Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pie season

Cranberry pie

As we head out of the growing season and into the holiday season, my thoughts turn more towards food than gardening.  A few weeks ago my friend Irvin Etienne, horticulturist and blogger at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, posted a photo of a cranberry pie on Facebook and the recipe sounded interesting (and easy) enough that I decided to try it out on my family over the Thanksgiving holiday.  The pie went over so well that I made it again last night, this time two of them (along with a focaccia) for the annual holiday party of a local garden club.

Focaccia and pies
Focaccia and pies

The recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman, as "Nantucket Cranberry Pie" (click link for recipe).  It's really more like a cake or cobbler, without a bottom crust.  The recipe calls for an ungodly amount of sugar but the only change I might make is to cut back just a bit on the sugar in the cranberry base (or use more cranberries).  It's best served warm with fresh whipped cream, but for convenience I used the canned stuff and it was still pretty darn good.  I know the pies were a big hit because several people asked for the recipe and this is all that was left of the two of them:

Cranberry pie

While searching for another recipe on Google today I was surprised to have one of my own photos pop up, leading me back to a somewhat similar dish I posted on Gardenweb back in 2007: a fig upside-down cake.  I love fresh figs and I've grown 'Brown Turkey', one of the most common hardy cultivars, since 2002 or so but I rarely get enough figs at any one time to do anything with.  It produces two crops per year, but thanks to the birds and squirrels I almost never get to taste the first crop.  They sometimes leave me some of the second crop, probably because there's plenty of other food in late summer and early fall.  My fig was killed to the ground both of the past two winters, and I haven't gotten any figs since 2013.  But I can dream, can't I?

Brown Turkey Figs
Brown turkey figs (August 2013)

I had seen an episode of the PBS cooking show "Lidia's Italian Kitchen" featuring fig crostata, a cake that looked really mouth-watering.  I don't know what kind of figs Lidia used but they were smaller and darker than my 'Brown Turkey', almost black.  Fresh figs were cut in half, marinated in honey, then placed cut side down in a glass pie pan with the honey drizzled over them, and a simple cake batter spread over them and baked.  Then it was turned upside-down onto a platter with the cooked figs ending up on top and looked absolutely beautiful.  Well, wouldn't you know but shortly after seeing that episode my 'Brown Turkey' actually produced enough figs in two days to actually do something with.

 photo bowl_of_figs.jpg

I couldn't find the exact recipe but modified another recipe I found on the web for "crostata invertita"—in English, Italian upside-down cake.  It produced a dense and moist cake, with the figs cooking in a sugar syrup on the bottom, and ending up on top.  The figs lost their lovely deep pink color, but it tasted awfully good.

 photo fig_crostata.jpg

 photo fig_crostata_cut.jpg

You're supposed to serve it warm with whipped cream, but we managed to choke it down with vanilla ice cream.  Even my husband, picky eater that he is, gave it a thumbs up (after being skeptical through the whole process).

 photo fig_crostata_serving.jpg

Assuming I ever get enough figs again to think about cooking with them, does anybody have any recipes to share?

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