Strawberry Lemon Pie


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.

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.


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


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.


Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars


When I was a kid, strawberries were really exotic. They’d appear briefly in late spring, early summer and they were very expensive. So when my parents would buy some, we’d cherish them, eating them slowly and savoring every juicy bite. Before we knew it, they were gone until the next season. This scarcity of strawberries must still be in the back of my mind because strawberries are the first fruit I gravitate to in a breakfast bar or salad bar. And right after chocolate desserts, strawberry ones always catch my eye on a restaurant menu.

So, when I saw the picture of these strawberry rhubarb crisp bars on the excellent food blog Smitten Kitchen, I was immediately, well, smitten. I’ll admit, rhubarb is still a bit of a mystery to me. Sometimes it really works, adding a grassy acidity and a mildly fibrous texture to desserts. But most of the time I just don’t know what to do with it. Here it works well. It cuts through the richness of the crust and as always, pairs perfectly with the strawberries.DSC03965Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars – Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen


1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (95 grams) plus up to 2 tablespoons (15 grams) extra all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (95 grams) light brown sugar
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional, but helps firm up the filling)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (125 grams) small-diced rhubarb (from about 1 1/2 medium stalks)
1 cup (155 grams) small-diced strawberries


Heat oven to 375 degrees F if using metal pan (350 degrees if using glass pan). For easy removal, line bottom of 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving overhang on two sides.

Place oats, 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and salt medium bowl and mix. Pour melted butter over, and stir until clumps form. If the clumps feel soft or look overly damp, add the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons flour. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture. Press the rest of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Spread half the fruit over the crust. Sprinkle it evenly with cornstarch (I use a tea strainer to do this), then lemon juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Spread remaining fruit over this, and top with second 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Scatter reserved crumbs over fruit and bake bars for about 40 minutes, until fruit is bubbly and crisp portion is golden.

Let cool in pan. Remove using parchment paper and cut into squares. Alternatively, you can place them in fridge to chill and crisp up, before cutting. These are best eaten the day made. Store leftovers in fridge.

Eleven Madison’s Strawberry Gazpacho

Two or three times a year, Steve and I will celebrate a special occasion (an anniversary, a birthday) by going to a really nice restaurant for dinner. Few things make us happier than one of those perfect meals, the ones that transcend the act of eating and nourishment, that emotionally transport us. We have been known to get teary-eyed during such a meal, though admittedly after a couple of glasses of wine.IMG_2469

So, when we do splurge on an expensive dinner at a fine restaurant, we usually request the tasting menu with the wine accompaniment. We expect that the chef will take us on a journey , with each small dish and paired glass of wine providing us with a gustatory milestone along the way. Some such journeys have been extraordinary (our first times at Momofuku Ko and Aska come to mind). Others have been great, though with a few bumps in the road (Aquavit, post-Marcus Samuelsson).


And then there was Eleven Madison Park. I don’t remember what we were celebrating but we couldn’t have been more excited to get a reservation there. Widely considered one of the best restaurants in New York and the world, we counted the days to our dinner with breathless anticipation. We arrived there with big grins on our faces, hardly able to contain our excitement as the friendly Danny Meyer-trained staff sat us down and handed us the menu.IMG_2459

Keep in mind that this was a few years ago, two complete menu reinventions ago. Right there, tempting us, was the ultimate tasting menu: a 14-course behemoth that held more promises than a Christmas tree loaded with wrapped presents. We gleefully told our server we would choose that along with the wine pairings.IMG_2460

Things started out very promisingly. The long, rectangular plate with the tiny amuse bouches included pickled beet marshmallows. We still talk about them. And then we began the long journey into the evening. Trouble hit around course six or seven. I was full. Full! And I was only half way through this meal. From that point on, every plate or bowl that was placed in front of me became an increasingly more painful instrument of torture. I wanted so badly to want to eat the food, but my full stomach said otherwise. I took small bites, to at least taste it. But nothing seemed pleasurable to my satiated appetite. And the plates kept coming. And coming. I wished I could go to the bathroom and throw up, like a Roman at a vomitorium (which is a myth, by the way). But I couldn’t go that far.


It took us a long time before we ordered a tasting menu again. The experience scarred us. Eventually, we did forget about it and went back to leaving ourselves in the hands of the chef for a carefully chosen tasting journey. But we make sure it’s never more than six or seven courses. And we arrive at the restaurant hungry. Really hungry.


This strawberry gazpacho was not part of our torturous tasting menu. I first saw it on Food52’s Genius Recipes, a collection of recipes that are really smart and unexpected. It’s a pretty classic gazpacho recipe, except for the fact that it uses strawberries instead of tomatoes. It is crisp and full of sunshine, the perfect appetizer for a late spring or summer meal. Just don’t have an additional 13 courses after it.

Eleven Madison’s Strawberry Gazpacho – Adapted from Food52’s Genius Recipes

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed but kept whole
1 1/2 cup rustic-style bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 sprigs thyme
6 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 1/4 cups English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cups diced green bell pepper
6 tablespoons tomato juice or tomato sauce
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed but kept whole
2 cups rustic-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make the soup:
Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add 1 clove of garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the bread cubes and thyme. Toss occasionally until the bread turns golden brown, being careful not to burn it.  Transfer the bread to a large bowl. Discard the garlic and thyme.

Add the strawberries, cucumber, peppers, remaining garlic clove, remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil, tomato juice or sauce, vinegar, and salt to the bowl with the bread cubes. Toss to combine and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Marinate at room temperature for 3 to 6 hours, stirring the mixture once or twice. Puree the ingredients and their juices in small batches in a blender on high speed until very smooth. If you want you can strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer, or you can keep it as is. Chill the soup in the refrigerator until very cold. Taste and season, if necessary, with salt and red wine vinegar.

Make the croutons:
Heat a small saute pan on medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with the olive oil and add the garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the  bread and thyme. Toss occasionally until the bread turns golden brown, being careful not to burn it. Quickly transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Discard the garlic and thyme and season with the salt. Once cool and dry, store in an airtight container line with paper towels for up to 1 day.

Serve the soup with a few croutons on top, several drops of hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce), and fresh mint leaves.