If there can be no clearer indication that this will be the Summer of Pie at the Smitten Kitchen — as if a 6-week onslaught of galette after pie smackdowns after savory tart built on a platform of tartlets crusted bettys and free-form pretties did not already lead us to that conclusion — my pastry blender broke this week after putting in five very good years. First, one side of it became unglued from the handle and because I am both stubborn and cheap, I’d just hold it in with my thumb while I cut butter into flour. But then the other side came unglued and I ran out of thumbs. So RIP little pastry blender, and Amazon, hurry and bring that new one along, okay?*
Do you have a favorite pie? I always think of pies falling in two categories, the prom queens, the blue ribbon prize winners, the ones that the president can’t keep out of his thoughts, and the rest of them. In the latter category there are the soggy bottoms, the overly-gelled fillings, the mortarboard crusts, the treacly sweet and those flawlessly latticed, magazine-ready specimen that turn out to have [insert your least favorite pie filling here] under their pretty lids.
I know what you’re thinking, “Really, Deb? Tarts again?” And I realize that it might seem that I’m in a tart rut, what with those rustic rhubarb tarts and the distinctly tart-looking strawberry brown butter bettys and now these strawberry ricotta tarts. But you see, they’re all very different animals parading under the guise of tart-dom and really — because I am allowed to choose favorites, did you know that? — these are the best ones yet.
Me and strawberries are going through the wringer this week. It started with a large, plank-like shortcake with cream cheese, sour cream and a buttered center. It was a dud, an all-caps level DUD. I should have known better than to try a recipe from a dubious source, and also to mess with a perfect thing. Next came a strawberry-striped tweak on my favorite crumb cake, except it didn’t really stripe and when released from the pan, stood briefly on the counter, sighed then slumped wobbily to the side. Filed under: delicious dud hanging out in the freezer, waiting for the next barbecue invitation. Third came a [we’ll talk about it later] which I was attempting for the [that too] and it is all sorts of magically tasty if you can look back the large crater in the middle, as if strawberry filling had recently erupted from within it. Filed under: another delicious disaster and lordy, my freezer is getting full. Recipe four was tasty, but I’m debating whether it’s worth burdening your time to discuss; I will ponder this over my next serving but recipe five, recipe five is the real reason we’re here today.
I hadn’t intended to audition any new rhubarb recipes this year. Between last year’s cobbler and previous seasons’ filled crumb coffee cake, strawberry rhubarb crumble, strawberry rhubarb pie, loaf cake and even compote, I was pretty sure I had the rhubarb terrain well-covered. But then I walked through the Union Square Greenmarket two weeks ago with Adam and we were both lured in by the bundled stalks. Because they’re shiny and pretty and pearly and pink and I cannot speak for Adam but I am incapable of resisting shiny pretty pearly pink things, nor do I wish to.
I never had a Pop-Tart until college. I realize that for some people this may cause a shocked reaction on par with my husband’s the time I told him I’ve never watched Goonies before (or Jacob’s, upon discovering the internet). Obviously I grew up under a rock, right? Thus, given my proximity to concrete-like materials you’d think I have been better prepared for the texture of the one I purchased from the vending machine in the basement of my freshman dorm (not at 4 a.m. or anything, either, nope, not this angel!). But I was not. It was like particle board, but even particle board has a fresher aroma. It took two hands to break off a piece. I choked down my first bite, then chugged some water, convinced bits were stuck in my throat. Don’t you hate that?
From what I read, those of you on the opposite side of the country are reveling in the season’s first artichokes, asparagus and favas. You’re gushing over rhubarb and your new favorite way to cook it. You’re rejoicing over how good in-season strawberries taste when you’ve been deprived of them for the better part of a year.