Seven Layer Yum Pie from Culinary Arts

January 30, 2012

My students must create a recipe, demonstrate it in front of the class, and serve it nicely, for one of their final semester projects. This is one of those projects…..

Imagine soft, caramelish chocolate chip cookie dough for the base, about 1 inch high

next comes rich fudge, the creamiest fudge ever made with dark chocolate, on top of the cookie dough, about 1 inch high

then comes a layer of Reese’s Peanut butter cups, stacked 2 high on top, remember to take them out of their little papers!

now, take a package of dark chocolate instant pudding mix and whip it with 1 cup of milk to make a very thick, rich pudding and spread this over the peanut butter cups

whew! next layer on Oreos, Sammie and Lydia used double stuffed, but apparently you can use mint, peanut butter, sugar free, vanilla, what ever you like, and these can be stacked 2 high as well, if you wish

for the top, whip 1 cup of cream until stiff, whip in a bit of sugar and vanilla, then slather that over the cookie

it wouldn’t be finished without the cherry on top….as many as you like, read the ingredient label before eating!

then for that mountain look and texture you may crumble 2 oreos over the top and this completes the 7 Layer Yum Pie…..or mountain, complete with glaciers, boulders, snow and …..chocolate. Nice job chefs!

Winter’s Tale

January 25, 2012

Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin, was published in 1983. It has been on my favorite book list ever since. This winter I decided to read it again during the month of January, a perfect time, as the title might hint.

If only for the rush to the dictionary and the thrill of understanding these bell ringing made-up words I would tell you to read this book. If only for the way in which the concrete world/ideas are made light, diaphanous, ridiculous and the meta-physical world is given possibility/real edges I want you to read this book.

Yes, it is a book about romance and tragedy and, I suppose, the triumph of the human spirit which can drive any serious reader to mark the page and put it down and find a nice warm beverage and the op-ed column, but the huge, beautifully articulated paragraphs, the intricately yet sometimes obscurely linked events and folks will bring me back every time. I am in love with Virginia Gamely. I want to feel the cold beauty of somewhere upstate New York.

This book appears to ramble, if you work too hard to keep track of what year it is, who is related to whom, worry too much about Athansor, you will miss the wonder of the moment, which, as i write that I am aware of it’s own ridiculousness. What if we could suspend time? Didn’t we invent it originally? Would we go mad with intention, hold everything at once with senses cratered so deep we could finally stop………our deadening love affair with duality? This book will make you think like that.

I love a good movie…I am grateful no one has tried to make one of this book. I am afraid of the mess that would be made. The book’s possibilities/positions are best left to imagination at it’s first turn, just gathering in the colored strings without much raveling is best.

It will make you take long walks in the snow, glad for the cold, the light, the days off from school. It will make you feel strong, able to take on any momentous task that falls upon your path. Perhaps winter is not the time for hibernation and dreams. The path is never empty.

Winter Treats

January 25, 2012

Oh Butternut!

Who could say what grows under your awkward bulbousness,

that thin exterior the color of an old Barbie doll torso,

that hollow yet hallowed center,

until your flesh was split.

Oh Butternut, who knew you contained the essence

of a star crystallized, as well as the most coveted

liquid in the universe, your fragrance

steeped in centuries of early morning mist.

Oh Butternut, who knew the myriad consorts you might favor

in the name of flavor.

The spicy Italian Sausage with his garlicky breath and Asiago


the sautéed Chanterelle drunk with wine, sly and praising

of your tenderness.

Oh Butternut, only you could tame the narcissistic Gorgonzola,

wrapping him in ravioli, napping him with cream.

You, Blistered Chard, toasted Pine Nut, what a manage a trois you make!

And oh, Butternut, the sacrifice you make,

your blossoms before the fruit, a last splash of eros,

stuffed with black beans, chilies, urfa biber,

as September wanes, turning us back towards summer

as though it might never end.

This is the sauteed Italian Black Kale with toasted Pine Nuts, some baked Chicken chunks and the Most Honorable  Roasted Butternut. I cannot say any more about it. Let us pull up chairs, enjoin our forks and eat.

