Nothing speaks “summer” to me like the arrival of the first strawberries—juicy enough to burst in your fingers, staining your lips, chin, shirt and knees, if you’re wearing shorts. And because it’s around this same time that I start worrying that I haven’t yet eaten my fill of tart, springy rhubarb, that I know I have to make my favorite pie.
Since last night was a reading night (in Boston, away from my family, at the Levi’s store on Newbury Street), this morning being warm and sunny all I wanted to do was get to the beach. As the day started to warm up, I corralled Master M. and Hopper into the car, leaving Dan at home to go for a run and apply for jobs. We took off for our first summer’s outing at Mackworth Island, a small state park studded with rocky beaches in Casco Bay. Last summer we began every day here with a walk and a swim—it was the perfect start to even a heinous day. And so I knew it would truly be summer when we got there. Soon, we were jogging up the hill and into the woods, the lily of the valley dense and emerald green on the sides of the path, the water sparklingly filled with cormorants, black ducks and gulls. By the time we got to the beach where we normally stop for a dip, Hopper was barely able to contain himself. The water, to my hand, was warm enough to swim and I was bothered that I’d been too conservative to wear my suit. Oh well, instead two lovely children and their mother shared their beach toys and Master M. and I built a river with them and played waterworks.
On the way home, knowing I had this pie on the horizon for my afternoon, I decided to stop at our local, The Rosemont, to see what they had fresh. I had barely even hoped for strawberries—thinking that might be a greedy, silly desire this early. But there, gleaming like rubies in little wooden crates, they sat and Master M. and I picked up two pints.
Home again we washed and halved them, tossed them in a bowl with about 1/3 as much chopped rhubarb and added a squeeze of half a lime, a sprinkle of salt, enough sugar to modestly coat the fruit and a pat of butter.(Now, I’ve recently been diagnosed with a rare allergy which became, in my case, an illness—more on that later. This condition, though, makes me allergic to spices and herbs. This puts me in, what I like to call, Foodie Exile. But if I weren’t in said Foodie Exile, I would grate a smidgen of dried nutmeg into my pie and sprinkle a tiny flurry of cinnamon and to make it perfect, I’d add the grainy insides of one vanilla bean—or two teaspoons of the extract. But since I couldn’t do that today and still eat this pie, I’ve left those out).
our crimson fruit went, and Master M. poked the holes with a fork. I spread a little milk over the crust and popped it into the oven.
It was just then that Dan asked me if I’d put the freezer section of our Cusinart ice cream maker in the freezer. I had not! Oh dear! This machine was a gift from Dan and Master M. for my birthday last summer and is, truly, one of the best gifts I ever received—you can make ice cream on a moment’s notice! (But only if you’ve kept the cold part in the freezer!)
Dan filled it with ice and put it in the very back while I worried.
Later, after a dinner of steak on the grill and my current salad fetish (small broccoli florets, thinly sliced Vidalia onion, avocado and tender bibb lettuces, dressed with a little truffle oil, some sunflower oil, salt, lemon and rice vinegar), Master M. and I mixed up the lemon/lime ice cream (I use yogurt and milk, because I like the tang of yogurt and the body it gives ice cream.)
One and a half cups whole milk yogurt with cream
1/2 cup whole milk
½ cup sugar
juice from ½ lime and ½ lemon
zest from ½ lemon and 1 and ½ limes.
Add to ice cream maker and …delicious! (Now, if I could add spices, I’d throw in some cardamom…sigh! )
Unfortunately our ice cream never quite hardened—it was soft serve that quickly melted on the warm pie. So, we’ll have to try that part again tomorrow (too bad we have to have ice cream two days in a row!) But the flavors, together, were a little slice of summer.
Happy June! Caitlin.
PS: Photos by my hubby, Deputy Dan (www.danieledavis.co)