Archives for posts with tag: Fort Greene

I’m the first to admit I’m a little late to the strawberry rhubarb party this year. It’s not my fault! My day job has turned into a day-and-night job leaving little time to tend to matters of the kitchen. Take heart, yesterday morning I woke up with my priorities straight. I ran (literally) to the Fort Greene farmer’s market (site of the fiddlehead fiasco a few weeks ago) to fetch strawberries so small and sweet they resembled raspberries and tasted like jam. And I was delighted to see the rhubarb still hanging around, weeks after I first saw it (and rushed by it) at the Union Square Greenmarket.

But what’s that I see? Cherries?! I haven’t even tasted my first bite of a strawberry-rhubarb crisp this season and already there are cherries to contend with? Maybe next week. Yesterday I was on a mission and would not get distracted, no matter how sweet the cherries looked.

I was after the classic strawberry rhubarb pie. A fool’s mission, you may think, given the tendency for strawberries to explode mid-baking, making for a runny mess for your crust to sop up. So call me a fool. I love this particular pie. I love it in June (I love June period). I love it with ice cream or without. I love it standing up in a Brooklyn kitchen late at night or in a backyard in Vermont. And most importantly, so does my grandmother, and I wanted her to have a big ole piece of it.

I thought about fussing of course. I picked up and smelled the herbs at the market, wondering at first how sage would go with these flavors, then thyme, then mint. And then wondered about balsamic vinegar and black pepper, before deciding to keep it simple. Well, mostly simple.

The only two additions I allowed were freshly grated ginger and lemon zest, just to spice things up a bit without going completely rogue. I love the combination of rhubarb and ginger, and that of strawberry and lemon. The proof was in the filling: when baked this pie was not too sweet, but lusciously fruity, jammy, June-y, tart, with just a hint of the lemon and ginger to elevate the senses.

And fear not—the pie crust took all of five, maybe eight, minutes to make, and no food processor or pulsing required. I’d been wanting to try Cook’s Illustrated recipe using vodka in place of the water. The theory is that vodka, in large part pure alcohol, provides the necessary liquid to bind the dough, then cleverly evaporates during baking to yield a flakier crust. I proceeded cautiously and used only 1/4 c of ice-cold vodka (left over in my freezer from New Year’s), mixed with 1/2 c water. And you know what, the crust was buttery and flaky and darn tasty.

Next week: cherries anyone? And good luck to Rafa at the French Open this morning, I would love to see him put an end to Djoki’s streak. Only two months til the US Open!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

For the crust:
2 1/2 c flour (I like 2 c all-purpose and 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter (16 tbsp), cut into small cubes
1/2 c cold water
1/4 c cold vodka

Combine the water and vodka, add an ice cube or two, and set aside. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work quickly (with a pastry blender, whisk, or your hands) to combine until pea-sized crumbs form. Add 1/2 c of the liquid and continue mixing. You can add the rest if and when you need it, which you probably will. Separate the dough into equal halves, flattening a bit and transferring to plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of an hour and up to one week.

For the filling:
1 1/4 lb rhubarb, cut into small pieces
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 c cane or white sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar
dash of salt
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 c corn starch
Optional: 1 egg yolk mixed with a little water for glaze

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare to roll out the dough by cleaning a large surface and flouring it. I like to roll out dough directly on a large piece of saran wrap. Roll half of the dough into a roughly 12- or 13-inch diameter. Carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie dish and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, salt, zest, lemon juice, ginger, and corn starch. Transfer the filling into the pie crust. Roll out the second half of the pie dough, this time to a slightly smaller diameter. Transfer over top of the filling, pressing around the sides to remove any gaps. Trim the ends of the pie and crimp the edges. Make decorative slits to let steam escape. Brush the top with the egg yolk mixture.

Place on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven, baking at 400 for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and let cool completely (if you can resist) before digging in.

Two Saturdays ago I was thwarted at my local farmer’s market in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I walked over at 9 am, canvas tote in hand, and headed to the one stand that is known to carry fiddleheads during their fleeting three-week run at the markets. “Just sold the last ones,” the farmer told me, not without a proud smile crossing his face. And then he pointed to the couple who scored the last fronds. They looked pleased with themselves.

He tried to get me to buy some stinging nettles instead, which are basically the opposite of fiddleheads—whereas fiddleheads are furled, introspective, and soft, nettles have tiny stingers pointing out from the leaves daring you to touch them, let alone eat them. Fiddleheads are coy, nettles defiant. I passed on the nettles (although I do quite like to eat them) and was reassured he’d have more fiddleheads the following week, and maybe, but not likely, the week after that.

I found myself in Union Square Friday after work and much to my delight, despite the late hour, one stand with a tiny batch of fiddleheads remained at the Greenmarket. Joy! I bought them up, leaving just enough for another customer, so as not to be that person the farmer points to and says, “Sorry, she got the last ones.”

Now what to do with these sleeping beauties? I like to just steam or sauté them, dip them in a little melted butter, or serve with fish and rice. But I had an idea. I passed one of those bakery stands at the market that sells hearty loaves of rye and cheddar scones, and noticed big, thick slices of focaccia. Aha! What about fiddlehead focaccia? After all, the first time I had fiddleheads they were served on bruschetta; focaccia wasn’t all that different. And the fiddleheads could roast up nicely on the dough, along with any other toppings I decided to add.

So I bought some Kalamata olives, rosemary, and shallots and set out to make the dough. This recipe requires a bit of time because you have to let the dough rise twice—the first time for at least an hour and a half, the second time for about forty-five minutes. So it’s a good thing to make on a lazy weekend when you can fiddle around in your kitchen, then go do something else for a while, then come back, then do it again. I was pleased with the results — turns out fiddleheads work well with the flavors of rosemary and olives. The bread is salty, crunchy, and let’s face it, rather pretty and springy, no?

Fiddlehead Focaccia

2 c warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 c flour (plus more for handling the dough) Note: I used 2 c all-purpose white flour and 2 c stone ground whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
Olive oil (about 1/4 c total)
1/4 to 1/3 lb fiddleheads, cleaned, ends trimmed
1/2 to 1 c olives, pitted
1 shallot, sliced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
black pepper

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 c warm water. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir gently with a fork. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. (You don’t need a stand mixer to make this recipe, just strong muscles if doing by hand.)

Add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture and set the mixer to a medium speed, using the dough hook attachment. Mix for about 10 minutes, until the dough starts to come together and almost forms a ball. Oil a separate, large bowl, and add the dough, formed into a ball with your hands, to this bowl. Turn it around in the bowl so it gets coated with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth towel and let it stand in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, knead it into another ball, and return it to the bowl. Let stand until it doubles again, about 45 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Grease a baking sheet with oil. Transfer the dough to the sheet and spread out with your fingers. Drizzle with olive oil. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes. Then add the fiddleheads, olives, shallots, rosemary, and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Push the ingredients into the dough, and make more indentations with your fingers throughout the dough.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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