Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sweet Spring

Spring is wonderful in that it comes after the long, biting and bitter New York winter. It's wonderful that my quaint little town, aka Park Slope, Brooklyn, aka the middle of the largest metropolis in the United States (a girl can dream though) comes out of hibernation, streets bursting with people and puppies and lots of strollers and everyone seems to share this frenetic need to be outdoors. It's wonderful in that I have an unquenched need to wander all over my city, as I did yesterday evening after work, listening to some great music and just exploring, discovering and forever imprinting into my memory my time here.

So yes, spring is a time for reemergence and renewal, a time to both energize and also to just stand in the sun. But for me, well I also get touches of trepidation too as the weather warms and earth begins to bloom again. Because to be a bit corny, but spring hasn't always been all sweetness and light for me. It's been tart, a lot of the time, with a fleeting taste of something bitter amongst all the sweet. I guess I should explain a bit further.
I'd be hard pressed to think of a better combination of both sweet and tart than strawberry rhubarb pie
Next month marks the anniversary of 2 of the hardest things I've ever gone through in my life. 6 years ago I officially moved to New York City, possibly the biggest culture shock that could happen to a (central air, dishwasher, washer dryer, space, walk-in closet, space, car, space) spoiled Southern girl within the lower 48 states. Never have I felt so alone or realized how much I took "home" for granted. And 2 years ago, the one and only thing that came easy to me when I moved here, a job- at the best media agency (at that time) in New York that led to a promotion and then another and then a hop skip and jump for a better salary and higher profile client elsewhere- dropped the floor out from under me when I was laid off. I guess there was a 3rd hardest thing but that's a story for another time.

So I'm giving you spring my way. A sweet and tart (and vegan) strawberry rhubarb mini pie with a touch of some warm Indian spices to add a little kick. It's sticky and puckery, ruby red and has a bite that tastes just like the sun. Rhubarb, also known as the pie fruit, is grown for it's candy red colored stalks that are boiled down with fruits, most commonly strawberry, and spices like clove and cinnamon to make pie filling or jam. And fun fact for the thespians out there, the word rhubarb is often used by actors talking quietly to one another on stage to simulate real conversation, since it contains no harsh sounding consonants and is hard to detect.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
3 1/2 c. 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/4 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbl cornstarch
1/2 tsp. lemon zest plus a small squeeze of the juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 teaspoon salt

 I made my Mom's pie dough recipe- with all vegetable shortening- to make it vegan and since I was making mini pies just sprayed some Pam into my muffin tins and cut the dough out to size to fit (I used a large coffee mug as mold to cut out)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine.

2. Cut out dough and place in dish (whether for mini pies or for 1 large pie). Spoon filling over. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

3. Bake 15 minutes at 400- or 20 for one big pie. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 50 min for mini pies, 1 hr 25 for a big pie. If you aren't vegan you can also brush the top with an egg wash.

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