May 24th, 2010
Bloom where you are planted. I’ve been saying this to myself for awhile now.
Single and in my early twenties, I lived outside of Washington D.C. and worked in the city where it was easy to do things like take photography, politics, and religion classes at night after work at the Smithsonian, and hop over to Old Town Alexandria on weekends to pick up groceries at Trader Joe’s.
After Brian and I married almost seven years ago now, we moved to a Virginia suburb to be closer to his family. Life in the suburbs is different from city life. There is no Smithsonian, no coffee shops within walking distance, and TJ’s is over half an hour away.
But you know what? Half a mile down the street is a farmer’s market where I can walk to buy fresh produce all summer long. And right next door to that market every spring is a strawberry farm where I can pick some pretty amazing fresh berries.
I’m also able to work from home and not have to commute an hour each way to work. And best of all, here we can afford enough land that Brian can experiment with just about every gardening idea he can dream up (the “big” garden has been tilled and the first plants are in the ground – hop rhizomes).
So, though I love the hum and culture of city life, I am trying to bloom where I am currently planted. Literally and figuratively.
The Saturday before Mother’s Day I took little Jonathan to the strawberry farm to pick berries. I’ve been feeding him strawberries already this spring, so I could see the excitement and questioning in his eyes as he saw the berries on the vines. It was such a perfect expression of surprise and wonderment that came over his face when I picked a berry in the field and let him taste. Such sweetness.
I came home and while Jonathan napped – worn through from the sun and humid coastal VA heat, I made this strawberry mascarpone pie/tart with lavender vanilla whipped cream to take to lunch with Brian’s family the next day.
I’ve always loved strawberry pie. My mom used to make it simply growing up using sliced strawberries and strawberry gelatin on a flaky crust served with cool whip.
Here I wanted to capture everything I loved about Mom’s pie, but eliminate the strawberry gelatin that contains food colorings and artificial flavorings. I also love mascarpone cheese with, well – just about everything, so I thought adding a thick slick of honeyed mascarpone accented by lemon zest beneath the strawberries would be lovely. I also adore strawberries and lavender together, so I made fresh lavender vanilla whipped cream to serve alongside.
There are no pictures of the tart cut since I took it the next day to lunch and didn’t want to be hovering over people’s plates trying to grab a picture, and it went quickly.
I liked everything about this pie/tart except my crust shriveled and was a bit dense – I’m doing well on savory tart crusts, but a simple flaky pie crust (with no partially hydrogenated oils) seems to be eluding me – I welcome links to any favorite recipes!
I ended up with leftover whipped cream, so I decided to pulse it in the food processor and make lavender vanilla butter. It worked beautifully!
With the butter I made part whole wheat lavender rosemary shortbread cookies inspired by this and lavender accented granola bars with dried cherries, coconut, apricots, cocoa nibs and almond butter, inspired by this recipe – both of which were wonderful and Jonathan enjoyed for over a week.
I have been working hard on my business and am trying to stick to a reduced carb diet, which has left me feeling quite tired (must remember to take vitamins, drink more water, get more sleep, and still treat myself), but I hope to be back in order shortly. I hope you are well.
Fresh strawberry mascarpone tart
1 crust for 9 inch pie pan or 9 or 10 inch tart pan
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and tops trimmed
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water
8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened *
2 teaspoons honey
pinch of fine grain sea salt
zest from 1 lemon
lavender vanilla whipped cream (recipe following)
Prepare and bake pie crust according to recipe instructions. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Mix the honey, pinch of sea salt (no more than 1/8 teaspoon), and lemon zest into the mascarpone cheese in a medium bowl. Spread cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the baked pie crust and place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the pie.
Puree half of the strawberries in a food processor (alternately you could simply mash them in the pan) and place in a medium saucepan with the sugar over medium heat, bringing to a boil while stirring frequently.
Whisk together cornstarch and water in a small bowl and gradually stir into the strawberry sugar mixture. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened into a thick syrup, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Mix the remaining half of the strawberries with the strawberry glaze either in the pan (if large enough) or in a large bowl in order to evenly coat the berries. Gently pour coated strawberries into the pie shell on top of the cheese mixture along with all extra strawberry glaze/syrup. Arrange strawberries to your liking and chill pie in the fridge for several hours (allow at least 6+ hours) before slicing. Serve with lavender vanilla whipped cream.
* If you cannot find mascarpone cheese, cream cheese would make a nice substitute
Lavender vanilla whipped cream and lavender vanilla butter
1 pint heavy whipping cream, very cold
1 teaspoon lavender buds, crushed and broken, using a food processor or mortar and pestle
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon light brown sugar or natural raw sugar
Using a hand mixer or standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine all ingredients and whip till soft cream peaks form.
If you end up with leftover whipped cream, you can make lavender vanilla butter by placing whipped cream into the food processor and pulsing till the fat separates from the liquid. Strain the “buttermilk” from the solid, and you have butter!
Tags: chewy granola bar, cocoa nib, Dessert, granola bar, homemade butter, homemade whipped cream, lavender, lavender whipped cream, mascarpone cheese, rosemary, shortbread, strawberry pie, strawberry tart, whole grain, whole wheat
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