22 September 2013

stoned love

I sometimes feel as though I never shut up about how awesome farmers markets are. How fresh, local fruits and vegetables are vastly superior to hot house perishables from the Giant or the Safeway (not that I don't love my grocery stores because I totally do. They're huge! Like ten times the size of all NYC grocery stores combined.) Other than the obvious perks of fresh markets - supporting local growers and farmers, contributing to the neighborhood and community, being green, healthy stuff, etc. - there's my favorite aspect of it which is seeing what's available right this very moment. Seasonal doesn't really exist in grocery stores because everything is forcibly grown in a greenhouse. But most real life fruits and veggies only grow for a very specific moment of the year that we call their season, that's why they're seasonal. Since I've started shopping mostly at local markets I've become much more familiar with those seasons and what grows when, but every once in awhile I'm still surprised or caught off guard, sometimes I just see some amazing pieces of fruit that are calling out to me, or a unique veggie that I've never really cooked with that is begging to be put in my reusable tote. I rarely go to the market with a list but I often leave with an empty wallet and always come up with something amazing in the delirious kitchen.

The other morning I was browsing around the Saturday Fells Point Farmers Market with my darling friend Amy, chatting about work and boys and reminiscing about how crazy long we've known each other, when I was struck by a vision of the BIGGEST peaches I have ever seen. Seriously, these things were the size of newborn baby heads, smelled amazing and felt perfectly ripe. Mmhmm, I felt up those peaches. Now, I've been considering a stone fruit pie for a couple of years now and I considered this my sign that now was the time to finally do it; I've actually had this post title saved as a draft without any text since last summer. The time had come, my brain wheels were spinning and I bought all of the fruit with giant pits that they had to offer, my bags bursting with monstrous peaches, juicy nectarines, tart purple plums, and super sweet golden plums, before heading off to a waterfront brunch with my gal pal. 

As soon as Amy's cab pulled away I got to work. I had recently picked up some ground cardamom (the second most expensive spice ever, by the bye,) for a recipe that I can't for the life of me recall at this moment but I will attempt to remember soon, and decided that the savory, gingery flavors would be amazing with the sweet and tart summery fruits. Why did I think this? Well, firstly I wasn't about to let some crazy expensive spice go unused and secondly, years ago I had a love affair with Ginger Peach tea and I've never really gotten over it. So with the addition of a fifth stone fruit (bet you didn't know almonds counted as one, didya?) I tossed in my sweetness staples, cinnamon and brown sugar to make a simple but layered, seasonal pie filling. All that was missing was the crust.

I've only made homemade pie crust a couple of times and, though it was a far cry from being the worst thing I've ever rolled out, it certainly wasn't one of my top recipes. But since I was already deep into pie making and movie watching, I was really resistant to the idea of walking all the way (maybe half a mile) to grocery store to buy the prepped pie crust that I frequently work with. That left me with the terrifying task of scratchin' it. But with my 30th birthday on the horizon, I decided that there was no time like the present to learn how to make that perfect pie crust. And you know what? Thanks to the Pioneer Woman, I did it!!! I don't have a pastry cutter but I managed to handle two knives like a pro and every step along the way to creating this shockingly simple kitchen essential, the contents of my bowl looked nearly identical to Ree's. The crust was perfectly flaky and melt-in-your-mouth amazing, even when pre-baked which I always do so that the bottom never gets too soggy from the filling. Flakey crust, flavorful filling, it was all so wonderful that I had to send most of it up to Daddy-o, the ultimate pie judge. Plain old peach pie is his absolute favorite so his opinion was really what mattered most. Though it wasn't as simple as the peach pie he would make for himself if he ever made himself a peach pie, he loved it. So, with Daddy-o's all-important approval, I present to you my End of Summer Spiced Five Stone Pie.

1 1/2 c Crisco
3 c flour
1 egg, beaten
5 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1. In a large bowl, cut together flour and Crisco using a pastry cutter (or two knives as I did) until the mix resembles course meal and all the flour is blended in. Add the egg, water, vinegar and salt and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.
2. Separate the dough into three equal balls and put in Ziploc bags. Slightly flatten each ball and freeze them until you're ready to use them. If you're using the crust right away, let it chill in the freezer for about 20 minutes. If you're using it at another time, pull it out about 15 minutes before you need it.
3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, starting the rolling pin at the center. A metal surface is preferable for this part so I use a cookie sheet since I don't have fancy metal countertops. 

perfect pie alongside farmers market finds

spiced five stone pie
4 c sliced peaches
2 c sliced plums
2 c sliced nectarines
2 c pitted golden plums
1/4 c ground almonds
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp ground cardamom
2/3 tsp roasted cinnamon
2/3 c white sugar
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, chopped
3 tbsp flour
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Line a deep dish pie pan with your perfect pie crust. In a large bowl, mix all fruits with flour, brown sugar, almond extract, cinnamon and cardamom. 
2. In a food processor, blend together chopped vanilla bean and white sugar to make vanilla sugar. Toss the vanilla sugar with the fruit. Pour into the pie pan. Sprinkle ground almond on top of the mix (you can also add a tsp or two of sliced butter if you want something extra decadent.) 
3. Top with the second pie crust however fancy you feel like doing it - I like an experimental lattice top. Bake on the middle rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. It would be super delicious with Steve's Bourbon Vanilla ice cream.

The transition to Autumn is my favorite time of year and this pie absolutely captures those cool, crisp mornings that lead into the still warm, sunny days. Sweet Summer fruits with warming Autumn spices in an amazingly lovely crust. Paired with a cup of tea and a good book, this made for the perfect breakfast and welcome to my all-time favorite season. Happy Autumn!

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