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17 June 2004

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Oh My!

I made pies for my Dad -- strawberry-rhubarb and lemon meringue! Who needs cake? I love strawberry rhubarb pie since this is the perfect time of year for it. Sure, you could use frozen rhubarb and out of season strawberries to make it in October, but that would be utterly disgusting. Proper strawberry rhubarb pie is made in June with local berries and fresh rhubarb out of the backyard. I cheat and use a ready-made refrigerated crust, but I dust it pretty liberally with ginger and cinnamon and then glaze it with egg or milk to give it a faux homemade look.

The filling recipe is straight out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, but I'm a bit more liberal with the spices and a bit more conservative with the sugar. The filling should not be a sugary gelatinous pink ooze, but moderately firm and chunky with the perfect mingling of rhubarb and strawberry flavors. The crust should be buttery (with just a whiff of ginger) and flaky -- not soggy and bland. Soggy and bland is always a no, dahlings.

Until Sunday, I had never made a meringue before. It always seemed really complicated and scary. Egg whites! Cream of tarter! All that sugar! And the whipping! So much whipping! And then it all collapses into a rubbery heap, anyway! Surprisingly, meringue making turned out pretty easy. I used the meringue recipe in the red-and-white Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook and it was all very straight forward. Oh, there was a lot of whipping to be sure, but that's what the KitchenAid is for.

Bless the KitchenAid.

If I made another lemon meringue (and dad seems to expect me to), I'd like to use less sugar in the lemon filling, but I'm not sure how to adjust the sugar level without ending up with a runny filling. Boost the level of cornstarch? Won't that make it chalky?

Yes, I know, I sound so ... boring. Pedestrian. Girl who thinks cabbage and noodles is a cunning combination. Particularly, if paired with a nice lamb (shank half leg) roast (somewhere inside me there's a cave woman still impressed with the whole meat/fire combo).

While I am constantly bringing home cookbooks full of weird furrin foodstuffs, the food I actually cook is the pretty much the same food I grew up with. Plus ginger and mint and double plus more garlic, but still ... it's not exactly "cuisine" is it?

Yet there's nothing wrong with cooking the same dishes my mother and grandmothers and great-grandmothers made. It's real food, after all. Not ready-to-serve or takeaway or fast food, but real food I made with my own little handses.

And to think that five years ago, I couldn't make a decent meatloaf.
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