On Life With Food

In some cultures times of great import, life-cycle events, are marked by drink.  In some they are marked by fasting or gift giving or chanting.  In mine they are marked by food.  The factors that shape my personal culture are mainly three and are so closely linked as to be inseparable:  my family, my religion, my personality.  Each of those dictates that food is the key to any celebration or time of hardness  or mourning.  I can tell you exactly what was served at the house after each of my grandparents died just as I can tell you what food was served at birthday parties, weddings, baby namings, circumcisions, and other important happy occasions.  We cook, we bring food, we share food, we eat.  That’s what we do.  So, when my husband accomplished something impressive this week I made a special meal:  homemade challah, salad with mini-falafel and crispy rice noodles, dijon green beans and sliced yellow beet, garlic basil roasted chicken and potatoes, rustic apple gooseberry pie.  And we ate it.  It was wonderful.  Here follows the recipe for the pie. 

Rustic Apple Gooseberry Pie (or Peach Blueberry or Nectarine Cherry…)

for the crust:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) butter or margarine, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs cold water

for the filling:

  • 4 cups trimmed gooseberries (tops and tails removed)
  • 2 peeled large apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs brandy, whiskey, rum, or vanilla extract
  • extra sugar for sprinkling

Make the crust first.  Put the flour, sugar, salt, and butter in the body of a food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs.  Add the egg and the water, 1 Tbs at a time, until the dough forms a ball and holds together.  It should not be sticky but also not crumbly.  Wrap in plastic or waxed paper and put in the fridge while you prepare the filling.  Grate the apples into a bowl with the liquor in it.  Add the gooseberries and sugar and toss well.  Split dough into two equal parts, put one aside for another time.  Roll the other piece, using flour to keep the dough from sticking to the board, into a rough circle.  Crust should be 1/4 inch thick.  Place dough in the middle of a well-greased cookie sheet.  Pile filling into the middle of the dough to within 1 – 1 1/2 inches of the edge then fold the dough up around the edges.  The finished pie should have an open space in the middle.  The dough might crack a little, this is ok as long as there aren’t big gaps around the edges where the fruit is.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake at 350 for between 45 minutes and an hour, until dough is starting to brown and fruit is bubbly.  Some of the juices will leak out onto the pan, this is also ok.

Variations:  Substitute pitted cherries and sliced or chunked nectarines for the fruit, omit alcohol and add a pinch of ground cardamom instead.  Or peeled sliced of chunked peaches with blueberries.  You can also use raisins or dried cranberries that have been soaked in water or brandy to plump them with peeled chopped apples and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Use your imagination!

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