Buche Noel

January 20, 2012


This is the dessert my students often want to make for the holidays. It gives them practice in cake baking, buttercream making, fondant and marzipan work, and building a flavor profile.

I like to give them choices for cake: chocolate, almond, vanilla. Choices for buttercream are chocolate, mocha, espresso, and vanilla. Fillings can either be a buttercream of flavored whipped cream. We then make mushrooms, leaves, berries, flowers, birds, out of fondant or marzipan.

It is always interesting to see what colors they use for decor. We use paste colors, a small amount goes a long way. I like the non traditional colors like juniper green, and mixing reds and oranges. It is sometimes tricky to get a warm blue. Most blues straight out of the jar are too cool for my taste.

I have some concerns about food dyes. I try to keep my usage to just a couple of times a year and the winter holidays are definitely the time to bring out the color. It’s important to talk about that with students, balancing our celebratory needs and health concerns appropriately.

Warm and Rich Pie for Winter

January 20, 2012

This kind of pie is eaten slowly, small bites, waiting minutes between, because we don’t want it to ever end. Perhaps there is a dollop of fresh whipped cream, taken without sugar and vanilla, because we want the perfect clean foil for the intensity, the majesty, of this pie.

This pie has everything a winter pie deserves and expects. It has crunch, it has a saucy, sweet, southern mouth, and it commands your attention like Elizabeth Taylor in her tiara and pearls. You can’t say no. Even after seconds of mashed potatoes.

This pie is an adaptation of the pecan pie in Joy Of Cooking, the old version. Bruce wanted walnuts, fresh, crunchy, full of fat, walnuts. So we chopped some of them fine, left some chunky for a crunchy top, traded maple syrup and dark corn syrup instead of the light, giving it voodoo status, added my special vanilla that will take your hair down and maybe one layer of clothing off.

We blind baked the pie crust (you remember the crust recipe from last summer?) and then filled and baked at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Don’t over bake. Filling can still be somewhat soft. If the top darkens cover with foil last few minutes. You want it while it is still warm, crunchy top, soft filling, buttery golden crisp crust. Ice cream will deflect it’s perfection. Simple whipped cream….this is an earth tilting closer to the sun kind of moment. Make it last.

School Lunch September 13 and 14, 2011

September 15, 2011

Here it is, the LaConner School District lunch for September 13, 2011. The menu is described as a chicken caesar salad, whole grain biscuit, chocolate chip cookie, grapes, and choice of milk or juice. The chicken is baked, sliced, boneless, skinless chicken we prepare here at school. I used to bake the biscuits, however this purchased product is pretty good, the students like them. We serve cookies about once every two weeks, when our carbs for the day are on the low side. We serve fresh fruit at least three times a week, with a bowl of apples, oranges, bananas out on the counter as another option. Notice that the beverage of choice here is a plain milk. We also offer lactose free milk, apple and orange juice. We have taken the chocolate milk off the menu except for Fridays for this year. There are some expected and understood complaints about this.

My plan has been to discuss the fact that a 8 ounce chocolate milk has the equivalent of 3 Tablespoons of sugar, and that it isn’t just sugar, it is high fructose corn syrup. I say, look it up, high fructose corn syrup has been studied for a while now and is linked to our rise in diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. When you realize that this stuff (not food) is going into little bodies, when you realize that most of the high school boys take two chocolate milks (1/3 cup sugar) for lunch, no wonder they have trouble staying calm right after lunch, and fall asleep as their metabolisms crash 6th period during algebra. It is time to realize that manufacturers (not farmers) can purchase real food and by the time they are finished with it, there is no longer any real food there to sustain a person.

So, ok, yes, we serve cookies sometimes for lunch, or a really nice apple crisp with a buttery, crunchy topping. This is called dessert and we all need dessert sometimes. These foods are not trying to be something else, we are not conning children into eating these foods by making up what they are. Chocolate milk is not really milk if you understand me. We’re going to call it dessert.

