Mixed-fruit pie wasn't very pretty but tasted peachy

HAPPY EATER

August 01, 1993|By ROB KASPER

It was a soggy summer pie, half peach and half plum. The recipe called for all peaches. But we didn't have enough. So rather than run to the store to get some more, we made do.

That is how it goes around our house on summer nights. Nobody wants to move, let alone go shopping. So we cook with what is in front of us.

This pie would not win any contests. It had bad posture. Instead of standing up straight on the crust, the filling slouched. While it wasn't picture perfect, it seemed appropriate for the summertime, when standards of stiffness seem to slide. The filling was also skinny, and when you cut it, it flopped over the edges of the crust.

But what it lacked in posture, this pie made up for in flavor. It did not have that knock-you-over sweetness found in so many fruit pies. Rather it had an appealing blend of sweet peaches and pungent plums.

A slice of the pie topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream was the perfect reward for completing the evening chores.

That is when I had my first piece, an hour or two after supper. The dishes were done. The kids were upstairs; even if they weren't asleep, as least they were in their bedroom. A load of laundry was tumbling away in the basement. It was a moment to savor.

So I sat, alone, at the kitchen table, and slowly ate the pie. In that interlude, the summer stopped flying by. Things slowed down and moved with that relaxed, sitting-around-the-kitchen pace July and August are supposed to have.

I snapped on a portable radio. As I ate, the familiar radio voices described the Orioles battling the Toronto Blue Jays. It was an exciting game. The Orioles were behind, then ahead, but fell behind again.

I turned radio off and made my way to bed. Ordinarily the loss would have left me in a bad mood. But this night the triumphant taste of pie overwhelmed any sour notes lingering from the baseball defeat.

I have since learned a few things about plums. An envoy from the California fruit growers told me that dark plums are usually sweeter than the yellow ones used in our pie.

I was told I could cook plums on the barbecue grill by slicing them in half and cooking them for about 1 or 2 minutes per side, until the fruit bubbled. The barbecued plums would then be served with chicken, to spice up the poultry. Barbecuing plums sounded intriguing. It was not something I usually do. Nor was I used to the idea of plums as part of an entree.

But that is one of the good things about summer. The rules of normal behavior loosen up.

Like what you eat for breakfast. And the other morning, before dragging myself to the office, I ate another piece of that peach-plum pie for breakfast.

Peach-plum pie

(Modified from "As Easy as Pie" [Susan G. Purdy, $23, Atheneum] )

unbaked pie crust for 9-inch pie (recipe follows)

3 1/2 cups sliced peaches

2 cups sliced plums

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar depending on sweetness of fruit

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up

Line pie plate with pastry. Toss sliced fruit in large bowl with lemon juice, sugar and corn starch. Add fruit to pastry-lined pan, mounding it in center. Dot with butter. Set pie in lower third of 425-degree oven and bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, raise pie to middle of oven. Bake an additional 35-40 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or cold.

Pie crust

Makes two 9-inch shells

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup shortening

5 tablespoons cold or ice water

Sift flour and salt into large bowl. Drop shortening onto flour and cut with 2 table knives or pastry blender until flour-coated particles are size of peas. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pressing together moistened particles with your hand or a fork. After adding 5 tablespoons of water, form pastry into a ball.

Can be rolled out right away or chilled in wax paper for 30 minutes to reduce stickiness.

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