Strawberry Pie

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A while back I posted on Avocado Pie, a recipe given to me by a friend during my college years in the 70’s. He was one of three male classical musicians who shared a beautiful home in Santa Barbara, California.

I moved away from, S.B. in 1978, but retrospectively, I know one of them had the AIDS virus. It saddens me to think back on all of the beautiful and gifted gay men I’d known who most likely died from the horrid disease.

In this particular house there was also a young woman renter who was working on her PhD in Russian Literature. And oh, she was brilliant. I could talk to her for hours, soaking up her insane intelligence, all while listening to Beethoven’s Pathetique in the background…

It’s so sad that in my life I’ve moved so often, and maybe out of self-preservation, I’ve not been good at staying in touch. I so wish I could know where she is and what she became, because I know she’s somebody really special. But the reason I bring her up from this time in my life, is that we actually shared a joy of cooking. Or, maybe I should say I had a joy of eating, because I hadn’t started cooking seriously yet.

And it is from this girlfriend that I got her hand-written recipe for strawberry pie. (Isn’t it funny that some brilliant people have the worst handwriting?!)


The crust is made with saltines. I remember being a bit skeptical, since I was already a food snob at 20; my only familiarization with saltines was that they were for sick people. But once I tasted the pie, I knew it was a keeper.


Strawberry Pie with Walnut-Saltine Crust

Crust:
17 saltines, crushed
1 cup white sugar
Approximately 1 cup walnut halves, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla powder
3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a deep-dish pie pan. And I mean grease the hell out of it.

Place the crushed saltines in a medium bowl. Add the white sugar, chopped walnuts and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place the egg whites, and using an electric mixer, whip the whites until peaks form. Add the saltines, sugar, walnuts, and vanilla, and using a spatula, fold everything together.

Place the mixture in the pie pan, and spread around to shape into a crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes; crust should be firm.

Let the crust fully cool before continuing with the pie filling.

Filling:
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces whipping cream

Place the berries in a medium-sized bowl and toss with the sugar. Let them sit for 30 minutes.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Place the cream in the crust, overlapping the sides. I used a whipper, hoping the cream would look better. It didn’t.


“Plop” the strawberries on top and serve immediately.


What I forgot is how challenging it is to get a slice of pie intact onto a plate. What a mess.


Next time I might form the crust into a 10” disc, baked on greased parchment. Or maybe even cut out squares to serve as a “cookie” served with the strawberries and cream. Ideas?


The slightly sweetened strawberries plus the cream, plus the nutty meringue crust pieces – fabulous.

Maybe I should put this recipe in the “Why I Don’t Bake” category!

Strawberry Tiramisu

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Many years ago, my girlfriend Gabriella made a strawberry tiramisu, and I’ve never forgotten it. It was made in the same manner as a traditional tiramisu, but without the coffee element. Instead, it had layers of beautiful spring strawberries.

So I wanted to finally make this twist of the popular Italian dessert using traditional ingredients like Savoirdi biscuits and marscapone, plus strawberries. However, I pondered upon what liquid to use in which to dip the biscuits.

A million years ago, approximately, my husband and I went to a Food and Wine Tasting in Aspen, Colorado. It was the same week that O. J. Simpson “allegedly” killed two people. I remember the actual day that he was followed along highway 101 in the white Bronco because it was my younger daughter’s birthday – June 12th.

In any case, the festival itself was a bit crazy. I think they sold too many tickets! Being short, I was always being elbowed by tall men who’d obviously never tasted wine or food before. Even if I was in front of a vendor table, people were reaching past me, around me, and over me. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not much of a crowd lover, so it was a bit stressful and painful for me. The good parts were having Stephen Pyles sign my cookbook, even though I was accused of stealing it (I had already purchased the cookbook in Denver before heading to Aspen), seeing a demonstration with Patricia Wells, and then attending a demonstration with Julia Child. Even my husband really appreciated that.

So why am I bringing this all up? There was a new winery at the festival – Quady Winery. The representatives were serving small scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of Essencia, made from orange muscat grapes. It was fabulous. I personally think there’s a proper place for sweet and dessert wines, and these have since become award-winning wines.


There’s Electra as well, which is made from a black muscat grape. If you ever see them, give one a try. I actually have used both in making sangria, to replace the brandy element that’s too strong for me.

So back to the tiramisu. I thought an orange element, from the Essencia and from oranges themselves, along with the strawberries would create a perfectly delicious spring dessert! Here’s what I did.


Strawberry Tiramisu

16 ounces Marscapone, at room temperature
16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3 oranges, juice and zest used
Strawberries, picked over, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Essencia
1 – 7 ounce box Savoirdi biscuits (I only used half)
Pearl sugar, optional

Begin by placing the marcapone and yogurt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar.


Add the zest of three oranges, and beat again until well distributed.

Set aside the marscapone mixture, and begin with the berries. I had hoped to use my own garden strawberries in this dessert, but they’ve been attacked by some kind of creepy crawly.

Slice the strawberries into even slices; mine were approximately 1/4″ thick. Place in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, and the juice of 1/2 an orange.


Toss well and set aside.

Using a square baking dish 8″ in diameter, begin by placing a layer of half of the marscapone mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Using a spatula, spread smooth.
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Pour approximately 1 1/2 cups of Essencia into a flat baking dish. Add the juice of one orange and stir well. Taste the mixture. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey or agave syrup.

Place the biscuits in the wine mixture, then turn over. You don’t want them to fall apart, but you do want them softened. Work with only a few at a time.

Place them over the marscapone in the baking dish. Make them fit however you have to!
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Add half the strawberries, then cover with the remaining marscapone, and top it with the remaining strawberries. There is only one layer of the softened biscuits.
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Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Slice and serve. I had mine still chilled with an espresso for breakfast!

But of course it’s perfect for dessert, warmed to room temperature, and served with Essencia or another dessert wine.


I put a few sprinkles of pearl sugar on the top for fun! It adds a sweet crunch.


This recipe doesn’t touch the traditional version of tiramisu, see note below, but it’s still really fun and highlights the sweet spring strawberries!


note: Traditional Italian tiramisu is typically made with a sabayon. My version is simpler, but not better. The sabayon makes the marscapone layer much lighter. Also, lady fingers and savoirdi biscuits have a similar shape, but that’s all they have in common. Lady fingers are light and soft, while savoirdi biscuits are hard and crisp. They should not be confused.