Lunch for September 14, 2011

This menu is described as beef nachos, re-fried beans, fresh made salsa, and apple crisp. The student decided to add the apple from our fruit bowls and milk. We make the cheese sauce from scratch using mild cheddar cheese. The next time we make the beef nachos we will be using beef we purchased this summer from Skagit Angus Farms up off of Cape Horn Road. They have cows grazing in meadows next to the Skagit River. These are our neighbors and we are so glad to support them. We make the salsa with fresh tomatoes, green onions, lots of cilantro, garlic and honey. Sometimes we add in a can of diced green chilies, sometimes we add a few diced fresh red peppers. The first few times we made it fresh instead of the prepared stuff many students balked. Now, they love it and are happy when leftovers are sent to the salad bar the next day with a bowl of tortilla chips. And the apple crisp is made with Washington grown apples.

If you are interested in what we are doing at LaConner Schools go to the school website and click on the lunch menu, then click on the welcome page. There is a mission statement and information about how we started changing our menus and recipes, and what steps we are continuing to take today. If you are wondering why we began this project, I would say that our school board and superintendent have a collective conscience about walking our talk. We cannot be educating kids with one side of our mouths and shoving chicken nuggets in  the other side. (although we do still serve chicken nuggets once in a while)

This is a teachers lunch. this  guy has a tremendous schedule and needs all the calories he can get.

This next photo made me really happy. The student was not prompted in any way. There are always going to be 14 students who are your bell-weather eaters, who are the first to complain, first to verbalize their fears about new foods. These students are my friends and are on my mind all of the time. There are familiar, friendly foods for them most of the time. But we really need to be motivated from our hunger, not what is cheap, not what is flashy on TV. This is what I tell the elementary teacher who sees a kindergarten student who eats nothing on the tray but would have drunk the chocolate milk: hunger will take over soon and the child will try the foods. It just takes some time and a few kind words from an adult.

As far as the home garden is concerned, we have been picking some sweet one million cherry tomatoes, cucumbers for pickling and a nice lemon cucumber. The white carrots are fun, they are not parsnips, which I am not fond of. Green beans are still coming. the corn is late. we are hoping for next week. It’s been a rewarding summer after some difficult starts/stops. Tell me about your garden, what flourished, what tasty new varieties have you tried? Watermelon radishes?  Sunflowers are finally blooming! Rain is predicted for this weekend.

could someone help me with these photos? I don’t know how to crop them or flatten them horizontally. there is no lunch tray in the universe that looks like these!

Sutra in Seattle

August 24, 2011

My sister and I have been habitually vacationing, every summer for a week, the past couple of years. One year to the Oregon coast, once to the peninsula, LaPush and Neah Bay. This year, not sure of the amount of time we had, no place came to mind for either of us. So, her brilliant idea: let’s just go day tripping for three days and sleep at home in our own comfy beds. That is what we did.

First day: how could you miss on a trip to IKEA? We had no lists. We both have favorite items from trips past. My all time favorite thing is the plastic grater box with 2 tight fitting grater lids. It comes in red now, but I love the white one I have had for years. My sister loves the orange solar reading lights. The base comes off so you can place it in the sunlight. Then you snap it back in place for reading in the evening. Excellent! I also love the woven rush baskets with the huge bowl and footed base. I have two of those. IKEA also has a great wok at an incredible price $4.99. I use one at school and it does the job well. They have two great wicker chairs, one at $29.99 and one at $79.99. Very reasonable.

After making our purchases: my new favorite is a wind up flashlight in bright red that kind of looks like a giant space age pepper grinder, plus  jam, strainer, those thin yummy cinnamon wafer cookies….we thought of going to the movies, the Help, Beginners, something thoughtful. But our timing was off. Eating was next. I have been carrying a Seattle magazine from last year with a line up of 60 restaurants that are changing the way we eat in my car for just this purpose. We looked in at Sitka and Spruce, they were full. We thought about Poppy but have been there recently. So we went to Sutra on west 45th. Click the link for some photos and more information. I want to talk about the food!

