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Getting Back to It (+ Strawberry-Rhubarb Honey Pie)

{Tomales Bay from the trail, July 2015.}


There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air
in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you

let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates

~Edwin Morgan

I went for a hike a few weeks ago for the first time in probably a year. I took the dog up the narrow trail that winds through redwood, oak, pine, and so many more trees I couldn’t name. The fog burned off by the time we began our descent from the ridge and Tomales Bay slid into view. Low tide, and no boats were visible from where we walked. It was a short hike – just 3 1/2 miles or so – but it was good to remind my body how to scramble over fallen branches and push aside thick bay leaves and let the cobwebs find a brief home on my sweater. Why do I return again and again to John Muir when I feel nature’s lack? Because he knew that if we can “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” your soul will settle. After months of being in cities and odd, nearly-suburban environs that defy description, getting scraped by errant twigs and breathing in cool coastal air felt like a balm to my very being.

When I came back down it was nearly July 4th, these American states’ independence day, and though I go to bed too early for fireworks I appreciated the flags’ brisk fluttering along Main Street Sebastopol. I thought about how much I miss living in this country and felt grateful I have a handful of months to reconnect with my California roots. I thought about barbecues and back country camping and swimming in rivers and how beautiful this land is.

And I thought about pie, because it’s summer and it was a holiday and somehow it felt right to celebrate in my own little way by making a pie. I dearly miss rhubarb and have been folding it into muffins and scones since I’ve been in the States – taking any excuse to incorporate it into my baking. But I hadn’t yet paired it with strawberries so for the fourth I baked a strawberry-rhubarb pie sweetened just with honey and piled into a hearty crust made up of whole grain and nut flours. It’s a basic enough recipe and one you can put together in an hour or so, plus an hour of baking time. That’s perfect for these slow summer months when, yes, you might like to sit on the porch or near an open window dipping strawberries into sugar (or a pool of honey) and watching the clouds drift overhead. If now is not the time to appreciate the moment then — when?

[print_this] Strawberry-Rhubarb Honey Pie, adapted/inspired by smittenkitchen.com and joythebaker.com

To make this pie gluten-free, try doubling the pie crust in this recipe for pie crust. To make dairy-free, use a butter substitute of choice and put two teaspoons of vinegar into your favorite non-dairy milk, let sit for 5 minutes, and use as a ‘buttermilk’.

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup almond flour (alternatively: 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tapioca

For the crust
Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes.

Sift together the flours and salt in a large bowl. Take the cold butter from the freezer and rub it into the flour mixture with your hands until it forms a coarse meal. Add the maple syrup and the buttermilk and very gently gather and knead the dough together with your hands until it forms a ball. Divide in half, flatten each ball into a 6-inch disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

For the filling and pie
Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured counter or cutting board roll half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, honey lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. Mound filling inside bottom pie crust. Roll out the second half of pie dough into an 11-inch circle and transfer it to center over the pie filling. Trim top and bottom pie dough so that their overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp it decoratively; cut a few air vents (I like to do 4) in the center of the crust.

Transfer pie to a baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices are bubbling.

Remove from oven and place pie on a wire rack to cool. Let fully cool so the juices gel a bit. [/print_this]


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