blackberry pie for a season of change
Mollie Katzen was at Sixth and I synagogue talking about her latest cookbook, The Heart of the Plate, tonight. With her groundbreaking hand-drawn Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Mollie was truly a pioneer for transforming the dinner plate and putting vegetables in the limelight, rather than the conventional serving of meat. During this golden age of food blogs and farmers markets, it was humbling to hear her stories of navigating a vegetarian environment in the 1970s and 80s when, as Mollie tells it, “yogurt was something that old Russian men ate to live to 95 years old,” and hummus was something you made from chickpeas and tahini, if you could find it.
How things have changed.
And Mollie and her cooking have changed too, transforming from her first recipes for vegetable casseroles and dairy-rich foods to meals of simplicity that let the vegetables speak for themselves. Forty years after writing her first cookbook, she says that her mission now is to break down this firewall our culture has constructed between “good” food and “good-for-you” food, to find that middle ground where food is just “good.” Period.
The timing of her talk was impeccable, as the theme of balance has been a running theme in my life lately. The big news is that O and I are moving in together (happy dance!), but I’ll be moving into his group house first and putting all of my earthly belongings into storage while we search for our new home.
For a couple of months, I’ll be living with little more than my wardrobe, my knitting projects and sketchbook, and my trusty bike. I won’t be cooking much at all (read: this blog may take a siesta for a little while) and I will be taking a break from freelance design and illustration work. But I’ll have time to channel my energy into neglected areas of my life, like yoga, running, and those books that continue to pile up and never get read. Stripped-down life of a Buddhist warrior monk? Bring it on. Scared? You bet.
The seasons have a funny way of mirroring exactly what’s going on in our inner lives. As I transition into this murky space of Unknowns and search for a foundation of stability and balance, we arrive at the season of balance, the Fall Equinox this Sunday, when daylight and darkness are in equal proportion. But past that tipping point, we slide into longer nights and shorter days. We move into the unknown. Killer timing, Universe.
And killer timing to make a pie. Late summer blackberries are in their peak right now if you can find them – I especially love how the red and indigo berries harken the coming darkness of the year. And this Thursday is the full harvest moon in Pisces, a timing for reaping all we’ve sown this year, literally and emotionally, and this dessert would make a fitting tribute.
adapted from Marilyn Batali’s recipe
(makes one six-inch disk)
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 T sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup *cold* unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice (pour it into the ice water)
Mix the dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter with your fingers until there are pea-sized bits of butter distributed throughout. If the dough gets greasy or warm, stick it in the fridge for 15 minutes. Dribble in the water/lemon juice mixture slowly, incorporating it into the dough with a spoon. Dump the dough onto the counter, knead together a few times, then divide into 2 balls. Flatten the balls with your hands, wrap tightly in cling wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour before using (ideally overnight). Keep refrigerated up to 3 days, or freeze in a freezer Ziploc bag for 4 months.
PIE FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
2 pints blackberries (1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup sugar
3 T all-purpose flour
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
On a lightly floured counter, roll out one disc of dough and transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate. Store in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to relax.
Roll out the second disc of dough. Cut into shapes or strips for a lattice top, if desired. Otherwise, lay it on a baking sheet and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 375. Mix the berries, sugar, flour, and lemon juice together in a bowl, lightly mashing some of the berries. Pour the filling into the crust and dot the top with butter. Top the pie filling with the second pastry, and crimp the edges. Cut a vent in the top of the pie if it’s not latticed.
Bake the pie in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden.