The horse chestnut trees are in bloom here. I love these majestic trees and I watch them all year long, as they change through the seasons. I have my favorites around town, and today was a beautiful day to get out and go spend some time around and under the trees.
The blooms are creamy white clusters with just a touch of pink… and speaking of pink….
It’s also rhubarb season!!!
Okay, I think I talked earlier about my one-pie-a-season method. Well, for spring, rhubarb definitely takes the pie. Though I like other things made with rhubarb, I think it’s at its ultimate best when served up in a good old classic pie crust.
Also, I’m not a purist about too many things (although I can’t accept bagels with cinnamon or blueberries) but I do like my rhubarb straight. If someone else makes a strawberry-rhubarb pie, I wouldn’t refuse it, but in my kitchen, the rhubarb pie filling is all rhubarb — with just enough sugar and a hint of orange zest.
When I was growing up in Chicago, we always had rhubarb plants growing by the side of the house. We were warned not to eat the plants — they’re poisonous–but it was the stalks we were after! Of course, my mother made wonderful rhubarb pies. She gave some to our neighbors, who had never before tried the “pie plant” — and they were quickly won over.
I like to make a fancy one with a twisted lattice crust….
Last May, Aviva and I made this pie together. What a great memory on Mother’s Day!
But this year she’s in North Carolina. She told me that rhubarb season is at the tail end there and she couldn’t even get enough to make a whole pie– so she made a rhubarb-custard pie for the first time.
Anyway, this year (with rare exceptions), I’m trying to seriously cut down on the butter (yes, I know, it’s wonderful stuff…and Julia Child lived till almost 92…but some of us really HAVE TO avoid it). I could have just made some rhubarb sauce which is quite delicious by itself, but I was craving that seasonal rhubarb pie, after all …so I decided to make a half-pie.
Here’s what I did: I took a couple cups of cleaned chopped rhubarb, a little less than half a cup of sugar, some orange zest and a couple teaspoons of flour, and mixed that all together and put it in a pie pan. Then I made a small amount of pie pastry, using oil instead of butter and made a kind of rough lattice pattern on the top (the pastry was a little messy to work with, but tasted surprisingly good). I baked it at 400 degrees till it was browned on top and the rhubarb was soft and juicy — only about 20 or 25 minutes.
Okay, it wasn’t quite as pretty (and certainly not as buttery) as my true rhubarb pie, but it was still very satisfying. Steve and I ate it while it was still warm and I think it was more than half as good as the real thing. Mmmmm-mmmmm.