Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rhubarb-Strawberry Sheet Pie With Crumble Topping

 I don't mind rolling out two crusts for two pies not requiring a top crust, but I really dislike rolling out four crusts for two pies.  Double the work and you still only get two pies.  So over the years, I've come up with sheet pies.  Simply take a double-crust pie dough and roll that out onto a cookie sheet.  Push the sides of the dough up the sides, flute, fill with any kind of fruit, sprinkle with a crumble top, et voila!

I have a few old rectangular cookie pans with raised sides, which I found in a resale shop many years ago.  They measure 12" x 17 3/4".   Aluminum disposable sheets found in the grocery store will work, however, the aluminum  will not brown the bottom of the crust as nicely as a dark pan.  Secondly, those pans are not stable.  They can easily flex if not supported well while you handle them.  So if that's the route you go - be very careful with them. 

The nice thing too about making sheet pies is how many people can eat from a single sheet for very little cost.  A round pie may feed 6 - 8 people depending on slice widths and pie dish size.  A sheet pie instantly serves a dozen right off using the same amount of fruit as for a single round pie.  For this rhubarb-strawberry version, I've added a crumble topping of the sort commonly used for fruit crisps.  There is less sugar than usual, to allow the tartness of the rhubarb and flavour of the strawberry to sing.   If you want more sweetness - go ahead and add a bit more sugar to both the filling and the topping.  However, a drizzle of maple or agave syrup would easily provide a bit more sweet if desired.   
I pulled six stalks of rhubarb.  Rhubarb is pulled, not cut.  Simply reach down as close to the stem bottom as possible and pull.  It should come out cleanly.  Discard the leaves as they are toxic.  This is ruby red rhubarb - I don't know the variety name but it is not the more commonly found green variety.  These were crowns I dug up from my mother's farm garden.  The stalks are exactly as you see - a gorgeous red exterior and they have neither a raw/bitter taste or extreme sourness like darker green/red rhubarbs can.  With the green variety, I would add an extra 1/2 cup white sugar to the filling.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Sheet Pie with Crumble Topping
  • 5 cups cut-up red rhubarb - (6 stalks)
  • 1 1/2 cup cut-up strawberries
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

Crumble Topping
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup large flake oatmeal
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • pinch of sea-salt

Pie Dough for a 9-inch double-crust pie or use mine below.
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt - I use sea-salt
  • 2/3 cup lard (slightly rounded)
  • 7 Tbsp. cold water.

Make your pie crust.  Form it into a log approximately the length of your sheet and roll that out directly onto the sheet with a floured roller.  Roll it out from the middle toward the edges.  Use your fingers to push the dough up the pan sides.  Flute and set aside.
Make the crumble topping.  Measure flour, sugar, salt and oatmeal together.  Measure and cut in the butter.  All this can be done with a blade-fitted food processor.  Aside from my dislike of  rolling out pie crusts, I also dislike cleaning the food processor and all its gadgets.  So I use a pastry cutter.  If I was still home-schooling with a houseful of little ones, I'd go back to the food processor.  Set the crumble aside.
Cut lengthwise the stalks which are wider.  Chop the stalks into medium size dice.  Cut up some strawberries.  The amount of fruit is a bit flexible.  Anywhere from four to six cups of fruit will work.  I used more rhubarb to strawberries.  I could have used all rhubarb.  The total amount of fruit is approximately five cups rhubarb plus the one cup of strawberries.  Don't get too hung up here.  It really is quite flexible.  I actually added the strawberries last minute.

Beat the eggs with the sugar.  Add the flour and butter.  Beat in.  Mix this into the fruit.  Spread the rhubarb mix onto the pastry.  There will be a fair bit of  liquid from the eggs and sugar mixture, but that will set up in the baking.

Top with the crumble.   Bake in preheated 375F oven x 40 - 45 minutes.  The topping will be golden and the pastry will have slightly pulled away from the pan sides.   Enjoy!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Queen Victoria's Birthday and Victorians I Have Known

Here in Canada, we are in the middle of the Victorian Day Weekend or the May 24th Weekend or the The Queen's Birthday or, in more recent years, the 2-4 Weekend, which is as the name suggests - a case of beer.  It is the unofficial start to summer.  Canadians have earned an early start to summer this year.  But not by much.   Buff texted last week saying he was frostbit one day and sunburnt the next.  As the saying goes hereabouts, "Wait 20 minutes and the weather will change."  The lilacs have finally burst open and with their blowsy lavenders and overpowering scent I am always brought back to Victorians I have known.      

Our family attended a small country church.  Lilacs barely held in by a low, white, board fence and lane-way tippled along the church's south side.  A cow pasture and identical lane and fence buffered the north side.  When the wind was in the south we got lilacs.  When the wind was in the north it was cow.  Old Mrs. Norman, who always wore the same black pork-pie hat but with a changing nosegay of flowers, sat on the north side and two pews from the front.  She always wore a black cape like thing or sweater, white high-neck blouse with gold and black pin, and dark skirt down to her shoes.  The shoes were black oxfords with a sensible smallish stacked heel.  I know this because from the vantage point of my mother's lap, I could see her feet when she sat.  Her sons sat with and around her with their families.  The men always smelled of cow.  Mrs. Norman apparently couldn't hear well so the deacons installed into the pew where she sat, some sort of hearing aid device of which I never saw her use.     

