Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shrimp boil, barbeque and cherry pie... (sung to the Chevrolet jingle.)

Ah, summertime. May it never end.

I know, I know, what about the beautiful change of seasons- the crisp air, the first aroma of fireplaces burning, the colorful leaves in fall. And for skiers, I suppose the snow that follows is quite welcome. And surely spring does offer the first glimpse of new growth in the garden, and that tender just-born green of new tree leaves. But, the sun, heat and outdoor life that summer affords are the best. I hope to someday live year round in a warm clime. I'll be sure to let you know if I miss freezing pipes and shoveling snow.

The foods of summer are my favorite, too. Real bbq, grilled anything- strike that- grilled everything!, boiled seafood of all varieties. Surprising as it may seem, dessert is something I can usually do without. (I'll admit that is a bit odd for one who is doing this baking project.) In summer however, I have a hard time passing on my favorite late summer dessert: PIE. Cherry pie. I know that peach and berry are popular, but cherry is second to none, it just screams summer. In fact, cherry pie at any other time of year is out of place. It's like putting on a bathing suit in January- not comfortable, unless I suppose, you are one of those leather skinned tanning booth people. Good for you if that's your thing.

I like the pies of other seasons, too: rhubarb and lemon or tangerine meringue in spring; pumpkin, chess and raisin in fall; mince or cranberry apple in winter; and all the fruit pies of summer with cherry at the absolute tip-top of the list.

Early on this season I remembered a fantastic cherry pie recipe I made 8 years ago in Seattle for an end of college party a bunch of us threw for our department. My friend Carrie enjoyed a piece of this pie with the same enthusiasm that she brings to living her life- such gusto and pleasure in every bite. She still inspires me to enjoy everything that comes down the road. Well, I hadn't actually forgotten about the pie, but the drive to have it again could no longer be ignored. It comes from a really terrific cook book by Carole Walter called Great Pies & Tarts. To our favorites, I added the link to her website. She is as fussy as Rose in some respects, and the results are worth it. I'm not familiar with her other books, but the book on cookies has caught my eye.

Carole's cherry pie recipe calls for canned tart cherries, to which you add sugar, and the result is a sweet, tart, pleasantly thick filling around plump, soft, whole cherries. Ground almonds are in the pastry, and a cream cheese layer on the bottom adds a creamy richness without making it heavy. Instead of a fussy lattice top, I chose a simple upper layer of crust comprised of circles of the almond pastry. Some will argue that everything is better with ice cream on top, and while this pie doesn't need it, vanilla ice cream doesn't hurt.

Summer is where it's at, and as I cling to every last warm evening outdoors, I lament that in just a few weeks, I will again have to wear shoes. My feet will adjust, and so will my attitude. I'll embrace autumn and apple picking, and raking leaves, and the fun of Halloween. Pumpkin season is my second favorite time of year after all. Then, maybe I'll change my tune and say that Christmas cookies are the best thing ever and fall in love with winter. But, I doubt it.

Vive le Soleil, vive l'été !

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