Tag Archives: pie

Summer, strawberries, pie and ice cream (oh my)

You know what I love about summer? It’s not the endless days, the sun, the vegetables growing in my garden—though those are all wonderful things. No, what I love most about summer is the smell of it. It comes in my bedroom window in the morning, a round warmth that smells vaguely like hot concrete. It’s a city smell, but I’ll take it.

Summer heralds the beginning of berry season, and as if on cue, the first BC strawberries made their appearance this week. I picked up two flats of them at the Main Street farmers market, along with some scandalously red rhubarb, and ta-da! we have pie. And by we, I mean me. And all of my best friends who have suddenly crawled out of the woodwork, pleading for pieces of pie.

If I could somehow manage to stop eating strawberries (seriously now, my fingers and kitchen are stained irrevocably scarlet), I would make strawberry ice cream.

What’s that, you say? You’d like a recipe for strawberry ice cream?

Conveniently, you can find my recipe for egg-free strawberry ice cream in the Summer 2011 issue of Edible Vancouver. Furthermore, it runs alongside a recipe for kick-ass chocolate wafer cookies, and then, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can put the two together and make ice cream sandwiches. And, because I’m pedantic that way, I’d like to point out that said ice cream sandwiches appear on the cover of said magazine. You can pick up a copy at various points in Vancouver, but if the magazine goblins have stolen them all away—or you’re not in Vancouver—here’s the electronic edition.

Edible Vancouver Summer 2011

Photo and styling by Bambi Edlund

Salt Spring Island weekend mini-vacation

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of getting older, or the fact that I moved from a house into a high-rise apartment building, or the fact that there are two construction sites across the street from me, but I’ve been finding the city tiresome. Don’t get me wrong. I love Vancouver, I love my neighbourhood (and its impressive 95% score on a walkability index) and I love not having a car.

View from Salt Spring Island getaway house

This is an arbutus tree. I never knew they were red. Or so pretty.

But still, it’s nice to have friends who invite you to islands for long weekend mini-vacations. Friends with parents with houses on Salt Spring Island. You know, friends with parents with houses on Salt Spring Island with views like this from the back porch.

And speaking of said porch, candelit dinners with friends are also wonderful. One night it was barbecued ribs, another night handmade pizza.

And piiiiiie. One strawberry-rhubarb, one blueberry. I did not, however, bake them in this darling little wood stove—I used a convection oven. But they sure look pretty on top of it, so let’s just pretend. Let’s also pretend that this picture isn’t blurry. And I’ll pretend that I hadn’t been drinking wine in the sun all afternoon.

Pie!

Pie! One strawberry-rhubarb, one blueberry. Both delicious.

Salt Spring Island, for the uninitiated, is a mecca of educated hippie artistic fantasticness. Where nary a multi-national chain can be found, and where there are no fewer than three soap companies. (These are clean hippies, understand.) And at last weekend’s Saturday market, it seemed that the entire island could be found at the city square.

And what a market it was. Gorgeous pottery, hand-knit hats, sock monkeys, carnival masks, tie-dyed yoga pants, hula hoops: it was all there. And, of course, lots of artisan food vendors and stunningly fresh produce. The farmers market aisle was fragrant with the scent of basil, and everywhere you looked there was an heirloom tomato more perfect than the last. And stripey Portuguese garlic, all coy in its basket.

Portuguese garlic at Salt Spring Island market

Stripey!

I discovered that Foxglove Farm, with its farm dinners, accommodation and education programs, has the best raspberries that I’ve tasted in years. I ogled the selection of fresh goat cheeses from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company (almost too pretty too eat).

And yes, I found chocolate.

Salted caramels from Chocolate Beach

Caramels with Himalayan sea salt. Tasty.

Chocolate Beach is a teeny tiny chocolate company run by Joanne and Rob Burns. She’s the chocolatier, formerly goat cheese maker, formerly something else. She’s now retired and making chocolates with certified fair trade chocolate from Cocoa Camino. Her sea salt caramel, a pleasantly chewy caramel dipped in chocolate and topped with pink Himalayan sea salt, was lovely. Rob manned the other side of the booth with an impressive display of fudge.

While I didn’t try this tarte au chocolat, it’s awfully pretty. And I’m a sucker for a cursive chalk on a chalkboard. It helps that this table was run by a very friendly French couple who spoke like zees.

Tarte au chocolat

Cue accordion music and Audrey Tautou cameo appearance.

My sweet tooth also spied other treats: stacks of buttery shortbread from Bite Me! Gourmet Treats and honest-to-goodness cannoli from an Italian food stand.

And, because I clearly hadn’t had a decadent enough day, I had a pineapple-coconut popsicle from the Salt Spring Island Fruitsicle stand. Self-proclaimed “creators and purveyors of delicious, fruit based iced lollies,” these were the hit of the market. Popsicles that taste like real fruit. How novel.

All in all, a great weekend away.

Stacks of shortbread

Stacks of shortbread from Bite Me! Gourmet Treats

Cannoli

I love cannoli, but I can't get a good cannoli in Vancouver. These were good (but not like the stuff you can get in Montreal).

Chocolates from Chocolate Beach at Salt Spring Island market

An assortment of chocolates from Chocolate Beach

Candlelit dinner on Salt Spring Island

Life was made for candlelit dinners with good food, good wine and great company.

Sunset, glorious sunset from the porch.

And now I'm just being mean by posting this. But look! Stunning!

Strawberry rhubarb pie. Leaf lard crust. Divine.

Strawberry rhubarb pie with leaf lard crustThis post is totally not chocolate-related, but it’s officially summer (even the sun knows it, finally!) and the farmers market is full of goodies. Like strawberries and rhubarb. And pig fat.

I’ve spoken with the lovely Kate McDermott before about her wondrous pies. Kate makes The World’s Best Pie, as I discovered last summer. She swears by leaf lard, and I’ve been altogether too lazy to track down a source of it in Vancouver.

Leaf lard is the fat from around a pig’s kidneys, and is highly prized for its clean flavour and magically flaky pie properties. I finally found a source for it in Vancouver, and bought mine from Gelderman Farms at the Main Street farmers market. Give them a call or drop them an email, let them know how much you want, and they’ll have it for you at their next market date.

I bought three pounds of frozen leaf lard from them and rendered half of it in my crockpot. I used Cheeseslave’s handy how-to, and it worked like a charm. However, whereas most instructions call for the rendered lard to be strained into mason jars, I poured mine into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Once it solidified (overnight, in the fridge) it lifted out of the loaf pan easily. I now have a brick of white fat hanging out in the back of my fridge, wrapped in parchment and stored in a ziptop bag.

Word to the wise: while most instructions say that rendering fat produces a rather, erm, distinctive smell, I don’t think it’s unpleasant. However, it definitely smelled porky in my apartment for about six hours. I happened to be making peanut butter ice cream at the same time, and it got me thinking about peanut butter and bacon sandwiches…but that’s another post for another time.

Of course, all the fun of leaf lard is in making pie with it. I’ve worked with store-bought lard before and just find it off-putting. It’s strange-tasting, greasy and slick—and while it does produce a pretty flaky crust, there’s something missing.Strawberry rhubarb pie with leaf lard crust

So I made pie. And it is the best pie that I’ve made so far. I went a bit overboard with the sugar for the filling, but I’m so distracted at the exquisite flakiness of the crust, the crisp sound that it makes when you plunge your fork into it, and the delicate, buttery sweetness of it that I don’t even care about the filling.

Now that, my friends, is good pie. And I’m wholly convinced about the leaf lard thing.

What I ate this weekend

I swear, every time I visit Seattle, I love it more and more.

And this time was no exception.

It goes without saying that I ate copious amounts of chocolate this weekend. No, make that obscene amounts of chocolate. Chocolate bars, cocoa nibs, truffles, single-origin products, blended products, chocolates I loved, and chocolates I…didn’t.

But this post is not about chocolate. Forgive me. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the deliciousness that I ate this weekend.

I went for dinner at Steelhead Diner, which is a gem of a place in Pike Place Market. Platters of oysters on the half-shell, flash-fried geoduck, little battered smelt with hot mustard, mussels with chorizo, crab cakes with crazy giant pieces of whole crab leg…oh, I’m just getting started.