I don’t usually take photos of my plate as many folks do in restaurants. I feel self conscious. I commit the dish to taste bud memory instead. First, I must tell you that the entire meal was vegan and you must imagine the color themes as you read the descriptions. Here is the line up of courses:

Urfabiber Tomatilla-Corn Soup with a Musk Mellon-Red Leaf Lettuce, Shaved Fennel and Fried Caper Salad, with Roasted Garlic Lemon-Hempseed Dressing

Cashew Cheese Flan with Juiced Carrot and Cilantro, Frisee Dressed in Lime and Sesame, finished with New Blue Potato Chips and a Tequila Black Lemon Gastrique

Chanterelle and House Smoked Great White Northern Bean/Nigella Stuffed Eight Ball Zucchini with Sauteed Rainbow Chard and a Yellow Banana Inferno Chile-Tomato Sauce, finished with a Basil Chiffonade  the Nigella seeds are so beautiful and very tasty. I know you have some growing in your yard, or neighborhood. When the plants dry out, save the pods, shake out the seeds. Each pod has hundreds of seeds. Use them for breakfast-eggs, lunch-salad dressing, dinner-sprinkle on baked squash or mashed potatoes.

Cinnamon-Port Poached Peach with a Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream finished with an Elderberry Glaze

I love the addition of the exact type of zucchini and chile. The Urfabiber is a spice blend from Turkey that was sprinkled over the silky creamy, warm and bright Tomatilla Corn Soup. So smooth, absolutely no dairy. So good. The Cashew Cheese Flan was mysteriously light with wonderful texture. And the home made blue potato chips were crispy and folded almost like origami birds. Beautiful. The gastrique tasted of lemon and maple syrup, a new flavor combination  for me. The main, a sweet little stuffed zucchini came complete with the top and stem reminiscent of pumpkin. The beans, chard and tomato flavors were comforting with the added smoky flavor…..a campfire must be nearby.

This was a lot of food…..yet we eagerly anticipated that dessert. No disappointment. Ethereal and aromatic peach slices surrounding a scoop of vanilla coconut heaven. I have tasted Elderberries before and they are sooo acidic. Somehow the chef coaxed a wonderful apple like flavor out of the glaze with just a bit of sugar and cooking down. This foiled the sweet flavors nicely.

We met the chef, Aaron Geible, after dinner finished up. He graciously answered some of my questions about the cashew cheese and gastrique, we talked about the importance of knowing as much as we can about the foods we purchase, cook  eat, passing that on to our kids, about supporting local growers which then brings the whole community closer. The restaurant emulates this in the huge amount of information one gets from the waitstaff and menu. The kitchen is in the dining area and diners are settled at long cozy tables, we sat with some women from southern California. I know this is the trend these days, a view of your entree being flamed and sharing the French press with your neighbor, but here it all seemed natural and sincere.  You must go there. Click on the link, read about it, and go. Especially go if you have hesitations about vegan or vegetarian food. Aaron and crew will change your life.

That was day one. wow. Next day we went to Bellingham, strolled downtown, went to Man Pies, which I will tell you about later…..really good pies with a great southern style crust. And then to see “The Help”. I read the book and like the writing and the take on an unknown subject. I felt bad as was intended, about the inequities and violent meanness. What I loved was the intelligence and humor shown in the face of despair. The movie did the job, but I wouldn’t see it again – my sign of a really good or great movie is wanting to immediately see it again.  My temperpedic bed felt so good to the old hips that spent way too much time sitting.

Day Three – we could have driven hours and hours, spent $200 on a hotel room and $50 for the lunch, but instead we packed the avocados, chips, cheese, eggs, watermelon and juices into the basket, and drove 4 miles to Snee-oosh Beach. We took blankets and my dog, Monk, a rottie/shepard/lab mix. He loves to swim and fetch. The sun was hot. We are both reading the latest book by David Brooks. We took turns. The beach glass was few and far between but dogs were in abundance so Monk got to work on his social skills. Sand in our crevices, slightly pink toned, a few hours later we headed back home to Caesar salads with shrimp, tall cool glasses of water. Then a dip in the hot tub and a snooze under the stars for me. What a nice idea for vacationing. It worked….ok, one photo.

