Tag: Spring

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerStrawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

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.

Ingredients

Pie Dough

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

Instructions

Pie Dough

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.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Shaved Asparagus Salad // Serious Crust

Sometimes,  you make a meal, thinking one dish will be the star. Especially when you lay down a hefty chunk of change on a cut of meat. But things happen – you run out of time and you don’t season the meat properly or sear it the way you’d like, and then maybe you leave it in the slow cooker a little bit longer than you should have. And when that happens, there are side dishes that sneak up and surprise you. Like this shaved asparagus salad did.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew this salad would be good. I love asparagus, and there are seemingly a million shaved asparagus salad recipes out there (like this one, and this one, and this one). And yeah, they’re all relatively the same. But man, something about the freshness of this salad – crunchy, sour, salty – just got me. It was exactly what I needed after a long day of work. And it certainly was better than an underseasoned, overcooked (only slightly) piece of meat.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch of asparagus
juice from half of a lemon
olive oil
salt (course is good, if you’ve got it)
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup, roughly, of toasted pine nuts, sliced and toasted almonds, or shelled pistachios
parmesan cheese, though crumbled feta would work nicely too

Instructions

Don’t snap the tough ends off your asparagus just yet! Leave them on and use them as a handle. Lay the asparagus on a cutting board, and use a peeler to shave off wide strips, shaving away from you. You’ll have some thick pieces at the end, but do the best you can. Apparently the consensus is that y-shaped peelers are better for this, but I don’t have one of those. Make do with what you’ve got. Discard the woody ends. Put the peeled pieces into a bowl or on a platter or whatever you’re planning on serving on/in. Pour the lemon juice over top of the asparagus, and drizzle with olive oil. I can’t tell you how much olive oil, because I didn’t measure. A good glug should suffice. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top, as well as the toasted nuts. Rinse your peeler and use it to shave some thin pieces of parmesan to top the salad (or use a fork and crumble the feta over top). We’re big cheese fans, so we did more cheese instead of less.

Enjoy on a spring or summer day, preferably with a glass of refreshing white or rosé wine. I think this salad would be perfect alongside some grilled fish or chicken for a summer soirée.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cinnamon Raisin Bread // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I like being home. Traveling the world is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I will happily go on adventures like the one to Vietnam any time. But there is something about coming home to your own bed, your own shower, and your own kitchen. I feel like I need to give all my kitchen tools little hugs and tell them I’ve missed them. Which, at this point, I’ve basically done, because I’ve been cooking up a storm this week.

Portland, however, is being slightly less welcoming than my kitchen. Mostly just in its weather-related mood swings. Seriously, this whole week has been days of sporadically alternating sunshine and rain. Sometimes each lasts 5 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s making it awfully hard to cook. What I’m going to make is always determined by my mood, which is often influenced by the weather. Between the rain and sun breaks, I can’t decide if I should be making spring recipes or winter recipes.

This cinnamon raisin bread is the perfect balance between spring and winter, though I already know I’ll be making it year round. It’s homey and warming thanks to the springy crumb and the way it fills your kitchen with the most comforting smell. But the raisins and cinnamon bring a little fruitiness and fun to the mix, a little surprise if you will. This isn’t just plain ol’ bread, you know. This has a beautiful swirl of cinnamon sugar and beautifully juicy pops of fruit throughout it.

This recipe made two loaves, and I thought for certain I’d freeze one loaf, because my roommates just don’t usually eat that much bread (unless it’s beer bread). But I was wrong. In two days, we are down to half a loaf left. Everyone has been enjoying this bread, toasted, slathered with butter, or raspberry rhubarb jam, or nutella for breakfast and dessert and a snack here and there.

