I shook off the melancholy of summer’s ending last week with a drive over the mountains to Cashmere and a wonderful time spent with Aviva, both in the kitchen and outdoors. We baked three types of lemon pie and invited friends for a sampling.
Before I left, friends gave me some Bartlett pears, Jonathan apples, cucumbers and tomatoes — and on the way home, I stopped to buy a rustic loaf of German rye from a bakery in Leavenworth, and corn and potatoes sold from the back of a truck.
The leaves were just starting to turn on Steven’s Pass, and with my car piled up with gifts of the harvest, I realized my mood had turned as well. There’s a reason that our harvest festivals are seasons of thanks-giving.
Supper at home was really easy: cucumber salad, tomatoes with basil, corn on the cob (last of the season) and bread, along with delicious smoked wild salmon that Steve bought from our wonderful local fish store, Vis Seafoods.
Lately, one of my favorite meals is a simple beans-and-greens dish with garlic. I was inspired to start cooking beans again by some very nice looking cannellini beans I found at Conte di Savoia , an Italian grocery in Chicago. Yes, you could use canned beans, but trust me: these are better.
Beans and greens
The beans: You just soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water; drain and put them in a large saucepan with fresh cold water to cover (and more), bring the water to a boil and then cook at a low boil for about 30 to 40 minutes or so, until they are tender but not mushy. Turn off the heat and then add some salt to taste.
The greens: Wash a bunch of greens — chard, kale, beet greens, or any other type–and leave some of the water clinging to the greens. Remove the stems, slice the greens into strips, then cut them in half.
The dish: Dice a few garlic cloves (as many as you like); heat some olive oil in a skillet, and fry the garlic until it’s golden and fragrant. Add the chopped greens, and saute until they are tender; then add some of the beans, with a little of their cooking water and cook, stirring the beans and greens together, until it’s hot and the greens are cooked as much as you like. Salt and pepper to taste, adding some red pepper and/or grated Parmesan, Romano or Pecorino cheese if you like. Serve with some crusty bread on the side. (You could also serve with grilled sausages, as Lidia Bastianich suggests with her version of this dish.)
More beans: Of course, if you have leftover beans, they can go in a tuna salad, a soup, or a tomato sauce to serve with pasta. Or you could just mash up some beans with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic, and serve as a dip.
Now, about that pie. It really isn’t lemon pie season, and I recommend that you make a dessert with late plums or peaches, or pears, apples, pumpkin–something in season–and wait till winter to make a lemon pie. But I was testing recipes for my book, and it just had to be done now. Fortunately, I had Aviva’s help, and help from the pie-sampling friends as well. Here’s how they looked:
If you love lemons (and rich desserts–lemon desserts are deceptively rich and caloric), you’ll love the French lemon tart recipe, and I have really easy methods for making both the tart dough and the lemon curd filling. Shaker lemon pie, with the double crust, had nearly as many votes, and Aviva tried out a traditional pie crust recipe with egg and vinegar.
The lemon meringue pie tasted good; however, it was a stressful baking experience (too many steps, not to mention failures) and collapsed as soon as I cut into it. I will be sure to remedy both these factors before posting a recipe for you–