on the recipe, it was obvious as soon as we tasted it – the crust was tender and flaky, the filling was a soft rosy pink dotted with strawberry seeds, and there was a perfect balance between sweet and tart.
Five years later, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. We went through a trying year of chemotherapy and surgery. It was hard to see someone who loves food barely able to eat, much less enjoy eating. I’ll always remember when I was with him while he was getting a blood transfusion, and I went to the vending machine for a snack. I came back with a bag of Wheat Thins. He tried one and said it tasted good, so I gathered up all of my loose change and bought every bag in the vending machine so he could eat them. His recovery took place mostly in the late spring – the beginning of rhubarb season. The day he asked me to make him our strawberry-rhubarb pie, I knew he was back.
These days, I like to think that strawberry-rhubarb pie is my specialty. I’ve found a new dough recipe (the one you see below) that I like even better than the one my dad and I decided on twelve years ago. Making this pie is relaxing, almost therapeutic. Slicing up the fruit, rolling out the dough – all of it is a ritual that I treasure returning to each summer. Not only do I love making this pie, but it’s representative of my relationship with my dad and the things we both value: sharing delicious food with the people we love the most. It will always remind me of him, and the time we spent on the hunt for the perfect pie. Happy Father’s Day, dad. Here’s to many more rhubarb seasons.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Note: As is often the case with pastry type dough, the colder it is and the less you handle it, the better. I like to keep my shortening in the freezer so it is very cold, and the butter in the fridge.
Another Note: This pie is JUICY. It tastes delicious as ever, but I have never made a strawberry rhubarb pie that actually firmed up without tasting too much like flour or corn starch. I’d rather have a juicy pie that packs a punch rather than being muted by various starchy ingredients. The amount of cornstarch you add will be based on how juicy your fruit is – for example, if you bought your strawberries at the farmer’s market in the height of strawberry season, you’ll want to add more, whereas if you bought them at a big box grocery store in December, you won’t need as much.
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
12 Tbps (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
½ cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into chunks
3-8 Tbsp ice water
Strawberry Rhubarb Filling
4 cups rhubarb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 cup sugar
3-5 Tbl cornstarch
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, pulse to distribute. Add the butter, pulse until evenly combined. Add the vegetable shortening, and do the same, pulsing until evenly combined. Your dough will start to clump together, but you will still have loose flour. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and pulse. If your dough isn’t coming together quite yet, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition. You want the dough to just start to come together. Dump the dough out onto floured surface and form a ball, cut it in half, and form two discs (roughly 1-1 ½ inch thick). Wrap discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. You can also freeze the dough for later use.
Strawberry Rhubarb Filling
Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.
Preheat your oven to 450° F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with butter and dust with flour. Roll out your pie dough until it’s a circle about 12 inches wide. I like to set the plastic wrap that the dough was wrapped in underneath when I roll it out, as it helps lift it into the pie dish. Transfer your dough to the pie dish and ease it into the corners of the dish. Fill with the strawberry-rhubarb filling. Roll out the second disc of dough, and cover the pie. Trim off excess dough, pinch together the edges, and cut vents in the top of the pie. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, and then into the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes at 450°F, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for another 50-70 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours.
Please tell me you’ve heard of Feast. The three-year-old food festival that now takes over Portland for a weekend in late September? The one with so many incredibly opportunities to eat, drink, and be merry? The one where you can easily spot your 5 favorite foodie celebrities in a single day?
This was my first year attending Feast, and I was (unfortunately) only able to hit up one event due to some scheduling conflicts with the band. But the event I did get to go to, the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, was 5 hours of tastebud extravaganza, meeting lots of people, and watching cooking demos. My dad and Darla came down for the weekend (they drove out to our gig with us over the weekend), and the three of us went to Pioneer Square to enjoy all that Oregon has to offer.
We made it to the tents in time to grab a couple wine pours and food samples before sitting down to watch Chef Naomi Pomeroy whip up a pork loin with romesco sauce (which, after sampling, inspired me to finally make some romesco sauce of my own). Afterwards, as we moved from some pâté panna cotta with Oregon berries and a parmesan tuile from Uptown Billiards Club, to Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters, to kale salad with smoked salmon (from I’m not every sure who), to crazy delicious bites from Three Little Figs, to some awesome bloody mary shooters from Face Rock Creamery, to tomatoes sprinkled with varied salts from Jacobsen Salt, to of course incredible ice cream from Salt & Straw (served by the one and only Jon Wash), and possibly my favorite dessert: Salt & Straw Olive Oil ice cream topped with Cacao drinking chocolate and candied cocoa nibs. I realized something. I am so unvelievably lucky to live in a city that not only has food like this at every turn, but to live in a city that creates a festival like this, that brings all these artisans and chefs and wineries and breweries together, and has this community around food. I think it’s pretty cool, don’t you?
Let it be known that we also enjoyed some beautiful wines poured by some beautiful people. The wineries that were pouring were some of the best in Oregon, and they were pouring wines that range from $20-70 a bottle. It was a chance for me to try some wines that, let’s face it, I would otherwise not have been able to. Some favorite wineries included Elk Cove, Adelsheim Vineyards, Chehalem, and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.
Overall, it was a beautiful day spent eating and drinking with some of my favorite people. I met some new friends (like Ian and Mike from Pfriem Brewery), bumped into some old ones (Erin from Bakery Bingo, Rachel from Love, Rachel, and, from afar, Bee from The Spicy Bee), and truly enjoyed discovering all the wonderful food and drink coming from the wonderful Pacific Northwest. Lucky girl, indeed.