Lately I've had a yen for the sweet-tart flavor combo of strawberries and rhubarb. I don't think I've had any in more than 20 years, since no one in my extended family likes rhubarb. (But then, they don't like liver, either. How can you savor pâté de foie gras, if you don't like liver??)

And of course both strawberries and rhubarb are plentiful in the supermarket and even farmers' markets right now. My sister challenged me to try cooking them myself (even though she had no interest in the results) so finally I determined to try it.

Mind you, I don't do a lot of baking, especially pies, now that I'm living alone. My late husband loved to make strawberry pie himself, but for him this just consisted of fresh strawberries with a commercial glaze poured over them in a pie shell. Not hard work.

I bought two pints of California strawberries (the local ones came and went so quickly I couldn't find them anymore). Also, the equivalent of two cups (about a pound) of rhubarb, already trimmed. Since they looked so yummy I also bought deep red Bing cherries earlier in the week and had about one cup of those left.

For a crust, I had to go through my baking cookbooks. I just don't make my own pie crust - it's easier to buy the ready-made that you unroll into the pan. But I thought, "what the heck - In for a penny, in for a pound!" (as my Grandma Jones used to say.)

In the Fanny Farmer Baking Cookbook, I found a recipe for a Sour Cream pie crust. I just happened to have less than a cup of fat-free sour cream on hand (excellent on berries instead of whipped cream). The recipe also called for butter instead of lard or vegetable shortening, which sealed the deal.

Making the Crust

Basically the recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 tsp salt (less if you're using salted butter), and 1 tablespoon milk plus a few drops extra if needed. Combine the flour, salt and butter with two forks, your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a food processor. Add the sour cream and mix with a fork. Add the tablespoon of milk, and form into a ball with your hands. If too crumbly add a few drops more milk until it can be handled without falling apart.

Form into a disk, flour your surface and rolling pin, and roll out the dough to a circle large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tart or pie pan. Place into the pan and set aside.

I think in hindsight I'd have used a regular pie pan, since it would have had a flatter bottom and the pie would be easier to serve. Also, I could have baked it first to keep it from getting soggy with the berries. Hindsight is not helpful at the time, however.

Strawberry-Cherry-Rhubarb Filling

So here's how I made the filling:

2 cups fresh rhubarb
1 cup fresh Bing cherries (optional)
2 cups fresh strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cornstarch

Clean, pit, hull and chop the fruit into 1/2 inch pieces (cherries in half, large strawberries in quarters). Place in a large bowl. Add all of the rest of the ingredients, and toss the fruit to coat with the mixture. You can also add a dash of nutmeg, ginger, and/or ground cloves if you wish.

Pour the fruit into the pie shell, and spread to the sides. Make sure any liquid in the bowl is added to the pie.

Bake it at 425 degrees, for 30 minutes or until the edges of the crust are golden brown. Cool for about 1/2 hour before serving - add whipped cream, ice cream on the side, or eat plain.

Eating this all by myself leaves me with no regrets, whatsoever.
 


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