My Father Passed Away This Year

August 20, 2011

My father passed away January 4 of this year. He was 93. I hadn’t seen him often for the past 25 years. Short phone calls and emails. Increasingly it would be his wife on the phone because he didn’t hear well after awhile. And often he really wanted to talk with my husband, not me. But I have been thinking about him more often this summer, I knew I would, as I fished and foraged as that was something he shared with me as a kid. (When I am a teacher we always refer to them as children or students but here I can say “kid”) The photo above is a lovely tableau of a few red huckleberries I found while searching for the dewberries shown in the previous posts pie. Huckleberry picking is a big memory for me. My folks would pack my sister and me into the old “56 Buick and we would head up into the Cascades (mountain range) to their favorite sub-alpine lakes where blue and red huckleberries abound. This was back in the ’50s.

I remember him as really big, which is only natural when I was pre-adolescent, and small. He was big in stature, and big in personality, loud, extravagant, boisterous. And he was fun. It was only later I understood the kind of pressure this created in a marriage, and for soft, vulnerable children. I never knew that it wasn’t my fault when he would storm out of the house. Later, I would believe that it was all my mom’s fault. That took some major amends with my mother much later as an adult. And arguments? That was one of his favorite pass times: tricking us into an argument as we grew older, as if shouting was a major merit in his debate. Often this took place during dinner time. We all have distorted eating habits to this day. I didn’t own an official dining table until about 3 years ago.

Yet, the best fish I have ever eaten was a steelhead caught on February 16, 1966 by my dad, cooked over an alder fire in the back yard. This is February, we all had on coats and there was snow on the ground. And those huckleberry jams were the best. You wonder where I got my well seasoned taste buds? All I had to do as a child was ask my father what a certain food was, or what it tasted like and, poof! the next day or next week after payday we would be cooking and eating it. Once I asked him what the difference between pork chops and lamb chops was. We ate them off and on for a week, seven different ways.

He got mad at my mom once because he thought her cooking was bland. She had grown up thinking that herbs and spices were extravagant and kind of like cheating. He had been in the army overseas, many of his mates were from east coast cities, Italians, Eastern European, and Australian. He learned to make noodles, smoke fish and game, for instance. So my mom told him to cook! I will never forget the roasted chicken with half a cup of dried marjoram rubbed all over and throughout. We had to eat it.

During winter months at low tides, which usually happens at or around midnight, he knew the best clam beaches in our area so we would trek out with lanterns, shovels and pails, this was when you could keep a bucket full. My dad loved to whistle and we could hear him going down to the water in the darkness, us kids trying to keep up because on the way to the beach in the car he had told us scary stories about people lost in the waves. We loved the little steamers…..arriving home at 6am, putting the pot of water on, my mother throwing a loaf of garlic bread in the oven, dad making cocoa for everyone. Have you ever dunked garlic bread in your cocoa? for breakfast? One of the best tastes EVER.

My dad had unusual rules for foraging. As we camped out at the Stillaguamish river in the summers there was usually a dairy farm near by where the farmer also grew field corn for cow food. My dad was not opposed to sneaking through the woods to the fields to pick some, which roasted over the campfire was tolerable….even tasty if tough. But he never poached as the fish and game laws became more restrictive in when and where you could find your food. He complained, argued, but always abided. He understood the need to protect nature and how our behaviors should change as the environment changed. He didn’t think we needed laws for that, just common sense. I don’t think he ever made peace with how humans can be so ignorant about what they have.

He was a Republican of course, and profoundly disappointed in three independent, left leaning daughters. Although this scenario was perfect for the aforementioned arguments. When I was 13 we had been in the Viet Nam war for 2 years. My best friend Lane from across the street came over with newspaper articles we should read to know what was really going on and that we could go to a protest meeting in town. Instead of talking with Lane about his fears, my dad told him to go home and told me I wasn’t to hang out with Lane any more. If the saying “we’re going to hell in a hand basket” was ever true, it was for my father. When I think of his pain over our country, some pain I feel as well but for different reasons, I am glad he is at rest in a place where I believe he could have a big boisterous chuckle and perhaps know and understand his kids in a way he never did living.