Point is, make this bread and your house will smell like heaven, your friends will love you, and you’ll be perfectly toeing the line between the seasons.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

2 1/4 tsps (1 package) dry instant yeast
2 1/4+ cups warm water
3 Tbl and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 Tbl salt
3 Tbl butter
6 -7 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins
canola/vegetable oil
1 Tbl cinnamon

Instructions

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or not. If you don’t have one, this can easily be made with the strength of your own two arms.) combine 1/2 cup warm water, the yeast, and 1 Tbl of sugar. Set aside and let sit until it’s foamy. In another bowl, cover the raisins with warm-hot water, at least 2 cups. This step is optional, but it will plump the raisins, making them a bit juicier in the bread. After about 3 minutes, pour 1 3/4 cups of the raisin water off into a measuring cup and discard the rest. Pour the raisin water into the mixing bowl with the yeast, in addition to 2 Tbl sugar, the salt, 2 Tbl melted butter, 3 1/2 cups of flour, and all of the raisins. Mix with the paddle attachment until thoroughly combined, adding up to 3 more cups of flour until the dough is smooth enough to handle, but still moist. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook, and knead for about 7 minutes (10 minutes if you’re kneading by hand). Dump the dough out onto a floured surface, coat the mixing bowl with canola or vegetable oil, and put the dough back into the bowl, turning it to coat, and cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. Set the bowl in a warm spot (I like to turn on the light over my stove and set it under that) and let it rise for about an hour, or until it’s doubled.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tbl of cinnamon and mix well. Butter two bread pans. When the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl onto a floured surface and punch it down, then divide it in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a rectangle that measures roughly 16 by 8 inches. Once rolled out, sprinkle the dough with 1 Tbl of water, and half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the dough up starting from the short end, and pinch the seam shut. Drop the roll of dough into one of the greased loaf pans. Repeat with the second half of dough. Brush the top of both loaves with the remaining 1 Tbl of melted butter, and cover them again with a clean dishtowel to let them rise for another hour in a warm spot.

About 15 minutes before your bread is done rising, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until the loaves look beautiful dark brown on top. Remove the loaves from the pans (beware, as cinnamon sugar may have oozed and become rather sticky – aprons are your friend) and set on a cooling rack. I recommend slicing into one of these bad boys when it’s still pretty warm. You can toast it and put a nice layer of cream cheese on top, like I did with my cinnamon raisin bread when I was younger, but a little butter will do nicely as well. Enjoy.

Baked Rhubarb with Lemon and Cardamom

Baked Rhubarb with Lemon and Cardamom // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Baked Rhubarb with Lemon and Cardamom // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Baked Rhubarb with Lemon and Cardamom // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

It’s raining in Portland. I know, surprise, surprise. But it wasn’t that long ago that the sun was shining and I even got a sunburn. Seriously! Last weekend, Jonah’s mom and Grandma were in town for the day, and we took them to the PSU Farmer’s Market, which has got to be one of my favorite things about Portland. The sun was shining, I wasn’t even wearing a jacket, and there was beautiful crimson rhubarb everywhere! Rhubarb has got to be one of my favorite ingredients of all time, so I was excited, to say the least.

As I was getting ready for Passover dinner on Tuesday, I decided to nix the matzo crunch in favor of something a little more reminiscent of springtime: some baked rhubarb. After doing a little recipe hunting and finding this recipe on Food52 and this recipe on Orangette, I decided to do a little adapting. This recipe is so easy and delicious – I love the slightly sour flavor of the rhubarb and the hint of lemon, cardamom, and earl grey. I balanced the tartness with some fresh whipped cream, but ice cream, fresh ricotta, or yogurt are also great options.

Baked Rhubarb with Lemon and Cardamom

Ingredients

6 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 meyer lemon, juiced
1/8 tsp cardamom
3/4 cup steeped and cooled earl grey tea

optional: fresh whipped cream, ice cream, fresh ricotta, or yogurt for serving

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish, combine rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, cardamom, and tea. Stir to combine. Bake for 15 minutes, stir, and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool. You can serve the rhubarb warm, room temperature, or chilled, all are wonderful. Yes, that’s it. Can you believe how easy this is?

P.S. The leftovers, if there are any, taste delicious stirred into your yogurt and granola the next morning. Or on top of pancakes. Just saying.