It’s been a crazy few weeks around here. Bryan has been finishing up a HUGE project for an art exhibition opening shortly—huge in physical scale, and in time invested, etc. It took over his life, and then started to encroach on mine too. Many things I’d been planning to work on got put to the back burner, until finally near the install date I was doing nothing besides helping get ready, unless the other thing had an already-agreed-upon-in-writing due date, and even then not too much was happening.
I’ve been cooking a lot though. It’s the kind of situation where logically it would make sense to just make a big pot of soup and eat it for the whole week. But, it’s my absolute favorite time of year for eating. All the ingredients for ratatouille are sitting there, fresh and glowing, at the growers’ market, and it would be make me feel much more deprived not to cook them and eat them. And it turns out, not surprisingly, when I’m not spending my creative energy on other projects, I end up experimenting more with food and making up recipes. And, when Bryan is burning lots of extra calories working on huge sculptures all day, he’s more excited about having dessert, and any time I’m stressed I definitely want dessert. Any two weeks in which we ate two of these pies can’t be that bad.
Although things evolve and change, and I’ve been excited to have so much fiber stuff to share lately, I wouldn’t want recipes to disappear entirely from this space, so here you go. I’ll be back soon with a little more about the sculpture project & the exhibition (which is really pretty cool) and maybe even one more recipe. But for now:
Weekday Peach Pie with Nut Crust
(adapted from various bits of the Joy of Cooking)
This isn’t a humongous Southern-Sunday-dinner peach pie, but instead one you can make if you just grab a few extra peaches at the market. Pecans are my favorite for this crust, which is the same one I use for pumpkin pie in the fall, and just happens to be gluten free. You can use other nuts that grow near you and/or you like, and it should work fine.
Preheat the oven to 375° F
Peach filling—put all this in a bowl:
1 1/2 lbs peaches (weighed whole), cut into 1/4″ thick slices. (Freestone peaches are much easier to slice.)
1/4 cup sugar if your peaches are ripe and juicy, maybe a tablespoon or two more if they are firm and tart.
1 1/2 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch for thickening. I ground the tapioca in a spice grinder to get finer grains, which I think I read about in an Alice Waters cookbook.
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional but I like it).
A small pinch of salt.
Stir up the filling and let it sit while you make the crust:
You can either put all these ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse together, or grind the nuts first and then mix everything by hand. Either way, don’t chop the nuts super fine, or the crust won’t have a lot of structure, a texture like coarse crumbs is good.
2 cups pecans (or walnuts, almonds etc.) chopped, see note above.
4 Tablespoons butter (especially if you’re making it in the food processor, it’s important to soften the butter first, otherwise you’ll end up with chunks of unmixed butter).
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Butter a pie pan well, and pour in the mixed crust in it. Use your fingers to press the crust over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, getting it reasonably even if you can.
Prebake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until it starts to brown. The edges of this crust are apt to burn, so cover them with a pie shield or strips of aluminum foil first. If the sides of the crust start to sag or the bottom gets too puffy, you can push them back in place with the back of a spoon.
While the crust bakes, beat 1 egg (the smallest egg you can find) with just a tiny bit of water, until well beaten.
When the crust is warm and starting to brown, take it out of the oven and glaze it with the beaten egg. This is the key to putting a moist filling in the nut crust without getting a soggy crust! Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of egg wash all over the inside surface of the crust, up over the sides, etc. The egg will want to slide down, but just keep brushing it up, until the warm crust starts to absorb it and hold it in place.
Put the egg-washed crust back in the oven for just a couple of minutes, until the egg is cooked and shiny.
Then pour in the peach filling. Cover the edges of the crust again, and put the whole pie back into the oven until the juices of the filling are thick and bubbly, about 45 minutes. No matter what you do, the edges of the crust will probably get a “bold” baked color (as the bread makers say). If it goes all the way to burnt, just scrape off the very top. This crust is really simple and delicious, so it’s totally worth it.
Here’s to a weekday-peach-pie kind of week …