For pretty much the entire day today, I’ve been repeating a phrase silently to myself. “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” I’ve been reminding myself, with gentle nudges, to notice and note the activities and tasks that I’m most drawn to, that bring me the deepest satisfaction and joy, that feel less like work and more like, well, like living. By paying attention to what you pay attention to, to what perks you up, gets your creative juices flowing, and comes effortlessly because it’s what you desire and crave, you do yourself a huge service. You create and carve out a life that brings fulfillment, that feels like breathing, not gasping for air.
Which totally relates to how I feel about baking this pie. I’ve made it twice in the past 5 days. When I’m baking, I’m jamming. Which is to say that, for me, baking comes naturally. It’s what I most prefer to do in the kitchen. When flour and sugar and butter and fruit and flavorings mix and mingle, I’m a happy lady.
Strawberry season is seriously in affect. I picked a flat of organic strawberries at the farm down the road from me this past Friday (for only $18, friends!). This pie was the obvious and necessary means of heightening the happiness that strawberries bring me. When I’m making pie dough, I am fully present. I’m not thinking about anything other than making the pie dough, searching for the tactile and visual cues giving me the head’s up that the dough has reached its sweet spot. It’s never an effort, or a chore, or a labor. It’s an opportunity to engage all of my senses, to get me out of my ever-loving mind, and to tether me firmly to time and place. It might look like a pie, but really, its an exercise in mindfulness.
Want to Zen out on pie-making yourself? Here you go.
Strawberry Crumble Pie (from A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies)
Makes: One 9-inch pie.
You Will Need:
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/4 teaspoons salt
-1 cup butter (2 sticks), chilled and cubed
-3/4 cup ice water
-1 ½ pounds strawberries, stemmed and halved
-1/3 cup cornstarch
-1/3 cup sugar
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Make the Pie Dough:
Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, but with several pea and lima bean-sized butter bits in the mix. Slowly drizzle in the ice water. Stir with a mixing spoon until the dough starts to clump.
Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and fold it together into itself using your hands. The dough should come together easily but shouldn’t feel overly sticky. Divide the dough in half and shape into two flattened disks. Wrap each dough ball in cellophane and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Prepare the crust:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator, saving the other to use within the next few days or placing it in an airtight bag in the freezer for future use. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the crust overhang to 1-inch and crimp the edges decoratively. Prick the bottom of the crust about 6-7 times with a fork, then place the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Line the piecrust with parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, and then remove from the oven, leaving the oven on. Remove the dried beans or pie weights and parchment, and cool it completely before filling.
Prepare the filling:
Combine the strawberries, cornstarch and sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside.
Prepare the crumble topping:
Combine the flour, salt, brown sugar, and butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Crumble together with either your hands or with a pastry cutter, leaving pea-sized chunks of butter in the mixture. Set aside.
Assemble the pie:
Pour strawberry mixture into the prepared piecrust. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly across the surface, packing down as needed to accommodate the entire amount of the mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Cool the pie at least 1 hour before serving.
This weekend was full of wonderful things, not the least of which was a bit of a revelation about myself. I’ll be 39 in July, and what I’m coming to realize with each rotation around the sun is that it is in the company of those that are equally interested in the natural world and all of its splendor and wonder that I’m most comfortable. The glamorous life is not for me. The wild, slightly disheveled, a bit messy, patina-showing, natural state of things is where I’m most at ease, most myself. At heart, I’m just a hippy. And that’s really, really alright by me.
Saturday started with french toast on the porch, always a good thing. Yesterday Huxley and I headed to my first ever handmade/homemade swap. I brought little jars of rosemary-infused honey, and Glenn made the straw-blown watercolor paintings adorning the lids (we’ll be married 8 years on June 2nd and with each passing year, I love that man more and more). You can read about the swap and see many more images over on Amanda’s blog. We had such a great time. While I’m floored by the wealth of items I brought home (including: an Amish paste tomato plant, body butter, bath salts, cream deodorant, bug spray, two types of lip balm, rose & lemon balm tincture, elderberry tincture, echinacea tincture & a travel tube of all-natural first aid ointment, blueberry relish, and strawberry rhubarb jam), what I equally enjoyed was meeting like-minded ladies and mamas. I like being amongst “my tribe.”
Here’s hoping that the week ahead is filled with health, happiness, and love, from our home, to yours.
Happy Friday, everyone! I think we’re due for some rain this weekend, which would be wonderful. Much as a I love cloudless, blue sky, I really, really love rainy days. The homebody in me revels in the opportunity to hunker down, work on organizing projects I keep meaning to get to, and snack on popcorn while watching movies with my fellas. Or some variation of that.
I’d really love rain, too, for the garden. Now that Natalie lives out here, with her tiny house parked down in what we call our “lower field,” she’s been regularly helping Glenn and I in the garden. For the first time in a loooooong time, so much is already planted, and it’s only mid-May! Currently, we’ve planted: carrots, beets, radishes, peas, potatoes (two kinds), a variety of lettuces, chard, kale, spinach, fennel, chives, Thai basil, beans (several kinds), peppers (several kinds), and tomatoes (many kinds). The perennial beds in the garden are putting out asparagus (mostly done by now), rhubarb, and sorrel. There are also loads of annual and perennial culinary and medicinal herbs up by the house. Strawberries and blueberries are ripening, and the blackberry and raspberry canes are full of blooms. There’s still more to plant, but I feel so good about being this on top of the garden so early in the season. Many hands truly do make for light work!
Here’s a little smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention this week:
*Glenn came home with two lovage plants the other day. I put them into the ground, and as soon as they’re a bit bigger, I’m totally making this.
*The benefits of my morning cuppa just keep adding up!
*So easy to get lost in Gisella’s gorgeous nature imagery.
