Strawberry Lemon Pie

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I’m not a fan of bitter things.When my tongue encounters bitter, my brain says “danger! inedible!” When people get excited about a salad of bitter greens, I don’t really understand it. It’s why I never accept the offer of “freshly ground black pepper” at restaurants. It’s why I rarely enjoy beer, and when I do, it’s wheat beer that’s ice cold on a blistering hot day, and even better, with some ginger ale or 7-Up added to it.

There are however a few exceptions. I like gin and tonics, for example. Their bitterness is somehow balanced by the bubbly effervescence, the acid of the lime, and the floral notes of the gin. Or this recipe for strawberry lemon pie, where I find the addition of a slight bitterness intriguing. Strawberry is traditionally paired with rhubarb for the added acidity that cuts through the berry sweetness. But this recipe swaps rhubarb for lemons, sliced very thin (rind, pith and all). The result is perhaps the most complex strawberry pie I’ve ever tried. There’s sweetness from the strawberries, acid from the lemon flesh and zest, bitterness from the pith, and fat from the buttery crust. The pie feels…adult, somehow.
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It’s also a great metaphor for being American (this being July 4th weekend and all). One of the (many) things I love about this country is its simultaneous love of and constant experimentation with tradition. Being a relatively young country and one that has been built over the years by waves of immigrants, the U.S. manages to constantly reinvent itself by holding on to the essence of what makes one American: the acceptance and embrace of change. Yes, there are plenty of Americans who consider themselves conservative and talk about how they don’t accept change, but over time, most of them also get carried forward by the forces of transformation, progress, and change.

So, make this strawberry lemon pie, traditional (it’s still a pie after all), but also different and new, and have a great fourth of July.
DSC04072Strawberry Lemon Pie – From Bon Appétit

Note: The recipe provides directions for making a lattice pie (see photo above). But you can make any kind of double-crust pie you want.

Ingredients:

Double Pie Crust
All-purpose flour (for surface)
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
Pinch of kosher salt
2 pounds strawberries, hulled, quartered
2 small lemons, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons demerara or turbinado sugar

Directions:

Roll out a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13″ round. Transfer round to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill while you roll out remaining disk of dough to a 13″ round (about ¼” thick). Cut second round into 4 strips, about 2 ¼” wide. Stack strips on top of first round of dough, separating with a sheet of parchment. Chill while you prepare filling.

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Add strawberries, lemon slices, and vinegar. Toss to coat fruit evenly in sugar mixture, separating lemon slices that stick together.

Beat egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl just to blend. Lift parchment with strips of dough onto work surface. Using your hands, or wrapping dough around a floured rolling pin if your nervous, carefully transfer round of dough to a 9″ pie dish. Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish. Trim edges of dough with kitchen shears to even out, leaving at least a 2″ overhang (or, you can leave untrimmed if you want a rustic look); brush edge with half of egg wash. Scrape in strawberry filling along with any accumulated juices in bowl.

Lay 2 strips lengthwise over pie filling, then arrange remaining 2 strips crosswise across pie, working alternately over and under lengthwise strips to create a lattice pattern. Fold edge of bottom round up and over strips and press to seal. Brush dough with remaining egg wash; sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Place pie pan on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet (juices may bubble over—this is what the foil is for). Bake until crust is deep golden brown on top and bottom and juices are bubbling, about 1 ½ hours. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let sit at least 4 hours before slicing.

Do Ahead: Pie can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

 

Black Sesame Carrot Cake

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It’s a rainy July 4th today in New York city. I’m not even sure that the fireworks will take place. But it doesn’t matter. In many other places in the U.S., from big cities to small towns, people are grilling hot dogs, drinking beer, and watching fireworks displays. There are some in this country that find this type of celebration for the country’s independence as crass and vulgar. They make fun of it in blog posts and op-eds. But I don’t think you can truly appreciate the beauty of the American tradition of July 4th celebrations unless you grew up somewhere else, in one of the many countries that celebrate their independence days with military parades and brutal war commemorations.

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I grew up in such a country. Independence day was never a day for celebrations, picnics, and fireworks, even though it was always in the spring, when the green fields are resplendent with red poppies and the weather is mild. Instead, there was always a military parade, the most important topic of conversation being what types of missiles were displayed and whether the new tanks that had been rumored to have been purchased would be shown. The point was always the celebration of vanquishing one’s enemy, as it is for pretty much all military parades.

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Contrast that with July 4th fireworks displays and gatherings with friends and family where people eat and drink and celebrate what they have, what their free country allows them to enjoy, not who they killed in bloody battles centuries ago. Call me naive but I think that this is how independence days should be celebrated everywhere. After all, isn’t that what independence wars are fought for? Not so that those wars are commemorated in perpetuity by reminding the world that they can be refought with better, newer weapons. But so that future generations can be free to gather together and enjoy a juicy burger, a cold beer, and a spectacle of colorful lights in the sky.

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Black Sesame Carrot Cake – Adapted from Bon Appétit

Ingredients:

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
¼ cup whole milk
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium carrots (about 8 oz.), peeled, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 8×4” loaf pan with vegetable oil. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, egg, milk, ginger, and vanilla in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients, then fold in carrots (be careful not to overmix). Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 65-70 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool completely in pan before turning out.

Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.