I remember an Easter many, many years ago. One which felt unnaturally warm. Everything was thawing, and there was a small stream running down the hill, past the steps off our porch. I sat outside in the warmth and brightness, watching the water scurry by. I must have been wearing some sort of Easter finery, since no where in my memory bank do I see myself actually getting into the rivulets, as I am sure I was tempted to do. But the sun was out and I along with it, jacket-less, and it was Easter morning. It was a good day.
It was also an Easter that, climatically, hasn't been repeated very often around here. Usually the snow is gone by now (but not always), and we're lucky if we can start thinking about packing away our winter coats. This year, however, has been different. Spring arrived in Maine about a month ago, chasing away a winter that barely had time to get a firm grip on us. Seriously, as I raked the yard of debris several weeks ago, I realized that the motions felt so familiar because I had just done the same thing not three months earlier.
Now, global warming or not, it's hard to complain too much when your yard is awash in flowers and green shoots, the birds are singing mating songs out your kitchen window, and the kids can be occupied for hours at a time digging in the mud. It's also nice to feel like you're in step with the rest of the country for once. Everywhere you look, people are getting excited about prepping the gardens, eating the first of the new produce to hit the markets, and dining al fresco, and it feels completely appropriate to join in the fun.
In that spirit, we planned a very bright, Spring-like menu for our Easter weekend with my family. To give you a brief run-down: eggs, fruit salad, new potatoes, asparagus with beurre blanc, pork tenderloin, baby mesclun mix, and strawberry-rhubarb pie all graced our table. It felt so good to get away from the heavy, starchy foods of winter!
We spent two very full days enjoying the outdoors as much as possible, kite-flying, blowing bubbles, and visiting a friend's new lambs, and returned home exhausted but happy. And full of chocolate. (The Easter Bunny has always been kind enough to leave plenty for the kids to share with the grown-ups.) The gorgeous weather got us all geared up to get our vegetable garden planted, and do some decorative landscaping as well, so we'll probably be hitting the garden stores soon. Until then, we'll be crossing our fingers that we don't get hit with a notoriously-Maine mid-April snowstorm . . .
Gluten-Free Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
makes one 9-inch pie
This is a gloriously vibrant, tart pie. It's just the thing to clear your palate of Winter's thick coating. For me, the tartness is perfect, not puckery-tart but still front-and-center. If you're hesitant to make it because of that, just increase the brown sugar in the filling by another 1/3 cup.
For the crust:
1 single-crust recipe of gluten-free pie crust, rolled out, pressed into a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate, wrapped in plastic wrap, and chilled. (In the interest of saving time, I blind-baked my crust the day before I assembled the pie. In the end, it didn't save much time, but did result in an over-baked crust. I wouldn't recommend it.)
For the filling:
4 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (I used frozen, which I had thawed overnight)
1 quart whole, hulled strawberries (again, mine were frozen and thawed overnight)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 Tbsp cornstarch, depending on how juicy your fruit is
2/3-3/4 cup light brown sugar, or to taste
zest of one orange/tangerine
juice of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
For the topping: inspired by Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of Nigella Lawson's topping
1 1/3 cups Tara's gf pastry flour mix (at the end of this post)
1/2+ tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1/4# (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
Make the filling:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together all filling ingredients in a Dutch oven or other large, oven-proof pot. Cover, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the fruit is broken down and the juices are nice and thick. Taste and adjust the sugar, if necessary. Chill until ready to assemble pie.
Make the topping:
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, sugars, and lemon zest. Add the melted butter and stir until the mixture is good and clumpy. Chill until ready to assemble pie.
Make the pie:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove all pie components from the refrigerator. Spoon the filling into the unbaked crust, spreading it around to smooth and level it. (At this point, you can brush the edges of the crust with an egg wash, if you prefer your crust to have some sheen. Your call.) Crumble the topping in an even layer over the filling. Place pie on a parchment-lined sheet pan (to catch any wayward juices) and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until crust and topping are golden brown. Cool on a rack. Tastes great served with vanilla bean ice cream.
*Two points if you know that "literary" reference!
Posted by Tara Barker at 12:29 AM