Our family sat two pews from the front on the lilac side, behind the organist.   The organist swayed and bowed and bent with her hymn-playing just like the lilacs outside the open window danced and swished in the spring air.   When not observing Mrs. Norman, I was kept curious by the bulging ridges rippling across the organist's back.  As she moved to the music so did the bulges.  They were right above the brassiere line and again at the waistline.  Women said "brassiere" back then, not bra.   Of course I didn't know about brassieres and the organist apparently had long ago gone corset-less. Corsets were something however, I did know about, having found a trunk of my grandmother's old clothing, up in the attic. 

Descending the stairs, I shouted,  "Mom.  What's this?"  My mother busy in the kitchen turned around and said,  "Good.  Grief.  Decadent.  What are you doing?"  Her cheeks flushed and she made some quick low "tt, tt" sounds and said, "Take that old thing off." 
"What is it Mom!?"  I twirled around tangling up a wedding veil while holding the corset around my middle." 
"Take that thing off!"   "Off" and a following word, "bulging" were muttered disgusted and in a low register as though she were afraid someone might wander in and see this spectacle in her kitchen.  Or that I, a six-year old didn't know any better or that she was unexpectedly faced with telling me all about  corsets at such a young age.  "It keeps you from bulging.  But all women did was ruin their livers and spleens and make their back-ends look big."  By this time she was whispering and now when I think about it, sounded very much like Napoleon Dynamite.

This was quite a lot for a six year-old to digest back in 1960-something.  I wasn't sure what bulging meant, and liver and spleen sounded repulsive.  I marched back upstairs and put the corset and veil back into the bonnet-top, but not before taking a good look again at the label boldly affixed to the lid interior - a woman wearing nothing more than a corset and bloomers, black button-top shoes and ribbon in her upswept hair.   

Old Mrs. Norman sat slightly bent over, her face caressed with wrinkles not deep or ragged.  Her soft white hair was pulled back into a swept up roll.  At the back of her head, little curls peeked out beneath the pork-pie's brim.  Genuine granny glasses framed her watery blue eyes.  I don't ever recall that she once looked at the preacher.  Instead, head downward, she held her bible on her lap, gently tapping or lightly running a translucent left hand up and down the open page.  Her small rectangle of a purse with left glove resting on its top sat on the pew to her left.  She held a white handkerchief in her gloved right hand.  And on occasion when the wind shifted, she would raise the handkerchief to her face.    

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fresh Tomato Storage


These were all on the same vine, but the tomato on the left somehow wound up in the refrigerator.  As you can see, refrigeration produces a wrinkled up tomato beginning to decay at the stem end. 

The last while has been busy, busy with The Baby Violinists, my getting to utilize The Canadian Health Care System (Bow Down and Kiss the Earth), Mother's Day and general catching up.  Yesterday, Decadent Housewife got to weed her big old messy garden while wearing a winter coat.  Today I need a fan.  When I came in to make lunch, I found that sorry tomato and thought the wolves could use a reminder on what not to do to a fresh tomato.   Keep tomatoes at room temperature and they will last longer.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day

Thank you God for mothers who care for little people like me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Basic Omelet for Fun

Last week Fun popped by to drop something off and pick something up, and this is what I cooked him.  Fun said he was in a hurry, but in the time he spent running in and out, and back in and saying he couldn't stay, I'd cooked this thing for him and he was out the door with my plate and a good, quick lunch.

Making an omelet is not hard.  I taught myself how before google, at age fourteen and with an uncooperative mother.  I had just returned from England surviving 1970's English food by patronizing a little restaurant, "The Golden Egg", on Oxford Street in London.

My mother never made omelet and bemused by my attempts said, "It's just scrambled eggs.  Scramble your eggs and never mind the fuss."  She was never one to hang out much in the kitchen, preferring to knit.  So like a good fourteen year-old, I countered,  "Omelet has kept me alive ten days.  I'm going to figure out how to make one.  Besides, how hard can it be?"  Infinitely easier and faster than uploading pictures to Blogger has become.  How to make a basic omelet is a simple, practical skill providing a quick meal suitable to any hour of the day. 

Basic Omelet
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup of milk or cream - frankly, this is the first time I've actually measured the milk - just put in a glug or two
  • salt - pinch to taste - I use sea-salt
  • pepper - pinch to taste
  • turmeric - a pinch
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cooked ham or sausage or bacon - again, never actually measured this before
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
Prepare the fillings first.  Chop up the ham.  Grate the cheese.  Chop the spinach if you want to put that in.  Get it all ready to go, because the omelet cooks fast.

Crack three eggs into a measuring cup.  Add the milk, salt, pepper, turmeric and whisk together until just foamy.  A note about the turmeric - not necessary, but I use it, with it's companion pepper, in as many savoury dishes as possible.  Pour the mix into a non-stick 8-inch frying pan heated between high and medium.

The eggs will begin to cook immediately.  Pick up the pan and gently swirl it a bit.  Begin to slide the spatula beneath the omelet outer edge.  Lift that portion of the omelet allowing liquid egg from the top to run beneath and cook.  Work fast moving all around the pan edge doing this.  In the photo, I've already made one pass around the edge and am doing a bit more lifting allowing any runny egg to slide between pan and omelet.  This will all happen very fast - seconds.


 The top will be still wet looking but for the most part, not runny.  Now quickly add the fillings.

Slide the spatula under one half of the omelet and flip it over onto itself.

You will notice the edge is not perfect, as I got hung up taking photos and the cooking got a little ahead of me.  But there you go - easy breakfast, lunch, brunch or supper.