One standout was the caviar pie, a delicious slice of four colours of caviar on creamy mousse (creme fraiche? cream cheese?) on a bed of finely chopped red onions, hard-boiled eggs and capers.

The other one was the house cured beef bresaola, all smoky and rich, served with the season’s first Rainier cherries, goat’s cheese, tangy olive oil, and twisty-turny bread sticks.

As if that wasn’t enough, dessert was – quite literally – the world’s best pie, from the expert herself. I mean, I pride myself on my pie. I’ve been working on the crust recipe for years. But hey, I know when I’ve been beat. Crumbly, sweet, and infinitely delicious, this was The World’s Best Pie.

I also had breakfast at Tilikum Place Cafe. (Hrm, website maybe be broken? It’s not working for me.) Lovely pastries. Beautiful blueberry muffins, still-warm raspberry cake that was positively juicy, all of it washed down with a pot of insanely robust coffee. Whether you pick the house-made sausage, delectable baked beans, creamy baked eggs or the insanely cute Dutch baby, I think you’ll be happy and full.

Both meals were marked by great food, and more importantly, great company. As in, great company. You know who you are – thanks for the good times.

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine Street
Seattle, WA
206-625-0129
Steelhead Diner on Urbanspoon

Tilikum Place Cafe
407 Cedar Street
Seattle, WA 98121
206-282-4830
Tilikum Place Cafe on Urbanspoon

Jax Fish House

If you’ve been following Top Chef, you know that Hosea Rosenberg is the season 5 winner. His restaurant, Jax Fish House, is conveniently located in Boulder, where I spent a week post-conference. Jax offers a wicked happy hour from 4-6 pm that features $4 martinis, $3 tapas and $1 oysters, so I figured I’d take advantage of that.

The tapas were overwhelmingly…underwhelming. The polenta is nice and creamy and smothered in some kind of cream sauce, the house-cured (Atlantic) salmon is nice enough, and the braised lamb is passable. The tuna potstickers were rather disappointing, consisting of cold, under-seasoned tuna in crunchy, dried-out wonton wrappers.

Having said that, I can’t complain about $1 oysters. They come freshly shucked on a bed of shaved ice (bonus points for presentation), with horseradish, lemon and a shallot vinaigrette. The happy hour oyster rotates, so that day it was Apalochicola oysters from Florida.

And, I really can’t complain about the selection of infused vodkas, which includes strawberry, raspberry, coffee, horseradish, chili, and a few more. The fruity ones are nice in an adult lemonade, while the savoury ones are better suited to a Bloody Mary.

And the key lime pie is absolutely kick-ass. It’s creamy, perfectly smooth, and scandalously tart. The graham cracker crust tastes of butter, brown sugar and honey, and has just a hint of something crunchy. The contrast of creamy and crunchy, sweet and tart is delightful.

Too bad the happy hour tapas aren’t up to the same standards. I hope that the regular menu delivers something more worthy of a Top Chef.

Jax Fish House (Boulder)
928 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO
(303) 444-1811
Jax Fish House on Urbanspoon

Happy pi(e) day!

Happy pi(e) day, everyone! The anticipation almost killed me, but it’s finally here.

Last year’s pie was so delicious that I’m repeating it. It’s a chocolate cookie crust, sprinkled with toasted peanuts and caramelized bananas, covered with cream cheese peanut butter mousse, and topped with dark chocolate ganache.

Also in the works is a deep-dish, double-crust apple pie. Just because. It’s classic, it’s delicious, and who doesn’t love apple pie?

Happy eating!

Pi(e) day: 1 day to go!

One last tip for perfect pie: don’t fuss with it. When you’re incorporating the fat into flour, do it gently. Whether you’re using a pastry cutter or your hands (my preferred tools), you’re aiming for a sandy looking texture. There should be some pea-sized chunks, some smaller chunks, and some even smaller bits. The mixture should still be loose. Trust me, it’ll all come together in the end.

And after you’ve incorporated the cold water and made a beautiful dough, let it rest in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes. This cools the fats back down, relaxes the gluten you’ve developed, and makes the rolling process much easier.