LEFT BRAIN: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
One of the first plants to emerge in the spring garden is rhubarb. Prairie women call it “pie plant” as indeed it is the first fresh ingredient for pies in a growing season. And it is especially delicious when combined with that other early fruit, strawberries. Newer varieties of rhubarb have a red hue, which makes the pie very colourful.
Always use ‘deep-dish’ pie plates to avoid losing too many of the bubbling pie juices to the oven floor. I like fruit pies to be sweet so I add additional sugar.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Pastry for double crust
8” deep-dish pie:
2 cups (200g/7oz) sliced strawberries
2 cups (100g/4oz) sliced rhubarb
1 cup (200g/7oz) plus optional 2 tbsp (25g) granulated sugar
3 tbsp (30g/1oz) instant tapioca (sometimes labeled “minute”)
1 tbsp (14g/0.5oz) butter (optional)
9” deep-dish pie:
3 cups (300g/10.5oz) sliced strawberries
3 cups (150g/6oz) sliced rhubarb
1 1/2 cups (300g/10.5oz) plus optional 4 tbsp (50g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (53g/2oz) minute tapioca
1 1/2 tbsp (42g/1.5oz) butter (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425F (220C). Combine strawberries and rhubarb with sugar mixed with tapioca. Let rest for 30 to 60 minutes (this hydrates the tapioca before cooking).
- Roll out and line pie plate with pastry. Turn in filling, level and dot with butter if using. Add top crust, pinching the edges and making a slash in the centre.
- Bake 10 minutes. Then without opening oven door, reduce heat to 350F (180C). Continue baking for 60 minutes (8-inch) or 70 minutes (9-inch). The filling will be bubbling, and likely bubbling over so put a pan on the rack below to catch the overflow.
- Cool on a rack.
Tip: Minute tapioca is a terrific fruit pie thickening, but has a huge problem in that if stirred during cooking or baking, it makes the thickened liquid creepily stringy! Tender rhubarb also can’t stand stirring during cooking as it loses its shape becoming a stringy gloppy mess. However baking in a pie (or poaching without stirring) avoids these food failures!
Freezer Pie: Use pie dough that you know can be frozen such as a traditional lard or vegetable shortening crust. Make an 8-inch or 9-inch pie, but do not bake. Cover airtight and freeze for up to a month or more. When ready to bake, unwrap FROZEN pie, placing in preheated 425F oven for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325F (a bit less hot than the fresh pie which gives the filling a long time to defrost and cook) and bake for one hour and 15 to 30 minutes.
Early summer is a time ripe with long awaited delicious produce. Marilyn’s recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie (in two sizes) is a keeper. There are few desserts more comforting than the sight of a pie on the counter for dessert. If you are very lucky you might get Marilyn’s sour cherry pie recipe too.
RIGHT BRAIN: Rhubarb Granita
I originally found this recipe as a syrup, rather like the Rose’s lime juice or Ribena. One year when the rhubarb grew rampantly I decided to make some flavoured syrup. Of course the next step was to think of things with which to use it. The result was granita, a frozen dessert that forms from making the juice into ice crystals to make a satisfying end to a heavy meal.
To make the syrup:
4 lb (1.8 kg) rhubarb cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups (400 g) sugar
6 cups (1.5 L) water
To make 6-8 glorious sundaes:
2 cups (500 mL) low fat yogurt or whatever you have in your fridge.
1-2 bsp (15 – 30 mL) maple syrup
zest of 1-2 washed limes.
12-20 strawberries, or same amount of your preferred berries
1/2 the syrup (keep the half to make refreshing drinks with a slice of lime)
Put martini glasses in the fridge so they will be nice and cool.
- Bring the rhubarb, sugar and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves and then turn down the heat and cook until the rhubarb has fallen apart.
- Put a large strainer over a heat-proof bowl and pour the rhubarb mix into the strainer.
- Leave the mix to drain, resisting the desire to help it along by pressing (as that will result in a foggy syrup).
- Skim off any foam that has formed, and it is ready for making into granita.
- Pour half the cooled syrup into some shallow pans such as a Pyrex cake or casserole dish to about an inch (2.5 cm) depth and place in the freezer. With a fork stir the mix every 15 minutes or so and you will see the small shards of ice begin to develop. Dependent on your freezer this may take up to three hours or more.
- While you are making the ice, set some seasonal berries to macerate in another bowl maybe with a splash of pale rum, Pimm’s or even white wine.
- Make some hung yogurt by using a cheese-cloth lined strainer to pull of the excess liquid and then sweeten with a very small amount of maple syrup.
- For presentation, pull out the martini glasses and scoop some berries into the bottom. Fill with granita and top with yogurt. To decorate wash and zest a lime to sprinkle over the top.
I like to pour a bit of this rhubarb syrup in the bottom of a high-ball glass and pour in sparkling water. Add ice and a wedge of lime for a refreshing drink!
An inexpensive purchase is flat-bottomed Oriental spoons. If you entertain a lot, get a couple of dozen as they are very useful for “spoon food” at a party with Joanna’s rhubarb granita – a refreshing sweet mouthful – or bearing savoury nibbles such as a scoop of lemon risotto topped with a tiny piece of crab or shrimp.
When I worked in a spa we used to drain non-fat yoghurt daily to thicken it, however it is easier these days just to buy Greek-style yoghurt.