I am sure there is more to say but I think I will leave you with this photo of my dining room table, the first one I ever bought, three years ago….I am 59.

Dewberry Pie Reverie

August 13, 2011

Sometimes having concrete evidence of success catapults us into taking on a fearful challenge. I am talking pie crust here…..which can be as  difficult to work with if you don’t understand the ingredients…..kind of like hoping for a good marriage when you’ve only known him for two weeks. The perils translate into bland taste, tough crust, and possibly the horrid soggy bottom. So believe what you see because contrary  to the way I think and talk I admit to being a mediocre baker. I can sometimes bring in all the wow factors. But often I forget a step, or an ingredient or commit an act of baking treason I would fire a student over. (pretend fire of course)

For a two crust pie with a small ball of dough left over for galettes or pie crust cinnamon crisps start with:

2 1/4 cups AP flour

pinch of salt and sugar

1/2 lb. or 2 sticks of unsalted butter, the best you can buy

ice cold water, we don’t know how much yet so have 1/2 cup ready

Mix the flour, salt and sugar with your hands. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces, throw in the bowl and toss with flour. Now, rub pieces of butter between your fingers, kind of sliding them into flat little strips or shards. Keep at this until all the butter pieces have been reduced in size and flattened out, meanwhile being coated with flour. Continue this motion with both hands for a minute, you begin to see the flour change color and become slightly mealy, yet there is still plenty of larger unblended butter pieces.

You can chill the dough for ten minutes now if you have time, and think for a couple of minutes about what you have done: enrobed most of the flour in fat which will protect it from mixing straight with the water you will add next. The flour contains gluten which for pastry purposes we do not want to activate. This is another reason why, for the next steps, we will manipulate the dough as minimally as possible.

So now, use a 1/4 cup measure, get your ice water, and begin sprinkling a tablespoon of water at a time over the flour mixture, fluffing it with a fork. You can imagine fluffing right? Pull the fork up from under the mixture quickly, barely coaxing the water and butter to dance together. Continue adding bits of water and fluffing until the dough begins to come together. It should barely come together. Stop! you’re adding too much. I can see it starting to look wet. Usually 4-6 tablespoons is enough.

Now, carefully scoop up a large hand full, maybe slightly smaller than a soft ball. Gently press together into a ball. If it is falling apart, ok, add 1 more splash of ice water, fluff, and try again. flatten the ball into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap. This is the bottom crust for a 9 inch pie pan. Scoop up another ball, slightly smaller, wrap in plastic wrap, this is the top crust. You should have a small ball, a tennis ball? size left over for playing with later.

The dough before forming into disks over there on the right.

Next, chill these for at least 30 minutes. We want the butter cold so it will continue to protect the flour and there is no chance of the little bits of butter melting out into space.

Use plenty of flour when rolling out, roll out from the center in all directions, not too heavy handed. You learn to feel the dough under the roller moving out evenly. Don’t worry about tears, we can fix them. Once you roll the dough out place the pie tin on top. The crust should come out about an inch past the edges of the tin. The crust is big enough. Fold the dough in half, slip your hands underneath and gently place on one half of the tin. Unfold the dough to cover the entire tin. Adjust for even edges. The colder the dough stays the easier it is to handle. Trim the edges to just the edge of the pan, use scraps to gently press into any tears.

Add your filling! In this case I used the dew berries or blackberries, rubus ursinus, we picked last night, 4 1/2 cups with 3/4 cup sugar and 4 T. of dry tapioca. This is a very tart pie. You must be ready to accept the scoop of super vanilla ice cream needed to foil the puckery goodness.

Roll out the top crust the same as the bottom, so it looks slightly larger than the pie tin. Fold in half, gently drape over the filling, unfold and it looks like

the left. Trim the edges a bit, and gently fold the top crust under the bottom all the way around. Flute the edges to press them together.

Now, you don’t have to do anything else to the pie but make 4 cuts half inch long equidistant from each other and slide it into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, center shelf. This first step causes the butter to melt into the crust without thinking. It has no chance to worry about it’s magical job, it just performs. It is in the zone! After 15 minutes turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Now the filling is starting to become gelatinous and the crust is turning. Continue to bake until the juices begin to bubble out the top a bit, and the colour is golden. I just like to spell it that way. I prefer grey to gray also.

