We spent last week at Lake Michigan, doing and not doing the things you do and don’t do when on a proper vacation. We skipped rocks and hunted for beach glass. We played games and drank beer. We saw lots of family and ate loads of food – the classic summery vacation types of foods that one comes to expect on these sorts of occasions. There were bratwursts simmered in really good beer and then grilled to charred, snap-crackling perfection. There were succulent and juicy Italian beef sandwiches with spicy roasted peppers that just might make a beef-eater out of me yet. There was taco night. There was pizza night – from a local pizzeria … called “Villa Novas” I think. I made a big jalapeño and pistachio pesto pasta salad with fresh grilled corn, strawberries, avocado, and pistachio-crusted goat cheese fritters that will make its way here to the blog in the near future. And then there was the fruit.
Michigan is appreciated as a cherry and berry-picking haven and I visited with every intention of sampling their goods as much as I could. We ate tons of blueberries and strawberries throughout our weeklong stay, but it wasn’t until our drive home that we procured some cherries, much to my fruit-loving daughter’s delight. I think I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the tedium associated with pitting a bunch of cherries, so I tend to steer clear. But my Aunt Pam casually mentioned that she just smashes her cherries with her palm, pops the pits out and then proceeds right along with life. Huh. That was one of those “now why didn’t I think of that?!?” moments.
Our time in Michigan also brought about my first actual taste of strawberry rhubarb pie. I know, I know. I sort of can’t believe that I’d never tried it prior to that first slice last week, but I think I just assumed I wouldn’t like rhubarb. Growing up in Virginia, I had a friend who loathed the stuff and I must have absorbed some of her negativity along the way. And so. I took a casual, somewhat messy, over-sized, spur-of-the-moment bite of a gorgeous strawberry rhubarb crumble pie last week and was instantly and forever changed. I knew immediately it was going to trump the ranks and become my favorite pie, and that 33 years of lost pie time needed to be made up for. That’s a long time to go without knowing your favorite version of something … a long while to wait for a true love, be it pie or otherwise.
July 4th is the summeriest of all the summer days, I think. On Monday night we set off fireworks, little ones that made the kids laugh and clap and squeal in utter delight. It was really fun to watch, even though I’m not the world’s biggest fireworks fan, I’ll admit. Lucas would light the little mystery rockets in the driveway and then I’d do my best not to look like a total scaredy cat when the fire actually worked. Those little explosions freak me out every. single. time … predictable though they may be. I actually ducked inside a couple of times, so as to not give away my silly pseudo-fear, and I just pretended as if I was fussing over this pie, which was was cooling in the windowsill. “The American Pie,” Elle deemed it. Filled with cherries, berries, a bit of basil and adorned with a lovely rhubarb lattice top, this pie might just be the perfect summer pie on the most perfect of all the summer days. Elle’s name inspired me, and when the firework show finally ended, I turned up Don McLean’s “American Pie” (cheeky, I know) and snuck some bites of my own pie … just a couple small ones from the side, where your spoon can sneak down below the lattice and snag some filling … your family being none the wiser.
I hope all of my stateside friends enjoyed a wonderful, relaxing holiday weekend! I’ll be back next week with a new favorite chilled summer soup recipe that I can’t wait to share with you. But until then, I leave you with pie.
Cherry-Berry-Basil Pie with Rhubarb Lattice
This pie is fairly traditional, save for the addition of the basil which is optional, but really lovely. Alternatively, you can pulse the basil in a food processor with the 1 cup of sugar to create basil sugar, and then just use that in your filling instead. Both options are really nice. As a bonus, the sweetened rhubarb poaching water makes a fantastic lemonade! Just add a bit more sugar and the juice of a bunch of lemons until you achieve your desired sourness level. A squeeze of vanilla bean paste is my secret touch to an amazing pitcher of lemonade.
1 box of store-bought pie crust, thawed per package directions (contains two crusts, such as Pillsbury)
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
Pinch of salt
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1.5 cups strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup thinly chopped basil
1 large bunch of rhubarb, halved lengthwise (about 8 – 10 stalks; I use 12 in my lattice)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Place one pice crust in a 9″ pie plate, adjusting to fit. In a small bowl, mix the 1 tsp flour and 1 tsp of sugar together. Sprinkle this in the crust, and tap out the excess.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the tapioca, and the salt. In another bowl, toss the cherries with the strawberries, sprinkle with the sugar/tapioca mixture and toss gently. Add the basil and gently stir to combine. Spoon the filling into the crust.
Meanwhile, poach your rhubarb. Add the rhubarb to a large pot and fill with water to cover. Add 1 cup of the sugar. Place the pot over medium heat and simmer gently, until the rhubarb is tender and flexible, about 5 minutes. Transfer the rhubarb out of the water to a work surface to cool.
To create the lattice, I peel long pieces of rhubarb from each stalk and use them to create a classic lattice crust. For a great lattice tutorial (better than I could explain), look here.
Once you’ve arranged your rhubarb pieces over top of the filling, you can use kitchen shears to trim the stalks to fit the pie, if needed. Or, you can just tuck them in snugly.
Use the extra thawed pie crust to line the edge of the pie, creating a nice border for the edges (you don’t have to do this, I just like the looks of it). I like to slice the crust into 1/3″-thick strips and braid them, piecing the braids together around the pie and just sealing the edges together with my fingertips and a bit of water.
Brush the crust with the cream and place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 30 – 40 minutes.