Wrapping up early to get over to neighboring Hominy Valley Organic Farm. Farmer Tom is back in business with all kinds of spring veggies, and Fridays are his open farm/market days. His produce is always seriously stellar, and phenomenally well priced. The fact that his farm is about 1/2 mile from our road pretty much seals the deal.
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I post a photo of Huxley in my “What I’m Digging” round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. He was seriously hamming it up here, asking me to take photos of his “hat” and “sword.”
When you work from home like Glenn and I do, things can get a bit loosey goosey, in terms of time and space. There’s no hard and fast schedule, as regards work hours, in our routine. In a sense, we’re always “working,” because so much of what we cook or bake or make or do turns into a recipe or a freelance project or something akin.
Owing to that, that sort of permanent liminal space, wherein life and work and art all merge and meld into one and the same thing chez English, it’s the seasons and their cues and prompts that give me the most tethering to time and place.
I might not put on “work” clothes (hello, comfy p.j.’s!), or keep “work” hours, but I do know that when the multiflora rose blooms and the magnolias are about to bust out, and the irises are showing off, and the rhubarb patch is putting out stalks, and the asparagus is erupting from the soil, then I know it’s spring. And in spring, I work and write and behave differently from how I work and write and behave in winter. Who needs work clothes when you’re got asparagus to be the boss of you?
This recipe, from Handmade Gatherings, makes delicious use of those short-lived green spears. It’s ready in no time at all, and is a perfect compliment to a roast chicken and a crisp bottle of vinho verde (Casal Garcia makes a mighty fine offering). It’s the time of the season, friends.
Pistachio-Crusted Asparagus with Feta Vinaigrette (from Handmade Gatherings: Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations and Potluck Parties, Roost Books, 2014)
Yield: 4-6 servings.
You Will Need:
-2 pounds large asparagus
-1 cup shelled pistachios
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/4 cup olive oil
-2 tablespoons feta, crumbled
-1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup feta, crumbled
-2 teaspoons lemon juice
-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
-1 Tablespoon honey
-Several grinds of black pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Rinse the asparagus, and cut about an inch off of the stem ends. Pat the asparagus dry.
3) Place the asparagus on a dry baking sheet, and cook it for three minutes to dry off any excess moisture.
4) Remove the sheet from the oven, and toss the asparagus on the sheet with the olive oil.
5) Crush the pistachios in a food processor (or under a towel with a kitchen mallet or hammer) for about 1 minute, until finely ground.
5) Transfer the ground nuts to a small mixing bowl. Using a spoon or clean hands, mix the nuts with the salt.
6) Lay the asparagus out evenly across the baking sheet. Sprinkle them with half of the ground pistachio and salt blend.
7) Turn the spears over, then evenly sprinkle them with the rest of the ground pistachios.
8) Cook 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, and carefully plate the spears onto a platter using tongs.
9) Add all of the vinaigrette ingredients to a lidded container or a food processor. Shake or blend until smooth.
10) Drizzle the plated asparagus with the vinaigrette.
11) Top with the chopped parsley and feta.
12) Serve at room temperature.
Greyson Briere just sounds like someone that would be associated with a creperie, right? Briere. Rhymes with “gruyere.” You’re imagining berets and fine wines and lush Provencal landscapes now, aren’t you? A friend of mine for over 20 years, Greyson and her in-laws Ron and Linda Briere, along with a friendly, talented staff, own and operate the lovely Creperie & Cafe in nearby Weaverville, NC. Last week, they invited us over to sample the menu and enjoy the restaurant with their compliments.
Creperie & Cafe is housed at the corner of Hamburg Mountain Rd. and Main St. in charming Weaverville, a town just north of Asheville. I lived there from 2000-2003 and its small town quaintness has really amped up in the ensuing years. We sometimes go to Weaverville just to hit up the Well-Bred Bakery, visit the ducks and playground at Lake Louise, and pick up a plant at Reems Creek Nursery (or more like 10-nurseries are truly my kryptonite). Now that we’ve experienced the Creperie & Cafe, I’ve got another place to add to my Weaverville must-sees.
Whether sweet or savory, coffee or beer, indoors or outdoors, children or dogs, there’s something here for everyone. Of particular note is the fact that the entire establishment is gluten-free (aside from possibly a few bottled beers). I choose the SMOKED TROUT crepe, which came filled with Sunburst Trout Farms smoked trout, spinach, onions, mushrooms, smoked gouda and topped with spicy mayo. Glenn ordered the PULLED BBQ PORK crepe, packed with pulled BBQ pork, onions, and coleslaw and topped with orange raspberry BBQ sauce. Huxley choose a GRILLED CHEESE, filled with Swiss & Cheddar cheeses, from the kid’s menu. I love that it came with a side of vibrant, fresh fruits. For dessert (because it’s written into law somewhere, I believe, that you really can’t go to a creperie and leave without enjoying a sweet crepe) we selected the DREAMSICLE, which came packed with a whipped sweet orange cream cheese filling.
We nibbled from each others plates and were very pleased with everything. It’s all thoughtful and delicious. I’m a big proponent of eating outdoors whenever possible and their spacious patio is beautifully landscaped and decorated, making the meal that much more enjoyable. I highly recommend stopping into the Creperie & Cafe. The Brieres have done a wonderful job since talking over ownership in January (the restaurant has been there for two years). You can view the full menu and like their Facebook page here, as well as find them on Twitter and Instagram. While you’re there, do be sure to pop in to the Home Gear Shop next door. Also owned by the Brieres, the store features repurposed, recycled, and reclaimed antiques and home decor. Home Gear Shop carries a well-curated selection of items in a wide range of styles and prices. These folks are making Weaverville better and better every day!