However, if you like a little wow factor, brush the top of the crust with milk or half and half, sprinkle BIG sugar crystals over the top and then bake as above. One of my favorite stores in the Pike Place Market is Market Spice for their vast array of herbs and spices and blends, plus, every color of rainbow big sugar crystals.  It is important to let the pie cool to warmish, so the tapioca can pull together all the juices nicely and there is no wet puddle on the plate.

This pie really does need an ice cream or whipped cream foil. It is very tart and…..earthy. As I prepared the berries I needed to pick out a bunch of fir needles (another clue to where they like to live) which probably added some resiny notes.

So! Cut into the crust. It is flaky yes? You barely need to pierce it with the knife and it shatters along a fault line of crispyness. And the bottom looks golden, not like a belly that’s never seen the sun. Congratulations! It took a bit of focus, some whys and wherefores, but it is perfect. Now, there is only the consideration of who to share it with….. those who have an inkling for what you have just accomplished and can share your joy I hope.

Let me know how your crust turns out.

postscript….there are always thoughts that get lost in the mystery of baking, when the hands take over and all we have are our senses. Further notes on pie crust:

You can always use a pastry blender, one of those “D” shaped utensils with half dozen scooped cutter blades held together by the flat handle, to break up the butter into the flour. I just love to use my hands and try to keep them cold. I can tell what is going on with my hands.

as you become more facile with the dough you can cut back on the fat, the butter, if you feel that is important. This ratio just increases the chances of a really flaky yet tender crust. Whole wheat pastry flour can be subbed for the AP flour. I often use it with apples as they seem to go together nicely. Fairhaven Mills in Bellingham makes an excellent pastry flour.

Foraging for Wild Dewberries

August 12, 2011

Just as I wouldn’t tell you exactly how to catch a king salmon, I wouldn’t tell you where we picked the wild blackberries or dew berries below. The Pacific Northwest, particularly western Washington is famous for the wild, tangle of blackberries rumored to cover cars, entire buildings, in a matter of months left unchecked, the Himalayas. These are not the berries I am talking about. the berries we suffer thorn pricks, nettles (which grow in the same environment – a clue!), tripping and falling over nurse logs are dewberries or rubus ursinus. The berry is smaller generally, but has a superior taste, an almost smokey flavor. It took us about one hour to find and pick about four cups, enough for a pie we will make tomorrow.

You will notice (another clue!) the red huckleberries in the mix as well. I couldn’t leave them behind.

The smell of the berries is rich and earthy, one of my favorite aromas of summer, along with the smell of flowering beet seed fields, a real treat if you have never been swept away by their intense odor. When making pies, tarts or galettes these berries do not need as much sugar as the other varieties. Taste and decide for yourself.

And on this broader subject of foraging, we ate the last of our recent batch of fresh crab tonight after pulling the refuse from the woods out of our hair, putting salve on our mosquito bites, and washing dirty feet. I picked some fresh tender green beans out of the garden and put them in with the pasta for the last two minutes simmering. Bruce cracked the crab, I made a garlic cream sauce for the pasta and we were settled in for the evening.

These are my favorite pasta plates or bowls. IKEA for just a few dollars. The black makes almost anything look better.

Bruce really has a knack for prying the leg meat out whole, which always is appealing. We feel very lucky to live in this vibrant, voluptuous place where we can wander around finding good food to eat. We have discovered that the salal berries we saw today are edible and very tart. I am going to look into this!

There is no doubt in my mind that what we did today was foraging. The berries are wild and we only had to know where to look. But I am wondering if fishing and crabbing, and hunting for that matter, are still foraging when one has to buy the licenses and report in the catch. It still requires the work, the know-how, that special aggregate of handed down lore and skill. And yet there is a difference in my mind… I am sitting here writing I just noticed this huge beautiful blackberry juice stain on the side of my hand….I am going to lick the last reminder of my day off and then should probably have a bath………..