"Di, Denise, Sarah, whoever you are, go into the icebox and get the carrots out of the vegetable crisper," my grandmother said as she poured vegetable broth into a large stock pot on the stove.
It was a given; Granny would run through the names of every member of the family before she'd get to your name. It made life interesting.
"You mean the refrigerator?" I smirked like only a twelve year old can. I always thought it was odd my grandmother called the fridge an ice box. Little did I know that's what it was called when she was my age. Granny shot me a look that said "you know what I mean." I laughed, opened the fridge, and peered inside the vegetable crisper. I shoved aside a head of lettuce and found two of the most dreadful, pitiful carrots I'd ever seen.
"Um, Gran, these carrots look bad," I said scrunching my nose.
She was busy chopping cabbage. "We're just making soup, dear. How bad?"
"Ummm, like, really bad. Look." I picked up one of the carrots and it bent over like it was forming the letter "C".
"Oh, that's fine. Bring it over here, Denise."
"I'm Erin," I sighed rolling my eyes.
"Yes, you are Erin. Here, we'll chop it up and put in the soup. No one will ever know," she said confidently.
"GRANNY! We can't put that in the soup!"
She grabbed some spices from the cabinet and said over her shoulder, "Sure we can. Trust your grandmother. We're giving these carrots a new life. They'll be happy in the soup, and everyone will love it. No one will know what they looked like. Trust me."
I reluctantly peeled and chopped the carrots, dropped them into the stock pot where they joined heaven knows what else my grandmother put in there. In a few hours the soup was ready. Within that time, I had told the tale of the carrot to everyone I could find. When we sat down to eat the soup, all I could think about was the carrot bending over before my eyes. But I still ate it, and I think my grandmother was right. The carrot had found new life in the soup and it tasted quite good.
One thing I learned from grandmother about cooking is to throw the rules out the window. I prefer exact measurements; my grandmother goes by feel. Granny rarely follows the rules. That's one of the things I love about her. My grandmother is also an incredible gardener. When we were younger, she and Pop had six acres in Howard County. We called it "The Farm." In the spring she grew strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb. In summer she grew grapes, blackberries, tomatoes, peppers, and lots of other vegetables. In fall, we'd grab a basket and pick apples right off the trees. I was always fascinated by the rhubarb and asparagus because we never had it. My mom didn't like them, so we never had it. The first time I had asparagus, I bought it from the grocery store and sauteed it in a pan with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon like I had seen on the Food Network. I liked it and decided I would include it in my repertoire.
I had my first taste of rhubarb last year. My grandmother grew her traditional spring rhubarb. I went to the garden to pick it for her, but she decided she didn't want it. She told me to make something with it. I wanted to make a pie, but I decided to go with something I was more familiar with: a crisp. It turned out pretty good and I became a rhubarb fan.
This year, I decided to try rhubarb again. And I decided to make a pie. I'm not a pie person. I like pie, but making them scares me. Either the filling doesn't get cooked all the way or it's too runny. Pies are hard to control. I like to bake cookies and cakes because they are consistent. So, I purchased some fresh rhubarb along with fresh, local strawberries and put a call in to my grandmother last weekend. She told me what size pieces to cut the rhubarb, and she also told me the secret to a good rhubarb pie.
"Rhubarb's tart, so use just enough sugar to take the edge off the rhubarb. It's tart, but people who like rhubarb like it because it's tart." She suggested 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of sugar. I opted for 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons and it was perfect.
The pie was a success, so I decided to try a different combination this weekend. I found frozen rhubarb, frozen raspberries, and frozen dark, sweet cherries. I tossed them together with corn starch, vanilla, and sugar. The result was a delicious pie that my grandmother and grandfather both loved at our Memorial Day celebration this afternoon.
Yield: 8 generous slices
1 10oz bag frozen rhubarb
2 10oz bag frozen raspberries
1 10oz bag frozen cherries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbls corn starch
1 Tbls vanilla extract
1 Pillsbury "Just Unroll" Pie Crust, or your favorite pie dough recipe for 2 crusts
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
additional sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together the first 7 ingredients (rhubarb through vanilla extract) and set aside.
Unroll one pie crust, and use a rolling pin to stretch it out a bit more so it will leave a 1/2" - 1" overhang when placed in the bottom of a 9" deep dish pie plate. Once rolled out, line the deep dish pie plate with the dough.
Dump the frozen berry mixture into the lined pie plate.
Unroll the second crust, and use a rolling pin to stretch it out a bit more to cover the top. Feel free to make a lattice crust or use mini cookie cutters to punch out portions of the dough (like this). Lay the dough over the frozen berry mixture and crimp the edges to seal.
Beat the egg yolk with the tsp of water. Brush over the crust and sprinkle with sugar.
Place the pie in the pre-heated oven and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350, place a pie shield or foil over the crimped edges, and bake for 1 hour longer or until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown.
Let cool and enjoy!
[5/30/2010 | 0 comments ]