Mmmmmm, pie! Strawberry season is upon us, friends, and really and truly, pies must be made. There is just no getting around this.
I recently picked up this adorable little Nitty Gritty Productions book called “Cakes & Pies”, the flip-side of which (when you turn it over and upside down) is called “Pies & Cakes” (c. 1978) I love it for several reasons: a) Groovy Mod Cover, b) Nitty Gritty Productions,( hello! I have 4 or 5 of their titles), c) the recipes are simple and easy to follow, after a useful intro “how-to” on the genre in general, and d) these are actually recipes you’d want to make! Normal, modern ingredients! Fresh fruits! Things you can still find at today’s grocery store!
So on a Saturday morning, I decided that my daughter and I would make pie. (I know for some parents, the answer to the question: Mom, what are we doing today? Is “going to the park” or something similarly expected, but I have to admit, I hate the park. So my answer usually has to do with cooking, such as: “we’re going to the Farmer’s Market!” or, as in this case, “We’re making pie!”) I actually offered her the choice between Cake and Pie (after all, they are both covered in this cute little book) and she chose pie. She chose wisely!
And here is the reason I am all too glad to make pie: I CHEAT! I have a recipe for crust, made from scratch, that requires NO 2-knives, no ice water, no “shortening” (bleeeeech.) and does NOT even have to be rolled out! Thanks again to Mom, who, in the 70s, sold gourmet cookware in a pioneering shop in Berkeley, where she frequently demonstrated the new miracle kitchen appliance, the Cuisinart. Oui, from France. (Ooh La La!) So while my adorable cook-book offers a probably wonderful recipe for a basic crust, I vetoed it in favor of what I call “Mom’s” pie crust, but which I know to actually have originated from the guide book for her Cuisinart. Just flour, butter, a pinch of salt and a blob of sour cream, and in no time, you have a fabulous and perfect crust! (In fact, this book mentions the technique of making crust in a food processor, but not with the sour cream, which eliminates the need for cold liquid and other elaborate steps.) Of course, if you don’t have a food processor, I guess you are stuck with the knives. And I’m sorry. Still, this is PIE we’re talking about, so I have no doubt it will be worth it.
Strawberry Glace Pie
• 1 pie crust (see below) • 6 cups (about 1 ½ quarts) strawberries • 1 cup sugar • 3 Tbsp cornstarch • ½ cup water • 1 pkg (3 oz) cream cheese, optional • 1 to 2 Tbsp milk
Line 9-inch pie plate with crust. Finish edges as desired. Prick with fork and chill if time allows. Bake as directed. Cool on wire rack until needed. Wash and hull strawberries. Mash enough berries to measure 1 cup. Blend sugar and cornstarch together in saucepan. Stir in water and crushed berries. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil, stirring, 1 minute. Cool. Beat cream cheese with milk. Spread on bottom of baked pie shell. Fill shell with whole berries. Pour cooked mixture over top. Refrigerate several hours. Garnish with whipped cream.
Mom’s Pie Crust:
In Cuisinart: • 1 cup flour • 1 stick butter, in 4 pieces • 1 pinch salt • 1 Tbsp sour cream (add this last)
Process till it forms a ball (under a minute!), press into pie dish and flute edges. Prick bottom with fork; bake at 375 for 20 min. Cool.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to re-create one of my mom’s favorite all-time dishes, the avocado-and-cheese sandwich. Morning, noon and night she has made these, and I must admit to preferring them to her other favorite, the (dreaded) peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwich. Both contain mayonnaise, something I detested till fairly recently - perhaps as a result of my mom’s 70s experiments with making her own. Yellow and runny, it was never a favorite of mine, and I was all too happy to comply with eating store-bought mayo when she gave up the home-made version. (I seem to recall a similar episode with the Yogurt Maker, though that was even shorter-lived, perhaps because I used the cups for some art project or other after finding them in the basement…)
So, the avocado and cheese. Made with whole wheat bread (I tried it with my personal favorite, sour dough, but it just didn’t taste right) and only the sharpest of cheddar cheese, it is a perfect vegetarian lunch - or dinner, if paired with a salad a glass of wine. As a life-long vegetarian, my mom must have slapped together and eaten something like 60,000 of these!
The secret ingredient for her, until the formulation was changed in the late 90s, was Vege Sal, the age-old celery salt/spice mix that I am told does not contain salt, and is supposed to have been around since the 20s. I tried, OK I really tried, to like it, and to use it in my cooking, but, sorry, I just can’t. So when I saw that my mom no longer used it (because she swears it tastes different, and she would know, having consumed it on nearly all her food all her life!), I secretly rejoiced. Now, her recipe calls for fancy, large-crystal sea salt, usually whatever variety someone has given her as a gift. She has even been known to shake on a pinch of Herbes de Provence, for that singular 90s touch. But because I am a retro-purist, I stuck as close as I could to the original, and toasted to her, for Mother’s Day. Cheers, mom!
Avocado and Cheese Sandwich
Lightly toast 2 slices of whole wheat bread Spread mayonnaise in a thin layer on both Slice an avocado and lay the slices on both slices of bread Salt and pepper the avocadoes (* can use Vege Sal if desired) Cover all with sliced or grated cheddar cheese Broil or toast in toaster oven for 5 minutes, till cheese melts